Tag Archives: Llangollen Railway

On another day

A little tank engine and a single coach, the epitome of a rural backwater, in some bygone era when summer skies were always sunny. The line was worked by the same little engine, the same crews,  and all housed in a handsome little two road engine shed, the entire operation the railway equivalent of being put out to grass. Truly the slow train of poetic fame and chocolate box lid.

The little slice of life that was the rural railway station, the parcels office and the goods agent, probably a coal merchant too. On the platform mail bags for the village post office, a few churns of milk, maybe a basket of hens / chickens. School kids, farmers wives on market days, the bread and butter of its passenger trade. It wasn’t just the steam that went, it was the entire way of life that went with it, literally.

The bucolic bliss of the rural branch line idyll is captured in 1000 piece puzzles – copies of paintings by Breckon, Hawkins, or Cuneo. In real life things are rarely like this, which is, I’m guessing, the reason for the popularity of such images.  In the real world, there are leaves on the line, late for the office, stuck at a signal, with a view of the gasometer railways. Gasometers, now there’s something you don’t see everyday, but would you want to.

The photos show No.5526 with the auto train in ‘pound field’ at the Llangollen Railway and SECR 0-6-0 No.178 at Andrews House station on the Tanfield 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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Not a soul in sight

Those of us who worked the last main line steam turns are OAPs now. The youngest firemen in 68, were 16, that makes them circa 66, drivers will be at least 73, and most likely more than that. Some heritage crews have more years on the footplate than some of these men, me included. However, a heritage crew might do 80 to 100 turns a year, a regular footplateman would do 100 or more turns in 4 months. There are many other factors which make comparison difficult, if not impossible, speeds, loads, and distances travelled, hobby versus paid employment, even the condition of the locomotives themselves.

The rules and regulations for the safe operation of the railway are, if anything, more stringent and rigidly applied today than they were in the 60s. If we take just one aspect – tresspass, a way of life, almost, for many who later became the ‘preservationists’, bunking sheds and works, the luckier ones getting footplate trips. Today, increasingly, lineside access is via a permit, or, in some cases, prohibited altogether and as for ‘bunking’ the sheds – I don’t think so. The lineside permits are themselves being made more restrictive, by insisting that holders have undertaken a personal track safety course, at the line – PTS certificates at one line not being valid on another.

All of which begs the question, how did it get this way and why? One answer I’ve been given is insurance,  which, as one manager told me, was a major item in his railway’s budget, outweighing the cost of coal. Can this be the only reason, do some insurers demand that to have track access a PTS is essential and others don’t?  Maybe it’s simply that many people who now visit and enjoy the heritage railways don’t know how to conduct themseleves on or near the lines, thus creating a danger to themselves and others. I don’t know the answers but, I do believe that those whose hobby and enjoyment of the heritage railway is photography deserve something better than the current ad hoc, different system at almost every railway. Is there a case for something being organised through the HRA?

In the photograph, double-headed Manors No.7820 Dinmore Manor and No.7822 Foxcote Manor are hauling an ECS working through a deserted Berwyn Station on the Llangollen 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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Straight bananas

Fifty five years ago I was at work, cleaning engines, at Farnley Jct., one of five sheds in the city. It wasn’t ‘Top shed’ but, that didn’t detract, one iota, from the quality of the enginemanship possesed by the crews who worked there. Some of the old hand drivers had been there since before the Grouping, and worked through the Great Depression and WWII, these men, and those who were their firemen, were the ones who taught me.

Men with a pride in their work, respect for their engines and decades of experience. They didn’t teach in classrooms or lecture theatres, they taught by example, on the footplate, in the mess room, and in, and by, the institutions they created, the MIC, the Enginemen’s Mutual Assurance Fund, and their Trade Unions.  They knew which rules must be obeyed and those which could be bent a little, in short they were ‘professional’.

Fifty four years ago I was sharing the footplate with a driver who had been a fireman in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials and another who had been at the depot since WWI, and honing my own firing skills and railway knowledge, benefitting from their vast experience of working on one of the busiest parts of the railway network, out of Waterloo to Bournemouth and Salisbury, under every imaginable kind of difficulty, and weather condition.

Fifty two years ago, I had progressed to the point where my own skills as a fireman were being tested and records were being set on the runs on which I was working – records which still stand.

