Tag Archives: mining

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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Coals to Newcastle

Taking coal to Newcastle, once a familiar euphemism for futility, has been rendered redundant by the closure of the coal industry. And coal  made its way to Newcastle, along this route, for the best part of two hundred and fifty years. The Tanfield waggon way was part of a network of lines which carried coal from the local pits to the Tyne at Dunston; initially utilising horses and rope worked inclines.

No.3 Twizell, an 0-6-0 of 1890s vintage, has just emerged from Causey Woods and is approaching Bobgins Crossing with the 14:15 East Tanfield – Sunniside service, during the Tanfield Railway’s ‘mixed train’ day, on Sunday last. There was once, during the line’s industrial past,  a short lived, Saturdays only, passenger service which operated between 1842 and 1844. It ran from Tanfield Lea to Redheugh where it met the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway. Initially there was a passenger coach provided but, this didn’t last and passengers were left to make their journey in coal trucks.

The Tanfield Railway was not unique in carrying passengers, quite a few colliery lines provided some basic level of passenger transport for their employees and their families, some, like the ‘Marsden Rattler’, (The South Shields, Marsden & Whitburn, which became a public line in 1899), even became popular / notorious, parts of the local transport network.  And some of the Tanfield Railway’s wooden bodied rolling stock, with wooden bench seating, reflects the type of carriages those Victorian Tynesiders enjoyed, or not.

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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Last Year’s Landscape

Our railways ran, and in some instances still do, over some of the most scenic and unspoiled bits of the country. Equally true is that they ran through some of the most despoiled and industrialised areas of the country too – they helped in creating much of it. This scene of bucolic bliss is Kildale on the Whitby – Middlesborough via Battersby Junction line.

Beamish Pit and Puffing Billy, mining coal and transporting it from the pits the very raison d’ etre of railways, of industrialisation, of ‘the modern world’ where coal is no longer king – but hey, ‘that’s progress folks’. The engine’s a replica, the site a museum, facsimilies, sanitised renditions of a past, a past without health care, sick pay, holidays, maternity leave, electricity, anesthetic, old age pensions: And photography!

Another route out of Whitby, the one which used to run to York, via Malton, now the heritage North Yorkshire Moors Railway, runs past the tiny hamlet of Esk Valley, the terrace of cottages and a scattering of farm houses in the lower part of the picture. This goods train hauled by Black 5 No.44806 and banked by BR Standard Class 4MTT No.80136 is at the start of the long and twisting climb to Goathland, high on the moors.

From the high moors to the high Pennines, at Lunds viaduct on the Settle  – Carlisle line. The S&C has its own rich folk lore which runs from engines spinning on turntables, (Garsdale), through murder most foul, to Jam Butty making and eating contests in the Temperance Hotel in Kirkby Stephen. This latter being inaugurated by the bands of roaming enthusiasts who flocked to the area, during the era when the S&C was under imminent threat of closure. (Thanks to Paul Screeton and his ‘Folklore of the Settle -Carlisle’ for the details about the Jam Butty contest.)

From the ‘romantic’ S&C to real ‘Jam Butty Land’, the prosaic Balm Road branch of the Middleton Railway, in Leeds. A wet day, a deserted street, on an industrial estate and the building in the back ground carries a sign reading Imageco – the future’s bleak, the future’s 50 shades of grey. The engine making all the smoke is ‘Slough Estates No.3’ and she spent her working life on an industrial estate in Slough – enough to create despondency in any soul.

From the slough of despond to God’s green acres and the Nation’s ‘favourite’ engine. In the background is one of Yorkshire’s best known landmarks, Pen-y-Ghent, in the foreground trackside buildings gently decay.  The location is about half a mile south of Ribblehead viaduct and No.60103 Flying Scotsman had just ‘shut-off’ for the slack – bleak Blea moor and wild Cumbrian fells beckon.

Lastly we have Ex-LMS 4-6-0 Jubilee class No.45690 Leander with the classic south bound location, at the summit of Aisgill, with the ‘up’ Waverley. One day I’ll do this shot and the sun will be shining – maybe this year!

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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A brief review of my 2017 in words and pictures.

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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