No smoke without fire.

246kinneil

Blue skies and thick black clag, which to some railway enthusiasts is just as it should be. However, there’s another school which thinks making black smoke is bad form, gets railway preservation a bad name, and upsets the neighbours and the green lobby. Then there are the almost inevitable arguments about, how the fireman should have opened the dampers, or firehole door etc., etc.

Debates about how to drive and fire a steam locomotive usually bring out all the armchair theorists, a sprinkling of ex-steam firemen and drivers and, the inevitable, ‘ Mr. Know it all’, who could be an ex-footplateman just as easily as it could be an enthusiast. One grows to accept all this as part and parcel of a hobby which arouses people’s passions and prejudices in almost equal proportions. Being an ex-footplateman, and an enthusiast you could say I have a foot in both camps – I even had a regular column in, the now defunct, Steam Railway News, which went under the name ‘Clag and Rockets’ – so maybe my sympathies lie more towards the ‘I love clag camp’.

There is another debate, and this one does concern me more than the colour of the exhaust, it’s about setting off and having the cylinder cocks open. In general terms one completed movement of the piston, with the cylinder cocks open, should clear any water from the cylinder. There may be an exceptional set of circumstances which could result in the need to open the cylinder cocks if the engine was carrying water from the regulator valve – only a seriously over-filled boiler, or an engine priming very badly due to needing a washout are likely to cause this.

However, the are some drivers, on the heritage railways, who run with the taps open for ludicrous distances, way beyond anything reasonably required to clear the cylinders of any build up of water. In the case of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway some of them still have the taps open as they approach the entrance to Grosmont tunnel – this is dangerous, they cannot see that the line ahead is clear of obstruction, nor can they see if anyone is waving a flag, lamp, or arm to warn them. I suggest that those who think this is sound operating practice, take a long hard look at all the hours of footage of steam action from the 1900s to 1968. What you don’t see is engine and train enveloped in a white mist for a quarter of a mile or more.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing' the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

In the dock

30072kwvr

There’s something about locomotives from other countries, maybe it’s the multiplicity of pipes, domes, and twiddly bits and bobs which make them seem cluttered when compared with British built locomotives, which, by and large, have very clean and simple outlines. It’s all a matter of taste, and, I suppose, what one is used to, but I have to admit I do find these American 0-6-0Ts quite ugly.

Some of the big American locos with similar outlines have a certain majesty, due, in no small part, to their enormous size and power. For an 0-6-0 shunting engine the USA dock tanks are pretty beefy, but they don’t have quite the shock and awe factor of, for instance, a ‘Big Boy’ 4-8-8-4 blasting up the grade on the Union Pacific railroad.

Built to a United States Army Transportation Corps design these engines were brought over to Britain, in 1942, during WWII. In 1946, 14 of them were taken into Southern Railway stock and put to use on the docks at Southampton. Initially numbered 61 to 74 they became Nos. 30061 to 30074. Though I never worked on one myself I did see them when I was working boat train specials to Ocean Liner Terminal or banana trains from the docks to Nine Elms goods.

In the photograph No.30074 has just emerged from Ingrow tunnel, on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, not exactly their old haunts. Purchased privately by a member of the K&WVR, No. 30074 is no longer in active service and extensive repairs are needed if she is ever to be put back in steam. Maybe some wealthy American will read this, take pity on the ugly duckling, and invest in her return to traffic, but this is more of a hope than an aspiration.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing' the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

A trip back in time

007cupar

Edinburgh – Aberdeen, a classic A4 turn of duty, and we see, here, Ex-LNER Class A4 4-6-2 No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley powering her way through Cupar, in Fife, with an Edinburgh – Aberdeen – Edinburgh trip during one of the series of Great Britain rail tours. A case of right engine, right line – and, on the day, right time too.

In 1964, in the company of a couple of pals, I made a pilgrimage to Scotland, in a vain attempt to visit every shed and travel every route. We didn’t quite make it, missing out on the Inverness Kyle of Loch Alsh route and the Inverness Wick / Thurso line, on the plus side we did get to the sheds at Yoker and Kipps.

