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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 33 - Winter 1977 / 8

Our First Enthusiast's Weekend - Anthea Hanscomb

The pessimists were wrong! So nice to be able to write that sentence. The prognostications which were flying around the site before the event ranged from the "No one will come" and "They will all go to Didcot" type, to "There won't be any engines to steam" (that was after Coventry sprang small leaks in two more tubes) and "It will be chaos with six engines trying to sort themselves out in the Yard". So it is very gratifying to be able to tell you that 24th and 25th September were two very successful days.

Saturday produced only 240 visitors, which was disappointing, but it did mean there was time to talk to many of them and find out why they had come and what they thought of it all. They were unanimous in their views that we had put on a very good show and were full of praise for the cleanliness of the locos and the pleasure of seeing six in steam proceeding in a stately manner in the cavalcade.

Swanscombe, as usual, attracted a great deal of attention, particularly when John Carter did a dash up the Long Siding with a good plume of white smoke streaming behind. Peckett was sending up clouds of thick black smoke, as is her wont since Del fitted her for working the vacuum brakes on the train. She needs a huge fire to be able to produce enough steam to keep her going and to work the ejector. She plastered us all with soot whenever she passed but no one minded. It was good to see John Hutchings' Sentinel in steam again. She attracts keen attention and keeps everyone guessing-steam or diesel? - her chain drive has them foxed!

The Pannier, Beattie and Coventry all had their admirers, excepting for the Yard Supervisor, Chris Hanscomb, who wasn't quick enough to dodge out of the way when Beattie slipped in the Yard and showered him with a mass of sooty water!

By 3 pm there was a build-up of visitors and our hopes soared. At 4 pm it rained heavily and they all left. End of the first day. There was some brief disagreement with Chris as to where to leave the engines for the night. John Carter was giving footplate rides to Society members and was reluctant, understandably, to give up and take his engine into its allotted place in the Engine Road. However, Chris finally persuaded the crews that it would be far easier the next day if he had them all marshalled in the Engine Road leaving the Water Tower Road clear. The result was that the next day no shunting was necessary and the train service began punctually at 10.00.

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J R Fairman - 3.30 pm cavalcade on Sunday, 25th September

Sunday was a much better day, we had 1000 visitors and it didn't rain until after the cavalcade at 4 pm. The running order on the passenger train was - Peckett, Pannier, Coventry and Beattie each doing about 2 hours. The cavalcade took place twice in the day at 12.30 and 3.30 on Saturday and 12.30 and 4.00 on Sunday. Mr Casserley called in to see us on Saturday and it was very nice to see him again. An added attraction on Sunday was the double heading of the train with Beattie and the Peckett, running chimney to chimney.*

The public address (manned by "The Voice", Steve Growcott) gave an excellent running commentary as the engines passed by in the cavalcade, which the visitors found particularly useful. Not all of them by any means were the well versed enthusiasts that haunt special steamings, so they found the information useful and commented very favourably.

A Red Rover double decker bus had been chartered for the Sunday to run between Aylesbury Station and our site, but unfortunately, it did not have many customers. It was manned by Mick Rolley, Tony Reed and Pete Stanbridge.

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J R Fairman - 3.30 pm cavalcade on Sunday, 25th September

There were no problems over watering the engines, as had also been forecast, it all went very smoothly and had several of us remembering, somewhat nostalgically perhaps, the days before the advent of the Water Tower! Then the only water supply on the site was a stand pipe in the Down Yard, near where the Gate hut now stands. It was a pipe lashed to a wooden post with a tap of the top over a sink, and a cock near the bottom onto which a hosepipe could be fitted. On Open Days the refreshment tent was situated nearby and that was their water source as well. When the "Ladies" was renovated and furnished with three loos and two basins a hose pipe ran from the bottom cock along the platform fence, over the footbridge and into the Station building. This was meant to keep the roof tank filled with water which it hardly ever did!

It was a toss-up as to who managed to get the water, the "Ladies", the refreshment tent, or the locos which had to be supplied from another hose that ran from the tap to the platform, or Yard, depending where the thirsty loco happened to be. Compared with Juno, Pannier or No. 1, Beattie doesn't carry much water so when she was on the train the hose was kept on the platform so that it could be hastily stuffed into her tank and a few gallons put in while she waited for the second train to come into the Yard. John Mortham's son Anthony was usually stationed at the tap and at a yell from John he would turn it on. Bad luck if refreshments wanted to fill a water container at that moment!

