All posts by Dave

‘Mr. Perks’

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The Railway Children’s station, Oakworth, on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, is the scene in this photograph of N2 Class 0-6-2T No.1744 / 4744 aka BR No.69523. The Kings Cross destination board is entirely appropriate, as the principal duties for these engines were suburban services in and out of Kings Cross. The large pipes coming from either side of the smokebox are part of the condensing apparatus, fitted to these engines. The fitting of the condensing equipment made it possible for them to work into the tunnels on the Metropolitan Railway, as the exhaust steam could be fed back into the top of the tanks, instead of filling the tunnels and stations.

Over a hundred of these engines were constructed, No.1744, herself, was constructed in 1921 shortly before the Grouping which saw the Great Northern Railway become a constituent of the London North Eastern Railway, in 1923. No.1744 was rescued by the Gresley Society, in 1963, and arrived on the fledgling K&WVR in 1965. No.1744 is no longer a resident at the K&WVR – on this occasion she was making a guest appearance, to commemorate that she was one of the ‘pioneer’ engines on the line. Today, No. 1744 can usually be found at work on the Great Central Railway, between Loughborough Central and Leicester North.

Today’s Christmas connection is that like the ‘Polar Express’, and ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’, the ‘family classic’ ‘The Railway Children’ usually makes a guest appearance in the Christmas TV listings. I’ll get my coat – and paint white lines around my coal stack now – ho, ho, ho!

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Deck the Halls

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As we head for bleak mid-winter,  thoughts turn to mulled wine, schmaltzy Christmas music plays, gratingly, in the shopping mall, and the annual  panto, of the grotty grotto owner being forced to repay the entrance fees, to the angry parents, of wailing disappointed children, is played out on the 6 o’clock news, I thought it would be nice to see England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ decked with a Hall, bring you own holly, mistletoe, and mince pie. T’is the season to be jolly, maybe it’s the mulled wine – Oh! yes, the ‘modified Hall, well.

No.7903 Foremark Hall, is a member of the 6959 class ‘modified’ Hall class, introduced by Hawksworth in 1944. These engines were ‘upgrades’ of the original Halls, first introduced by Collett in 1924. The original Halls were, themselves, a development of the still earlier ‘Saints’, locomotive evolution at Swindon was practically Darwinian. No.7903 Foremark Hall was one of the final batch of the class and wasn’t actually constructed until after, Nationalisation, in 1949. Another of the modified Halls, No.7927 Willington Hall, did survive the scrap man but her mortal remains are now  ‘donor’ parts in the project to build a new 68xx class Grange, the 6880 Betton Grange project at the Llangollen Railway.

None of the Granges survived the National network’s transfer to diesel and electric traction and many lamented their loss, sufficiently, to want to resurrect one and the project to do just that is now well under way. There’s a rolling chassis, and work on the boiler is on going, so, as they say, ‘watch this space’ .

The final, and really fleeting, connection to this season of Yule is the location for the photograph which is ‘Chicken curve’ on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway, not quite turkey, just as the G&WR isn’t quite the GWR – enjoy your mulled wine!!

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Railway Royalty

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The Great Western had their Kings, the Southern their King Arthurs and all his attendant Knights. The LMS, meanwhile, had Princess Royals, though, somewhat perversely, one of them was named Queen Maud, they also had their Coronation’s, more usually known as Duchesses, even though some of the Coronation class were named after Queens, and Princesses too. I don’t know about you, but I found it strange that the aristocracy would be happy to have their names / titles stuck on the side of what is, essentially, a small cog in a huge industrial machine, even if some of those cogs are 100 ton plus, beauties, like No.46233. Duchess of Sutherland.

In a roundabout way, it is possible to see a connection between Royalty, and the ‘social’ implications of that, and railway locomotives. The serfs and peasants of the engine realm would be the 0-4-0 and -0-6-0 shunting engines. Plentiful in  number they did all the basics, like marshalling the trucks into trains, 0-6-0 and 0-8-0 goods engines swelled the peasant’s ranks. The Yeomanry would be represented by  the 2-6-0 and 4-6-0 mixed traffic engines, fewer in number than goods and shunting engines, but still plenty of them.

Now we come to the ennobled, the Knights and Barons, Earls and Dukes, and we know which engines they are because the railway put their titles on the engines. This brings us to the King and Queen, and there are several one might choose, just as, down the ages, there have been many contenders for the crown. Is the Queen, No. 46201 Princess Elizabeth, in a royal railway hierarchy, or could it be that there is another railway royal No.6026 King John, maybe. However, I think there’s a real railway Royal and it’s neither King nor Queen, Duke or Princess – it’s a duck.

