Tag Archives: freight

Turning back the clock

When the future’s uncertain, there’s always the past. Mourning for what has gone, disparaging its replacement. It was better then, it’s dreadful now. Nowt wrong wi canals, why would thi want to be rushin around at 30 miles an hour, I don’t know how they manage to breathe at that speed – it’s all a matter of perspective.

2017 saw numerous galas and events, at quite a few of the major heritage lines, commemorating the end of Southern steam, in 1967. 2017 was also 70 years since the Big Four, LNER / LMS / SR / GWR, were Nationalised but, I don’t recall any major gala commemorating their demise. And to date, I haven’t spotted any events to mark the creation of British Railways, in theory at least, a more important event than the end of Southern steam, in so far as it was an Act of Parliament, rather than simply an operational objective in the modernisation of the railway network.  What we remember and what is commemorated or celebrated, from the past, are two very different things.

There’s even a certain degree of irony here too because, despite the rhetoric, the re-privatisation of the railways, which was sold on ‘nostalgic images and iconography’ drawn from the days of the Big Four, has been a far cry from what was promised in the sell off prospectus. And there is now, in 2018, a high level of public support for the re-Nationalisation of the railway network and the slim, but growing, possibility it might happen.

Cycling Lion anyone?

The photo is of 8F No.48624, with a train of mineral empties, passing Quorn & Woodhouse signal box, on the Great Central 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:

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

 

 

 

 

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The L&Y

What sort of railway was the L&YR? This question has several different answers depending on whether you are a traveller or shareholder and at what point in the life of the L&Y you were talking about. In the early days, from the traveller’s point of view it was diabolical. O.S.Nock  in his, The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (A concise history), quoting  E.L.Ahrons, states “In the middle of the 1870s it was probably the most degenerate railway in the kingdom, to which even the South Eastern or the London, Chatham & Dover could have only run a bad second.”

Things were so bad that the L&Y was the butt of Pantomime jokes – quoting from Nock again, “He went to Bradford for to dine By the Lancashire & Yorkshire line; He waited three weeks at bleak Low Moor And when he complained the porter swore That he ought to have started the month before”… etc, etc. Nock says, “To sum up, the L&Y of 1876 was a railway of ugly inconvenient stations, of old broken-down engines and dirty carriages, and of a superlative unpunctuality, to which no pen could do justice.”

However, if you were a shareholder between 1866 and 1880 things were rather less bleak and ugly. Dividends were a healthy 6 to 8%, and only in the years 1878 and 1880 when 5 3/8% was paid and 1879 when only 4 5/8% paid did they fall below the 6% mark – in 1872 the L&Y paid 8 3/8%.

The photograph, taken on the K&WVR, shows Ex-L&YR 0-6-0 No.957, built in 1887 to a design by Barton Wright, whose locomotives  are credited with vastly improving the L&YR’s punctuality and speed of services. The coach behind the engine is the beautifully restored ‘Club Car’ No.47.

The ‘Club Car’ owes its existence to the sensitivities of  Fylde coast businessmen and their desire for a comfortable journey unencumbered by such unpleasantness as having to rub shoulders with the ‘great unwashed’. In 1896 a group of these businessmen, the Lytham St. Anne’s & Blackpool Travelling Club approached the L&Y with a view to securing their ‘own’ coach on the morning and evening expresses to and from Manchester.

Following the successful outcome of these negotiations the L&Y first provided some converted 6 wheel saloons and then in 1912 produced a unique carriage for the service which ran Monday to Saturday from Blackpool Central to Manchester Victoria. This coach continued in service until 1934 and then spent the next 17 years on secondary duties until 1951 when it was sold for use as a cricket pavilion in Spondon, near Derby.

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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2017 A personal review

A year of firsts and farewells, though for me 2017 was the year of the ‘End of Southern Steam’; an event celebrated, if that’s the right word, at quite a few heritage lines; and I very much enjoyed seeing Nos. 34081 92 Squadron and 34053 Sir Keith Park, at the Great Central Railway’s offering.  There was even a brief glimpse of No.73156 running as No.73084 Tintagel, like Nos. 34081 and 34053, another engine I’d worked on back in the 60s.

No.73156 / 73084 was one of the firsts too, as she was making her debut appearance after being rescued from Dai Woodhams yard in Barry and restored to operational condition at Loughborough. Sadly, teething problems with the brakes curtailed her official workings, to just one passenger turn on the first day of the gala.

