Bowande GWR 0-4-2 at the Illawarra Hot Pot

Bowande GWR 0-4-2 at the Illawarra Hot Pot

I attended the Illawarra Hot Pot during the Queen’s Birthday Weekend. We broke the Melbourne to Wollongong South trip by road at Yass and arrived at the Hot Pot at about lunch time the following day. We met up with friends from the Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria (Moorabbin). I was a little bit nervous as I had insufficient time to properly test the recently installed injector on the 0-4-2.

The Hot Pot ground level track is approximately 1.6km in length and there are several watering points along the route. On Saturday, I tested the 0-4-2 on the small elevated track and the loco ran well. I had forgotten to take the stirrups for the riding car on the elevated track and felt a bit precarious and held the locomotive back. A good friend provided improvised stirrups with a plank of wood and I was reasonably well balanced.

Sunday was the excellent day. I had run the locomotive satisfactorily on char but had now decided to fire on Welsh steam coal on the ground level track. The use of Welsh steam coal reduces the work load of the driver/fireman on a small locomotive as does the well installed and working injector.

I knew that I could manage to complete the route with available water on board as I had done so at Box Hill in September 2016. Friends from Rails in the Garden were at the Gauge 1 track and came across to watch the little GWR accelerate out of the sidings. I was receiving my training on the run or rather training in situ.   The 0-4-2 behaved like a real locomotive as it should do. The blower was slightly cracked and firebox door slightly opened. I had remembered to open the drain cock in the steam chest and surplus condensate and oil were thrust out below the front buffer beam rather than spattering across my face.

I was held up by a stationary locomotive. A driver had stopped for a chat. Valuable water was being consumed by my loco. Green light. The locomotive accelerated majestically. I remembered to feed the fire a’ little and often’ and realised the value of the Welsh steam coal. The pinch on the long bridge was taken in its stride. We rolled effortlessly along the new bridge. The track was clear and I could stop and put the remaining water into the tank that fed the injector.

We made several laps of the track and then pulled into the siding to service the locomotive. Next time, after re-building the fire, I coupled up a riding car and took two passengers. Once again, we were checked by the signal. More water was taken on at the station, just in case. We rolled out onto the main line with safety valve blowing. Better control of the fire was warranted to prevent the safety valve from blowing off in the future.

Several friends from the Gauge 1 fraternity came to watch us on the main line and commented on the power of the 0-4-2. The passengers on the train made the exhaust more distinctive and drew the fire. More of the ‘little and often’ routine with the coal and keeping a watchful eye on the water gauge we coasted along the track. Towards the end of the run we de-railed on a piece of gravel, where spectators cross, the fire was disturbed and I started to lose steam pressure. We assisted the loco to the sidings. An excellent day, some more lessons learned and time to clean the loco for the trip home.

Live steamers in action draw the attention of all railway enthusiasts regardless of age and gauge. It is the sharing of the enthusiasm that makes the hobby so rewarding. The ‘ready to run’ locomotive certainly enables everyone to participate.