Happy quarter past eight

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Some years ago now, I read an article by George Woodcock, it was called ‘Tyranny of the clock’. It concerned itself with the way the invention of the mechanical clock paved the way for all manner of modern ills, from clocking on to clocking off. Life, bought and sold, by the second, by the hour, by the week – watching the clock. The nightmare of ‘time interval signaling’, hope the Bobby’s watch isn’t running fast. No slow clocks today – time’s so fast we measure it with atoms.

Here we are, about to start a new year and the clocks are all ticking. And, as Big Ben strikes out the old and rings in the new we look back on 1936, the year No. 5690 Leander rolled out of the workshops and into railway heritage, though no one knew about the heritage bit, in 1936. In 1936, 5690 was just the next number in the series, more would follow, not all with tragic / heroic names though. (In Greek mythology, Leander was Hero’s lover – he drowned, she killed herself because he’d drowned, is the short version) It all happened, or not, a long, long, time ago in a land far, far away.

Quite a few of Leander’s class mates were named after lands far, far, away lands which, today, have very different names – Gold Coast and Tanganyika, where are they now – Google knows, Google knows everything?  There was a time when to read a book, particularly one containing knowledge / information, you might be seated reading it, but the book itself was chained to wall and you would, in all probability, have had to walk miles, lots of miles, to where it was kept. Now I can find 1,867,257 possible answers on the creation of Tanzania or the birth of Ghana in about the same time as it takes to say, ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ – gosh that’s quick

In our mini time warp, No.5690 Leander is crossing Oldbury Viaduct with a beautiful rake of 1930s LMS coaching stock, carrying the Royal Scot boards – could at least have put express lamps on the engine!

Happy New Year to you all  – and thanks for reading.

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Once a Knight

30777leighlane

The disc being carried by No.30777 Sir Lamiel, is probably meant to signify that she is hauling a stopping passenger service. In her Southern days it would have indicated something rather different. It could have indicated that No.30777 Sir Lamiel, was working Victoria – Dover via Chatham, a turn she would no doubt have been familiar with, or Woking – Reading via Virginia Water west curve, a route she might have taken less often, or even Exeter Central – Ilfracombe, amongst several other possible routes. The essential thing, I suppose, is that the disc gives the signalman important information about the train, just as the tail lamp, or lack of one, does.

No. 30777 Sir Lamiel is part of the National Collection and is, as a result, in the custody of the National Railway Museum. In practice however, she is cared for, on a day to day basis, by the 5305 Locomotive Association at Loughborough. No.30777 Sir Lamiel is also part of the pool of engines certified for use on the main line and has, over many years, put in some fine performances, particularly on the Settle – Carlisle route and her old stamping grounds on the LSWR routes from London Waterloo to Weymouth via Southampton or Waterloo to Exeter via Salisbury, both routes I know from my own footplate days.

For most of their independent existence the Great Western and the London South Western / Southern Railway were bitter rivals in almost everything from the carriage of Atlantic Mails, to milk traffic and summer specials full of holiday makers. Having worked for BR Southern region I know a little about this rivalry at ground level,  so there’s always this little frisson when I see sights like one in the photograph, Southern engine, chocolate and cream rolling stock, and on GW metals. However, Sir Lamiel, or to give him his full title Sir Lamiel of Cardiff, obviously had some GWR in his veins, as he  does look quite at home with the rake of GWR stock, approaching Leigh Lane crossing on the West Somerset Railway between Williton and Crowcombe Heathfield.

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Quarry Hunslet’s

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Leeds’ association with steam locomotive construction goes well beyond the Murray & Blenkinsop partnership, I wrote about yesterday, which built steam locomotives for Charles Brandling’s colliery railway, back in 1812. Here we see another of the city’s famous locomotive products, this time the Hunslet Engine Company’s, the pilot engine, ‘Blanche’, was built by the Hunslet Engine Co., in 1893, for the Penryhn Quarry Railway. Blanche and sister loco Linda were bought from the Penrhyn Quarry railway, by the Ffestiniog Railway, in 1963.

