Pennine Tornado

Thirteen on and not a Box to be seen. Running 12 minutes late and a long way short of the ‘ton’, No.60163 Tornado is seen here, crossing Lunds viaduct, a couple of miles beyond Garsdale. The weather wasn’t quite  the forecast ‘bright’ day and there was a nippy breeze. Despite the glum weather and the bleak surroundings I wasn’t the only soul on the hill side, such is the lure of steam, even new build.

When you see these wild fells, where even trees are in short supply, you can scarcely believe that men, with little more than picks and shovels, donkeys and dynamite, built a double track railway across them. This section was part of Contract No.2, there were 5 in total. The contract was awarded, in 1869, to Benton & Woodiwiss and covered the 17 miles from Dent Head to Smardale, possibly one of the most difficult and remote parts of the line, Ais Gill summit, Rise Hill and Shotlock tunnels as well as a series of viaducts at Dandry Mire and the oft photographed ones Arten Gill and Smardale are all in this section.

When the diggings were in full swing 1,400 men were at work on this portion of the line, many lived in camps of wooden huts built around Dent Head, Arten Gill, and Smardale. Attracting sufficient labour was a constant source of trouble, as was keeping them at work. Strikes, fights with the locals, militia men, and the police were not uncommon, deaths were a common place, as were spells in Wakefield prison – one book on the subject, by W.R.Mitchell & N.J.Mussett, used the title “Seven Years Hard”‘ – a fitting epithet, for the entire project.

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:

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In the mix

Rural railway bliss as former GWR 0-6-0PT, No.6430, trundles her way along the banks of the river Dee with the morning ‘mixed train’ from Llangollen to Carrog. Scenes like this were amongst the first, and in some instances last, to disappear; depending on all manner of idiosyncratic details. This should surprise no one with a little knowledge of railways and their history, for the idiosyncratic has been a part of the railway story from the very outset.

The closure of rural railways didn’t start with Beeching and his axe, he merely accelerated the process. And one would have to be a serious Luddite to expect that steam would still be the motive power of choice 200 years down the line. We have, however, with the benefit of hindsight, come to see the folly of closing not only rural branches but major pieces of infrastructure like the Great Central Railway, the Waverley route and the Borders Railway, not to mention the Somerset and Dorset and swathes of the Southern west and south of Exeter, along with similar levels of decimation across Scotland. Bits are being ‘re-instated’ here and there but, they are pin drops in the ocean.

Perhaps, the most idiosyncratic part is that in the second decade of the 21st century I have driven hundreds of miles, to stand in a field alongside the A5, to take photographs of a bucolic Britain which never really existed out side of imagination.

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:

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Belle, Milk, & a Bacon Slicer.

In the 1960s I did quite a few turns on the BR Standard Class 4 4-6-0s of the 75xxx series, on runs to Basingstoke, Southampton and Salisbury. However, I did very few turns with the Class 4 2-6-4Ts, the 80xxxs, and all of them local jobs whilst I was at Nine Elms. I do remember being duped on one. Being offered the chance to do a spot of driving wasn’t something, as a keen young fireman, you turned down but, being given the chance to drive one of these engines on a turn involving a great deal of shunting was something of a poisoned chalice, as I learned in the goods yard at Wimbledon.

The 80xxx tanks earned the nick name ‘bacon slicers’ because the reverser wheel was very similar to that of an old fashioned bacon slicer, still used in many butchers, in appearance, though its appearance wasn’t the only reason. It takes about 10 million turns, (I exaggerate only slightly), to go from full forward  to full reverse making shunting a very arm aching experience.

The only other turns I recall working with these engines both involved  a trip down the West London Extension from Clapham Junction to Kensington Olympia; one to work the ‘Tiverton’ milk to Vauxhall Station for unloading and the other was the ‘special service’, for postal workers only, between Kensington and Clapham Junction, known to one and all as the ‘Kenny Belle’.

The photograph is of No.80136, just beyond Moorgates, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. No.80136 will be ‘guest’ at the GCR’s goods event on May 6/7th – the crew had best hope they’re not providing the shunting demo at Quorn!!

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:

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Out of the woods – almost

Saturday before last, and No.44806, with the heavily loaded Pullman dinning service, the 12:30 departure from Grosmont, slogs her way up the very testing climb to Goathland. No.44806 is in the final year of her boiler certificate and currently appears to need some attention to the valve spindle packings. However, she doesn’t appear to be short of steam and is flying a nice little feather from the safety valves.

Fortunately there are replacements, for No.44806, in the pipeline as returning to steam, at the NYMR, in the not too distant future, are Ex-Southern Railway Schools class 4-4-0 No.30926 Repton and West Country class 4-6-2 No.34101 Hartland. When I arrived at 70A Nine Elms, in early 1963, the Schools were laid up but, No.34101 Hartland was still in regular service and I enjoyed numerous trips, as her fireman, on services to Basingstoke, Southampton, and Bournemouth.

If No.44806 had been No.44896 I would have worked on her too, as No.44896 was one of seven Black5s  allocated to 55C Farnley Jct., when I began work there as a cleaner, back in the 60s. Farnley’s allocation of Black 5s and Jubilees  included the ill-fated, No.45695 Minotaur, wrecked in a crash near Stockport and never repaired. The Black 5s and the Jubes were about the only engines we did keep clean with the exception of the handful of Ivatt 2-6-2 tanks used on station pilot duties at Leeds City station. The rest, including a string of Dub Dees, got the cabside numbers cleaned when they became too dirty to read!!

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:

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A moment of change

It’s all just about to happen, the bobby leans from his box to collect the token from the crew on No.43924, the guard and No.75078’s fireman look on.  When many of you reading this took up an interest in railways, this scene was played out, countless times a day, on single lines, both main and branch ones, across the country.  However, it was all about to change, before our very eyes, steam, semaphore and the bobby in his box disappeared.

The last steam sheds, works, and, as time went on, the great scrapyards of Barry, became places of pilgrimage; railway enthusiasts from far and wide came to pay their last respects and photograph it all one last time. In 1955 when the plan was hatched I was a train spotter, in 1968, when the steam and most of the semaphore was either going or gone, I too was surplus to requirements – redundant, after seven years as a British Railways fireman.

For more than 150 years steam locomotives had hauled ‘coals to Newcastle’ and taken us  from home to the seaside – in a little over a decade they’d gone. It might be said, that with the last steam locomotive being built in 1960 and their cessation in 1968, that they went in less than a decade. We were going to have modernity whether we liked or wanted it.

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:

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Trumpton Chigley & Llaniog Railway

‘Under bridges over bridges to our destination’ – all well and good if you know your destination, Treddle’s Wharf in the case of Chigley. Today, of course, some anodyne female voice, on your satnav, announces, ‘you have reached your destination’, you hope it’s not your final one.

In the world of children’s railway stories engines, coaches, and trucks all talk, squealing when they go too fast. In the 1950s Sammy the Shunter, which was published by Ian Allan, was rival to Thomas the Tank Engine; in the 1960s it was Ivor the Engine, animated for TV by the late Oliver Postgate, of Postman Pat fame. Oddly, we don’t have  Harry the Dustbin lorry events, nor talking animated drain cleaners either. Generally speaking,  mucky jobs just don’t translate to kids stories – no one wanted to be a fat refiner or sewer cleaner when they grew up. Engine driving was different, but why?

Becoming an engine driver could, and for a great many, did take years, decades even, as cleaner, passed cleaner, and fireman. Think about that, 20 or more years, cleaning fires, emptying ash pans, and smokeboxes or shovelling tons of coal. The inevitable nasty burns and ash, grit, or coal dust in your eyes; getting up at all hours to spend your day shunting, or running tender first down some freight only line when it’s blowing a gale and lashing down – aaaah, the romance of the footplate.

Under the bridge, Andrews House Station and Ex-Keighley Gasworks 0-4-0ST No.2, its destination is Sunniside – the side of life you always look on!!

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:

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Not the Easter Rabbit

A B1 and a train of maroon MK1s deep in the heart of North Eastern Railway territory –  in1950s Britain a sight  so common nobody paid any attention, until, that is, one day it all disappeared. Now, lovingly re-created, in all its glorious technicolour, droves of day-trippers take selfies, posing with the engine, at the station. When not doing selfies they talk of long dead ancestors who once worked upon the railway, or Granddad, who  ‘drove the Flying Scotsman’.  Granddad always drove the ‘Flying Scotsman’, even if he worked at Aberdare or Hither Green.

The scene is ‘Heartbeat’ country, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, about half a mile from the mythic Aidensfield, or Goathland as the locals call it and it’s Easter Saturday, the first big public holiday of the year. I know, Easter and bunnies are a bit of a joke but, as I walked up to take this shot I startled a rabbit, which then hared, (groan), across the field into the one the other side of the dry stone wall. Later in the day I spotted Black 5 No.44806, running tender first, carrying a yellow painted head board bearing the legend ‘Easter Eggs press’, (bigger groan).

Well I’ve rabbited on long enough about eggs, bunnies and Easter so – all that remains is to say, ‘have an eggstremely good holiday’!

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:

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The Steam Elephant

The words ‘weird and wonderful contraption’ were invented to describe this early 19th century masterpiece. The original was built in 1815 to work on the Wallsend Waggonway. The one in the photograph is a replica,  which was constructed from details derived mainly from paintings, and the strange barrel at the base of the chimney is, in fact, a feed water heater. Despite some early problems, due, in the main, to the nature of the wooden waggonway she first worked on, the locomotive remained active at Wallsend into the 1820s and reports suggest that, after some modifications, she saw a further decade, or so, of service at Hetton Colliery.

The Steam Elephant was the work of colliery manager John Buddle and his associate William Chapman, a civil engineer with an interest in mechanical engineering too, who worked on a number of other locomotive projects in the early decades of the 19th century including a chain driven locomotive, for Heaton colliery, which was built at Butterley in Derbyshire. The Durham and Northumberland coalfields were a hot bed of locomotive experimentation during the period between 1810 and 1830 with Stephenson and his associate Ralph Dodds, at Killingworth, William Hedley at Wylam. and mention must also be made of Murray & Blenkinsop, in Leeds, who supplied locomotives to Brandlings Colliery railway in Leeds and to the Kenton & Coxlodge colliery on Tyneside. Brandling himself was one of the ‘Grand Allies’ and had coal and railway interests in the North East as well as those in Leeds. The remains of Brandling’s colliery railway in Leeds form part of what is now the Middleton Railway.

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:

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Bon-Accord

Bon-Accord and Distemper, does anyone use ‘distemper’ today, do people even know what it is? The scene is Beamish open air museum’s Rowley Station, the signal box is just visible behind the foot bridge. Bon-Accord has been  a guest at Beamish for several weeks and is one of the attractions in the Great Northern Steam Festival, which came to a close on Sunday.  Built in Scotland, by Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock, she spent her entire working life there before making a trip to Locomotion at Shildon, in 2016.

Bon-Accord began her railway career, in 1897, at Aberdeen Corporation Gas Works, where she remained, until 1964, before being  replaced by  a diesel; the gas works themselves were closed and demolished in 1975. Under her skirts she’s an 0-4-0 with 3’2″ wheels and 12″ x 20″ pistons. The skirts were fitted because Bon-Accord’s day job was hauling coal, through the streets of Aberdeen, from the docks to the  Gas Works. Saved for preservation in 1972 she was, initially, stored at Ferryhill along with Mr. Therm and No.3, before being moved to Brechin. I believe No.3 went to Alford and Mr.Therm became a static display in Aberdeen’s Seaton Park..

Bon-Accord returned from Brechin to Aberdeen, in 1999, for restoration work to be undertaken by the  Bon-Accord Locomotive Society, she was returned to steam in 2008 and in 2010  moved to the Royal Deeside Railway’s base at Milton of Crathes.

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:

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Roots

And so it begins. In 1813, this was the white heat of the technological revolution, William Hedley’s ‘Puffing Billy’. This spindly ‘contraption’, which went on to become the modern steam locomotive we all know and love, in the words of one author, Wolfgang Schivelbusch, ‘industrialised time and space.’ It wasn’t just the speed of transportation which increased, the pace of change in peoples lives and livelihoods accelerated  too.

The original Puffing Billy, the one above is a modern replica, was the work of William Hedley, assisted by Jonathan Forster and Timothy Hackworth, whose own engine, ‘Sans Pareil’, was a serious contender to Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’, in the Rainhill Trials of 1829. Hackworth’s ‘Royal George’, an 0-6-0 built for the Stockton & Darlington Railway, was, in some quarters, credited with saving steam haulage on the S&D. Hackworth had quite a career in locomotive building and design and is credited with the invention of the blastpipe. He built and exported a steam locomotive to Russia, in 1836 and was, from 1825 to 1840, the  Locomotive Superintendent to the S&D.

Hedley’s ‘Puffing Billy’ remained in service until 1862 when she was ‘loaned’ and then sold to the Patent Office Museum, which, eventually, became the Science Museum, in London. Puffing Billy  had a sister engine, ‘Wylam Dilly’, which was also preserved and now resides in the  National Museum of Scotland.

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:

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