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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Member

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    Yes.
     
  2. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    GWSR tend to fluctuate between 4 and 5 steam locos to cover a maximum of 2 steam diagrams in any one day. If we move towards regularly having 3 steam diagrams in a day I can see us moving towards fluctuating between 5 and 6 resident locos.

    The past proves that almost all railways operating such a slimline steam loco policy can get by most of the time, but many also seem to occasionally have a really rotten year where it all goes wrong and there is mass diesel substitution through the summer months. NYMR, WSR and Llangollen come to mind as having had particularly bad years in the last few years.

    It's also worth considering the necessary back room staff to maintain a slim loco fleet. This is just a hypothesis, but a line with a small fleet relative to its operations, to be more sure it can cover its planned trains, might be forced to employ more shed staff for maintenance. Whereas a line with more locos could rely a little more on volunteer labour in the knowledge that if a loco was declared a failure, it could be fixed at those volunteers' leisure while another loco was in steam.
     
  3. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Member

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    The thing is if they had hired another loco for this year, people on here would then go 'why have they got 5 locos in for a max 2 in steam service?'. They couldn't win either way. Failures happen, yes, but hope for the best and plan for the worst.... 4 locos to cover 2 trains day-to-day is about right for this I would say. The same as 5 locos for 3 day-in-day-out service would be about right.
     
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I shall defer to your expertise in such matters.

    Tom
     
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  5. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Hold-up, I thought this whole discussion began with Tom's comments that 4 steam locos was too low for a regular 3 train service (but ok for a one off)? I think you seem to be arguing against a point no one has made...
     
  6. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Member

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    ;)
     
  7. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    Exactly, for the record, I’d argue comparing the GWSR and WSR on is somewhat a chalk and cheese comparison, in a normal season the GWSR not only run less services, but also less days in total, allowing time for when things go wrong.

    In a normal season for the current service level I’d say the GWSR has it about right, the WSR at least one short. However, for this year I do think they have enough to get by although longer term it’s a huge risk.

    I seem to remember 6430 having to visit because there wasn’t enough serviceable engines due to over running maintenance. If that hadn’t been available then I guess it would of been diesel substitutes.
     
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  8. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Member

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    Yes, you are right in saying the GWSR operate less services, but thanks for ignoring my points about Dartmouth ;).

    6430 did come in as well like you say in 2019, these things happen. WSR substituted diesel-for-steam services are incredibly rare.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2021
  9. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    I didn’t ignore anything, I wasn’t replying directly to your post :)

    Although, that said, I do think that while I admire their stance, they also sail close to the wind, no one is saying it isn’t doable but if you can have a safety margin, maybe that is better.

    The other issue in small fleets of course is also you loose that ability to rotate overhauls between big jobs and smaller quicker jobs, not only to allow for your traffic levels but also finances. If you only have just enough to cover your services then when an engine becomes due an overhaul and you find the frames need replacement, you are forced to find that work despite your finances . This is where a reserve in general is an advantage such as the SVR follows.

    I suppose you could rely on hires, that was a policy at the GWSR at one time, they soon found that was stressful and worked hard to get engines based there. I know some railways do get by just on shortish term hires but I’m sure most if not all of them would say it’s not ideal, especially long term.

    Anyway back to the WSR....
     
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  10. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    Given the WSR's ability to create discussion by their actions as witnessed across the 1863 pages of this thread it is perhaps too easy to see the worst in any action taken. It also may mean that more fundamental events get buried in off topic discussions on loco availability .

    so how are reopening preparations going and a full compliment of paid staff available to manage this happening ?
     
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  11. Aberdare

    Aberdare Well-Known Member

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    WSR loco availability.

    There was one year (I cannot remember which) when due to some high demand for extra services I knew that for a continuous 10 day period we would need 4 steam locomotives in service each day, and the services could not be run with only 3. This was at a time when we only had 4 steam locomotives on the railway that were not in a fully dismantled condition.

    The weeks before and after still required 3 locomotives a day, fortunately we had several weeks notice of this period of high demand. By careful advance planning it was possible to arrange all of the washouts before and after such that at no time did we have to replace steam with diesel, cancel a train or go beyond our 28 days in service between washouts for any of the locomotives.

    The up side of this was that the fitters had a generally easy 10 days as there was nothing to fiddle with when everything was running!

    7828 Dinmore Manor held the WSR record for the highest mileage in a 28 day washout period, running 28 days at 100 miles per day, 2,800 miles.

