Tag Archives: 6990 Witherslack Hall

Autumnal Hall

Everything’s gone to seed and the leaves are turning – the season of mellow fruitfulness has descended and the autumn gala season is in full swing. This is the scene on Sunday last, at the Great Central Railway’s Autumn Gala, as No.6990 Witherslack Hall romps along the Quorn straight with a train for Leicester North.

The gala was also a celebration of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials in which, No.6990 Witherslack Hall was not only a participant, she worked trains over this very line during the trials. On 24th June she worked from Marylebone to Manchester Central with the North Eastern Railway Dynamometer Car added to the train. She worked back to London on the 25th; again with the NER dynamometer car in the train.

Just as there are those who see the trials as little more than a publicity stunt for the newly formed British Railways, there are no shortages of those who see the closure of the Great Central as not only folly but, as the result  little more than  political skullduggery.  When 35005 Canadian Pacific returned to steam on the GCR; I had lunch with the MD of CP Europe – who, as a company, had just spent £2 million on a study into the feasability of reopening the GCR between Rugby and London – it wasn’t.

Still musn’t grumble we wouldn’t have the joys of main line steam on a heritage line!!

Above is the link to Part I of my memories of footplate life in the 1960s. The book about my lifetime of involvement with matters railway is still  available on Amazon – Below, is the link to that work.

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

Steam Age Daydreams began in 2014 and since then over 600 blogs have appeared on all manner of railway topics.  They are all still available to read in the ‘Archive’ section. I am writing this to let you all know that when the existing webhosting contract expires in December there are, currently, no plans to renew it – Steam Age Daydreams will cease.

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A trial survivor

Seen here pulling out of Loughborough shed, on the GCR, in 2016, No 6990 Witherslack Hall was, 70 years ago, on 24th June 1948, pulling out of Marylebone Station, heading for Manchester, over the former Great Central Railway route, as part of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials. Hauling the NER dynamometer coach to record her performance, she returned from Manchester the following day with the 08.25 Manchester London Rd. – Marylebone service; and again with the NER dynamometer coach in tow.

No.6990 Witherslack Hall, was built at Swindon works and entered  service, just a couple of weeks before the trials began, on 8th April 1948. Her competitors, over the same route between London and Manchester, and with the same services, were the Black 5 No.45253 and the Bulleid ‘light’ Pacific No.34006 Bude. The latter was the only one of the three to keep time, though it has to be said that No.34006 Bude was a bigger and more powerful engine and that p-way slacks and signal checks didn’t help time-keeping.

Of the mere two dozen locomotives involved in the trails several have, miraculously, survived the great steam cull and they are; No.6990 Witherslack Hall and ‘heavy freight’ engine, 2-8-0 No.3803, from the GWR contingent, No.35018 British India Line was one of the three Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class entrants and E22, or No.60022 Mallard, was one of the chosen representatives for the LNER. However, on her first run, on the 8th June, with the 11:00 departure from Waterloo, the Atlantic Coast Express, she failed at Exeter and her place, for the continuation of the trials was taken by No.60033 Seagull, which did not survive.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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

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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!

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1 Hall a hauling

6990bridge

In April 1948 the newly formed British Railways, under the direction of RA Riddles, its new CME, held a series of ‘Locomotive Exchange Trials’, ostensibly to determine best practice for a range of new ‘Standard’ locomotive types. These quasi scientific trials lasted from April until September and involved, freight, mixed traffic, and express locomotive designs.

In the mixed traffic class, representing the Southern Railway, were the Bulleid ‘light’ Pacifics, the LNER chose B1s, and the LMSR Black 5s,  flying the GWR flag were the Halls, one of which was none other than the one in this photograph – No.6990 Witherslack Hall, which was virtually brand new at the time. Completing the circle, as it were, is the fact that No.6990 Witherslack Hall was involved in trials held over the Great Central Railway, the very track she is on.

It is now just two years to the 70th anniversary of the trials and probably the perfect time to begin planning some events to celebrate them. We have working examples of most of the classes involved, tho’ sadly not the LNER 01 and 07s which were amongst the freight engine trialists. A main line tour over the routes involved and with classes used in the trials – a sort of Great Britain tour – ‘ The Trialist’, would be fun too.

Maybe some sort of social media campaign to promote the idea might be worth exploring.

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!

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Nutty Slack Hall

6990slack

I doubt whether folk today have the faintest idea what ‘nutty slack’ is, in case you’re wondering – it’s not some form of confection containing nuts – it’s poor grade coal, together with lumps of black stuff which aren’t coal at all. No.6990 Witherslack Hall on the other hand is a rather special engine – she was put on trial in 1948 along with a whole selection of other ‘mixed traffic’ engines, Stanier’s Black 5s and Thomson’s B1s, to name just two of them.

The trials, or ‘Locomotive Exchanges’ as they were known, seem to have been a mixture of PR stunt, an attempt to get all sections of the newly nationalised railways pulling together to form some kind of unity – and, undoubtedly, all the top turkeys fighting like ferrets in a sack for who got top jobs, most clout, and or fattest pay cheque. These trials were also taken, by the crews involved, as a chance to show what ‘their’ engines could do – they were also meant to be ‘scientific’ to find the best practices, to compare coal and water consumption, ease of maintenance, reliability, servicing times, etc. the consensus seems to be that there was little science involved.

It was also a ‘boys and their toys event’ which the railway enthusiasts were able to enjoy at the time and for decades since. I think we should demand a retrial, to be held in 2018, using the S&C and every main line certified engine and their crews. In my dreams!!

For any of you wanting to know more, or 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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