As with all rail tours, preparation of the locomotive starts almost as soon as the previous trip has finished. Planning, even for regular routes, such as a Surrey Hills, starts well before this.
The firebox and smokebox had already been cleaned, and some maintenance jobs carried out. After the usual thorough examination of the boiler, the fire was lit on Wednesday afternoon. We always warm the boiler up slowly, to avoid stress caused by unequal expansion. This was particularly important this time, as the relatively long time since the previous trip, and the recent cold weather, meant that the boiler was even cooler than usual.
By the morning, the pressure gauge was only just off the zero mark, but, by this point, almost half of the heat was in the water, so we could bring it up a bit quicker. By lunchtime, which was getting on far a day after the light-up, we were able to go outside and test the safety valves. The Fitness To Run examination also included all the usual things, both mechanical and electrical, and we passed with no major problems. As well as all this, there were lots of other things going on. The loco and support coach were cleaned and polished, inside and out. Four tons of coal were loaded into the tender, as was a full tankful of treated water. The engine was lubricated, and, while it was outside, the shed floor was steam-cleaned - we like to work in a clean environment, and our landlord appreciates it, too.
As well as doing all this, we also found time to carry out some training. We all have something to learn, and we can pass what we have learnt to the less experienced working members. Steam locomotives are complicated things.
The day of the trip started out dry, but it started to rain as time went on. The first part of the journey is usually slowed by signals, but we were lucky this time, and had a good run to our pathing stop at Addlestone Junction. On arrival at Shalford, we were met by a tanker to add some water to the tender. We also took this opportunity to shovel some coal forward.
Because of the wet conditions, we did have one or two little slips, but our driver soon caught them, and we were over the top and running down the other side.
We got back to Victoria a little early, and some very happy customers came to see the engine and to express their pleasure.