In 1964, the A4s were being used on the Aberdeen – Glasgow 2 hour trains and we did ride behind one over that route. Sadly, the old Caledonian Railway line from Kinnaber Junction, through Forfar, to Perth is closed now and all trains go via Dundee on the old North British Railway route. Many of the lines in Scotland were decimated by Beeching’s axe and not even the famous history behind the line from Perth to Kinnaber Junction saved it from closure.

2015 is the 120th anniversary of the Railway Races to the North and, despite all the huffing and puffing of the East coast route fans, the fastest time was set by the  crews on the London North Western / Caledonian route, taking just over 8.5 hours from London to Aberdeen, a record which stood until the advent of the HSTs in the 1970s.

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

A little light relief

53lightengine

Just after sunrise, and the first rays, softly, lighting up the exhaust, of  Ex-Southern Railway Class M7 0-4-4T No.53, aka No.30053, as she scuttles along, light engine, from Loughborogh to Quorn & Woodhouse during a Great Central Railway gala weekend – and coming up this weekend, hopefully a repeat performance, though not with No.53. However, No 1501 or No. 7820 Dinmore Manor are great substitutes, all that glinting brass and copperwork … mmmm!

Galas at the GCR are like no other, with trains nearly every 15 minutes from sunrise to sunset, goods, minerals, the TPO, and light engine movements, it is the nearest thing to ‘how it was’. To add to the eclectic mix of services, there’s a nice blend of semaphore and colour light signalling and a working turntable – with demonstration engine turnings to go with it.

This weekend, if the weather men are right, there might even be sun, steam, and snow – a more magical combination I cannot imagine. The weathered 8F No.48624, a fine rake of mineral empties, semaphore signals, clouds of billowing white exhaust – you can add your own day dreams I’m sure. In my book heritage railways, of whatever, size shape, or length are very much a dream come true. In 1968 I doubt if even the most far sighted and starry eyed enthusiasts ever dreamed that we’d have the numbers of engines and lines to run them on that we enjoy today.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing' the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Murray & Blenkinsop

johnblenk

John Blenkinsop and Matthew Murray, not exactly household names in the railway business, but they were real pioneers of the railway age. The pioneering spirit shown by Murray and Blenkinsop in the earliest days of railway promotion certainly seems to have carried over into the days of preservation on the Middleton Railway. Unlike almost every other heritage railway, during the Middelton’s early preservation history they were earning the bulk of their operating revenue from moving hundreds of tons of freight a year for BR customers, particularly Robinson & Birdsell and Clayton & Co., on a more or less time-tabled operation.

The Middleton Railway was not some quaint old branch line, it didn’t run through an area of outstanding natural beauty – in fact the area through which the line ran was one of the more run-down and deprived areas of the city of Leeds, terminating in a field a short distance from Middleton Park. No wild moors, only Hunslet Moor, no Bronte Parsonage just run down factories and terraced houses – washing hanging across the street and the aforementioned Robinson & Birdsell were scrap metal merchants! Oh! And high levels of vandalism. Just in case anyone thinks vandalism on the railways, national or in preservation, is a fairly recent problem they might like to know that in 1812, when steam locomotives hauling 90 ton loads, on Brandling’s railway, was the ‘very latest thing’, obstructions were placed on the line, close to the point at which the line passed  the site of the old Leeds Pottery Co. – Luddites were the chief suspects!

What was it that inspired the original preservation pioneers to keep going in the face of such difficulties and at a time when railway train rides, as part of the leisure industry, were practically unheard of? The answer it would seem was that this line played such an historic part in the development of the railways that it simply could not be left to oblivion. A fact which has still to be duly and properly recognised by Leeds City Council whose attitude towards this historic gem has, especially during the first 40 years of the existence of the Middleton Railway Preservation Society / Middleton Railway Trust, been one of ambivalence at best and outright neglect at the worst. Not so much the wrong side of the tracks as the wrong side of the Aire!

The photograph shows Peckett 0-4-0 John Blenkinsop just beyond the tunnel under the M621, which is just behind the railings at the top of the picture.

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

The printed edition of “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children” – is now on sale.

Below, is the link to it.