Earlier, in February, there was a bold experiment on the Settle & Carlisle line with No.60163 Tornado hauling regular service trains, for a 3 day spell, between Skipton and Appleby. There were two runs each day and I managed to photograph the first return working, at Selside, on Valentine’s Day. No.60163 also set a first, being given a trial run at 100mph on the ECML, a thrill for all concerned, I’m sure. The data being gathered was intended to support the case for raising the speed limit for steam, on the main line, from 75mph to 90mph.

Sticking with the main line theme, 2017 saw the S&C officially re-opened, after major repairs, with a run behind No.60103 Flying Scotsman, to Carlisle and the S&C also saw main line stalwart, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, bow out when her boiler ticket expired in August – she is pictured at the top of the article, at Kirkby Stephen station , on her last run over the S&C.

No.60103 Flying Scotsman, crossing Lunds viaduct, on the S&C.

Being a Leeds lad I’m rather fond of the Scots which, for many years, were the principal express engines on the former LMS / MR /LNWR routes in and out of the City. In line to replace her, out on the main line, is another engine steaming for the first time since being saved from the scrap yard, No.35018 British India Line, and again one of the engines I have fired on passenger services, out of Waterloo, in the 60s.

Continuing the Southern theme, I never worked on the Schools, though there were several in store at 70A when I started there. 2017 saw Schools Class, No.926 Repton, return to traffic on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, following her ten year overhaul. She is pictured above, slogging up the last half mile of the steep climb from Grosmont to Goathland during the NYMR gala.

On a personal note, I made my first ever visit to the narrow gauge system at Threlkeld Quarry, a little gem in the midst of some wonderful scenery. The locomotive in the photograph is, Sir Tom, a Bagnall 0-4-0ST of 1926 vintage. Sir Tom was employed at BICC in Kent until 1968 and moved to Threlkeld in 2001. Sir Tom was overhauled and rebuilt at Threlkeld and re-entered traffic in 2010.

As the year drew to a close it was farewell to Black 5 No.44806 at the NYMR and No.7812 Erlestoke Manor at the Severn Valley. No.61994 The Great Marquess, and shortly No.60009 Union of South Africa, are to become museum exhibits, no longer gracing the main lines and flying a flag for the LNER, which is sad, especially as the locomotives, of constituents of the LNER, are few in number when compared with the other members of the Big Four.

Not to end on sour note No.7812 Erlestoke Manor, pictured above approaching Bewdley tunnel with a Bridgnorth – Kidderminster service, is to have a fast track overhaul and is expected back by 2020. Good progress is being made with the new build No.82045, a project of which I’m a keen supporter. The 82xxxs were great fun to work on and the ideal engine for a heritage railway operation. I’m very much looking forward to seeing and photographing the finished item.

All of you, I’m sure, have your own highlights from 2017 and I could have added a few more of my own, seeing the Steam Elephant in operation at Beamish was a treat, as was having the Tanfield Railway just 15 minutes drive away, and I leave you with one of my favourite shots from Tanfield in 2017.

Keighley Gasworks No.2, with Bobgins cabin in the background, is heading for Andrews House with a train from East Tanfield.

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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Christmas at the double

Well here we are again, tis the season of pies, cake, and Santa, so let me take the opportunity to wish all of you the very Merriest of Christmases.

The nearest thing I have to a nativity scene is this shot, at the top of Druimuachdar, you can see the summit marker just to the left of the lineside bothy, (stable) – and yes that’s snow on the hill behind. The double-headed Black 5s, or yonder stars,  are No. 44871 piloting No.45407 with the Inverness – Perth leg on one of the “GB” series of Rail Tours.

Double-headed fives over the Highland main line is very much the ghost of Christmas past.  I couldn’t help thinking about what it must have been like a hundred years ago, at Christmas 1917, when huge coal trains were being hauled over these desolate hills, not by Black5s of course, enroute to Scapa Flow and the bunkers of the Royal Navy’s high-seas fleet – they even gave them a name – ‘the Jellicoe Specials’. A lot of the coal being hauled  had been dug out of the ground hundreds of miles away in the Welsh valleys and these trains, which ran day and night, were an essential part of the war effort. And what an effort it must have been with Shap, Beattock, Druimuachdar, and Slochd all on the route.

For me it only remains to say, all the very best for 2018.

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

Until New Year the eBook edition of Gricing is on offer at just £3:95, that’s a whole book for less than a monthly mag.