Twenty six years ago, after 3 years as a mature student, at the University of Leeds, I began four years of reseach, much of it in the reading room of the NRM, for my books on the Railway Races of 1895 and the changes in the lives of the footplatement between 1962 and 1996. Research which, eventually, ended up becoming a campaign to have Driver Duddington and Fireman Bray properly recognised, within the musem, and on the Locomotive, which they eventually were but, not before an article in a major national newspaper. You can read it for yourself by following this link: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2002/may/01/arts.artsnews

During this same period I persuaded the owner of 35005 Canadian Pacific, the Great Central Railway, and Steam Railway News, to hold a Red Nose event with 35005, on the GCR. The event took a whole train load of disabled children and their carers for a ride on the railway. Some of the more able bodied kids even ‘cabbed’ the engine. The railway featured on the telly, got some great publicity, the kids had a wonderful day out, and the Red Nose fund was Two-grand better off. Everyone was a winner.

No.35005 Canadian Pacific and some of the kids and their carers before setting off for their Red Nose Day train ride.  Picture Copyright John East.

Forty eight hours ago, for so much as daring to comment about the excessive use of cylinders cocks, I was, pretty much, branded a liar by one commentator and, in a stunning example debating eloquence,  a ‘Bell End’ by another, who, I might add, wasn’t even born when steam ran the national network.

Given the general levels of rudeness, ignorance, and abuse, so much in evidence, I rather think the term Unsocial media would be more appropriate way to describe Facebook, Twitter et.al.

PS ‘We have no straight bananas’ – and the box vans are being hauled past Kinchley Lane by Ivatt 2-6-0 No.46521.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

3 Candles on my cake

In celebration of Steam Age Daydreams 3 years on the web and more than 100,000 visitors to the website, next month will see the publication of a feature length post, based on my time as a footplateman, in the 1960s.

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS POST / BLOG.

And for the first 3 weeks of September only, Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children, in either book or eBook form, will be on offer at £13:99 & £3:99 respectively.  The link below will take you to them.

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Elegy

Ex-GWR 51xx Class 2-6-2T, No.5199, runs light engine through Berwyn Station, on the Llangollen Railway. Unusually, for a gala event, there isn’t a soul to be seen on the platform. In the 1960s the deserted platform was emblematic, in many ways, of steam’s last days. It wasn’t just the steam locomotives which were going, so too were large chunks of the railway itself. The trains no longer called at Little Sodbury-on-the-Marsh, the sidings at Grimeston were covered in weeds, Muckley engine shed burned down.

Back then, the word of the day was ‘axed’, locomotives were ‘gas axed’, the lines and services  were falling under ‘Beeching’s axe’. However, a more accurate description would have been ‘state sponsored, industrial scale, vandalism’. With the benefit of hindsight it is plain to see the folly in some of the closures, not to mention the costly replacements and re-opening of some of the routes which were closed. And it has long been admitted that the removal of steam was hasty and botched.

The locomotive building industry, the great workshops of Crewe, Doncaster,  Swindon, and Eastleigh are but shadows; the ‘trains’ we do make are built here by a Canadian Company, in the remains of the workshops at Derby. The demise of steam traction was inevitable but, I wonder, did the railway engineering business have to go too?

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

In the mix

Rural railway bliss as former GWR 0-6-0PT, No.6430, trundles her way along the banks of the river Dee with the morning ‘mixed train’ from Llangollen to Carrog. Scenes like this were amongst the first, and in some instances last, to disappear; depending on all manner of idiosyncratic details. This should surprise no one with a little knowledge of railways and their history, for the idiosyncratic has been a part of the railway story from the very outset.

The closure of rural railways didn’t start with Beeching and his axe, he merely accelerated the process. And one would have to be a serious Luddite to expect that steam would still be the motive power of choice 200 years down the line. We have, however, with the benefit of hindsight, come to see the folly of closing not only rural branches but major pieces of infrastructure like the Great Central Railway, the Waverley route and the Borders Railway, not to mention the Somerset and Dorset and swathes of the Southern west and south of Exeter, along with similar levels of decimation across Scotland. Bits are being ‘re-instated’ here and there but, they are pin drops in the ocean.

Perhaps, the most idiosyncratic part is that in the second decade of the 21st century I have driven hundreds of miles, to stand in a field alongside the A5, to take photographs of a bucolic Britain which never really existed out side of imagination.

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Ebook special offer

To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

 

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Farewell 4566

These handsome little tank engines first saw the light of day in 1906, though No.4566 was one of a batch of 20 built in 1924. They are known in some circles as ‘small prairies’ and the first twenty to be built, were amongst the last locomotives to be built at Wolverhampton Stafford Road Works. In one of those little quirks which life throws up, a trip to Wolverhampton Stafford Road  was the first outing I went on with the school railway club – it was my one and only visit to Stafford Road.

