Tag Archives: mining

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stoker, removed in 1967,  at the Lambton workshops before she went to Dawdon Colliery; where she remained, until being withdrawn in 1974 and moved, eventually, to the Strathspey Railway at Aviemore.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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It’s all gone a bit mono

It’s a very cold and frosty morning at Andrews House Station on the Tanfield Railway and, after taking on coal and water, 0-4-0ST Sir Cecil A Cochrane, is backing down onto her train. It was all so much simpler back then when everything was in black and white;  there was no crime, politicians were honest, schoolboys wore short trousers, National Service made men of us and people stood for the National Anthem. There are a thousand variations on these rose tinted pictures of the past. In many ways this hankering for the ‘good olde days’ is what brings visitors to the railways and puts the coal in the firebox, so to speak.

On the coldest days and bleakest winter mornings people drag themselves from warm comfortable beds, travel for miles, sometimes many miles, wrestle with fire irons,  and / or injectors, shovel coal, take water, (freezing cold water), and face the icy blasts when running bunker first, and all to recreate what you see here – in minute loving detail.

Tanfield with its little industrial engines and tiny wooden bodied coaches may be a far cry from topping Shap, on the footplate of the Duchess, with 12 on but, it is the same spirit of preservation which motivates the volunteers. Several times over the past few days I have been party to discussions about volunteers, how vital they are, how many are ‘gentlemen of a certain age’ and the need to draw in younger volunteers if the presnt levels of activity are to be maintained. And, as part of this discourse, the question of how the transmission of the skills and knowledge, of  more than 150 years  of railway operating practices, had long been the cinderella of preservation.

The generation, of which I am a part, are the last of the BR steam footplatemen – we were firemen to drivers who had been footplatemen during the Great Depression and WWII and they had learned their skills and knowledge from men who worked on the footplate in Victoria’s reign. Unless more effort is put into gathering, recording, and putting to use, these vast reserves of knowledge and skills, they are in danger of being lost – for good, or should that be for bad?

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 driver, the guard, and the mail bag catcher.

The humble 0-6-0 tank engine, guards van in tow, could be seen anywhere from bucolic country branch lines to a colliery siding in Barnsley. And the first recorded 0-6-0, ‘Royal George’, built by Timothy Hackworth, for the Stockton & Darlington Railway, in 1827, is credited, by some commentators, with ensuring the success of steam haulage on the S&D, which, at the time, was said to be ‘in the balance’.

These ‘Fowler’ LMS Class 3F, 0-6-0Ts are, essentially, updates of an earlier Midland Railway design of Samuel Waite Johnson, the 2441 Class, introduced in 1899. The ‘Jinties’, as they are commonly and collectively known, were introduced in 1924 and many of them were built by private contactors. The Hunselt Engine Co. built 90, the North British Locomotive Co. made 75, and Vulcan Foundry constructed 120, including No.47406, in 1926.

WG Bagnall was another one of the private companies given an order to build the 3Fs,  seven of which, in 1929,  went to the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway – S&DJR Nos. 19 – 25, in 1930 they were absorbed into LMS stock. And, in one of those you learn something new everyday moments, I discovered that 90 Jinties were built by William Beardmore & Co. a Glasgow ship building corporation.

Nine Jinties made it into preservation 4 from Vulcan Foundries, 3 of the North British ones and 2 of the Hunslets but, the Bagnalls and all the Beardmore’s bit the dust; as did the last 15 of the Class, built at Horwich works, in 1931. Quite a number of the preserved examples have run in the past but, currently No.47406 is the only operational Jinty. No.47298 and 47324 are ‘under overhaul’ at Rileys and the ELR with No. 47324 being expected back later this year or early in 2019 as is No.47298 – watch this space, as they say.

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 spot a fettlin’

Sitting in the back of the former Pontop & Jarrow Railway engine shed, at Marley Hill, on the Tanfield Railway, Sir Cecil A. Cochrane, the engine in this photo, is moving towards the final stages of a retube and ‘light’ overhaul. (She’s back at work now). No, your eyes are not decieving you, the boiler cladding is made of wood. First a wooden frame is made by cutting, soaking, and bending, pieces of timber to the shape of the barrel   the wooden lagging strips are then attached to these frames, which is what you see here. The ‘finer’ details of the process of re-cladding were explained to me by Ian Cowan, the chap you see about to climb onto the footplate, with a small strip of wood which was being fitted to the cladding inside the cab – joinery and boiler making skills required!

