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Your experiences of hiring locomotives (good and bad)

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Biggles633, Feb 23, 2017.

  1. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    That is a very good point, an owner, or owners rep can only advise if they think their engine is not being treated right, at the end of the day, its the driver who is in charge, i have fired to another driver, who is the rep on their engine, but they were always under supervision if they were not passed out for that line , the late Roger Barker for instance,and he was a real good driver, and a good bloke to boot, i actually met him later on his own line, and did i get stick!! oh and a footplate pass, on 825 with Roger driving, except i spent most the trip with the fireman watching me shovelling, rather than me watching him,
     
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  2. 3855

    3855 Member

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    Interesting times ahead inspite of what people choose to believe footplate crew standards as a whole are in decline. Speaking as a loco owner who has had his fair share of bad experiences with some self proclaimed experts and proud ambassadors of aslef I worry for the future. Just what do you do as owners rep when the driver concerned won't listen to a word you say and drives your engine as if it's a rally car?
     
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  3. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Part of the furniture

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    And would you have had it any other way? There are locos that would have needed a lot more shoveling than an S15!

    Lovely bloke Roger, much missed and a real one off!

    Steven
     
  4. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    Oh no , i thoroughly enjoyed it , 825 wasnt as strong as 30506, didnt seem to steam as well, but i think she may had been towards the end of her ticket
     
  5. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Not sure how anyone can say that 825 doesn't steam You must have been doing something wrong!
     
  6. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    she did steam, just not as well as 30506 did in my opinion, as regards doing anything wrong, i didnt, i had her just below the mark against an injector all the way up , but thought it was harder work , but it was 7 on as oppossed to 5, but i can remember 506 hauling a certain BR7 and 10 up Meadsted bank, you couldnt hear Britainia just the S15, trying to blast its chimney off, its a pity 30506 never went mainline, it would have made short work of any of the banks
     
  7. 007

    007 Member

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    As someone who has been an owners rep a number of times it is truly a varied experience. Some crews you just gel with, others you sit there and wonder if they are safe to push a trolley around a shopping center.

    Some crews take advice, others ignore you. When i'm driving a visiting engine on our railway, I have 9 times out of 10 had little or no advice on the operation of the visiting locomotive from the owners rep. I try to make them feel welcome and often we have good banter, but the reason why they are there is to offer technical advice. I can honestly count the times I have received meaningful advice about the operation of the locomotive on one hand.

    They often, sit in the corner, don't say anything. It is in other words, an official footplate ride on another railway. I must add I don't mind that but when you are expecting advice and it is not offered or in some cases not even known, it is a bit odd.

    Generally hiring locomotives is a positive experience, it builds bridges and that is very worthwhile for all concerned.
     
  8. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think I misconstrued your post at all; in fact, it sounds as though we are in agreement!

    As did I; sorry if my earlier post didn't make that clear but I was drawing comparison based on the point raised.
    As for turnover of locos, there could be all manner of reasons. Sometimes there are too many locos chasing too little work; sometimes there are too few locos and the working ones have insufficient downtime for repairs so fall into poor condition. Sometimes the chap who has looked after it for years retires or moves on and the owner feels that the relationship was with the person rather than the railway. Sometimes owners sell, or fall out with someone (not necessarily even anyone important), or run out of money, or can't meet contractual obligations. Sometimes locos fail mid-ticket and owners get an offer of help from elsewhere. I wouldn't be too worried about turnover of locos at most of our major lines but if there was one which consistently struggled to attract or retain locos then I would say that was more of an issue which wanted looking at.
     
  9. Biggles633

    Biggles633 New Member

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    Thank you for all your responses.
    I agree with Steve, to protect your self you really do need to inspect an engine before it leaves its previous base of operating and arrives with you. This would hopefully save you from failing an engine on its first FTR exam before it is steamed and after you have incurred transport costs.
    The only time I've seen an engine inspected before and after its hire period by the owners/hirers was Met 1. I believe this was because the engine had booked dates on the underground and they didn't want it damaged/mistreated.
    Building relationships with owners and other railways is key, but this can be very difficult if they are basing their opinion of you on rumour and hearsay. It can be very difficult to change their views.
    Also some of the larger railways will only hire you an engine if you can send one back to them. For a small railway this is nearly impossible as all you can offer are industrials that don't meet their needs.
     
