Tag Archives: George Stephenson

Oiling up Puffing Billy

A lovely sunny day at Beamish open air museum, yesterday, and I was there early enough to catch this young footplateman oiling up Puffing Billy; in readiness for her day hauling museum visitors along the ‘Pockerley Waggon Way’. The original Puffing Billy, this one is a ‘replica’, was, in 1813,  the white heat of the technological revolution – the invention of the age. It took 125 years to get from this beam engine, mounted on wooden frames, and driving through a cog mechanism to the 126mph of No.4468 Mallard, in 1938. When compared with the speed of change since 1938, it seems as though progress moved at a snails pace for much of those 125 years.

In the 80 years since Mallard’s epic run, the steam locomotive is no longer powering the railway network, we’ve landed men on the moon, cure folks ailments with gene therapy, enjoy the benefits of a mobile phone network, 60″ plasma screen colour TV, and of course computing, the internet, and on line shopping for every conceivable item from anywhere on the planet.  That’s quite some change in the span of one lifetime. And, of course, it ain’t over yet folks!!

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.

The book about my lifetime of involvement with matters railway will still be available on Amazon – Below, is the link to it.

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

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Summer Special

July only – enjoy Gricing for less. From July 1st to 31st the Ebook version of Gricing is on special offer at just £3.99

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B011D1WBWY/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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The Leg Ends of Industry

This weekend was the Tanfield Railway’s Legends of Industry Gala and, on Sunday morning, the two visiting engines, Ex-CEGB, Dunston Power Station RSH 0-4-0ST No.15 and former NCB No.2 Durham Area, (Lambton Railway),  Hunslet ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST No.60, are side by side at Andrews House Station.

No.15 was built in Newcastle and spent her entire working life there, in Dunston Power Station. No.60 was built in Leeds, in 1948, and was the first new locomotive supplied to the recently created NCB Durham Area No.2. In 1962 she was fitted with a mechanical stoker, removed in 1967,  at the Lambton workshops before she went to Dawdon Colliery; where she remained, until being withdrawn in 1974 and moved, eventually, to the Strathspey Railway at Aviemore.

Between turns, No.60 stands alongside No.20 outside Marley Hill shed; this 1850s engine shed, still doing what it was built for, is having repairs to the gable end and new doors have been fitted, all the work being carried out by the volunteers. Down at East Tanfield a brand new carriage shed is taking shape; and all the new track work associated with it has also been done by the volunteers. And all this is going on whilst organising and running the gala – everything from stringing up the bunting to handing out Flyers, transporting engines across the country, ensuring a goodly supply of tea and buns for the visitors and directing traffic in the car park, (well done to Colin Fish for this little chore).

No.60 arriving at East Tanfield earlier in the week – the NCB lettering on the tanks was just another of those little jobs on the ‘to do list’ before the gala began. TV crews covered the arrival and the gala with a nice little piece being shown on the local news, in which yours truly was to be seen, though I had no idea I was!

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 fireman

The ‘Singing Fireman’, Don Bilston, wrote, ‘ driver sits there like a god, not a bad mate just an idle sod, though I be shovelling on my knees, he just sits there at his ease …..’  This is the footplate of one of the first locomotives, ‘The Steam Elephant’, not much room for anyone to sit at ease there. I’m not certain but, I can’t imagine many small boys growing up wanting to be ‘firemen’, it was just something you had to go through to reach that coveted driver’s seat.

The fireman was a second class citizen, they even became, in the fullness of time, ‘second’ men; being a fireman was to be anonymous. In all the logs and tales of the footplate it’s driver, this, that, and somebody or other, with barely a nod to the long suffering stoker. Not a word about his struggle with fire iron and shovel to coax an exta 10lbs of pressure out of some steam shy old nag, with a clinkered fire and a tender full of dust.  Every dirty job, from trimming the coal to raking out the ashpans was on the fireman’s to do list – and all the time there was that carrot, that hand on the regulator, the driver’s seat.

And then you get out on the main line with 12 on and begin to realise that the fireman isn’t anonymous, for it is his skill, or lack of, which determines what kind of ‘performance’ can be delivered. One footplate wag, many years ago, commented, ‘when they built bigger engines they should’ve built bigger men to fire them’ and relatively few British locomotives had mechanical stokers.

Being the season of good will to all men, when you go out a wassailing don’t forget to raise a toast to the fireman, the man who makes the puff ‘n’ go.  To firemen, long may your needle hover on the red line and the white feather show. – None of your ‘half a glass’ now – up to the top nut!

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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Let’s do the Locomotion

‘Ground control to Major Tom’ – please land your Rocket at Locomotion, Shildon, Co. Durham,  ‘roger, wilco, over and out’.  Not this Rocket and not Major Tom, but Major Tim Peake and his space capsule. This month, Locomotion will display the craft which returned our very own British ‘Rocket Man’ and space walker, Tim Peake, to Planet Earth, along with an exhibition of the very latest in Samsung, ‘space age’ VR techno.

Rocket’s crew might not have made it into orbit but, they were travelling at speeds previously unknown – when the railways really got going, engine drivers and firemen were the ‘fastest men on Earth’.  And, like space travel, it did give them a new view of the world, the one flashing by!  In 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik 1 and, in 1961, Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in orbit, seven years before steam locomotion finished as the driving force of British railways.

