Vale of Rheidol: Narrow Gauge in the GWR Style

 

1. Aberystwyth 5. The Long Flat
2. The GWR Style 6. Hard Climbing
3. At the Engine Shed 7. Tea at Devil's Bridge
4. On Our Way 8. Sunset on Rheidol Vale

 

Three: At the Engine Shed

 

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Engine #8
disappears into
the maw of the
Aberystwyth engine shed.
While I gazed thunderstruck at the apparition of a classic GWR train steaming cheerfully along in the middle of 1997, the railwaymen went briskly about their business.   As soon as the passengers had cleared away, the engine crew cut #8 away from the carriages and headed back through the passing loop.  Once free of the platform area, the driver hustled his charge out through the yards and on into the line's towering engine shed.  I couldn't see clearly into the shed, but it seemed a safe guess that #8's valves and bearings were receiving a thorough lookover after the day's first working up and down the steep hills.

 

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VoR diesel #10
shuts coaches in
and out of the
shed.
The echoes of #8's sibilant exhaust had hardly died when a harsh braying reverberated out of the shed. The clatter swelled in volume, and then a compact diesel engine trundled out of the shed's further door.  This strange little beast had a drive crank under the driver's cabin connected by rods to each of its three axles.  As the crank spun the rods danced up and down in time, conferring an odd jauntiness on the engine's entire motion.  A glance at the numberplate identified the growling little machine as VoR #10-- an oddball successor to the historic steam engine trio of 7, 8, and 9.

 

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#10 in front view:
strikingly like the
old Plymouth
industrial switchers
from days gone
by.
Crank whirring away, the diesel shunter shuffled open-sided summer coaches in and out of the shed.  VoR mechanics were prepping and painting the open cars for the summer season, and the switch crew was swapping reconditioned cars for others still needing work.  Yet as the minutes went by and the diesel continued to prowl the yard, I grew increasingly nervous.  Departure time was fast approaching, and there was still no sign of #8.  Had the 2-6-2 steamed poorly that morning?  Had a bearing overheated, or the injector misbehaved?  Was the steam engine to be laid up, and the diesel substituted for the afternoon trip?  Each time #10 feinted back toward the platform, my spirits fell another notch.   Interesting though the little critter might be, I hadn't come to Wales to ride behind a braying diesel! 

 

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Tank engine taking
water: the fireman
strains to reach an
awkwardly-placed
valve.

wg10.JPG (11215 bytes)

The driver rests
while the fireman
works: rank hath
its privileges.
Just as I began to get truly worried, my steam engine made her return.  Backing daintily out of the shed, the gleaming prairie picked her way over 20 yards of track to a squat water tower-- actually, a surplus standard-gauge tank car reservoir set up on wood timbering. The fireman came round, wiped off his brow with the back of his hand, and climbed up on the pilot and then atop the side tank.  After unbuttoning the tank lid and placing the water hose well down in the tank, he made a long and  perilous-looking lean well out over the side to reach the hose valve.  While the fireman strained, the driver upheld the traditions of his craft.  Feet squarely on the ground, hands in pockets, he took his ease and kibitzed while his junior worked.

 


 

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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1998 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.