The preparations for this trip started the day after the previous one. The first things to be done were to empty the smokebox and ashpans, and clean the grate. A start was also made on the cleaning. The fire was lit on Thursday afternoon. Even though the boiler had some residual heat in it, we still wanted to warm it up slowly to avoid unnecessary thermal stress.

On the Friday, all the support crew put in a full day's work, with the help of some extra volunteers. The work included the official Fitness To Run examination, which is carried out by a DB Cargo representative. (Before this, we also carry out our own FTR). It involves a full functional test, which covers the braking system, the injectors, and the safety valves, amongst many other things. We usually come across one or two small adjustments that are needed, and this time was no exception. Whilst this was going on, the tender was filled with treated water and coal, the lubrication was attended to, and the cleaning was completed.

On Saturday, the engine and support coach were towed to Saint Phillip's Marsh by a Class 66 diesel. This saves on crew costs, and coal, as well as making pathing easier. It also means that the support crew have to provide boiler managers, which is quite interesting for them. When we got to the depot, we had to load more coal and water, because we had a long way to go on the following day. We also topped up the lubrication, again.

Sunday started early for the support crew. Those who were preparing the fire started at about four o'clock, and everybody was about by five. We left Saint Phillip's Marsh on time, but difficulties with the shunting delayed our departure by twelve minutes. This was reduced to ten minutes by Westbury, and we arrived at Taunton eight minutes early. We had plenty of time to top up the tender with water, and pull coal forward, and we managed to leave two minutes early. We recorded forty two miles per hour at the top of Whiteball, and had a good run through to Dawlish. Unfortunately, we had a red signal at Teignmouth. We subsequently arrived at Paignton three minutes late, where DB Cargo handed over to the Dartmouth Steam Railway crew. Arrival at Kingswear was on time.

Clan Line was detached from the train, and reversed down to Churston for turning on the turntable. The servicing was done at Paignton, and involved cleaning the fire, and emptying the ashpans. We also attended to the lubrication, again, and topped up the tender with coal and water.

Because taking water took longer than hoped, we left Kingswear seven minutes late, and Paignton ten. We then had a very good run back to Bristol, topping Whiteball at sixty one miles per hour, and arriving one minute early.

Clan Line racing through the gloom at Castle Cary on the way back to Bristol - photograph by Paul Blowfield

Even though the passengers were able to go home happy, everything was far from over for the support crew. We learnt that Saint Phillip's Marsh were having difficulties, and wouldn't be able to accept us for several hours. Many phone calls were made, and the good people at Barton Hill were able to accept us at very short notice. It was after midnight before the support crew were able to get to bed.

The people at Barton Hill were also very helpful on the Monday morning, enabling us to take water and load coal. We attended to the lubrication, again, before our return home. The Class 66 was extricated from Saint Phillip's Marsh, and came round to pick us up and tow us to Stewarts Lane. For several of the support crew, that was the first chance to get home to a decent bed for five days.

Now, it all starts again, in preparation for our next trip....