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Driver Competencies

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by GWR4707, Mar 10, 2021.

  1. Cosmo Bonsor

    Cosmo Bonsor Member

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    Gauge glasses failing is really rare in my experience.
    In 35 years on the footplate, I've never had one explode and only saw a glass changed in service once. That was reported by the Driver as blowing badly.
    The Works Manager came for a run out to Kingscote and back and leisurely changed the glass while I carried on firing. It was 9F 92240. No drama at all.
    The glass tube erodes at the top by the action of steam and water rushing down them. It is normal practice to change them before they get bad enough to go.
    The Inspector who passed me for driving said in steam days if they got and engine with a blowing glass that had been repeatedly booked for it, they would put a spanner through it going on shed. 'Got to change it now, haven't they? Gauge glasses are not something you need to worry about.
     
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  2. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Either you’re lucky in never having a glass blow or I’m unlucky. I’ve had four go. Admittedly, the last one happened literally as I jumped off the footplate and a relief crew took over. “ I think you’ve got a problem “ I said to the relieving driver, with a smile.
     
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  3. Apollo12

    Apollo12 New Member

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    That’s why he said “most decent locos” ;)
     
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  4. Cosmo Bonsor

    Cosmo Bonsor Member

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    I don't know about about lucky, random events are just that. I wouldn't draw any conclusions from our anecdata.
    All of us with any decent amount of footplate hours will have experienced and dealt with issues like gauge glass breakage.
    It comes back the general points about training and testing. The railway has to be confident (and have a paper trail) that its operating staff can handle unexpected events safely.
    All good fun.
     
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  5. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    It is, once you have got over getting up at an unearthly hour, oiled up in the pouring rain, crawled between the frames and up behind the big ends, roasting your backside in the process and forgotten that steam brake exhaust pipe drips scalding water down your neck . It's even good fun when things go wrong; as long as you can cope, that is. I've known some otherwise good enginemen fall to pieces when things go badly wrong.
     
  6. Apollo12

    Apollo12 New Member

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    Completely agree, my favourite and most memorable days have been the days where things haven't gone to plan. Failures, extreme weather etc.
     
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  7. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Another is an object (cardboard box etc) being left in the middle of the track or thrown over a wall
     
  8. 242A1

    242A1 Well-Known Member

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    The training for RN submarine captains was far more distracting. Well worth reading about. Sorry about the drift.
     
  9. Dunfanaghy Road

    Dunfanaghy Road Member

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    Drifting slightly ... ...
    My Great-Uncle George at one point between the wars drove a steam lorry for Harland & Wolff in Belfast. (No idea what make, I'm afraid.) He told me that gauge glasses came packed in sawdust, and that if you cleared it out by blowing through before fitting it, it was bound to break. Is there any truth in this? It seems far-fetched to me.
    Pat
     
  10. clinker

    clinker Member

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    I have heard something similar, but it might be like pulling a spiders legs off makes them deaf.
     
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  11. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Had a gauge glass break on 34102 once while it was double heading with 34057. Took 15 minutes to sort out after the train had come to a stand.
     
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  12. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Well-Known Member

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    I'm fascinated by this one. Is this 'emergency driving' a formalised competency? Do you have any refreshers?

    I'm interested because I'm racking my brains to think of a mainline equivalent and I can't. What would happen if you were doing this and there was an accident (a car at a crossing, perhaps)?

    Do other lines have similar?
     
  13. ruddingtonrsh56

    ruddingtonrsh56 Member

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    Presumably part of this is to check your route knowledge that you know where the crossings and points like that are available, and as such are able to plan required firing so it doesn't happen when you're needing to keep a look out for these things.

    I do find the concept interesting, however, that the implied 'preferred option' is to get on to the next station, potentially irrespective of where you are on the line? Admittedly I don't know the Bluebell well at all, but my guess is that Horsted House Farm is in the vicinity of Horsted Keynes - if this is true, would it not be better in the case of a real case of driver falling down incapacitated at this point to stop the train, alert the guard and reverse into Horsted Keynes rather than going on for 4 miles or so to Kingscote with divited attention between firing and driving?
     