    Andy.
     
  12. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    thanks Andy and perhaps highlights that a peak times diagrams can get close to steam era utilization
     
  13. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Well, yes, no-one said they didn't. So long as you accept the odd diesel substitution as part of that managing, or are you saying that they managed without a single diesel substitution?
     
  14. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    At the other extreme: back in - I think - 1982, on the Bluebell 14 of the home fleet locomotives ran in traffic at some point in the year. (That was the 100th anniversary of the line, so I do wonder if a special effort was made leading up to then, though through that era 12 or so locos was common). Given that the annual mileage was well below 20,000 miles at that time, the average attained by each was minuscule. It must have been a pretty special time in the loco department ("which one shall we have today, George"), but the cost must also have been significant, since there is a fixed cost of having a loco in ticket regardless of the miles run.

    Since then, numbers have declined and we have generally managed with about eight, though the way we roster with big, medium and small locos meaning not all locos can do all duties complicates things a bit. This year it looks like we'll probably be down to six - 3 big, one bigg-ish and two medium.

    From a costs point of view, apart from the annual boiler inspection and insurance costs, there is the impact on overhauls. If you have ten locos to run your service, you have to do at least one overhaul per year. If you only have five, you only have to do one overhaul every two years, which is much cheaper, even if mechanically each overhaul may be slightly costlier on account of increased mileage-related wear and tear. Clearly running the loco fleet as lean as possible is more cost effective, provided it doesn't get too lean. In the example cited above (which is incidentally a tribute to good standards of reliability), to get four from four operational was evidently only possible by careful juggling of washouts &c. from a long way before - something that many railways probably achieve for a big one-off gala calling for maximum availability, but doing it just to cope with the regular running feels to me too tight. It is a lot of pressure on those maintaining the locos to get to that position, and you are only one failure away from not being able to run the service.

    Tom
     
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  15. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    So, has anyone passing over Seaward Way crossing seen any activity there recently? -Or is there still just a hole filled with concrete?
     
  16. Another Yorkshireman

    Another Yorkshireman Member Friend

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    Digger down there this morning shifting earth , and wire mesh in a big hole ready for concrete.
     
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  17. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    One other dimension is the human dimension and volunteer and paid staff availability and having enough people available to keep everything in service. (I don't know if workshop staff at the WSR take on other roles such as driving, firing, control etc as they do at other lines). I am assuming that there is no volunteer shortfall.

    If you need 3 and have 5 and one loco has a fault, it is less of an issue if a couple of workshop staff being out means that a job will take a week rather than a couple of days vs if you need 3 and have 4 and you have a job that will take a week or have to pull people from other work to fix a problem urgently because you don't have loco cover. It can also lead to pinch points on the shoulders of seasons. I am assuming that there are no more limits on numbers of people working indoors etc etc.
     
  18. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    With my Engineering hat on, the more locos I have, the better, because that makes my life (and my wife's life) that much easier as I don't have to burn the midnight oil to keep the wheels turning. However, I also have a management role that sees me having budget responsibilities and a finite purse full of money and I know that every loco in service costs money, whether used or not and, because of the nature of our game, it's more time based than mileage. Thus, I want to get away with the minimum number of locos that I think I can. There's also the fact that I do have diesel locos to call on if things get desperate so the service is not in jeopardy, only the customer experience. You don't want to use a diesel on an advertised steam service but it happens from time to time, especially when a steam loco fails during the day as, unlike BR, you don't have strategically placed steam standing pilots waiting to take over from an ailing A4 (substitute your own preferred loco.)

    If you think back to the days when industry relied on the railway system for its raw materials and products, very few industrial systems had significant numbers of spare locomotives , perhaps one spare if you had three in daily use. This didn't present a problem, even where it was critical to the business to have those locos working. A steam loco will often carry on with no end of defects until you have time to fix them, as long as they aren't safety critical.

    Getting the balance right is not easy but doing so is good management. If Aberdare thinks that the WSR can run the service with four locos, I'm pretty certain that they can, and will.
     
  19. Robin

    Robin Well-Known Member

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    Between 1979 and 1989 the SVR averaged more than 14 of the home fleet in steam each year! The record was 18 in a single year (1979). Of course some of those spent part of their time out and about on the main line, but as you say, it was a pretty special time.
     
  20. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    Very encouraging. Do we know who the successful applicant was for the salaried position tasked with contractor liaison ?
     
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