Designed, originally, by GJ Churchward as a small mixed traffic loco, mainly for branch line work, they saw service all over the GWR. The 45xxs must have been fairly successful as later CB Collett designed the  4575 Class,  a modification of the 45xx class, these engines had larger side tanks for greater water capacity and a number of them were fitted with push-pull apparatus for working auto trains, predominantly in South Wales.

Sadly, No.4566 is now out of ticket and there are, at this time of writing, no immediate plans for her overhaul. Hopefully this situation will change in the not too distant future. On the plus side the new build, BR Standard class 3MTT 2-6-2, No.82045, will be the perfect replacement, once completed.

No.4566 is pictured here, departing from Berwyn station with an early morning ‘mixed’, (goods & passenger) train, during a visit to the Llangollen Railway for their 2016 Spring Gala.

If you enjoy my photographs why not have a look at my 2017 Calendar, which, for the first time, is being published by calendar company Calvendo and sold on line or by order at your local bookshop using this ISBN number: Steam Age Daydreams (Wall Calendar 2017 DIN A4 Landscape) / 978-1-325-22545-3

Here are the online links to it.:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Steam-Age-Daydreams-2017-Dave-Wilson/9781325225453?ref=grid-view

and on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steam-Daydreams-2017-Wilson-Dave/dp/1325225452/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479291987&sr=8-1&keywords=steam+age+daydreams+calendar

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Happy New Year

Firstly, may I wish all of you a very Happy & Prosperous New Year. 2017 will have some notable celebrations, not least of which will be the events commemorating 50 years since the end of steam on the Southern.  The fresh from overhaul  Ex-SR B-o-B class 4-6-2, No. 34081 92 Squadron,  will be a guest at the Severn Valley Railway Gala where she will be alongside classmates, No.34027 Taw Valley, and No.34053 Sir Keith Park – can anyone lend the SVR  10 MK1s in SR green livery to complete the picture.

Swanage Railway are planning a big ‘Bulleid Bash for their gala too and the Mid-Hants are joining in as well. I worked trains over the Mid-Hants,  during the Bournemouth electrification period, when engineering occupations took over the direct route. This was, one of the only times I ever had to  exchange tokens, with the bobby, whilst on the move with an express working. You dare not miss it! ( If you look closely you can see the fireman on 34101 Hartland is holding the token, ready to exchange it with the bobby at Goathland.)

Sadly, 2017 will also see the usual crop of engines whose 10 year tickets are up – Ex-GWR 2-6-2T, No.4566, which will be enjoying a last day in service on the Severn Valley Railway as you read this. Meanwhile, across the country, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, joining the Grostmont overhaul queue will be NELPG’s  Q6 class 0-8-0, No.63395.  Let’s wish them both a speedy return to traffic.

The photograph is from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and shows Ex-SR WC Class 4-6-2, No.34101 Hartland, an engine I fired  more than once back then, is approaching Goathland Station with a re-enactment of the last day on the Southern.

Have a great year’s gricing in 2017

If you enjoy my photographs why not have a look at my 2017 Calendar, which, for the first time, is being published by calendar company Calvendo and sold on line or by order at your local bookshop using this ISBN number: Steam Age Daydreams (Wall Calendar 2017 DIN A4 Landscape) / 978-1-325-22545-3

Here are the online links to it.:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Steam-Age-Daydreams-2017-Dave-Wilson/9781325225453?ref=grid-view

and on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steam-Daydreams-2017-Wilson-Dave/dp/1325225452/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479291987&sr=8-1&keywords=steam+age+daydreams+calendar

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

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Light to Carrog

5199ltengberwyneditEx-GWR 5101 class 2-6-2T, ‘large prairie’, No.5199, travelling light engine through Berwyn Station, on the Llangollen Railway. It was their Spring Gala but there wasn’t a soul on the platform as No.5199 rolled through.

First introduced in 1929 the 5101 class was a Collett rebuild of the 3101 class, a Churchward design of 1903.  No.5199 emerged from Swindon in 1934 and spent much of her working life on the GWR’s routes in the Midlands. She was allocated ‘new’ to Tyseley and had spells at Stourbridge before being withdrawn, in 1963, from Gloucester (Horton Rd.).

A further selection of my photos can be seen here: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?page_id=3378

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutubeby feather