No.46233 Duchess of Sutherland is pictured at Thornhill, near Dewsbury, with one of the regular, summer only, Crewe – Scarborough steam excursions.

For any of you wanting to know more, or who enjoy reading my blogs and the photographs in them, why not buy yourselves a copy of my book, “Gricing” 30,000+  words and more than 100 photographs.

The following are totally unsolicited comments from people who have read  Gricing: ‘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’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ I was given what I believe to be your book called Gricing the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

This is the link to my book “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

 

 

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The ‘Spotlight Kid’

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The magic of steam and sunlight has not escaped the attention of movie makers and admen. The animated ‘classic’ Polar Express seems to be becoming a staple at this time of year and a festive season doesn’t go by without steam trains, in some form or other, starring in a Christmas ad campaign. The weird bit is that it isn’t modern swishy trains they use in the ads, or cartoons, its old fashioned steam engines pulling coaches – a form transportation unknown to most children today, and to a fair few adults too.

Quite how steam trains became part of the tale about wise men, jolly, white bearded, ‘well made’ blokes, wearing  a fur trimmed red suit, reindeer, a parasitic growth on trees, and astronomy, I’m entirely unsure. No matter. The Christmas shopping hordes are now building up a full head of steam, as we hurtle towards the inevitable train crash of the post festive credit card bill. Meanwhile, way back, the railway was the Amazon of the 19th century providing Christmas hampers and other goodies via mail order – maybe that’s the connection between steam trains and Wintertide, it certainly gives a whole new meaning to going on line!!

No 78019, pictured above,  is at the Great Central Railway’s terminus in Loughborough.

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A Winter’s tale

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It’s that time of year, the time to be sitting by the fire listening to the tales of old enginemen. Days when white steam lights up a grey sky and a stirring account, of exploits in the East Coast Main Line, penned by OS Nock, lit up the imagination. How that 12 minute delay was clawed back by running mile upon mile at 90mph and more.

Strangely there were no tales about climbing onto the footplate, at 8 o’clock on a freezing cold winter’s night, a gale blowing and the odd snow flurry. Well, at least, not ones where  you’re  climbing onto the footplate of  a grime ridden old goods engine, with a clinkered fire, coal back in the tender, low on steam, and water, as opposed to  some gleaming Pacific.  In the unrecorded scenario the departing crew mutter, she’s a bit of a rough ‘un and scurry off – these are nights you don’t forget in a hurry, when you’ve swallowed the school boy romance, started working on the footplate, and come up against reality.

No time to think about that though, the board’s off and you get the dart into the clinker and try and lift a slab or two off the bars to get some air through the fire. Despite the chill of the night you spend the next 90 minutes; sweating like the proverbial pig, grappling with fire irons, pulling coal forward, and shoveling in any permutation you like. You wouldn’t want the t-shirt believe me!

On a grey March day, during one of the SVR galas, No.7802 Bradley Manor is re-enacting the last days of the Cambrian Coast Express as she crosses Oldbury viaduct heading not for the Welsh coast but Kidderminster.

For any of you wanting to know more, or who enjoy reading my blogs and the photographs in them, why not buy yourselves a copy of my book, “Gricing” 30,000+  words and more than 100 photographs.

The following are totally unsolicited comments from people who have read  Gricing: ‘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’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ I was given what I believe to be your book called Gricing the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

This is the link to my book “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Speedy Goods

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These 0-6-0Ts were rather unusual for the very ‘standardisation’ conscious Great Western, in so much as they were fitted with Walschaerts motion, as opposed to the Stephenson’s motion which was standard for the GWR. It was this anomalous feature which led generations of Old Oak Common crews to nick name the 15xx Class ‘Speedies’ – not because the were fast but because they were quicker and easier to oil up than Stephenson’s motion fitted engines.

Designed by Hawksworth, for the GWR, ten of them were constructed and they entered service post-Nationalisation, in 1949. Described as ‘heavy shunting engines’ they saw a lot of service on empty stock workings in and out of Paddington. No.1501 was sold, after little more than a decade in British Railways ownership, to the NCB and it was this which kept her in service long enough to be purchased by the Severn Valley Railway, in 1970. The other 9 engines were not so lucky and all of them were scrapped after very short, in locomotive terms, working lives. However, given that only 10 were built, one survives and bits from another two have provided spares for No.1501, they fared better than many much larger classes of locomotives with no surviving members.

No.1501 is pictured on Oldbury Viaduct just south of Bridgnorth Station on the Severn Valley Railway.

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The Polar Express

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It’s that time of year again when the heritage railways run their Santa train services. Coaches filled with expectant kids, slightly frazzled adults, and volunteers dressed as elves, pixies, and, of course, one dressed as Santa himself.