Strangely, the Russian connection to Shildon goes right back to the beginng of the railway age. Timothy Hackworth, who, as many of you will know, built the locomotive, Sans Pereil, which competed against Rocket at Rainhill; a replica of his Sans Pereil is housed at Locomotion. Born in Shildon, Hackworth had a locomotive building workshop there, where, in 1836, he built an engine for the Tsarskoye Selo Railway, in Russia. Hackworth’s son, John Wesley Hackworth, travelled to Russia to help assemble the locomotive and teach them how to operate it. According to legend, Hackworth junior taught the Tsar how to drive too!

However, the real speed is that it took human society millenia to reach the point, technologically, where we could travel faster than the speed of the horse, it then took a mere 132 years after the Rainhill trials to put a man in space – escape velocity is, crudely speaking,  25,000mph.

In the photograph, the Rocket replica is departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the GCR, which is not a million miles from the National Space Centre in Leicester – eeeH, it’s a small world!!

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 railway landscape pt.II

In my previous post I wrote about the changes in the railway landscape when steam haulage finished on British Railways; at Tanfield they have kept alive another piece of the railway landscape – a Victorian engine shed on a colliery railway. Like the railways, the mining industry was Nationalised, and the colliery railways, which had been in private hands, became part of the National Coal Board. Modernising the pit railways was a much slower process than that of BR and steam hung on into the 1970s – a little more than a decade later and the pits themselves were disappearing.

In the 1855 built Marley Hill shed, the roads have pits to allow access under the engines, at the back of the shed, on the left of this photo, is a fully functioning forge, at the other side of the wall,  where No.20 is standing, is a working belt driven workshop with lathes, drilling machines, etc.  Marley Hill shed had pretty much everything that was required to enable the fitters to carry out most forms of practical day to day repair work on the industrial locomotives housed there – and they still do. They wouldn’t have had ‘electric’ inspection lamps though!

There are so many little details, the oil bottles, tool lockers, the everyday grime and detritus, is an atmosphere only time creates, even the overalled figure working in the smokebox could be from another age. You might have noticed that No.3 Twizell has had her dome cover removed – she’d been having work done on the regulator valve – all in a days work at Marley hill.

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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Up close

For several months, in 1962, Jubilees Nos. 45581 Bihar & Orissa, 45695 Minotaur, 45708 Resolution, and 45646 Napier were regularly cleaned by yours truly. These four engines were the cream of the crop at Farnley Jct. They were used on turns such as the York – Swansea Mails, the Red Bank vans, and they took their share of the Newcastle – Liverpool services; taking over, at Leeds City Station, from the A3s or V2s which brought the trains in from Newcastle.

The Jubilees are 3cylinder engines and it isn’t just their paint work that the cleaners had to clean; the the wheels and motion, including the inside motion, also had to be cleaned. Crawling about, between the frames, under the engine, with a scraper in one hand and a paraffin soaked oily rag in the other was every bit as unpleasant as it sounds.  There’s not a lot of space to work in and there’s the little doubt at the back of your mind – what if someone moves the engine? What if they didn’t see the “not to be moved cleaners” board?

Oiling round was the responsibility of the driver but, as a cleaner, I often earned a shilling oiling up the middle motion on the Jubilees, and on the Jinties too, for some of the older / more rotund drivers. All good training of course and, apart from the MIC classes, it was the only training we had. (The only training the railway ever gave me was, how to operate the train heating boilers on the diesels.)We learned about the engines and how they worked by crawling about on them, from smokebox door to tender back, under them, on top of them and all points in between.

The photo shows, No.5690 Leander, getting away from Loughborough with the TPO during on of the GCR’s gala events.

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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Little green engine

Roaring out of M1 tunnel, Ex-NER H Class 0-4-0, No1310, heads the 12:20 Birthday Express to Park Halt, on the Middleton Railway. No.1310  was built in 1891 and weighs just 22tons 14cwt, her final owners were the National Coal Board and she was bought from the NCB by the Steam Power Trust, in 1965.

Last Sunday I was on the remote Cumbrian fells, at Aisgill, photographing ‘Flying Scotsman’, there were around 50 other people there with me.  Today I was a mile from Leeds city centre, with the M621 motorway running above the tunnel, with no one for company, with, or without, a camera. Though they would probably never say so themselves the Middleton Railway, Britain’s first preserved standard gauge line, has been pretty shabbily treated by the council, who, for many years practically ignored it.

Leeds and the antecedants of the Middleton Railway, Charles Brandling’s colliery railway, have some serious railway pedigree pre-dating Stephenson’s engine Blucher. Stephenson is reported to have visted Brandling’s railway to see Murray & Blenkinsop’s engines at work on th line, in 1812. Leeds was home to the Round Foundry, Murray, Fenton & Wood, Manning Wardle, and of course the Hunslet Engine Co. whose works were less than 1/2 a mile from the Middleton Railway’s Moor Road terminus.  David Joy, credited with the design of the famous ‘Jenny Lind’, and the Joy valve gear, was born in Leeds and worked for EB Wilson at the Railway Foundry.

These Leeds based locomotive manufacturers built ‘little engines’ in green, and many other colours too, in a history which stretches back over 200 years: A history which the city seems to want to ignore, which is a great pity.

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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1000 likes on FB offer

To celebrate Steam Age Day Dreams having reached 1000 Facebook followers, for the next 10 days the ebook version of “Gricing” is £1 off,  at just £3.95“Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children” –  a different take on our great railway heritage from someone who has 60 years of 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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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:

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

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