I had no idea, until I saw this work being undertaken, that this was a method of boiler cladding for these enines – you do, as they say, ‘learn summat new every day’. When Marley Hill shed was part of a working colliery railway system this kind of work, retubing, and light general repairs, would have been a commonplace. Behind the white wall to the left of the picture, is a fully operational forge which would have allowed more substantial repairs to be carried out. And, from time to time during the year, volunteers operate the forge, to give visitors a taste of what was involved.

Should you wish you can see a photo of  the volunteers using the the forge,  one can be found in the steamagedaydreams archive for September 2015 – ‘A little forgery’.

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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“Tha’ll need thi big coit”

The winter of 62/3, is the last time I remember so much snow and over such a period. It was my first year at work on the railway and I earned an extra few shillings in my pay packet, doing overtime to keep the braziers burning around the water coloumns, preventing them from freezing up. Everyone does their best in these situations, crews were walking in because buses were stuck, or not running, but, even with dedicated men, as most at 55C were, there are times when the conditions become impossible, or should that be impassable.

The braziers were one thing, there was a host of other ‘additional duties’, general snow clearing,  spreading ash from the ash pits along walk ways,  to the lodging house and, most importantly, the canteen. Around the shed yard we were clearing snow and ice from frozen points and those beyond the lodging house and in the head shunt, to keep the turning triangle useable, Farnley didn’t have a turntable.

Many of the goods workings were being caped because of frozen point work and if crews did make it in, a few hours ‘waiting orders’ and playing Rummy before being sent home was pretty much par for the course. The snow plough was in operation on several days, and if my memory serves, at least one of the Black 5s on the allocation had a pair of small snow ploughs attached by the fitters. If your job was caped and you ‘dropped unlucky’ a few hours out with the snow plough rather than a few hands of ‘Chase the lady’ could be your lot. Nothing like spending half your day running tender first into sub-arctic temperatures.

The photo shows Robert Stephenson & Haworthorn 0-4-0ST Sir Cecil A. Cochrane approaching Bobgins crossing with a train  for Andrews House on the Tanfield Railway, during their Great War Weekend event on Sunday.

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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Snow, sheep, and steam

As the nation grinds to a standstill the sheep just couldn’t seem to care less, oblivious to the travel doom engulfing all around them. It was Great War Weekend on the Tanfield Railway, on a day, probably, more suited to an impromtu game of football in no man’s land, or possibly the station car park. The locomotive is Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 0-4-0ST Sir Cecil A. Cochrane and she is seen here drifting gently towards Causey Arch with the first train of the day from Andrews House.

Sadly, a little while after this picture was taken, the decision was made, reluctantly, to abandon the remainder of the day’s services, in the interests of safety. Credit where it’s due though, the volunteers all turned up for duty, the plaform edges had been cleared of snow, and the first train left Andrews House, on time. A squad of squaddies all tin hats and Khaki trooped down to the station and, as the train to Sunniside was departing, a very vintage motor bike and sidecar was being unloaded from the back of a van. It’s a shame for all concerned, railway volunteers and re-enactors alike, when they’ve put so much effort in, that things outside of their control put a dampner on the events.

A good show, lads and lasses – shame about the weather.

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 day at the sea side

In my last post, ‘Walking into the tender’, I began to tell the tale of working a ‘short rest’ excursion to Blackpool. We’d taken a train load of miners, their wives, and kids from collieries around Wakefield to the seaside and taken our engine down to Blackpool loco; now it was time to book off and take rest. What we actually did was take off our overalls, get washed, and make our way into town to enjoy a plate of whelks, washed down with a foaming ale – on second thoughts it was beer and fish ‘n’ chips.

I don’t recall the exact departure time of the return working but, if memory serves it was around the 7 /7.30pm mark. We needed the pilotman again for the run down to Preston and, as things turned out, it was a good job we did.  Not unsurprisingly, we were held by signals as we approached Preston and, unbelievably, some of the more well lubricated miners began opening the carriage doors and relieving themselves. This was not good, it became infinitely worse when several of them clambered / fell out of the train. The one saving grace was that they hadn’t climbed down into the 4′.

