Walking into the tender

The fireman has the tender door open, to get at the coal, as No.45699 Galatea, photographed here at Birkett Common, continues the long slog up to Aisgill summit. Firing is hard enough work as it is and when you’re having to ‘walk’ into the tender, not only does it become harder work you are also firing with more dust and dross from the back of the tender, so just as the work gets harder the quality of the fuel goes down – Sodd’s Law?

I did work on the Jubilees but, not for very long, or very far, until just  before steam’s demise. In 1967 I was at Wakefield (Belle Vue) 56A and about 99% of the work I was doing was with Dub Dees on coal and goods trains; and then, out of the blue almost, a ‘short rest’ job to Blackpool with a ‘miner’s welfare’ outing to the seaside. Wakefield, at the time, had a couple of Ex-Holbeck Jubes, No.45694 Bellerophon and No.45739 Ulster, mostly used on parcels turns, and for just such eventualities as the local miners annual dip in the briny.  If my memory serves we had No.45694 Bellerophon.

We were slightly late getting away due to the time taken loading, not just the passengers, but substantial quantites of alcohol, crates of which were being doled out by the stewards, from an overladen porters trolley. Mostly beer with a few bottles of Sherry, ‘for the ladies’, and some crisps and pop for the nippers. Once under way I don’t recall any major hold ups or issues. I knew the road as far Burnley because that was one of our regular workings Healy Mill – Rose Grove, beyond there I was reliant on the driver, and after Preston, on the pilotman to let me know when to begin running the fire down for our arrival on the shed.

The return trip however, was a very different affair.  And of that, more later.

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Making tracks

From the  heights of the romantic Settle & Carlisle line, where I went to see and photograph Saturday’s rail tours, The North Briton and the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express, it was back down to earth on Sunday and a ten minute drive up the road to enjoy Goods Train Day on the Tanfield Railway.  Keighley Gasworks No.2, with Marley Hill cabin in the background, is photographed with the 14:15 service heading towards Sunniside.

Meanwhile, down at East Tanfield, the line’s Southern terminus, fresh developments are afoot; and last Sunday, during ‘Mixed Train’ day, the new recruits to the track gang were being put through their paces on the point work and track access for what is to be the new purpose built carriage shed.

After putting in the hard yards on the track laying, the young lad, on the left of the picture above, was enjoying a spell on the footplate of No.3 Twizell, when I visited on Sunday and he can be seen here, leaning from the cab, as No.3 Twizell runs into Andrews House, and No.2 takes water, before working the goods to Sunniside.

Being an old coffin dodger myself it is very gratifying to see so many young lads getting stuck in and learning what is required to keep an industrial railway in operational condition at every level, from the track bed upwards.

I’ve been visiting and photographing the Tanfield Railway for over thirty years now, and it has been my local railway for the past two, and though I’m not an industrial / colliery railway buff I do, generally, enjoy my visits and the atmosphere is such a contrast to the main line railway I worked on during the days of steam.

This one, a scan from my pre-digital days, is taken during one of the Tanfield Railway’s Galas and shows gala visitor, Sir Berkeley, being driven by Tanfield Railway stalwart, Alan Thompson,  departing from East Tanfield, in the days before the new cafe and terminus building was erected. The new two road carriage shed is being built on the line which Sir Berkeley is departing along.

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 day of two halves

The day was set fair – bit breezy, but cold and bright and there were runs North and South over the S&C; with 60163 Tornado going north with the North Briton and 45699 Galatea heading the Winter Cumbrian Moutain Express south. First stop Lunds viaduct, about a mile and a half beyond Garsdale, for 60163 Tornado. However, the best laid plans and all that, because, instead of 60163 at the head of 12 coaches we were presented with, what is colloquially known as a ‘Shed’ – No.66014 piloting 60163 Tornado. The reason for this was an electrical failure connected with the TWPS. Someone did kindly point out that the resulting picture does have rarity value but, this is scant reward for the effort involved. All was not lost though as the south bound run was yet to come. And as you can see from the photo the sun god was shining, a little less breeze would have been nice – but hey, you can’t have it all!!

