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Autumn Train driving

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Autumn-train-drivingWith summer out of the way our team of trusty engineers are gearing up for one of their busiest times of year - Autumn.

We caught up with our Chief Mechanical Engineer, Philip Gray, to find out what happens in the Bressingham workshop and whether he’s expecting leaves on the line to become a problem during this season of change!

Are the steam engines used heavily during summer & does this cause any problems?

We have a six week period over the summer which is very busy - everything is in steam almost every day!

The only problem with that being that occasionally, If you want to do some line maintenance, you have to make sure that you get up early in the morning well before any customers arrive.

Apart from that we don't normally have much in the way of disruption during the summer - Autumn is when the hard work really begins.

Do you make any particular preparations for the Autumn months?

Most of our repair work is done during the winter period, so we have to get a lot of things ready for the work ahead.

About this time of year, perhaps a little earlier, we go round making lists of what might cause problems in the future. Then by the time winter comes we have a good idea of the work that we will be doing.

There’s always a long list of boiler inspections that we have to do every year - These are mandatory - Then, of course, on top of that there's running maintenance to carry out.

Replacing parts on steam engines requires planning.  If something goes wrong when your family car you can go down to the garage and buy a spare part off-the-shelf - a lot of that stuff we use we have to make ourselves from scratch!

Our foundry has a pattern for things like Cast-iron brake shoes, and it will take up to 10 weeks to get a casting actually made.  All this type of thing has to be planned and prepared for, so the work can be carried out over the winter months.

Is Autumn a good time to drive a steam engine?

That depends whether it’s raining or not!

In practical terms the change in seasons makes no difference really - There are some lovely colours on the trees when you go round track in Autumn, but apart from that there's not a great deal of difference.

You have to bear in mind that in summertime it can be excessively hot when you're working on a steam engine.That can be not too nice - So bit of autumnal weather can actually be a bit of relief.

“Leaves on the track” became a bit of joke, but is it a real problem?

For us at Bressingham it is not a problem at all, But on the national railways it was a very big problem indeed.

There were a lot of issues with signals and slippery tracks caused by large amounts of fallen leaves.

The only thing we have along the same lines is rain. With a car that goes along a road that has been dry, you get a little sprinkling of rain and the surface can get very slippery.

The same thing happens to a steam locomotive on rails - but this being England could happen at any time of year, Not just Autumn.

A little bit of sand on the track solves that problem!

Do you have any Steam Engine related questions or comments?

Do you have any experiences, comments or stories about steam engines?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

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By Alastair Baker at 11 Sep 2015, 00:00 AM