Hunslet’s Quarry engines were exported to many parts of the world as well as to the slate quarries of North Wales. However, cute, as they are, Hunslet’s quarry engines are not the most famous of the engines they made, that distinction goes to a very different kind of engine. Hunslet’s most famous locomotives are their standard gauge 0-6-0 saddle tanks, which no self respecting National Coal Board pit was without, the Hunslet ‘austerity’, dozens of which survive, on heritage railways, the length and breadth of the country.

Hunslet began constructing the ‘austerities’, which were a modification of an existing Hunslet design, for the Ministry of Supply, in 1943.  After the war Hunslet continued to build the ‘austerities’ right into the swinging 60s, when 485 had been manufactured. Several other important industrial locomotive builders were also Leeds based, companies like; Kitsons, Manning Wardle, Hudswell Clarke, and Fowlers who also made traction and showman’s engines. Leeds built engines worked in industrial settings from the diamond mines of South Africa to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and a great many places in between.

It is a great pity that the City fathers never saw fit to make more of the great history of locomotive engineering and construction, that went on in Leeds, from the first decade of the railway age onwards.

The photograph shows Blanche and Prince, having just left the cob,  passing the Ffestiniog Railway’s famous locomotive works, at Boston Lodge, as they towards Minffordd with a train for Blaenau Ffestiniog.

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1812 and no overture

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As you look at this photograph it is hard to imagine that it is only 1/2 a mile from a six lane motorway and no more than 2 miles from the centre of a major Northern City and a branch of Harvey Nicholls – boy do cameras lie. There’s another little fact about this line which is, possibly, even more difficult to imagine. In 1812 the Czar of Russia visited this very railway. He came to see, and become fascinated by, steam engines, built by Matthew Murray and John Blenkinsop, hauling trains of coal, weighing 70 to 90 tons, at a brisk walking pace. George Stephenson was a visitor too, when he was building his engine Blucher. Pretty amazing credentials for a line carrying coal from a pit to a wharf.

The Middleton Railway’s other claim to fame is that it was the first standard gauge railway to be run and operated by volunteers, beating the much more well known Bluebell Railway, by some months. Despite it’s almost unique historic importance, for a manner of reasons, the Middleton railway has never enjoyed the support and respect it’s status as, the world’s first steam locomotive powered rack railway,  and one which was successfully using steam traction, from as early as 1812, should confer upon it.

The locomotive in the photograph, which was built in 1895, by the German Company, Richard Hartmann, is an 0-4-0’well tank’ fitted  with outside Stephenson’s link motion, the twin eccentric rods clearly visible above the leaking steam. For most of it’s working life DSB No.385 was the dock shunter at a ferry port linking main land Denmark with its many islands. No.385 is no longer in working condition and is housed in the museum at the Moor Road terminus of the Middleton Railway The photograph, taken around the year 1999, is a scan from my pre-digital days.

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Tied to the railroad tracks

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Yesterday’s post, funny that those words link so readily with what I  posted, on here, yesterday – it wasn’t planned. The early demise of the village postie, the, ‘yesteryear’ photograph of No.5542, the ‘small prairie’ with an auto-train working, a GWR classic, of its type, and here’s another, an 0-6-0 ‘Pannier Tank’, two coaches, and running bunker first. Throw in a ploughed field, the beginnings of some autumn colour, a fine crop of brambles, and that other railway classic, ‘rose bay willow herb’, or ‘railway lupins’, as they are sometimes known, and you’ve got the Severn Valley Railway’s Autumn Steam Spectacular.

There’s little doubt that the SVR’s galas are ‘spectacular’ – though what is being (re)created here isn’t in the least spectacular, indeed it’s the very ‘essence’ of the mundane that’s being re-enacted. A little over 50 years ago, just before the Severn Valley Railway came into being, this scene would have been ‘near the end’ – closure notices nailed to station doors, few people using the services, hardly  anyone taking notice, even fewer taking photographs, when the trains stopped running, on Britain’s rural routes. 50 years ago railways weren’t sexy enough, now they’re ‘romantic’, so much so that people choose to get ‘hitched’ on the train. Not so much a car to the wedding buffet as the buffet car wedding – puts an entirely new meaning on ‘railroaded’ too. And as for those old silent movies where the villains tie the pretty girl to the railroad tracks, well that’s right out of fashion now. Oh!, maybe not then.

