Just because we don't have a trip for a couple of weeks, it doesn't mean that we have nothing to do. For example, here are a few of the jobs that we have carried out in the last week:-
After we had done the usual jobs of cleaning out the grate and smokebox, we changed the water in the boiler. We took advantage of having the boiler empty to tap the stays. This involves hitting each one with a hammer, and deciding if any are broken by listening to the sound that they make.
Another regular maintenance job that we carried out was to remove and clean the steam chest drains. These allow water to drain out of the valves, but close under pressure to stop the escape of steam. Our three cylinder engine has five of them. Any muck in the drain valve can stop it from sealing.
To comply with the regulations, our procedures include regular testing of the locomotive, tender and support coach axles, using UAT (Ultrasonic Axle Testing). We have to get someone in to do this, but we are still involved. They need access to the ends of each axle, so, where appropriate, we have to remove the axlebox covers. We also have to make sure that the locomotive's connecting rods aren't covering the centres of the driving wheels.
We like to work in a clean environment, as does our landlord, so we also regularly clean the shed floor and pit. Like most cleaning jobs, the more often it is done, the easier it is. We did that again this week.
As well as the regular cleaning of the engine, tender and support coach, there are usually bits of paintwork that need touching up, as was the case this week.
We are currently looking at reducing the amount of storage space that we are using, so we are re-organising the four containers that we use. This is involving the moving round of numerous large and heavy bits of equipment and spares. This job, on its own, took several people all day.
All these jobs have taken a couple of dozen man-day's work, this week, and that doesn't include the cleaning and polishing of the paintwork, brasswork and motion, so you can see that running a steam locomotive on the mainline needs a lot of dedicated people.