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Footplate Blowbacks

2807 at Winchcombe

Yesterday I experienced my first, albeit very minor, blowback as a trainee fireman.  I was on 2807, steaming well and nearly blowing off on the long downhill section from Gotherington to Cheltenham so I had opened the firehole doors anticipating that the driver was about to shut off.   He did and applied the brake at the same time and a sheet of flame shot almost 2 feet into the cab.  It missed us completely but it was quite scarey  – yet another learning point: keep the doors closed when the engine is working and open them only when the regulator is already shut!

I was luckier than the crew of 70013 Oliver Cromwell where 3 crew members suffered quite severe burns when the engine, which was being piloted by a diesel at the time, went into a tunnel with the regulator presumably shut but with the doors open and without the blower on. The driver apparently found it difficult to get to the blower fast enough.

On the GWSR we are taught that when you go into a tunnel you should have the firedoors cracked just open and the blower on to prevent that very thing but Cromwell’s crew were, apparently distracted at the time (too many people on the footplate?) and failed to operate the blower until it was too late.

Coincidentally, I had enquired earlier in the day why, on GWR locos, the blower is well over on the driver’s side when it’s the fireman’s job to use it. I think Cromwell’s blower is in the middle, above the firehole door, after LMS practice which, it seems to me, would have made it harder for the driver to reach in that emergency situation.  Maybe the GWR put them over there on the right precisely for that reason?

Perhaps others more knowledgeable than I am in Swindon matters can cast more light on this?

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One Response to “Footplate Blowbacks”

  1. Firedoors should be adjusted to give the optimum mix of primary and seconday air.

    As a fireman, you should know where the driver will shut off so you can either kick the doors shut, or adjust blower.

    If the blower is next to the driver, he will normally open it if he shuts the regularor unexpectedly

    Posted by Geoff | October 3, 2012, 5:09 pm

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