We had had quite a bit of time since our previous trip, so a lot of the cleaning had already been done. This didn't mean that we were idle on the preparation day, though. There was still a lot to do. As well as the final cleaning, there was still the Fitness To Run examination to be carried out, all the oiling to do, and coal to be loaded.
On the morning of the trip, we arrived at Platform 2 at London Victoria in plenty of time, and were able to let some of our passengers visit the footplate. We left on time, but we were held up by service trains on our way round the Hounslow Loop. We had made all this up by the time that we reached Reading, though. After a crew change at Didcot Parkway, we stopped at Hinksey Sidings, south of Oxford, where we had a water tanker waiting, and pulled some coal forward. We were ready to depart two minutes ahead of schedule, but a late running Cross Country service held us up, and we arrived at Leamington Spa a couple of minutes late.
After dropping off our passengers, we made our way to Tyseley for servicing. There were delays getting us into the Loco Works, which cut down on our already tight servicing time. Once we were over the pit outside the shed, we could start the lubrication and fire cleaning.
Fire cleaning is hard work. When the engine is being worked, sheets of clinker can build up on the fire bars, and interrupt the primary air that is coming up through the grate. This needs to be removed, and the ash dropped. We have a rocking grate that is divided into two halves. The usual approach is to keep one side of the fire burning well whilst working on the other. The ashpan hoppers are opened to let the ash and any dropped fire fall into the pit. The grate is unlocked and the fire dropped, using the ashpan sprays to prevent any damage to the hoppers. The fire irons are used to remove any recalcitrant clinker. Once this side of the grate has been dealt with, as much clean fire as possible is moved across using the clinker shovel, and coal is added. The same procedure is then carried out on the second side of the grate. Once this is also clean, some of the fire is moved back, and the process of rebuilding the fire can begin.
Once the fire had been cleaned, we moved the loco across to where the coal lorry and water tanker were waiting, and continued with the lubrication. Then we had to rejoin the stock, and prepare to haul it, tender first, to Stratford upon Avon. Because of the delays in arriving for servicing, we were not ready to leave until eleven minutes after our scheduld time. Having lost our path, we were further delayed, and finally got into Stratford upon Avon fifteen minutes late. After running round the train, we left eighteen minutes late.
Leaving Stratford upon Avon is not the easiest of departures, with the gradient, the curve, and the need to cross over onto the correct line. However, judicious use of the sanders ensured that we were successful.
We were due to take a seventeen minute pathing stop at Fenny Compton, so shortening this allowed us to pull back about fifteen minutes. We were only about three minutes late on our return to Hinksey for more water, and we were still three minutes behind as we left.
Once we were back on the Great Western Main Line at Didcot, we were put onto the Main (fast line), and had greens all the way to Acton Main Line, apart from a slight slowing at Reading. We had made up all of the lost time, and more. We were still on time at Longhedge Junction, but finally got into Victoria three minutes late. Unusually, we came in on Platform 7 instead of our normal 2.
Our passengers seemed very happy when they left us. They had had a very good day, and so had we.