Steamin’ all over the place

5542blyd‘I’ve been steamin’ all over the place, now I’m steaming back again. I’ve got chocolate and cream all over my face; wonder where the hell I’ve been.’ – (Apologies to Roy Harper) This early morning scene is  Bishops Lydeard and the Norton Fitzwarren auto train is just departing, propelled by Ex-GWR 2-6-2T No5542, during the West Somerset Railway’s 2011 gala.

The Auto coach is No.178, built in 1930, it was restored to operational condition at Hayes Knoll on the Swindon & Cricklade Railway; at the opposite end of the scale the initial restoration of Bulleid Pacific No.35027 Port Line, started at the S&CR, essentially, in a field. No.178 served out her time with British Railways in the Welsh valleys – on the opposite bank of the Bristol Channel from where this picture was taken. And speaking of Channels, another of the Auto Trailers, W233, actually built by BR in 1951, ended up as a part of one of the Channel Tunnel test trains and reached 104mph during one test run. In 2013 W233 was purchased by the Group owning No.5542 and restored to working order.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Steaming into the future

1744kwvrpassI’m pretty sure that railway presevation wasn’t high on many folks list of reasons for voting stay, or leave, the EU, but it might be as well to reflect that railway preservation has benefitted from EU funding. I don’t know all the projects, extensions, and schemes which have obtained  grants from EU funds, but there are quite a number who have applied for and received substantial amounts from EU funds. Two major funding bodies within the EU the Structural Investment Fund – (rural tourism) and the EU Regional Development Fund have both been grant aid providers for Heritage Railway projects.  It is, however, pretty certain that with the ending of our EU membership these funding streams will disappear.

The question, is will any of these funds be replaced by the Government; given the current economic climate and the, ‘already promised’, further round of cuts and austerity – I wouldn’t hold my breath on that. In the grand scheme of things the sums involved are relatively minor, 100s of thousandsof pounds not 100 of millions, but to the people who are applying for funds they often make the difference between success and failure. What happens next no one knows, but the future just became a lot more uncertain and schemes already in the pipeline will be waiting anxiously to see if their funding is still there.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

The bridge that Jack built.

45407peacehillSteaming out of Dundee bound for Edinburgh, No.45407 catches the late evening sun as she passes Peacehill Farm, close to the long closed Wormit station. The foreshore of the Tay, at Wormit, was were the original girders of the first Tay bridge were cast. Whilst it may be true that Thomas Bouch, the bridge’s designer, carried the can for the collapse of part of the original structure, the workers at the Wormit foundry, set up to cast the columns, had complained about various aspects of the casting process. These complaints included uneven thickness in the column walls, missing lugs which were ‘burned on’ after the casting, and blow holes and other minor defects being filled with Beaumont Egg , a conncoction of Beeswax, iron filings, lamp black, and rosin, in other words they bodged it up.

In the aftermath of the collapse, the inquiry set up to ascertain what had gone wrong, saw blame being cast in all directions. Inexperienced management, poor quality control, lack of inspection, and inspections being carried out by people lacking the proper qualification to do so. It all seemed to have the familiar ring of ‘ it wasn’t me guv’ ‘it isn’t my fault’ – Bouch was ultimately held responsible. Devasted by the findings Bouch died 18 months later, a broken man.

The current Tay Bridge, it is to be hoped, is better inspected and mainted than the original structure, the remaining piers of which can still be seen in the Tay on the Eastern side of the bridge.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

The Pines Express?

92214pinesSadly, not Midsomer Norton, or Sturminster Newton, but Goathland, not high in the Mendips,  high on the North Yorkshire Moors. The Pines Express which ran from Manchester to Bournemouth, began in 1910, though it wasn’t named ‘The Pines Express’ until 1927. Originally operated by the LMS /LNWR the service was a response to the LSWR / GWR who had begun to operate a joint service between Bournemouth and Birkenhead.

Until 1962 the Pines Express ran via the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, which was formed, principally, of the Somerset Central Railway and the Northern section of the Dorset Central Railway, which, in an amalgamation of September 1862, become the Somerset & Dorset Railway. The S&DR’s extension into Bath effectively bankrupted the company and in 1875 they signed a deal with the LMS and the LSWR, to ensure the survival of the company. The following year, 1876, by Act of Parliament, the S&DR became the S&DJR we all knew and now lament.

The Pines Express used the S&DJR until 1962 when it was re-routed  via Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Southamptom, until it was axed in 1967. Briefly resurrected by BR the name Pines Express finally disappeared in 2002.

The last Pines Express over the S&DJR was hauled by the last Swindon built locomotive, No.92220 Evening Star, which was slightly ironic as the purchase of the S&DR by the LMS / LSWR was made to prevent the GWR having access – c’est la vie.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

A railway ramble

6990slackhallmonoRecently, on Facebook, I have been enjoying a whole batch of black and white photographs, which were taken at a variety of locations in and around the West Riding of Yorkshire, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These photographs were of depots I’d worked at, railway I’d worked over and engines I’d worked on. They were also of places I’d bunked round, visited, or taken trains too and from, as a ‘trainspotter’.  Naturally, a few memories were stirred.

‘And what has all this to do with a photograph of No.6990 Witherslack Hall departing from Loughborough’, I hear you ask.  The simple answer is that the photos from the West Riding bookend my employment with BR and the GCR route from Bradford Exchange, via Loughborough, to Rugby Central joins joins them to my childhood and the ‘middle’ bit of my railway life, as does the locomotive. The connection with the locomotive is the 1948 exchange trials, which No.6990 Witherslack Hall took part in, and a Nine Elms footplateman who was a fireman during the trials. We first met in Clapham carriage sidings, he was a Nine Elms No.2 link driver by that time, later I did a few firing turns with him out on the main line, though he wasn’t my regular mate, but I am still in touch with the bloke who was and with my old driver too.

