We had one of our regular washouts about ten days before this trip, to remove sludge and scale from the boiler. As well as removing the washout plugs, we also take out the mudhole doors. It is not unknown for a newly refitted mudhole door to leak, so we always have a steam test after doing this. This meant that we had to clean out the firebox and smokebox before we could light the fire. The main preparation tasks on the Tuesday went well, with no serious problems found on the Fitness To Run examination.
On a Bristol trip, there is a lot of shunting to be done at our destination. We don’t usually take a diesel with us, so we do all this ourselves. This means that we have to put our support coach on the back of the train before we leave the depot. This was scheduled to happen at about six o’clock in the morning, so all the last minute jobs have to be finished by then, with all the support crew on board. This makes it a very early start.
We left London Victoria on time, and were only one minute late when we arrived at Wantage Road for our water stop. We actually arrived at Bristol Temple Meads five minutes early, and were still ahead of schedule by the time that we got into Barton Hill depot.
The British Pullman, a Belmond train, is a long train, and it has to be split in two so that it can be serviced at Barton Hill. This, and the subsequent re-joining, took a lot longer than usual, so we eventually left Bristol Temple Meads eighty four minutes late. An extra stop at Bathampton Junction added to the delay, and we were now getting on for two hours behind schedule.
Good work by the footplate crew, and a re-routing to avoid going via Willesden South West Sidings, meant that we could catch up some time, and we eventually arrived back at London Victoria just under an hour late. The passengers didn’t seem to mind.
Almost as soon as we got back to Stewarts Lane, we started preparations for our trip to the Bluebell Railway.