There is very little to say about our Surrey Hills trip with the Belmond British Pullman on Saturday 14th December. We had good, sunny weather, though it was a little chilly, and we kept more or less to time all day.

On the way from Victoria to Clapham Junction is a signal at Longhedge, on quite a steep climb. We usually hope that we don't have to stop here, but it was red on this occasion. Getting started again is not easy, especially with a heavy train such as the Pullmans. With a Bulleid locomotive, like Clan Line, with such a large steam chest, the normal approach is to "pump" the regulator. If you leave it open, you greatly increase the likelihood of slipping. Jim ended up with aching arms after many pumps on the regulator, but it was effective, and we got going again without calling on Paul in the diesel on the back for assistance.

Clan Line at Ford Farm Crossing, near Albury - photograph by Pete Doel

Clan Line at Betchworth - photograph by Julian Clark

This was our final trip of the year, and we have now entered our annual maintenance period. Don't expect to see us out and about until the 8th of February, but we will be very busy throughout this time. After cleaning the grate and smokebox, our first major job is a boiler washout. It is not the most pleasant of jobs, with lots of cold water about, this time of year. This will be followed by a visit from our boiler inspector, who will check whether he is happy that everything is as it should be. He will want to see the safety valves dismantled, and check for broken stays, amongst other things. We won't know whether we will have to have any work done on the boiler until we receive his report. Then we can start "boxing up" the boiler, and re-assembling the safety valves, before having a steam test. There will also be a lot to do on the mechanical side of things.

Think of us at Stewarts Lane while you are enjoying your Christmas and New Year.