For the heritage railways, Santa Trains, are an important revenue stream. My local line, the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway had sold out all the Santa trains before they even started running, if you didn’t book early, you missed it. However, spare a thought for the footplatemen. Santa services are a testing time for crews, wrestling with frozen cold vacuum pipes, hot steam heating pipes,  lugging heavy headboards and climbing onto the, frequently slippy, framing or tender to put them on the brackets, for the fireman, and for the driver, dealing with icy rails and, on occasions, poor visibility.

Off stage, presents, for the kids, have been wrapped, ‘ a wee dram’ for dad has been poured, and there’ll be mince pies lurking too.  There’s an awful lot of goodwill going on here and whether you’re  a member of the public or a railway afficionado spare a thought for all those hard-working volunteers who give up their weekends from now until Christmas to make it all happen – when you raise your ‘wee dram’ – make it a ‘cheer for the volunteers’.

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The Loop

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Austerity, such a loaded term these days. Back in those days ‘Austerity’ meant one of these things, a War Department 2-8-0, or, possibly, one of the rarer 2-10-0 variety. Words, like appearances, can be deceptive, and particularly so in this photograph. I know the locomotive looks like one of Riddles’, DubDees, I know it barks like one too – but is it? Well more or less sort of, is the short answer.

No.90773 has had several incarnations since she rolled out of the Vulcan Foundry, as works No.5200, and became WD No.79257, in 1945. Packed off to Europe she went to work on the railways of Holland becoming NS No.4464. It didn’t last though and No.4464 was sold, in 1953, leaving the flat lands of Holland for the Nordic delights of Swedish State Railways and a new number – now she was No.1931. It wasn’t just her number which changed, the Swedes tinkered around with her. The old tender, which looked like it had been cut from a slab of solid coal, was swapped for a ‘Nordic’ design – a kind of IKEA ‘Austerity’, and so she began to loose her identity as a WD.

What happened next is why she is here at all. The Swedish State Railway ‘mothballed’ No.1931 as part of a ‘State Reserve’ and parked her in a dark Swedish wood, now No.1931 was not so much IKEA as Scan Decor! Rescued from the wood by a handsome Prince, no I mean saved by members of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, No. 1931 arrived back in blighty after spending 28 years holidaying in Europe.

Now No.90733 she is pictured entering Damems Loop, not that many miles, as the crow flies, from Newton – le – Willows where she entered railway service.

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Get yer McIntosh!

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Into the light at the end of the tunnel, well, road over bridge anyway. This is the Strathspey Railway, near Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands. The locomotive is a McIntosh 812 Class 0-6-0 ‘goods’ engine, Caledonian No. 828 / BR No.57566. These engines were, reputedly, the goods counterparts to the McIntosh ‘Dunalistair’ Class 4-4-0s and No.828 is the only surviving McIntosh designed 812 Class locomotive.

No. 828 was withdrawn from Ardrossan MPD, in 1963, she was preserved for posterity by the Scottish Locomotive Preservation Trust, in 1964, and was returned to Caledonian Railway livery, at Cowlairs works in Glasgow, in 1966.  No.828 then spent some time housed in the Scottish Transport museum, also in Glasgow, before being purchased by the Strathspey Railway, in 1980, and moved to Aviemore, where she was returned to active duty.

The 812 Class were, in 1899, the Caledonian Railway’s biggest goods engines and they also saw use, from time to time, on ‘holiday specials’ to the  resorts and ports along the  South Western Scottish coastline, to places just like  Ardrossan, in fact,  where, as No.57566, she was shedded during her final years of \BR service.

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Smoke & Mirrors

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Former Great Northern Railway 0-6-2T No.1744, polished to a mirror and wreathed in smoke, sorry steam, catches the first rays on a cold and frosty day on the Great Central Railway. The Great Northern Railway, everything was ‘great’ in railways, back in Victorian times, Great Western, Great Eastern, there was even a Great North of England Railway – bit obscure that one but, it does have a modern echo in the initials GNER, the one time franchise holder for the East Coast route from London to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The echo, echoes, to another tune too – the Great North of England Railway, or rather shady share dealings in it, brought down the ‘Railway King’ George Hudson. The funny bit is that the modern day GNER spent £2 million to come up with the initials GNER, trumpeted that they would become as respected as those of the LNER, yet seemed to have no idea these self same intitials, GNER, were attached to one of the biggest financial scandals in railway history.

The strange thing to modern ears, in the saga of Victorian railway chicanery, is that it was a clash between the ‘business principals’ of Hudson on the one hand and those of the Quaker founding fathers of the Stockton & Darlington on the other. Hudson resorted to illegal share dealings to try and get his way and lost – and where are GNER now, sunk by hubris, buried by debt.

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