 

 

 

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And we wish you ……

Well here we are again, steaming into yo, ho, ho, and for some lucky folk, this week, sun, steam, and yo, ho, snow. We are also rapidly approaching the 70th anniversary of the birth of British Railways, on 01/01/1948. How different things were back then, very few had tv, computers were the size of a house and there were, probably, no more than a handful in the entire country; most people didn’t have a phone, and a mobile phone was pure science fiction.

The first objective for BR was to complete the repairs to the war ravaged network and catch up on the regular maintenance programme which had been almost abadonded during the war. Life expired and war damaged rolling stock and locomotives needed replacing; on top of these practical considerations was the need to bring together the management and operations of the four, nominally, competing companies into one publicly owned corporation.

When the newly Nationalised railway opened for business R A Riddles was sitting in what was, in effect, the CME’s chair, assisted by E S Cox and R Bond, this trio were responsible for the creation of British Railways ‘Standard’ classes. Riddles railway life began at Crewe, in the days of the LNWR, he rose to become principal assistant to Stanier at the  LMS, and in 1943, on secondement to the Ministry of Supply, he designed his 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 ‘Austerities’ – the forerunner to the 9Fs, one of which, No.92214, is pictured above departing from Loughborough.

Despite being ‘standard’ the 9Fs had their share of modifications, some were fitted with Franco-Crosti boilers, and then they weren’t, some were fitted with mechanical stokers, several more had air pumps fitted for working the Tyne Dock – Consett iron ore hoppers and No.92250, the last in the class, was fitted with a Giesel ejector. The 9Fs were built between 1954 and 1960, by  July 1964 Nos. 92169,70,71,75,76,77, which, in 1960 were all allocated to 36A Doncaster, had all been withdrawn.  In 1960 No.92214 was a Banbury engine and, in all probability, worked trains on this very line when she was – ironic really when you think she has spent more time in service on heritage railways than she did on British Railways.

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

Until New Year the eBook edition of Gricing is on offer at just £3:95, that’s a whole book for less than a monthly mag.

 

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Is that snow on t’ hills Arkwright?

On a cold and frosty morning, No.49395, masquerading as No.49442, slips a little as she eases her train into the head shunt at Keighley, where she was a Gala guest engine. I’ve seen these antique 0-8-0s hauling huge trains of wagons, on the WCML, through Rugby, back in the 1950s. First introduced, in 1912, by the LNWR, the G1 class was a development of an earlier non-superheated design. No.49395 was a further  modification, the G2 class, with higher boiler pressure and, in some cases, like No.49395, the fitting of Belpaire fireboxes.

In my 1955 shed book some of these engines are in far flung corners with numbers allocated to Abergavenny, from where the LNWR had a line down to Merthyr, with several  branches running down the Welsh valleys, one, to a junction with the GWR at Nine Mile Point, had a sub-shed to Abergavenny, at Tredegar.  Swansea Victoria, also had a handful still on the books in 1955, but they’d all gone by the 1960 edition. When she entered BR stock, in 1948, No.49395 was allocated at 2C Northampton, in 1955 she was at 8C Speke Junction. No,49442 was at 10B Preston in 1948 and in 1955 she was at 2D Coventry. In the 1960 Shed Book neither engine is listed, my 64 Combined shows just 5 G2 / G2a remain in service.

No.49395, being the first of the G2 class, was saved to become part of the National collection, No.49442, along with all her chums, met the grim cutter, and was transformed, in showers of sparks, to cars fridges, and ten million razor blades.

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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Christmas Special

From Friday 1st of December, until New Years Day, the e-book version of Gricing is at the Special Offer Price of £3:95

“Gricing” – 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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A Jinty in dreamland

The sub-title to my blog is Trains of thought, and who would have dreamed, in 1960, that a bunch of kids, mostly, would go on to create a network of heritage railways from Aviemore to Bodmin and Gwili to Sheringham, re-create a working, twin-track, main line railway, and run regular steam hauled services on the national network.  And that  50 years on they would be a major part of the nation’s tourist infrastructure, as they undoubtedly are.

2018 is going to be a year of great ballyho for the 50th Anniversary of the ‘End of Steam’ and not a little personal reflection on the end of my own railway career too. The white heat of technology was going to bring us a bright new future and we should embrace it. We’ve swapped our Box Brownies for Digital SLR and Camcorders and exchanged the land line telephone for Google and the internet; and 50 years ago no one dreamed of those things either.