No.5764 was putting in a spirited performance on the ‘local’ from Hampton Loade to Bridgnorth and is pictured, from the less photographed side of Eardington Bank, as she approaches crossing keepers cottage, near the summit of the climb.

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Fixed distant

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Unlike the engine and coach combination, the fixed distant for Bishops Lydeard, is hardly a classic of its type, in an odd way it seems to be pointing to the train. The piles of wood, from a recently cut down tree, and a testament to the efforts of the track side maintenance gang, seem to accent the rural nature of the photograph. A bucolic past of chocolate and cream, village cricket, a morning and afternoon post, milk delivered to your door, by a milk man – eyes fixed on a distant past.

Naturally, in this ‘fixed’ and distant past, bad things didn’t happen, Aunty baked the most wonderful cakes, and Uncle, was a kindly curmudgeon who built model ships and bought you Meccano for Christmas. In the real world, of course, things were a little less – well the postie with his trusty bike, he died early from a serious lung complaint, brought on by the regular soakings he suffered during the average British winter and summer too – it’s Britain.

Built in 1928 No.5542 spent quite a bit of her working life in the Taunton area and was a regular performer on the Taunton – Minehead branch, which now forms the West Somerset Railway. In the photograph, No. 5542 is seen just west of Norton, between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard, with an Auto-train working. No.5542 is a kind of ‘peoples prairie’ having been purchased from the WSR and rebuilt by a band of dedicated, share owning, members/ volunteers who keep her wheels turning and shiny!!

 

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Not the Queen’s Christmas Message

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In a departure from the usual shots of locomotives in the snow, elves, reindeer, and some fat bloke in a red suit I have gone for the traditional Russian ‘railway’ Doll look, for this festive posting! So, as you tuck into your  turkey and all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pud with Rum Sauce,  and right before pulling a cracker, remember what the door mouse said, ‘feed your head’.

What a charming illustration of the nature of the world we live in, this little tableaux is. We have engine No.7 into which the dolls all fit – a fitting metaphor for the state / economy. A powerful machine consuming raw materials and industrialising time and space. Next in line, the Station ‘Master’ with his watch, running, ordering, ‘mastering’ – the managerial class. He keeps the clock ticking, the machine functioning, and the crew in order.

The ticket inspector / conductor, the perfect middle manager, bow-tied, and white collard, just like the Station Master he aspires to be, one day. With his sheaf of tickets and his ticket clippers – he’s  the epitome of what Marlon Brando said, of the character Martin Sheen played in the movie Apocalypse Now, ‘an errand boy sent by  grocery clerks to collect a debt’.

Now we come to the crew of old No.7, the driver and his fireman. No bow ties and white collars here you’ll notice. These ‘little’ guys are the guys who do the ‘heavy’ lifting, they oil the wheels and tend the fires. These blue collar labourers mix those raw materials with the sweat of their labours and turn them into the continent crossing, goods hauling, passenger carrying, travel machine we lovingly call the railway. The fireman, the littlest of all the figures, is at the very centre of the Doll, and it is upon his skill and ability that the all the rest depend  – because if there’s no steam there’s no show! Merry Christmas fireboys – you really are the stars!!

*

Other parables, stories, myths, shibboleths, and tenets are available, always read the small print.

A further selection of my photos can be seen here: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?page_id=3378

If you enjoy my photographs why not have a look at my 2017 Calendar, which, for the first time, is being published by calendar company Calvendo and sold on line or by order at your local bookshop using this ISBN number: Steam Age Daydreams (Wall Calendar 2017 DIN A4 Landscape) / 978-1-325-22545-3

Here are the online links to it.:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Steam-Age-Daydreams-2017-Dave-Wilson/9781325225453?ref=grid-view

and on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steam-Daydreams-2017-Wilson-Dave/dp/1325225452/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479291987&sr=8-1&keywords=steam+age+daydreams+calendar

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

 

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Season’s greetings

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Dear Santa, I would like, ‘a train set for Christmas, and can you please make it standard gauge, about 60 miles long, with an engine, preferably a big pacific one, some coaches,  a signal gantry, and a signal box’, just then the bells began ringing, no, it wasn’t the block bell or Christmas bells, it was the alarm clock and I woke up. Just steam age daydreaming again!! On the other hand we do still have main line steam, with haulage by a variety of 4-6-2s, past signal boxes with gantries, though these are now a seriously endangered species.

