As is usual, a lot of work had already been done to get Clan Line ready for this trip. The grate and ashpans had been emptied, as had the smokebox, the smoke deflectors had been given a couple of coats of varnish, several maintenance jobs had been carried out, including changing the water in the boiler and our own cold Fitness To Run examinations, and a start had been made on cleaning the locomotive and support coach.

The fire was lit on Monday afternoon, and, after twelve hours, we had twenty psi on the clock, which is what we aim for (we don't want to cause unnecessary stress in the boiler by warming it up too quickly). The support crew worked all day, with the help of several willing volunteers, to turn Clan Line out to our usual high standards.

Many hands make light work

By the end of the preparation day, the loco was sparkling, the Fitness To Run examination was successfully completed, the tender was filled with treated water and loaded with coal, and all the lubrication had been done.

On the day of the trip,all the support crew were on duty by half past four, though work on the fire had started by three o'clock. Rather than take our usual Berks & Hants route, various things meant that we went from Reading to Bristol by way of the Great Western main line. This gave us several extra challenges, mainly due to the new overhead wires. For obvious reasons, we couldn't climb up onto the tender, so we couldn't pull coal forward. We had plenty of coal, but we couldn't get to it as we don't have a coal pusher - yet. We arranged for an extra stop at Ascot, before we got under the wires, to bring as much forward as we could.

When filling the tender with water from a lineside tanker, we usually use two hoses. We have two connectors on each side - one low down, and one on top. Because of the wires, we wouldn't have been able to use the one on top. We had been thinking about this problem for a while, and had devised an attachment which is fixed to the tender lamp irons, and connects to the top filler. This was fitted and put to the test, and was not found wanting. Because of access restrictions at the water stops, the tanker driver was not able to access the lineside, as usual, and lay the hoses out for us. Therefore, we had to do this ourselves as we used to do regularly in the past. As several of our support crew have only been involved in recent years, we had a practice at rolling out the hoses, draining them, and rolling them up again on the preparation day.

The journey to Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads went well, with some good running.

When we got to Bristol, the passengers having left the train, our work started. We had no diesel with us, so we had to do our own shunting. We pulled the train into the West Yard, before uncoupling and turning on the triangle. Having coupled up to the other end of the train, we passed back through the station to the East Yard, where we uncoupled again for the servicing. There are several important jobs involved in this. The most important is the lubrication. Being a three cylinder engine, this means that someone has to climb underneath the loco, without the use of a pit. We also filled the tender with treated water and loaded it with coal, and cleaned the fire.

We were a few minutes late leaving Bristol, but had some more good running. We were due to have a pathing stop at Swindon, but our lateness meant that this was dispensed with, so we were able to go through Swindon, the home of the Great Western Railway, at speed, to remind them what a good engine can do.

Once we got back to Victoria, our work was not over. We had to attach a diesel on the back of the train to haul us back to Stewarts Lane and drop off the stock. We then had to turn the engine on the triangle, blow down the boiler, and dispose the loco. None of us got to bed until well after midnight, so it was a long day for the support crew.

This weekend, the work all starts again in preparation for our trip to the West Somerset Railway, and our stay at Bristol for the Torbay Express and The Cornishman Express.