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  14. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Resident of Nat Pres

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    The Blue Peter incident for starters and not long after that Brell Ewart was struck by something coming through the 46203’s window in 1996 come to mind. We made an unscheduled stop at Wigan North Western that day. I’m not sure what the rule book would say, something along the lines of proceed to the next signal and report maybe? What are the rules regarding mobile phones on the mainline these days?
     
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  15. jnc

    jnc Well-Known Member

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    Where might one do so (sounds interesting). Apologies all for continuing, hopefully it will stop soon!

    Noel
     
  16. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I believe we do similarly to as Tom described, ie the driver suddenly becomes "incapacitated" for a section so the fireman takes over, with the driver making a "miraculous recovery" at the next stop. I presume this is assessed biannually along with everything else, but I don't know, not my department.
     
  17. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Well-Known Member

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    It's known as the perisher, google / youtube that perhaps.
     
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  18. burnettsj

    burnettsj Member

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    Whilst driving I have had the stationmaster instruct the train to stop when leaving, to ensure the guard was playing attention after request from the guard's inspector (and I was pre-warned).
     
  19. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure what the mainline rule book says 'to the letter', but if the driver is incapacitated another driver would have to be found. There is nothing about someone else taking over (unless they are driving qualified).

    In terms of notification I'd assume GSMR would be used to pass the message along.
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'd never especially thought of it as being abnormal!

    The key point to me is that, unlike the mainline, there is nothing to physically stop a steam locomotive in motion if the driver becomes incapacitated. There is no deadman's handle, no ATC and no communication with a signalman unless you are at a signal and can telephone. So only two people in that situation can control the train: the fireman (who can drive it), or the guard (who can stop it). The guard may be unaware of any issue on the footplate until too late, so the responsibility for controlling the train is with the fireman. So you need to test that the candidate is competent to do so before passing them out as qualified.

    There isn't, AFAIK, any requirement to drive with especial finesse, but you do (or at least did - I did my firing test some years ago) need to prove that you can get to safety maintaining control of both the train and the boiler, keep a look out, and obey any signals.

    I'm not sure what the alternative is if, say, the driver genuinely keeled over. You either stop immediately, or you go on to the next station. Either way, the fireman has to stop the train, but in one case you stop in the middle of nowhere and in the other you stop where there will be people around to help. If you stop in the middle of nowhere - then what do you do?

    Those things are important, but are tested anyway on the rest of your test.

    Horsted House Farm is about a mile north of HK - say three or four minutes after leaving, and about 8 or 9 before arriving at Kingscote.

    However - the longest section we have is 15 minutes at timetable speed. So imagine a driver could keel over at any point - if it happens after you have passed the section signal, you are probably at most 13 minutes away from arriving at the next station. If you stop, make the loco safe, go back, find the guard, come to a decision to set back, walk to the nearest signal, come to an agreement with the signalman, then set back: in almost every case if you have got past the section signal, doing all that will take much longer than 13 minutes, and result in a driving move for a fireman that is considerably more difficult than going on. I would certainly rather drive for ten minutes forwards than three minutes backwards propelling a train. Again I come back to the earlier point: if your driver is incapacitated, your three options are (1) go forward to the next station (2) stop and summon help or (3) stop and go backwards. I know which one of those I think presents the lowest risk.

    In my specific case, the driver had 847 notched up to about 40% cut off, 2nd valve and I was firing. Driver keels over. Two more miles to the summit keeping a lookout, maintain the water as normal, be alert for a slip (likely in the tunnel), whistle at the crossings etc, then shut off just past West Hoathly, control the speed down to the old signal box at Kingscote, then first valve chuff into the station on the last little rise. The loco coasts well enough at 40% so apart from the regulator and brake, not much to do until arrival, at which point you shut everything down (mid gear, cocks open, handbrake etc). You aren't going to get pulled up because maybe you could have eased back to 35% where the gradient changes to 1 in 134 for a hundred yards and then back to 45% where it steepens back to 1 in 60. As I said - it's about safety, not absolute finesse.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2021
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