Shed, steam, and sun, as you can see not quite the desired effect!  Some folk suggested that I photoshop the ‘Shed’ out of the photo however, there was one suggestion, from Phil Cowle, which I do like; “I’ll just choose to believe the 66 was sick and Tornado came up from behind and banked it to a siding!!”  You can see the headlines in the steam comics – “Tornado rescues stricken Shed”, “Thunderbird ‘Tornado’ is go” – or something along those lines!!

The good news for anyone with tickets for the Tornado event at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is that, according to my source, she was going to the NYMR once the train arrived at Tyne Yard, where she was booked to leave the train. The TPWS fault should not prevent her from working over the moors line.

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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On the cushions

My first time ‘home pass’ or ‘back on the cushions’ was when I was still only a cleaner at Farnley Jct. I was riding out with the crew on a York – Swansea parcels service – we were relieved at Stalybridge, by Stockport Edgeley men, returning to Leeds by service train. When I moved south to 70A, early in 1963, I had few turns where the duty sheet  read book on at –  ‘and travel passenger to’. These were usually Special ‘boat trains’ or Special ‘banana trains’. The boat trains could be either work down to the docks and home pass or the other way round.

On the banana trains I only ever travelled down pass to Eastleigh; a stroll to the shed, and then light engine to the docks to collect the van train for Nine Elms goods. On these banana trains I fired WC / B-o-B pacifics, 73xxx Standard Class 5s, and the 75xxx Standard 4s but, sadly, never one of the 76xxx Class 4s, like the one in the photo. I recall, on one occasion, travelling down to Eastleigh, with another crew and, to pass the time, the four of us started playing cards, only to end up leaping off the train as it began to move off. Another 30 seconds and we would have had to explain how we ended up in Southampton – with egg on face.

The most famous ‘on the cushions’ job was, of course, the Flying Scotsman non-stop service where the relief crew rode in the train from Kings Cross to York and then made their way through the corridor tender, to the footplate, the relieved crew returning the same way back to the coaches. The corridor tender was  designed to allow crew changes to be made during the long non-stop services from London to Edinburgh, and were fitted to around 20 of Gresley’s A4 Class 4-6-2s, specifically for this purpose.

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Coals to Newcastle

Taking coal to Newcastle, once a familiar euphemism for futility, has been rendered redundant by the closure of the coal industry. And coal  made its way to Newcastle, along this route, for the best part of two hundred and fifty years. The Tanfield waggon way was part of a network of lines which carried coal from the local pits to the Tyne at Dunston; initially utilising horses and rope worked inclines.

No.3 Twizell, an 0-6-0 of 1890s vintage, has just emerged from Causey Woods and is approaching Bobgins Crossing with the 14:15 East Tanfield – Sunniside service, during the Tanfield Railway’s ‘mixed train’ day, on Sunday last. There was once, during the line’s industrial past,  a short lived, Saturdays only, passenger service which operated between 1842 and 1844. It ran from Tanfield Lea to Redheugh where it met the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway. Initially there was a passenger coach provided but, this didn’t last and passengers were left to make their journey in coal trucks.

The Tanfield Railway was not unique in carrying passengers, quite a few colliery lines provided some basic level of passenger transport for their employees and their families, some, like the ‘Marsden Rattler’, (The South Shields, Marsden & Whitburn, which became a public line in 1899), even became popular / notorious, parts of the local transport network.  And some of the Tanfield Railway’s wooden bodied rolling stock, with wooden bench seating, reflects the type of carriages those Victorian Tynesiders enjoyed, or not.

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 testing climb

56 years ago my day job was cleaning engines just like this one, they weren’t red though – BR green. We had four of them shededd at Farnley Jct. and they were our principal cleaning duty, especially if they were on the Liverpool Lime Street jobs. I never had enough seniority to be trusted with firing on one of these turns – Top Link men only! This was one of the main reasons I left Farnley Jct., not just to be promoted from passed cleaner to fireman but, to get some main line passenger work before the end of steam as the motive power for the national network.