My very first footplate journey, whilst still a schoolboy, was on a Jinty, my last, as a steam fireman, was on a WD; in between was an eclectic mix of motive power, MPDs and routes worked. Being a fireman was a challenge, it was down to you to produce the steam. Opening the regulator of a steam locomotive is not the same as opening the controller on a diesel or electric locomotive where the available power is pre-determined; on a steam locomotive the skill of the fireman determines what level of power, up to the engines full capability, is available. The challenge is to keep as near as possible to maximum pressure without excessive blowing off and, with so many variables involved in doing so, it is a great deal more difficult than most people imagine, or should I say dream.

In the photograph No.47406 is drifting towards Loughborough, on the Great Central Railway, with a train of empty mineral wagons.

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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Favourites

60 years ago, in the summer of 1957, I spent two weeks of school summer holiday, sat alongside the WCML, in and around Rugby; at Midland Station, at the girder bridge, where the GCR crossed the WCML, and at Hillmorton, near to where my aunt and uncle lived, at night I would fall asleep to the sound of freights rolling by.

I remember seeing No.10000 and 10001, they caused quite a stir but, I doubt that many of us, sat beside the tracks, at the time, fully appreciated just what they represented and what we were about to loose. New steam locomotives were still being built and they lasted for decades, so we imagined. How wrong we were, some of these newly built engines had barely one decade of service before becoming washing machines, fridges, and Ford Escorts.

We travelled to Rugby by taking the bus to Bradford and catching the ‘South Yorkshireman’, it saved changing trains, and stations in some instances, if you went via the Midland from Leeds City Station. Once we arrived in Rugby there was a very busy railway scene  providing a huge number of different classes, LNER & GWR types on the Great Central, whilst on the Midland there was everything from the proto-type diesels to ancient Ex-LNWR, Bowen-Cooke 0-8-0s, hauling huge numbers of wagons.

Without doubt, however, the star attraction was the WCML and, in the summer of 57, this was a main line still almost exclusively steam. All the famous names, the Caledonian, the Mid-Day Scot, The Red Rose, The Royal Scot, The Irish Mail, The Emerald Isle, were all on the menu. And each day was a seemingly endless procession of Stanier Pacifics, Scots, Patriots, and Jubilees. The Scots, Pates and Jubes, all came to Leeds, but not the ‘Lizzies’ and the ‘Semis’ – seeing them hurtle by was definitely the highlight.

I made this trip to Rugby for each of the next four years, though not always on the South Yorkshireman. And if I have one favourite  memory of these trips it’s the sound of the single chimney Lizzies, working hard, on ‘up’ trains, as they climbed away from Rugby heading towards Kilsby Tunnel.

In the photograph, sounding wonderful, No.6201 Princess Elizabeth, is close to the summit of Aisgill with a Cumbrian Mountain Express working.

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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Bookends

These wheezing, clanking, beasts bookend my time on the footplate, my first run out, as a very young cleaner,  on a goods working from Leeds to Mirfield, was on one and my last duties as a fireman, before being made redundant, were at Wakefield (Belle Vue), where I worked on little else.  My last Combined Volume, the Summer 1964 edition, lists 461 still at work, none of them survived the big cull. The one in the photograph, No.90733, seen emerging from Mytholmes Tunnel on the K&WVR, was rescued from Swedish Railways, who had bought it from the Dutch Railway.

They were almost never cleaned, certainly during my cleaning days they never saw more than an oily rag on the cab side numbers, ‘work stained’ was synonymous with any description of them. However, they did work and they did ‘deliver the goods’, coal and iron ore mostly but, I’ve worked fish trains from Hull with them, on occasion. It has to be said, they are not the most comfortable riders when you get them jogging along but, they’d drag the ‘town hall behind them’. They were absolutely in their element hauling heavy coal trains and I  really enjoyed working with them on the Healy Mills  – Rose Grove or Padiham workings during my spell at Wakefield.

On these runs over the Pennines, beyond Hall Royd Junction, there are around five miles at 1: 60 to 1:70 up through Cornholme and Portsmouth to Copy Pit summit, gradients like this, with a heavy train, really made them bark, you could feel every power stroke as the whole engine swayed side to side with the effort. However, once you made it to Copy Pit, and pinned a few brakes down, you could sit back, have a fag, and roll all the way to Gannow Junction. It was never quite so hard going back over the Pennines with the empties, sometimes you got one of Rose Grove’s Stanier 8Fs on the return working, which made a pleasant change.

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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