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

 

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Heritage Railways – ‘The Next Generation’

5553headongdsadd

One of the more pleasing aspects of heritage railway galas is the willingness of the organisers to run non-revenue earning services, such as freight, minerals, or parcels/TPOs. In this photograph, No.5553 is at the head of a short ‘express freight’, approaching Crowcombe Heathfield on the West Somerset Railway.

No.5553 was one of, if not the last, locomotive(s) to leave the famous Woodham’s scrap yard in Barry, South Wales. Like many other railway enthusiasts I made a pilgrimage to Woodhams, 1965, in my case, and Dai Woodham has, quite rightly, been held in some degree of affection by many a railway fan. Without the Woodham’s legacy our current enjoyment of heritage railways would have been a very different affair.

Thirteen years after steam finished on BR, in 1981 / 2, sixty six engines were still in Woodhams yard – many of that number are, currently, or have, until recently, been running around. Here is a short list of some of the more notable ones No. 6023 King Edward II, 4953 Pitchford Hall, 34046 Braunton, 34070 Manston, 35006 Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, 45337, 47406, 48305, 73096, 76084. Yes I know some of these engines are either out of ticket or not yet actually running, but we still have them and they have run, or will run, now or at some not too distant date.

Over the 50 years I have been visiting heritage lines, I have met railway enthusiasts from all over the world, Australia, Canada, the USA, and many from European countries, especially France, Holland, and Germany. A common theme in our conversations is how lucky we are, here in Britain, to have such a wide selection of engines, and the lines to run them on. I think it is equally important that our hobby is drawing in younger enthusiasts and volunteers, for without them and their enthusiasm, no matter how many engines we have or how many miles of track we have to run them on, us old timers are slowly running out of puff to do the hard work, track laying, lifting a piece of motion, and the dozens of other jobs requiring a fair degree of physical stamina to achieve. Well done you young guys & gals – as an old timer I salute you for your efforts and enthusiasm, to keep my hobby alive in the 21st Century.

The printed edition of “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children” – is now on sale.

Below, is the link to it.

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Dressed Crab

42765summerseats

Trips to the seaside begin to be a feature of railway passenger traffic in the years following the Great Exhibition of 1851. That year saw Thomas Cook’s fledgling tour business take-off, after he organised trains from all over the country,  especially the northern towns and cities, to take people for ‘a day out’ at the exhibition. One could say that Thomas Cook practically invented ‘the day out’ and the excursions he ran to the Great Exhibition included travel and entrance fees in their cost – the fore runner of the Cook’s package tours, for which the company became a household name.

Bank Holidays were introduced in 1871 and, as time went on, many of the towns and cities around where this photograph was taken, East Lancashire, began to hold what were known as ‘Wakes weeks’. Wakes weeks were holidays where almost an entire town might decamp to the seaside for anything from a day to a week and the railway provided the means to get them there. Following Cook’s example the railway companies began to organise their own ‘excursions’ to ‘holiday’ resorts with Blackpool being a major destination for the Lancashire mill towns. Other coastal resorts benefited, or not depending on your point of view, from the growth of the ‘day tripper’ market, Southend, Brighton, and towns along the North Wales coast and Bristol channel also saw an increase in this holiday by the sea traffic.

Yes, but, ‘what about the dressed crab’, I hear you say – well, there are connections, albeit personal ones. My very first ‘main line’  turn as opposed to shunting or station pilot duties, was with one of Hughes’ Crab’s from Copley Hill Yard to Hillhouse Yard on a loose coupled freight working. The other connection, is that for me, a trip to the seaside is incomplete unless I’ve either had a dressed crab and salad in one of the local cafes or, at the very least, bought one to take home.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing' the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Up for the cup!

44767borocup

Events of all kinds are celebrated on our preserved railways and, in 1997, when this photograph was taken, Middlesborough were ‘up for the Cup’ and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway put on this splendid re-enactment of the ‘football special’. However, during my own railway career, I don’t recall seeing a football special covered in bunting and Union Jacks – I doubt that the bunting would have remained intact at 60 to 70mph on the main line to London from wherever.