For some of you, reading this, Santa is just some weird, old, bearded guy, loosely connected to Christianity. For others a much loved tradition associated with peace, good will, and shopping. However, no matter what your religious views, or lack of them, are, there’s little wrong with spreading a little peace and good will, at any time of year. So may I take this opportunity to wish all of you, reading this, seasonal greetings of whatever variety you enjoy or celebrate.

Photographing Santa trains can often produce pleasing results, the  low temperatures bringing out the exhaust and sharp winter light  glinting on brass or copper.  On a bitterly cold Sunday, a  week before Christmas 2011, the Tanfield Railway’s Robert Stephenson & Co. 0-6-0T No.3 Twizell’s exhaust is nicely lit, by the sun rapidly sinking sun, as she crosses Causey Arch car park bridge, with the penultimate North Pole Express working of the day, from Causey Arch to the North pole, which probably wasn’t much colder than it was at Tanfield, that day.

 

 

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1st & last

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‘The present now Will later be past’ …’ for the times they are a changin’ – these words were being sung by Bob Dylan, at a time, when I was a fireman on engines like these two ‘big beasts’ of the main line, the Pacifics, Bulleid’s in my case, on the LSWR routes to Weymouth and the West Country. In a curious way this photograph blurs the lines between past and present.

The class, to which the pilot engine would have been allocated, began construction in 1945, the train engine, No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester, was constructed in 1954. However, the pilot engine was actually put into traffic in 2008, not a rebuild of some scrapyard hulk, but a brand new, from the nuts up locomotive, albeit to the 1945 design by AH Peppercorn, with a few added mods to improve efficiency, safety and comply with current regulations.

No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester was not only rebuilt from a hulk but a hulk with some important bits ‘cut off’ by the gas axe, before her rescuers arrived.  Like No.60163 Tornado, No.71000 Duke of Gloucester, picked up some ‘mods’ which made her more efficient and improved her performance – you might say, that in the Duke’s case, ‘the past now has been made present’. Though in typical fashion, for all things railway, both locomotives are currently inactive, No. 60163 Tornado is under going a major overhaul and will be back. No. 71000 needs major repairs and her future is somewhat less than assured – maybe she’s on someone’s letter to Santa and the money and manpower will ride to her rescue – again.

There’s even a past present link to the location of the photograph. The site is Summerseats viaduct which was a popular photographic location alongside the East Lancashire Railway between Summerseats and Ramsbottom. However, the site has now become so overgrown that the shot of the locomotives on the viaduct has gone, all that remains is the very tight head on shot. You can just see the viaduct safety rails below the exhaust from No.60163 Tornado.

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Unlike signals some things never change

41241banker

Bankers and railways have been connected to each other, practically umbilically, since the creation of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, by, amongst others,  Quaker Bankers, in the 1820s. In 1866, dodgy goings on at the Overend Gurney Bank, involving share dealings in major railway companies, created a national banking scandal – some things never change. Today, major banking corporations fund railway by-outs and railway construction projects, rolling stock leasing companies and train operators, to name just some of the pies their fingers are in.

On the steam railways of old, however, the term Banker has a very different interpretation. On the railways a ‘Banker’ is an engine assisting a train, usually up an incline or gradient, by pushing from behind. Some sheds, (Motive Power Depots), Bromsgrove or Tebay, for instance, have almost mythical status for their provision of Bankers. In Tebay’s case, this is for the supply of Bankers on the  famous climb to Shap summit, on the West Coast route from London to Glasgow. Bromsgrove MPD provided the oomph on the famous Lickey incline with it’s 1 in 37 gradient, the steepest on any main line in Britain.  Others, like Weymouth, are less well known;  Weymouth MPD provided Bankers for the climb out of the town to the summit of Bincombe Bank en route to Dorchester and Bournemouth.

In the photograph Ex-LMS 2-6-2T No.41241  banks, Ex-Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 0-6-0 No.957, out of Damems loop with a demonstration goods working on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.

 

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