No.45699 Galatea was, despite the fairly stiff cross/head wind, going well and was probably a minute or even two early. Assuming she had left Appleby, after the water stop, on time, a gain of two minutes at Aisgill was a good effort given the prevailing conditions. I don’t know if it still goes on but, a few years back there was a bit of an ‘unofficial’ contest for the fastest climb from the Appleby water stop to Aisgill summit. If memory serves, the Duke, a Duchess, and a Merchant Navy all held the Blue Riband at one time or another.

In the early 1950s when the Britannias were new, the section of the S&C between Crosby Garrett and Aisgill was used for their steaming trials, a test which reqired the services of two fireman. According to C.J.Allen’s account, the Britannia No.70005 John Milton, on the test, was consuming coal at the rate of 2.5 tons an hour and using 3,615 gallons of water in the same period. Phew!

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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Last Year’s Landscape

Our railways ran, and in some instances still do, over some of the most scenic and unspoiled bits of the country. Equally true is that they ran through some of the most despoiled and industrialised areas of the country too – they helped in creating much of it. This scene of bucolic bliss is Kildale on the Whitby – Middlesborough via Battersby Junction line.

Beamish Pit and Puffing Billy, mining coal and transporting it from the pits the very raison d’ etre of railways, of industrialisation, of ‘the modern world’ where coal is no longer king – but hey, ‘that’s progress folks’. The engine’s a replica, the site a museum, facsimilies, sanitised renditions of a past, a past without health care, sick pay, holidays, maternity leave, electricity, anesthetic, old age pensions: And photography!

Another route out of Whitby, the one which used to run to York, via Malton, now the heritage North Yorkshire Moors Railway, runs past the tiny hamlet of Esk Valley, the terrace of cottages and a scattering of farm houses in the lower part of the picture. This goods train hauled by Black 5 No.44806 and banked by BR Standard Class 4MTT No.80136 is at the start of the long and twisting climb to Goathland, high on the moors.

From the high moors to the high Pennines, at Lunds viaduct on the Settle  – Carlisle line. The S&C has its own rich folk lore which runs from engines spinning on turntables, (Garsdale), through murder most foul, to Jam Butty making and eating contests in the Temperance Hotel in Kirkby Stephen. This latter being inaugurated by the bands of roaming enthusiasts who flocked to the area, during the era when the S&C was under imminent threat of closure. (Thanks to Paul Screeton and his ‘Folklore of the Settle -Carlisle’ for the details about the Jam Butty contest.)

From the ‘romantic’ S&C to real ‘Jam Butty Land’, the prosaic Balm Road branch of the Middleton Railway, in Leeds. A wet day, a deserted street, on an industrial estate and the building in the back ground carries a sign reading Imageco – the future’s bleak, the future’s 50 shades of grey. The engine making all the smoke is ‘Slough Estates No.3’ and she spent her working life on an industrial estate in Slough – enough to create despondency in any soul.

From the slough of despond to God’s green acres and the Nation’s ‘favourite’ engine. In the background is one of Yorkshire’s best known landmarks, Pen-y-Ghent, in the foreground trackside buildings gently decay.  The location is about half a mile south of Ribblehead viaduct and No.60103 Flying Scotsman had just ‘shut-off’ for the slack – bleak Blea moor and wild Cumbrian fells beckon.

Lastly we have Ex-LMS 4-6-0 Jubilee class No.45690 Leander with the classic south bound location, at the summit of Aisgill, with the ‘up’ Waverley. One day I’ll do this shot and the sun will be shining – maybe this year!

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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Highland ‘oliday

With Blackford box and crossing in the background No.70013 Oliver Cromwell makes a fine sight at the head of the ‘down’ Great Britain III, back in April 2010. This year the Great Britain XI will be hauled from York to Carlisle, over the S & C, by the freshly restored Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2 No.35018 British India Line, an engine I worked on myself, as a fireman, back in the 1960s. I also worked a rail tour, in February 1965, with sister locomotive No.35022 Holland Amerika Line.

The LCGB organised East Devon Rail Tour was run on 28th February 1965 and was booked to run non-stop between Waterloo and Yeovil, a very rare event as there are no troughs on the Southern and 122 miles, without taking water, is a long way.  Careful boiler management was the order of the day, no excess blowing off, making sure the injectors weren’t ‘wasting’ water and I had to have ‘water in the tap’, i.e. around 1/2 a tenderful, at Worting Junction or we would have to stop for water at Salisbury – I had, we didn’t.

There were no ‘fireworks’ in the running, though we didn’t hang about and our overall net time for the 122 miles was 118 minutes, five minutes under the scheduled 123. There were several spells, around Andover and Sherbourne were we were in the 90s, we topped Grately at just short of 70 and reached 86 passing Porton. The return working was marred by checks and a dead stand at Salisbury. However, we did average a shade over 77mph from Grately to Fleet. And the net time from the Salisbury check to Waterloo was around 76 minutes for the 83 miles.

One commentator noted ‘it was a long day out for the crew’ – the Waterloo – Exeter round trip is 343 miles, throw in the light engine movements from Nine Elms to Waterloo and Exeter – Sidmouth Jct. and it was a 350 plus miles long day out – and we never did get to see the sea!!

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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I see no pasties

Ex-GWR Hall Class 4-6-0 No.4953 Pitchford Hall blasts away from Loughborough with a recreation of the Cornishman. Quite a few ‘Named Trains’ came to Leeds, where I grew up, in the 50s and early 60s, some, like the Yorkshire Pullman, Queen of Scots, or the West Riding arrived and departed from Leeds Central station whilst the Thames Clyde Express and the North Briton departed from City station – albeit from opposite ends of the station. In additon to these well known names there were one or two lesser lights, the Devonian and the Cornishman, and the latter has, at times, been the cause of some confusion.

This confusion arises from there being two services named ‘Cornishman’. The original ‘Cornishman’ was a GWR service from Paddington to Penzance which commenced in 1890 and finished in 1904. It was resurrected for a year 1935/6 and ceased thereafter. The ‘Cornishman’ which called at Leeds, originated in Bradford and served Kingswear and Penzance via Gloucester and Bristol. This service was initiated by BR and ran from 1951 to 1975.

In the 1950s, and early 60s this service was almost always hauled into and out of Leeds by a Jubilee. The leg from Leeds City station to Bradford Forster Sq. was usually hauled by one of the Stanier / Fairburn 2-6-4Ts and, if memory serves, the Fowler 2-6-4Ts also appeared on this working and both Holbeck and Manningham had allocations. And, there’s every possibility that the preserved Fairburn 2-6-4T No. 42073 actually worked the service as, in 1960, she was transferred to Manningham, from Huddersfield. No.42073 is pictured below emeging from the tunnel at Haverthwaite Station on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite 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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Snow fun and games

British Railways 2-6-0 No.78018 entered traffic in March 1954, and was allocated to West Auckland, less than a year later, according to my 1955 Shed Book, she was based at Kirkby Stephen, the opposite end of the line most commonly known as the Stainmore route.  And, in February 1955, whilst working the 04:20 goods from Kirkby Stephen,  she, and her train of eight 20 ton loaded hopper wagons and a guard’s van, became entombed in a snow drift just beyond Barras station, close to ‘Stainmore’ summit.

What began as an ordinary day’s work for the crew turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. Travelling eastwards out of Kirkby Stephen, No.78018 became fast in the snow at around 05.00 on Thursday 24th of February and it wasn’t until 15:00 the following Monday, the 28th February, that a rescue was made. 50 men, armed with little more than shovels, set out behind an engine and snow plough, from Barnard Castle, and headed west, they were accompanied by a film crew, hastily assembled by British Transport Film’s Producer, Edgar Anstey.

The film crew, Kenneth Fairbairn, Director, and cameraman Robert Paynter and his assistant David Watkin did much of the filming in darkness using Tilley lamps for lighting. Shot in black and white the results of their efforts became one of the most evocative and atmospheric BTF  documentaries ever filmed – ‘Snowdrift at Bleath Gill’.

The photograph shows the ‘film star’ No.78018 getting away from Loughborough with a local service for Leicester North, on the Great Central Railway; with not so much as a snowflake in sight.

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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