The Black 5 is, almost by default, the choice of locomotive for the football special. From all over the Midlands, the North and North West, a Black 5 with 10, 11, 12, or maybe even 13 coaches hauled – 10s of thousands of football supporters, over the years, to Cup Final glory, or abject misery depending on which team they supported and the final result. Sadly, in this instance, Middlesborough lost 2-0 to Chelsea, Roberto Di Matteo scored in the very first minute – not even the legendary ‘Silver Fox’ – Italian striker Fabrizio Ravenelli could save them, as they lost out in the final of both Cup competitions and were relegated, to compound the misery.

When she rolled out of the workshops in 1947, No.44767, was the only Black 5 to be fitted with outside Stephenson’s link motion, she also had a double chimney, but this was removed in 1953. Withdrawn from BR service, in 1967, after only 20 years service she has now spent more time in preservation than in her service life on BR.  No.44767 was one of the locomotives which took part in the  150th Anniversary celebrations for the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway. During this event No. 44767 was named George Stephenson by William Whitelaw.  No.44767 was returned to active service,  by the North East Locomotive Preservation Group, aka NELPG, and has seen  service both on the main line and on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where she is, at the present time, still in service.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing'

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Yes we have no Bahamas

45596

This blast from the past, scanned from one of my old slides, is actually something to look forward to, as No.45596 Bahamas is undergoing an overhaul to get her up and running again. The walk-way she is passing under is a very different matter, it has been demolished and will not be replaced – the two sides of the mill it once joined together are gone or going. The whole area around this site has now changed, almost beyond recognition.

No.45596 Bahamas, is unique amongst the Jubilees, being the only survivor to be fitted with a double chimney, which she received in 1961. Three other Jubilees were experimented on No.45742 Connaught was fitted with a double chimney in 1940 and Nos. 45735 Comet and 45736 Phoenix were rebuilt in 1942 with double chimney and a larger boiler. The result of these latter modifcations led to these two locomotives being reclassified as 7P – sort of ‘baby Scots’, a name more usually associated with the Stanier rebuilds of the Patriot class 4-6-0s

When No.45596 Bahamas received her double chimney, the intentions were to have 5 Jubilees similarly converted  to test them in service. The tests on No.45596, at the Rugby test plant, showed an increase of around 30% in the steaming capabilities of the boiler when fitted with the double chimney, a not insignificant gain – especially from the fireman’s point of view! However, at this late stage in the ‘modernisation’ of BR the decision was taken to abandon any further testing and improvement to the steam fleet, and so the remaining four engines never did get their double chimneys.

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Blue Streak

60007elr

The recent crop of photographs from this year’s East Lancashire Railway’s Winter Gala, which I was unable to attend, prompted me to look back through some of my own photos from previous ELR Galas and I came across this one, which I hope you will enjoy. The scan, from one of my  slides, dates back to 1998 when No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley the ‘Blue Streak’ was starring in the East Lancashire Railway’s Winter Gala. ‘Blue Streak’, as it just so happened, was the name of the first drop-handlebar push-bike I owned, it was my Christmas present, in 1961, ‘racers’ we called them then. That Blue Streak was my passport to a wider railway circle and cycle rides to Normanton, Wakefield, Starbeck, and York, from my home in Leeds, were now on the agenda. Parts of the A64, between Leeds and York, even had a dedicated cycle path, though other bits of the A64 didn’t and you were, to some extent, risking life and limb cycling along such a main route.

‘Blue Streak’ was also the name given to the  rockets being designed for use in Britain’s nuclear missile development programme – by 1960 it was apparent that it was flop. To save embarrassment to Harold ‘Super Mac’ Macmillan’s Tory government,  plans were hatched to use the rockets as part of  a space mission. This being Britain, it turned out we couldn’t afford it, so a new plan, to cooperate with Europe, was devised and Blue Streak would now be  a part of a European Space Mission. However, after extensive testing at Woomera, in Australia, and Kourou in French Guiana, it proved to be rather unreliable and the project which, on paper, began in 1955, was over by 1972 – a huge and embarrassing waste of money all round.

Fortunately, Sir Nigel Gresley’s ‘Blue Streaks’ were a much more reliable piece of machinery  –  infinitely better looking and more desirable than inter-continental ballistic missiles.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing'

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather