It's taken me some time to write this one (Almost time to write the next story in fact) In the words of Douglas Adams, I love deadlines, and the wooshing sound they make as they go whizzing by! Monday 2nd of July 2018, and I was glad of having a car with air-conditioning, not something I would be able to make the most of during the day. It was hot, and a uniform made it even hotter. We are allowed during very hot spells to be a bit more relaxed with our uniforms, but I can be scruffy enough when I am being smart, so going without a tie, and having the waist coat un-buttoned would do nothing for the effect here, but it was forecast to be another hot dry week. I felt for the loco crew, in the enclosed cab of 1501 for most of the week. Our regular driver, John, had been unwell, and so had been unable to join us this year, but fortunately, his regular fireman, Tom, was available, and to answer the cliff hanger I left you with last time regarding whether or not Tom passed his driving exam, he had stepped up to fill Johns boots on the driver's side of the footplate. This left a Tom shaped hole on the fireman's side of the footplate, meaning there was plenty of space for a man who would go on to do a good few terms with Tom, in the shape of Lawrence Mortimer. More importantly the guard on the other train, who would be the unfortunate recipient of my sense of humour for another week of his holidays, was David Brattan. Those of you who regularly read my ramblings, will remember Dave for such things as completely failing to notice that I had gaffer taped a lemon to his train, and this year would be no different, my first job, before checking my own train over, was to sneak onto Dave's train and hide a Lemon in the detonator safe in his guard's van, and Jamming another in the Coal Rail of 1501's bunker. My TTIs, Keiren Evans and Malcom Deeley and I were settling into what looked like being a routine day, as we left Kidderminster exactly on time. The good running continued as we headed North, and I was starting to wonder if I'd have a story to write. I needn't have worried, if you want to write a story about life on a preserved railway, sooner or later, the God of railwaymen will provide! I arrived at Arley to be greeted by an irate member of station staff. Now irate members of staff are a familiar thing to me, but what confused me, was it wasn't as a result of one of my practical jokes, infact it was nothing I had done at all! "Is Dave on the train?" She demanded. "Dave?" I replied, a little confused. "Yes, Dave, have you got the keys?" "Keys?" "Yes," she replied, seemingly annoyed at my lack of comprehension, "The keys to the station." "No," I replied, "Why would I have the key's to the station?" "Dave said he's be on the train with them," she replied, rather abruptly. Now, Dave is not an uncommon name, in fact, as previously mentioned, it's the name of the Guard on the other Kidderminster train. "Dave's on the other one," I replied, "He's the Guard." "Not that Dave," she yelled, she was into yelling at me by now, while I was getting more and more confused, "How am I supposed to open the station without the keys? I can't sell tickets if I can't get in." "The TTI's can sell tickets on the train," I replied, "Have they got cash? Or do we need to take them to the booking office at Bridgnorth to use the card machine?" "Who?" "The passengers you need to sell tickets to?" "Well I haven't got any passengers yet have I?" I felt it best at this point to just apologise for not being Dave and leave, taking my train with me. On arrival back in Kidderminster that Evening, I went to get a pint from the King and Castle and wait for Dave, firstly, to see if he had found the Lemon (He had not, so I made sure he had some stick for that) and to see if he had had to apologise for not being me! Tuesday, Tuesday was the kind of day that makes decent stories, but was a little on the stressful side. First thing was to wind Dave up again, having not found the lemon on Monday, I decided to make the game a little easier for him hiding half a dozen of them and a few limes too, with a lime joining the Lemon jammed in 1501's bunker. We left Kidderminster at 10.15 on the dot, and a few minutes later were in Bewdley, where one of the people connected with the coach parties came up to me. "Erm, we've got a bit of a problem, we think we may have left one of our party behind," She said. "Oh," I replied, my mind instantly begining to race to work out what to do, "Are you sure?" "Not entirely," she replied, "Do you know if they all got on?" Immediately my mind went back to the "Dave" incident from yesterday, when she realised what she had said. "No, of course not, sorry," she replied, seemingly reading my mind, "I'll go back and do a head count." A minute of so later, she re-appeared. "We miscounted," she said, "Sorry, you can take the train out now." I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or indignant! Leaving Bridgnorth exactly on time, things were looking good for the trip back, until we got as far as Hampton Loade. Hampton Loade Signal box is at the South end of the down Platform, which means, owing to the short platforms, guard's of trains in both directions have to indicate to the signalman that their train has arrived complete with tail lamp and is clear of the other line. "Complete and Clear," I called to the signalman. "Thanks Ian," he replied, "You are going to be a while, the down is having trouble on Highley bank, Rumours are, they are going back for another try." "Alright," I said, "Thanks." Knowing that meant about half an hour, I informed my TTIs, who today were John Robinson and Pete Allen, and while they were telling the passengers, I nipped off to the Kiosk to get an Ice Lolly for myself and the crew, before heading down to tell the loco crew what was going on, the crew seemingly pleased to receive an ice lolly on such a warm day. We eventually got away 27 minutes late, and got stuck into trying to recover the delay. We reduced the delay to 17 minutes by Kidderminster, mainly down to swift platform work, as the dry weather meant Tom was reluctant to work the loco hard, but the footplate crew cut their break short to get the train away on time. Waiting to depart, and one of the platform staff looked into the van. "Doesn't look like you are going anywhere for a while," he said. "Why's that Cal?" I asked. "You've got no vacuum," he replied. "Callum," I replied, "That's the steam heat, we might be OK without that today." No David, on the other train, is renowned for having a bit of a temper, having slipped to a stand, I knew he would not be in a good mood, so I thought the best plan was either to leg it, or have a pint waiting for him when he got back. Not being a coward, I went for option B. He stomped up the platform to book off, and when he returned, still at full stomp, I was standing there, offering him a pint of Worcestershire Way. "You and your silly games," he ranted, "Every time something went wrong, ooh, thank you," taking his pint off me, "What was I saying? Oh yes, every time something went wrong, I turned around, and there was a bloody lemon staring at me." That was too much for me, I nearly showered one of the platform staff with Beer, as I collapsed in fits of laughter, knowing full well, this would bring a rebuke of "It's not funny!" Wednesday, and there was no let up in the hot weather. There was also no let up in my teasing of Dave, as 1501 now had a Grapefruit jammed on a lamp iron, and two more were joining the other citrus fruit around the train. The morning went very well, we had a slight hiccup at Hampton Loade again, owing to Taw Valley on the down train having issues again at Highley, but we were back on time at Kidderminster. Taw Valley's trouble's kept causing fun, and we were held at Kidderminster, and instructed to take a slow plod to Bewdley as they were running a bit late. Other than Taw Valley's troubles, Wednesday was trouble free, but I had vanished before Dave got back, no pint hanging around for a pint, as Dave was off out tonight and I needed to go to Sainsbury's as I was running out of fruit. Thursday, and I had been hiding more fruit around Dave's train. My choice of fruit wasn't suitable for hiding on 1501 owing to being a bit small, so instead, we had a Papaya jammed on a lamp iron. LNER kitchen - diner, also known as the 'Gin palace' had been added to the back of the train, adding 43 tons to the load. Given the dry weather I was unsure about the wisdom of this. The down trip was one of those trips that lulls you into a false sense of security. The only point of interest was Highley box asking me to convey some spare token Holders to Bridgnorth. The first up trip of the day showed little sign of coming unravelled as at Hampton Loade, we were only delayed 2 minutes, down to getting the school kids on and off, not that that would do anything to help Dave's mood, he's not the biggest fan of children, and this would probably annoy him more than half an hour on Highley bank. Running into Highley, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my finger. Looking down there was an insect, happily biting my. The insect was swiftly sent on its way, but very soon my finger began itching uncomfortably and swelling up. By Arley this was becoming quite uncomfortable and was starting to distract me for my job. "Is there nothing in the first aid box you can use?" asked Leigh Weston, who was my TTI for the day. "Hmm, I could try cleaning it and see what happens," I said, "It's not going to make it any worse." I cleaned it with an antiseptic wipe and got instant but brief relief. Now I'm no doctor so I don't know if this was actually working or the placebo effect, but I wasn't bothered, it felt much better, so I phoned the D.O. to ask if he could get someone out of the offices to bring me down a handful of these when I got into Kidderminster, because at the very least, I was going to knock a good hole in the stock in the first aid kit. Before we got to Kidderminster, we had Bewdley, and more problems. Bewdley south box had been having signalling issues all week, and now had a track circuit failure, we were sent through to Kidderminster on a Signalman's ticket (A system introduced to keep trians moving under certain conditions until a pilotman could be found) Waiting at Kidderminster for the road the other way, we were approached by a chap by the name of Pete Maddox with a red flag tied around his arm. I was chatting with the loco crew at the time, so realising what was happening, hung around so as to receive the message first hand. "I'm the pilotman," he said, Pointing at his armband, "The track circuit has failed between here and Bewdley South, I am authorising you to pass the section signal at Danger and obey all other signals." "Ok," said Tom, "Pass the section signal at Danger and obey all other signals." "That is correct." Said Pete. "Pass the section signal at danger and obey all other signals," I also replied. "Correct." To some this repeating of what the pilotman had just said, may seem odd, however, it ensures that we have heard the correct information. I have had someone mis-repeat something I have said, I made them repeat it back to me properly, then, suspecting they hadn't taken the info in, kept an eye open for what they were doing, and acted swiftly to avoid them causing an incident, so as a system, I can say, it definately works. We dropped the pilotman at Bewdley, and carried on. This was the hottest day of the week, and it was starting to tell on the crew. By Bridgnorth, it was obvious they were having issues. The heat was giving Tom some issues and he was clearly having trouble, so I suggested he should go get himself a cool drink and see how he felt while I ran the loco round for him, then we could work out a plan to get us all home, this being one of the benefits of being multi disciplined and willing to be useful. By the time I had run the loco round, he was back, looking more healthy, the slightly less hot air and a cool drink restoring his health, it seems just in the nick of time, and half a dozen water bottles in his arms, just to make sure. We arrived back at Kidderminster, to be greeted by Callum off the station staff. "Dave's not very happy with you," he said. "Oh, why not," I replied, knowing exactly why. "Not sure," he replied, "But at lunch time he was seen hurling Kumquats from his Guard van window." With that, he handed me a hand full of some very abused looking fruit. Once again I decided I'd better have a pint waiting for him. As Dave came to join us, I handed him his beer, and asked him about his new olympic sport. "Olympic sport?" he asked. "Yes," I replied, "I understand you have invented the sport of Kumquat hurling." "Hmph," he replied. "Or would you prefer it to be called Citrus wanging?" I continued. "I didn't hurl them," he replied, "I placed them." "You placed them fairly violently judging by the state of them!" I replied. "Oh, that reminds my," he said, "I've got a trainee tomorrow, so if you start hiding fruit around my train to wind him up I'll ring your neck." Now Dave has known me around 15 years now, he should know better, and realise that I'm not likely to take this as a warning, more as encouragement to continue winding him up, by sidestepping the very specific instructions he gave me, I did not disappoint. I knew I would have to be on top of my game as I knew Dave would be early, owing to having a trainee, any jokes would have to be funny without knocking the trainee out of his stride. I cleared his train of fruit and distributed what was left, which had neither been eaten or hurled, around 1501, the old girl looking more like a green grocers than a locomotive, and left my parting shot in Dave's brake van. Just after 10, Dave's Trainee wondered down the platform. "Oh hello Jamie, didn't realise you were training to be a guard," I replied. "Yeah, thought I'd sample life on the dark side," he replied. The road came off and I was waiting for time, when with perfect timing, Dave arrived. Jamie walked towards him. "There seems to be some kind of deconstructed stew in the detonator safe," he said, Loudly enough for both myself and Dave to hear. "Deconstructed stew?" said Dave. "Yeah," replied Jamie, "Four potatoes, three carrots and three turnips." I hung around long enough to watch Dave change colour before giving the right away and leaving, trying my hardest to hide a fit of the giggles. This time it was Lawrence who was feeling the effects of the hot weather, and upon arrival at Bridgnorth, he then, after taking water, he stood himself under the water column, a few years previous, in similar hot weather, Tom had done the same, and had had to publicly apologise on facebook for not being dead, I rather hoped there was not going to be a repeat of this, but couldn't resist winding the two of them up over it. The rest of the day went incident free, but for one final little incident. We swapped locos at Bridgnorth, loosing 1501 for 7714. I expected all the fruit etc to remain on the 15, but the lads took the time and trouble to strip it all off and replace it on 7714. "We nearly lost the Papaya," said Tom, "We got them to stop and take it off, but they threw it at Lawrence." "Good job it's soft," I replied. "It's not that soft," said Tom, "And it is quite heavy." "No," I replied, "I meant Lawrence" "Thanks mate," replied Lawrence with a smile. So if you want to replicate our adventures, or throw fruit at Lawrence, why not come and join us, give Barry Moreton in the Volunteer Liaison Office a ring on 01299 401776, or if the SVR is a bit to far away, I'm sure most other railways would be just as welcoming. No specialist skills are required as full training is given, but you may need to provide your own Lemons.