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  10. Ruston906

    Ruston906 Member

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    When people talk of driving standards I have always wondered why there is no nationally agreed driving standard test and qualification.
     
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  11. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    That could open up a can of worms..... I don't think the ORR are in favour of such an approach, either.
     
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  12. estwdjhn

    estwdjhn Member

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    The fundamental problem is it's hopelessly impractical - there is a whole world of difference between the levels of skill and ability required to operate safely at say the Buckingham Railway Centre or MOSI (short reasonably level demonstration lines) compared to taking a heavily loaded train over the North Yorkshire Moors, or controlling a rake of lose coupled mineral wagons on Foxfield bank. I'm not saying that those who operate at Mosi or BRC are incompetent or anything like that - far from it - but simply that those lines by their very nature don't offer the opportunity to learn about other, potentially more dangerous operating environments.

    Then you have route knowledge - even if you are competent for the loco, load and gradients that it's operating, you'll either need a pilotman or to have done a number of trips under supervision to learn the signaling, gradients and any special operating features of the route.

    And finally - icing on the cake - you have rulebooks. Drivers need to be familiar with these, and they can vary considerably from railway to railway.
     
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  13. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    I'm not sure I'd fully agree with that. Ok, the bit about not giving them to any old Tom, Dick or Harry is pretty true, but I'd also say it's not uncommon for road steam engines to be lent out to others without the owner being in attendance, and probably more so than the owner's humble daily drive around car.

    In some cases owners will lend their engines to people based in other parts of the country. They may occasionally go and join the engine, but otherwise the person it's with will take it out and about as if it's their own. I've 'given' my own engine to others on a number of occasions for road journies, at least one such person being a well known member on this forum. Yes, I would generally be in the area somewhere in my car to watch it trundle past, but I wasn't immediately on hand supervising for the whole 7 or 8 hour non-stop journey along varied terrain which the person concerned hadn't driven before - I had/have faith in their abilities. On a number of occasions I've had people give me their engine to take for a spin down the road on my own (literally) as well. I'll accept that in all those situations myself and the other owners have had confidence in the abilities of those they're passing their engine on to in advance. But the general idea that road steam vehicle owners are aghast at the concept of someone else driving their engine without them also being present on the engine is a bit of a sweeping statement that's easy to disprove.
     
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  14. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

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    If you have to fund your own loco/traction engine solely from your own pocket that view is perhaps understandable. The usual situation with locos though is rather different in that they are often on a hire agreement, giving an essential income to help balance the costs and may therefore be in use for many days each year making owner manning unfeasible.

    Whilst most railways have a range of crews they are generally not "any Tom Dick or Harry" and I suspect most (all?) railways ensure that they loose the services of those whose competence does not measure up.

    When considering hire requests in my own involvement we have an informal grading system which basically is:

    a. Railways we are entirely happy with & which already operate similar loco types - unattended hire
    b. As a. but where the railway does not already operate similar types - hire attended by owners rep who is a qualified footplateman at least initially
    c. Railways which have questionable reputation or operating practices - loco to only be crewed by owning group with host railway crew for route/rules etc
    d. Railways with a poor payment record - up front payment terms only

    Few railways meet a. , many meet b., several would be c. at least two would be in d.
     
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  15. bob.meanley

    bob.meanley Member

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    A Ferrari is a bit of a cheap option, you can get one for less than the price of an Austerity tank, in reality if it is a big main line engine as a comparison, you have to be thinking of at least leaving your top of the range Bugatti Veyron at your local railway for a weekend for all and sundry to drive.

    The problem is that there a great number of private railways which are managed by really great people, but sadly the outputs are only as good as their worst drivers, no offence meant but there has to be a best and a worst. It may be worth looking at some (and I do mean only some) of my experiences over a period of time. Rather as John Poyntz used to do in his uniquely inimitable safety reviews to the HRA, I shall leave the guilty un-named, but, just as at the HRA AGM's there may be one or two people who will not be smiling when they read this.

    A Castle out on loan was run frequently over a stretch of line where rails had been turned and left with badly peeled gauge corners. In very short order the tyre flanges were ground away below minimum flange thickness and required around two normal turning's worth of tyre to be removed to restore the flange thickness. You should expect to get around 4 to 5 turnings out of a set of tyres managed properly and as a point of information you are talking around £50,000 nowadays for all of the work necessary to re-tyre a Castle.

    There was the freshly overhauled Pannier which came back from hire with the fully overhauled water gauge frame replaced with a completely scrap one. Similarly the new rear drawbar washers had been swapped for a pile of junk.

    A pannier being used to top and tail a train with a diesel was dragged for a considerable distance with the brakes locked on due to driver inexperience. As happened to the Castle, the Pannier lost a couple of turning's worth of tyre to get rid of the wheel flats.

    One of the resident Halls out on loan to a railway was run into the buffer stops at the end of their line by a senior member of the railway's management, apparently due to lack of familiarity with the characteristics of the GW vacuum system. It is an extremely good brake system but does require the driver to check that the required 23" of vacuum has been created in the extensive vacuum reservoir before attempting to move the loco, no res - no brakes.

    On a snap visit to a railway I found the Castle concerned on sub-hire to a loco driving set up. The groaning from the cylinders had to be heard to be believed, as the driver in charge was under the mistaken impression that only two drops of oil per minute were required from the sight feed lubricator rather than the 15 to 30 drops a minute stated in the Great Western instructions for operation of SF lubricators.

    Then there was the Pannier tank which spent around an hour standing in the middle of a railway, because the senior driver handling it had forgotten to fill the SF lubricator, it ran out of oil and in trying to fill it at the intermediate station, he dropped the filling plug, and it took that length of time for him to find and recover it from the bowels of the loco.

    The Jubilee was on loan to a railway that wished to repaint it green for the benefit of "the photographers", with a solemn pledge that it would be repainted in a high quality LMS red livery before being returned. It was sent back green, the paint job was awful and the green appeared to be Woolworth's number 27 green rather than the correct BR locomotive green; and the wooden cab window armrests had disappeared to boot.

    A Hall worked a train onto a private railway. On its way back to the main line it was driven by a retired speed cop who was very obviously playing to the gallery. The OTMR download (useful things OTMR's) showed a speed of 38mph. I knew the driver well, a great bloke, but what about the rules and the insistance on only the railway's staff driving? Certainly I know that the extremely experienced WCR driver would have been driving it in that way or doing that sort of speed if he had been allowed to drive it.

    One railway which had a Pannier on hire ran it for a considerable time without the correct side firebars in it as they were apparently reluctant to pay for replacements after the originals supplied with the loco were burned away due to poor firing and bad coal. The consequence was that most of the foundation ring rivet heads were burned away with the result that the boiler had to be removed from the frame and the foundation ring re-rivetted when the engine was returned from hire.

    There are lots more instances, but I do have to finally note an officer of a railway who engaged in some very sad point scoring by entering all sorts of unfounded notes on the loco's record card. They included items like "brakes generally poor" without stating what was generally poor; there were no entries on the repair record to say what if any corrective actions had been taken and it was obvious that they had carried on running it regardless. He also entered a blindingly obvious comment that the boiler water was very dirty after arbitarily changing the washout period from the 10 days in the loco's M & O policy to 28 days without approval of the policy holder. Strangely the loco had successfuly passed a very comprehensive VAB annual brake test just a few days before despatch to this railway , and in consequence of these remarks we had no option but to pull it from a return working on the main line from that hire, and to have the VAB re-test it on its return (naturally at needless cost), I shall leave the readers to guess the result! Sad to say, he did not record the repair to the tender coal fender due to a collision with the digger used for coal loading, or the intermediate vacuum hose which was torn in two when they parted the tender from the loco for loading to road transport. Whilst the hose was obvious, had it not been for the very bad standard of paint repairs we would not have been aware that the damage to the fender had occurred.

    All of this of course leads to correspondence and arguments which can become pretty draining, and when you look at the state in which engines sometimes get returned from hire it can become very dispiriting. It does appear that there are a number of railways which cannot be bothered to ever clean between the frames, or to clean fireboxes out before returning the engine to base.

    Whilst it is now some years since much of the foregoing happened, it is apparent from occasional calls which I get from owners that similar problems with hires are still occurring. What I hope that readers will find apparent is the enormous cost that much of this carelessness (and in some cases downright negligence) causes, particularly when such high costs are compared to the still far too low hire fees for such engines.

    Regards
    Bob
     
  16. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    Not wishing to make light of the seriousness of the poor experiences documented, but I couldn't help but chuckle at this one...

    It's not uncommon to hear an expletive followed by much peering and stretching when, whilst filling the big-end lubricator, someone drops the oil pot lid which hits the top of the round-top boiler below and promptly rolls into the narrow gap with the hornplate where it's not easy to see, even harder to reach and is all rather hot to scrabble around in.

    ...I've also been present when an engine fresh out from overhaul was bombing down the road with trailer of passengers behind when suddenly the big-end oiler lid comes lose and flies past the driver's ear, followed straight after by the oil which doesn't miss the driver! lol. We ended up pulled up at the side of the road with half a dozen people pacing back and forth all along the road behind looking at oil marks and sifting through the verge looking for the missing lid for the journey to continue. In the end we gave up, wedged some wood in the top and continued on. I've also been on the footplate when much the same happened, on that occasion the oiler lid bounced off the inside of the roof before flying out into the great wide world. On that occasion the owner wasn't too perturbed, he just went into the van behind and took the lid off an old style tin of paraffin - the threads and style matched the oilers on his engine, so there was very little delay. :) .

    I did end up having a three mile walk one evening looking for the lid from the crank main bearing oiler which I knew must have fallen off along that stretch of road somewhere when I'd been out the previous weekend. I never did find it, so gave up and got some replacements cast. <sigh>
     
  17. Nigel Clark

    Nigel Clark Member Loco Owner

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    I must say I agree with both 1472 and Bob regarding hiring out a locomotive; as an owner you generally learn the hard way about how differently your engine is treated by various railways/crews! Personally I wouldn't want an engine that I'm involved with going out regularly on hire to different places; far better to have one home railway with occasional short term hire elsewhere complete with a capable representative. As 1472 says, there are a handful of places where I'd be happy to let them run an engine without a rep constantly present, and I suspect each rep has a different list!

    There are, however, two sides to every coin; you get good, bad, and indifferent reps with visiting engines as 007 says! Over the years I've found most to be good but you do get extremes of over-protectiveness (which I can understand) to downright couldn't care less so long as I'm getting a ride mentality. My biggest gripe though has to be the seemingly increasing occurrences of the latter, where the 'rep' is of no darned use except getting in the way (including unable to offer/give any advice on the locomotive and even getting dangerously in the way of the crew performing their duties). I can understand owners wanting to thank and 'give something back' to those who come along to help prepare (clean) the engine, but it's asking for trouble if they have absolutely no experience/knowledge of that engine and the crew need help. Some serious thought needs to be given to this by owners in my opinion.
     
  18. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Bob, thank you for your insight. Part of me feels off the back of reading your post that a more compliance-centric setup is needed in railway preservation. A minimum standard at the very least for dealing with visiting engines must be there.

    There's a few things you have said there which absolutely appall me in terms of the missing wooden window armrests, and other such things. There is absolutely no excuse for damage and certainly not making an owner aware it has occurred.

    I can't imagine this happening in many other past times and that this has gone in railway preservation in the past - and potentially still is now - is unacceptable in my view.

    I know we have a mainly volunteer run workforce but that does not mean a level of professionalism and honesty cannot be followed.
     
  19. 3855

    3855 Member

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    The problem is these things do go on and as a loco owner you think why do I bother, it's less hassle to park the engine up in a nice dry shed....
    When I talk to the general public they assume we are all in it for the same reasons and cannot understand how or why a volunteer run railway would abuse intentionally or not a nicely restored steam locomotive. All in all its a very odd/unique industry when compared to say road steam, classic aeroplanes, motoracing etc . Where else can you spend several hundred thousand pounds buying a loco and restoring it along with several thousand antisocial hours working on it. To see everyone else get the benefits of your efforts when it's done...?
     
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  20. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Nat Pres stalwart

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    About 20 odd years ago a railway asked the group I was involved with if they could hire one of the loco's our group owned for a diesel gala? Our chairman and technical officer were happy enough to say yes and agreed a fee, then came a list of extra's, any chance you could tow xxxx and xxxx from the same railway? Err ok but paperwork'll have to be paid for etc, little things kept being added but then to top it all the railway asked would we mind going miles out our way to pick up another few loco's oh and we won't pay you, it'll be a goodwill gesture on your part. At this point our chairman got a bit fed up and pulled them up about having to do a hundred odd mile trip without any payment, the reply was 'well Pete (Waterman) would with Ixion' our chairmans reply was something along the lines of 'we're not as wealthy as him, you want to hire our our engine, you pay the going rate' I think it took a few years before said loco paid a visit.
     
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