What really struck me though was the way in which some bits of the railway, like the GCR, motive power like No. 35005 Canadian Pacific, which, coincidentally, was restored to working order at the GCR, employees, like my old regular mate from 70A and enthusiasts who timed and logged the services I worked on, seem to run, like some meandering country branch line, through most of my life.

For me railways, for the last 60 plus years, have been one long ‘Steam Age Daydream’ –  a great job and a hobby I can thoroughly recommend..

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Tall chimneys

No.20exbay1Back in the days when ‘dark satanic mills’ covered the land tall chimneys were everywhere, even the locomotives had them. Furness Railway No.20, in this guise, really does look mid-Victorian, she was built in 1863 by Sharp Stewart, the famous Manchester engine builders. Sharp Stewart, moved to Glasgow in 1888 eventually becoming one of the constituents of the North British Locomotive Co. It was Sharp Stewart who, in 1860, acquired the ‘sole patent’ for Giffard’s newly invented ‘injector’ – which, as we all know, became the norm in British locomotive building practice.

No.20’s career with the Furness Railway was fairly short-lived and by 1870 she had been sold to the Barrow Haematite Steel Co. who kept her in service until 1960 – though she had been converted to a saddle tank, by Sharp Stewart, before being sold on to Barrow Haematite. No.20 was back built to her original condition by the volunteers of the Furness Railway Trust, and others, and was recommissioned, on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway in 1999.

In this photograph, No.20 is heading out of the bay platform at the Scottish Railway Preservation Society’s Bo’ness station, during the Bo’ness & Kinneil railway gala in2015.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Paddington here we come.

1501lnerwalsaddNostalgia, it’s not what it used to be. Last night, on the idiots lantern, I watched a programme about canals, or part of it. One of the canals being discussed was the Grand Junction, built to link Birmingham with London. What struck me about the events leading up to canal’s construction was that, although it was centered on events taking place in the 1790s and early 1800s, it could just as easily have been happening in 1970 or even 2016.

Money men, Lords, Politicians, share speculation, shady deals, some losing their shirts others making their fortunes. Pickfords, the well known ‘heavy hauliers’ were one of those making a mint – they were big in barges back  then and managed to secure a ‘special deal’ with the canal company giving them priority access at locks. Like so many projects today it was over budget and a long way behind schedule. Upper crust NIMBYs were mostly to blame for the ‘over budget’ , though the tunneling didn’t help – a ‘replacement pack donkey’ service linked the two halves of the canal until the tunnel was completed.

I mention all this because I learned something new.  I didn’t know it was the Grand Junction canal’s desire to take goods into the heart of London which was largely responsible for the growth of Paddington and in doing so paved the way for Mr. Brunel’s Great Western Railway station – don’t have a steam shot from Paddington, hence the shot of ‘Speedy’ No. 1501, a class which was commonly associated with empty stock workings in and out of Paddington.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Steam Age notoriety

60103mono

Every time, or so it seems, that this engine appears in public the issue of trespass arises.  Two things appear to be linked, the level of hype and media exposure and the irrational behaviour, of members of the public, with no knowledge of railway operation, trespassing to record or photograph the train passing. People with little or no interest in railways, who are oblivious to the main line steam hauled services which operate every week, suddenly turn out, en mass, to see No.60103 Flying Scotsman – why?  Why do seemingly ordinary people suddenly act in such an utterly insane fashion.

Having been largely responsible for creating the trespassing situation, the media immediately begin to brand ‘trainspotters’ as irresponsible idiots. The real railway enthusiasts, many of whom do try to prevent some of the more lunatic trespass, see their hobby and enjoyment threatened by the trespassers and maligned in the media which, not unsurprisingly, generates inordinate amounts of ire and angst. Each act in the media circus generates more – ‘lets go and see what all the fuss is about’  and thus feeds the fire. Cut out the all the hype and the blanket coverage of the trespass, on the news and in the papers, and No.60103 Flying Scotsman would be no different to any other steam hauled rail tour, few, if any, of which seem to cause any issue with trespass and are, to all intents, ignored by the general public.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.”

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

The essential ingredients

cescoal&waterFor several years, during the mid-1990s, I was involved in some research on the Railway Races to the North and Railway Labour using the facilities of the reading room of the National Railway Museum. During my lunch breaks I would go into the museum and sit on an old ‘waiting room’ bench, with a sandwich and a flask of coffee. The bench was opposite a locomotive I had fired, many times, 30 years previously, over the LSWR main lines from Waterloo to Bournemouth or Salisbury and back. The engine concerned is the ‘sectioned’ display No. 35029 Ellerman Lines, and a fine machine she was too.

What struck me most, apart from the very odd conversations that folk had about the engine and what did what, was that despite being cut in half, and the motion slowly turning, so that the actions of valves and pistons were clearly visible, there was a glaring omission. In the attempt to show how the locomotive worked, and what its constituent parts were, there was not one word about the essential ingredients, no not the coal and water – it was the footplate crew who were missing. There was no explanation of how it was the skill, effort, and team work of the footplatemen that really made the steam engine steam and create the power to turn the wheels and haul the train. Nor, for that matter, was there any explanation of the countless others, fitters, boilersmiths, steam risers, etc. etc. who worked, behind the scenes, to keep the engine available for traffic. Just as there was only ‘half’ an engine to see there was, sadly, only ‘half’ a tale being told.

The photograph is at Andrews House Station on the Tanfield Railway.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather