The AFS at Welland Steam Rally 2012

So the dust has settled, and all the big toys are back to bed.

We were a much smaller group than in previous years, although perhaps more focussed on the AFS, with no red or grey fire engines this year. In the end, the final line-up was:

  • Three Green and one Yellow Goddess (Two goddesses arrived Friday evening)
  • Pipe Carrier
  • Wrecker
  • Control Unit
  • Land Rover
  • Motorcycle

And the crew doing the display on Friday consisted of Me (David), Dan, James and Karina, Tony, Roger, Jim and Chris. And on Saturday we were assisted by Steve and Adrian, another Chris and ?.

On Thursday, Tony did the heroic job of driving the Control Unit through the night from Suffolk to arrive around 8am, catch the train back, and drive the wrecker getting to Welland for the second time around 9:30pm. While he was doing that, we got a Featherweight Pump out of my Goddess (which I had just made work the previous week), and got it installed to fill the dam. That was the first brush with the safety officer, who tried to tell us that it was in the wrong place, and we could only use the water that evening. He then told us that our display area had moved (after we had set up a tent there!). Not a good start. Anyway, the dam was filled without further incident.

The astute among you will realise that on the Friday, doing a display with a crew of just 8 was a rather tall order. But on the Friday morning, we managed to erect the pipe bridge, and after some bacon butties, we prepared the hose in the Pipe Carrier (re-designated as a Hose Layer for the weekend) We were due to be in the arena at 4:30 after the tractors, which always overrun, so we had 4:45 in mind. After lunch, had a leisurely look round, and I made some notes on the back of the safely instructions on how the display would work with just 8 crew.

Imagine my horror when Mike, the ring steward, came up and said to me that the tractors wanted to be on later, and would we go into the arena now! No, it takes us 10 minutes for a briefing, which we hadn’t had, and 10 minutes to get kitted up, so I said we would try to be in the ring in the next 8-10 minutes.

“OK, Gather round, this is how we are going to do it. Roger’s Landy and the bike lead in. Two laps, and one Goddess sets into the dam, and the other nose to the arena edge, 70 feet from the dam. The bike, landy and control unit park out of the way, and the RL lays the 6-inch hose: 4 lengths in a sweeping arc ending exactly at the second Goddess. 3 delivery hoses from the Goddess to the collecting head at the foot of the spout. Tony will lift the spout into place with the wrecker. Pump under my instructions, then break all connections and drain the hose.  Tony to drop the spout, any spare hands to help the RL collect the hose, then form a convoy, do a lap of honour and leave the arena under the despatch rider’s instructions. Any questions? No, good. So get into a tunic and boots, and leggings if you can find them, and form a queue at the arena ASAP. I will commentate where I can, and help where needed”

Tony had in fact practiced this move with the wrecker in the morning, which meant that it worked a dream. It worked out OK, although there were times when I had to put the mike down and muck in. Unfortunately, I think we had an air leak in the first Goddess (the suction may not have been fully tight) which meant that we drew in a lot of air, and the torrent of water coming out the spout was not that impressive. In fact, positively feeble to those in the know. Pity. Anyway, the make up went surprisingly well, and we were clear of the arena in 30 minutes. Well done, guys.

On Saturday, the sun shone, and the crowds arrived in their thousands. We had an arena display at lunchtime, and we were well prepared. 4 extra crew and another two goddesses made such a difference. In the end, we only used three Goddesses in the arena, largely down to the fact that I had converted my Goddess to a very slow, front-wheel-drive vehicle after a rather enthusiastic go on the tractor-pulling run. With a tank full of water, 1st gear, low ratio 4-wheel drive and 5 people in the cab, we did remarkably well, and had rather good fun. But the next day we scraped the teeth from the diff planet gears out of the back axle casing in pieces the size if garden peas!

We had our briefing, everyone was ready, the vehicles went into the arena in the right order, and I could focus on the commentary. It all went superbly, and we had an enormous crowd watching. Again, we didn’t get the full flow, which was a pity.

After a short road run to Upton-on-Severn to the chinese/chippy, we provided informal fire cover for the fireworks. This time, the field had been harvested and ploughed, the hedges were damp, and there was nothing to burn. A formality really, but fun all the same, followed by a couple of excellent pints from the beer tent which had a vast range of real ale and cider.

The weather forecast for Sunday was for a dry morning, followed by heavy rain. So the focus was getting the tents down and everything packed away before the rain came. And we only just made it. By noon the arena programme had been abandoned, and we were given permission to leave around 3pm. By the time we had pumped out the dam, and made up all the hose, it was 2:30, and people were leaving.

We said goodbye, and I then had to wait for a recovery truck to take me home. After 8 calls, Autohome eventually found a contractor with a low-loader who would do the job. Where was he? At the Welland Steam Rally, where he had been exhibiting!

And I have already bought a replacement back axle … from a very nice chap who just happened to be running a couple of tractors in the tractor-pull!

All told, Welland is a really good rally – they have got a lot of things right, from the quality of the ground, the number of exhibits, the camping, and the variety. For instance, this year they had quarter of a mile of standard-gauge steam railway, as well as the steam ploughing, road making and steam sawmill. And the tank driving over a car was great entertainment.

About lowdhamstation

I am a director of a small (and very technical) business, a committed Christian, a Reader (and preacher) in my local village church, husband to my dear Frances, am interested in heritage railways, and heritage fire engines. I currently run a group that displays wartime and early post-war fire engines at 1940s re-enacting events and steam engine rallies. O yes, and vintage cars and motorbikes, and we live in a Victorian railway station.
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