However, we still had to notify the bobby and tell him to block the down until we were sure the line was clear and that all the miners were back on the train. What a pantomime it was getting the idiots who had jumped down, back into the train. Myself, the guard, and a couple of the more sober stewards pulled, pushed, and heaved them back on board. The whole incident took the best part of half an hour to resolve, getting the men back on the train, checking the doors, and the trackside to make sure we hadn’t left some, worse for the wear, miner laid on the rails.

I don’t recall any footplate drama during the return trip but, we’d had enough of the drama already. What I do remember is that we had to stable the stock before heading light to loco – a short rest it might have been but, I was looking forward to a longer one before my next shift.

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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Walking into the tender

The fireman has the tender door open, to get at the coal, as No.45699 Galatea, photographed here at Birkett Common, continues the long slog up to Aisgill summit. Firing is hard enough work as it is and when you’re having to ‘walk’ into the tender, not only does it become harder work you are also firing with more dust and dross from the back of the tender, so just as the work gets harder the quality of the fuel goes down – Sodd’s Law?

I did work on the Jubilees but, not for very long, or very far, until just  before steam’s demise. In 1967 I was at Wakefield (Belle Vue) 56A and about 99% of the work I was doing was with Dub Dees on coal and goods trains; and then, out of the blue almost, a ‘short rest’ job to Blackpool with a ‘miner’s welfare’ outing to the seaside. Wakefield, at the time, had a couple of Ex-Holbeck Jubes, No.45694 Bellerophon and No.45739 Ulster, mostly used on parcels turns, and for just such eventualities as the local miners annual dip in the briny.  If my memory serves we had No.45694 Bellerophon.

We were slightly late getting away due to the time taken loading, not just the passengers, but substantial quantites of alcohol, crates of which were being doled out by the stewards, from an overladen porters trolley. Mostly beer with a few bottles of Sherry, ‘for the ladies’, and some crisps and pop for the nippers. Once under way I don’t recall any major hold ups or issues. I knew the road as far Burnley because that was one of our regular workings Healy Mill – Rose Grove, beyond there I was reliant on the driver, and after Preston, on the pilotman to let me know when to begin running the fire down for our arrival on the shed.

The return trip however, was a very different affair.  And of that, more later.

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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Making tracks

From the  heights of the romantic Settle & Carlisle line, where I went to see and photograph Saturday’s rail tours, The North Briton and the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express, it was back down to earth on Sunday and a ten minute drive up the road to enjoy Goods Train Day on the Tanfield Railway.  Keighley Gasworks No.2, with Marley Hill cabin in the background, is photographed with the 14:15 service heading towards Sunniside.

Meanwhile, down at East Tanfield, the line’s Southern terminus, fresh developments are afoot; and last Sunday, during ‘Mixed Train’ day, the new recruits to the track gang were being put through their paces on the point work and track access for what is to be the new purpose built carriage shed.

After putting in the hard yards on the track laying, the young lad, on the left of the picture above, was enjoying a spell on the footplate of No.3 Twizell, when I visited on Sunday and he can be seen here, leaning from the cab, as No.3 Twizell runs into Andrews House, and No.2 takes water, before working the goods to Sunniside.

Being an old coffin dodger myself it is very gratifying to see so many young lads getting stuck in and learning what is required to keep an industrial railway in operational condition at every level, from the track bed upwards.

I’ve been visiting and photographing the Tanfield Railway for over thirty years now, and it has been my local railway for the past two, and though I’m not an industrial / colliery railway buff I do, generally, enjoy my visits and the atmosphere is such a contrast to the main line railway I worked on during the days of steam.

This one, a scan from my pre-digital days, is taken during one of the Tanfield Railway’s Galas and shows gala visitor, Sir Berkeley, being driven by Tanfield Railway stalwart, Alan Thompson,  departing from East Tanfield, in the days before the new cafe and terminus building was erected. The new two road carriage shed is being built on the line which Sir Berkeley is departing along.

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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