Of course the hose pipes burst with monotonous regularity and were bandaged round with anything available. If you happened to step over the hose as someone switched on, you stood a good chance of receiving a jet of water up your trousers! Visitors had to dodge fountains of water from time to time in the Down Yard and equally frequently the toilets in the Station building wouldn't flush because the tank had run dry. The stand pipe used to come adrift from the wooden post and be in danger of falling flat and we had no end of bursts, leaks and other problems. One evening a member turned the tap on to fill the sink and filled his boots instead due to a sudden split in the pipe at about knee level! It was exasperating, the ground around the sink bore a strong resemblance to a hippo's wallow hole. Frank Boait made duck boards for us to stand on. There was no lighting of any sort on the site and washing in the pitch dark on a cold winter's evening was a hazard to be avoided, ones torch usually ended in the mud. How we grumbled and how we complained to Ray Hedley as every "improvement" ended up in an even more spectacular burst and usually on Open Days at that, when everyone seemed to need water at the same moment! All solved now with the water tower, the joys of hot water in the mess room and mains water to the Station building. But I have reminisced for quite long enough!

For the benefit of the many photographers we had fenced off the bank opposite the Brill platform with iron stakes, which the Chiltern Traction Engine Club very kindly hired to us, and visitors were able to walk down to the Wembley building having crossed the track by the Restoration building. We used lengths of baler twine knotted together in place of rope, much cheaper, as Doug Todd let us have a sack full from his farm. At home we had knotted together enough for the top strand and the rest was done in the White Hart on the Friday evening! Eight people round a table busily knotting together lengths of baler twine produced some interesting results and quite a few knots came undone when we strung it up early on Saturday morning.

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J R Fairman - 3.30 pm cavalcade on Sunday, 25th September

All the engine changes and shunting movements went smoothly. Chris had Pete Stanbridge to help him on Saturday, which made life much easier for him, but on Sunday he was on his own and by the end of the day felt as though he had tried to scale Everest! The shunting at the end of the day was hectic and it was dark long before we had finished. The Wembley building had to be emptied of all stock as Dick Scott and his 'Job Creation' lads were expecting a JCB in early on Monday to do some excavating in it. Coventry had to clear the short siding of stock and place the open wagons in the now empty building then put the remaining stock back in the short siding. Coventry's fireman and 3rd man had had to go home and I found myself acting as relief fireman. Meanwhile down in the Yard, John Carter was moving No. 66 out of the way so that Brill which was to leave the site on Monday, could be placed on the loading spur.

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J R Fairman - 3.30 pm cavalcade on Sunday, 25th September

The fun started when Bardic handlamps were produced, which nobody seemed able to use. We received the oddest of lamp signals - Yellow instead of White; Yellow instead of Red, a Green held steadily which caused complete confusion, and sometimes nothing at all which meant getting down and finding out where the Shunter had got to! Luckily, there was a very bright moon, but I think we will have to get some shunting lamps from S & T who were not there that day.

By the time we had finished it was late and we tottered into the White Hart with about an hour to go before closing time. I had to buy Ralph a pint to pacify him, he had had a big fire to throw out! Once before on an Open Day I had been caught out with nearly no fire, 100lb on the gauge and under half a glass of water because I thought we were about to trundle into the Yard to drop the fire. Then someone said "Coventry will do the shunting" and Ralph had some things to say about women firemen as I did everything I could think of, short of getting out and pushing and he snatched the shovel from me and did some hefty shovelling! This time it was different. We finished with 150lbs on the gauge, ¾ of a glass of water and a beautiful fire. So he had some hefty shovelling out to do and some more choice things to say about women firemen!

So ended our first Enthusiasts Weekend - a definite success. Obviously there are improvements to be made. If we have some signalling installed by next year it will make life much easier for the Yard Supervisor and enable us to carry out more varied movements of the stock besides having a cavalcade. I think the Loco Sub-Committee are to be congratulated for suggesting we try an Enthusiasts Weekend.

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J R Fairman - 3.30 pm cavalcade on Sunday, 25th September

*Also the Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineers had some of their locos on display in the brake portion of the Mk I coach in the Up Yard, which attracted quite a bit of attention from the enthusiasts.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1977 and so does not reflect events in the 38+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Our First Enthusiast's Weekend - Anthea Hanscomb - Quainton News No. 33 - Winter 1977 / 8

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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