Tag Archives: NYMR

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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Scot Free?

Sadly, during the Christmas period, graffiti vandals have struck again on a heritage railway, this time the Severn Valley Railway. These acts of vandalism are not new and nor are they confined to dim and disaffected teenagers. The destruction of huge chunks of the railway network was industrial scale vandalism, and, in some senses, every bit as mindless as the actions of the graffiti sprayers. It was more good luck than good management which kept the line in the photograph open for business. For those who don’t know, this is the Settle – Carlisle route, close to Aisgill summit. If you were a lover of the original ‘Royal Scot’ class you might consider Stanier a vandal for his rebuilding. However, rebuilds are a can of worms I’m not going to open here.

In the case of the national network it wasn’t thousands of volunteer hours of labour that was being trashed, it was the deaths of thousands of navvies, their wives and children too, who died in building routes like the Woodhead route across the Pennines or the Waverley route through the borders. To some extent our current hobby is the result of this vandalism, all in the name of progress, naturally.

I don’t condone the vandalism, be it state sponsored or the mindless moron variety; we do, however, seem to display a certain degree of ambivalence to the former and a quite alarming degree of ferocity towards the latter. Some of the comments I’ve seen on social media advocate chopping hands off, a practice the same commentators would, in all probability, condemn as barbaric if it was being perpetrated by Saudi Arabia.

The unfortunate thing is that the vandals, who have been around for thousands of years, will still be vandals and their mindless activities, whether on the small scale or the large,  will continue to rile people. And if the history of dealing with vandals shows us anything, it is that all the solutions, tried in order to prevent it, have failed, even the barbaric ones.

The recent vandalising  of the teak coaches at the NYMR brought a great community response and the coaches were back in service, almost, before you could say Jack Robinson. Hopefully, this current act will draw a similar response. The vandalism may well be distressing to many but, the railway community response to it is a much more positive and longer lasting effect than a few cans of aerosol paint.

So, on that positive note may I wish  Steam Age Daydreams fans and followers all the steaming 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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School outing

Named after ‘Public Schools’ these engines were, for the most part, driven and fired by the kids from Bash Street School, even if the Public School boys did want to be engine drivers when they grew up. Back in the day railway work was a job for life, and several generations of the same family often  in railway employment. In my own time on the railway I worked with several drivers whose brothers or sons were also footplatemen at the same shed. One father and son I worked with at Nine Elms, the Domms, were seriously injured when they were struck by a light engine.

The railway wasn’t just a job for life there was a whole culture which went with it. The BRSA, British Railway Staff Association had a network of clubs around the country were railwaymen, and their wives and families, enjoyed a drink, a dance, and ‘light’ entertainment’, risque comedians were not unknown, well some of them were. The Mutual Improvement Class went well beyond teaching the rules and how the vacuum brake operated; they held a variety of regular social events and Inter-regional quizzes.

There was a strong element of mutualism within the blue collar grades on the railway and the Enginemens Mutual Assurance, whose roots go back to Saltley in the 1860s, is a classic of self-help, or ‘Mutual Aid’ – it is also still in existence. All the railwaymen I worked with, pretty much, were members of the ‘Mutual’ the BRSA, ASLEF/NUR and attended the MIC, which might not have been a Public School, but it was the only schooling, in their job, they received and, as such, was invaluble.

The photograph shows Schools Class 4-4-0, No.926 Repton, passing under Darnholme Bridge on the North Yorkshire Moors 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

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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1948 and all that

No. 76079 is now in her 60th year, built at Horwich, she entered service, in February 1957, at Sutton Oak, she was withdrawn, from Springs Branch, a little over 10 years later.  Nearly all of the locomotives, built under the auspices of British Railways, had equally short working lives and many see this as a criminal waste of men, money, and materials.

One school of thought was that building new types of steam locomotives was wasteful, they added to the number of spares depots had to carry, and would, inevitably, have teething troubles. In this view instead of adding new types, more engines of already succesful classes should have been built. British Railways did, to some extent, do this and Black 5s, B1s , even ancient designs, such as the J72s, continued to be built after the formation of BR, as did quite a few other classes such as the Bulleid and Peppercorn Pacifics and Brighton Works built Fairburn tanks.

This leaves us with a couple of questions, why were the Standard classes built and why did they have such short working lives? There are no short answers to either question and issues ranging from keeping employment high to worries over the security of oil supplies played their parts in the decision to keep building more steam locomotives, though not necessesarily new designs.

The decision to build new classes of locomotives, rather than more of the existing ones, does seem to be influenced by Riddles’ desire to be the ‘last steam giant’, in the mould of Stanier or Bulleid. Given the history of competition between the pre-Grouping companies, and, in turn,  the Big Four, trying to bring them together under one banner must have been akin to dealing with a sack of ferrets, and then there was the GWR – for whom the only way was Swindon’s. They painted some of their ‘Standards’ green! One came to Nine Elms, No.73029, and I worked on her quite a few times on stoppers to Basingstoke and on boat trains to Southampton docks.

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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Steam Age Daydreams 2018 Calendar

This years calendar, featuring  engines great and small, including; No.6990 Witherslack Hall – 60 years after she was one of the engines in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials, the fresh from overhaul, Schools Class 4-4-0 No.926 Repton, the tiny ‘Sir Tom’ at Threlkeld Quarry and ‘Ugly’ at Tanfield, to name but a few, is now available via eBay. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/302485587635?ul_noapp=true

One satisfied customer had this to say,  “2018 Calendar arrived this morning  – superb and worth every penny. Thanks for the fast response”

Now less than a dozen left, so don’t miss out – order yours now.

 

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The life and times ……….

The footplate was no place for faint hearts, nor fair ladies. The footplate and, in the main, the shed was a world of men, there were no footplatewomen or Shed Mistresses, though I do know some footplatemen who had mistresses. The banter could be ribald and there was no political correctness, it hadn’t been invented. Facilities in the shed were, generally, primitive, on the footplate they consisted of the firing shovel and a tin bucket.

In  summer, in the enclosed cab of engines, like the Merchant Navies, for example, the temperature could well be in the 90s, even before you opened the fire door and began shovelling.  Half an hour of this and you were sweating like a pig in a lard factory, with an odour to match. At the other extreme, you could be running half the day tender first, into gale force winds and teeming rain, firing in your Pea jacket, (The Pea jacket was a sort of 3/4 length ‘Great Coat’), just to try and keep warm.

Every minute, of every hour, day or night, a footplate crew were either just booking on, or off. Once the buses stopped running you made your way to work by bike or walked, in he 50s and early 60s, few had the luxury of a car, one or two more had motor bikes. It was the same at the end of your shift, you might have just done a couple of hundred miles, with 400 tons hanging on the drawbar, shovelled 5 or more tons of coal for your day’s work, and then you had to get on your bike and pedal  home.

On the footplate, everything was hard or hot, often both, bruises and minor burns were ten a penny, grit in your eyes an occupational hazard. The public ignored you, comedians made fun of the railway you worked on, much of which was falling apart before your very eyes. There was little room for sentiment or romance, you worked your rest days because you needed the money and the one thing they advertised, in all the copies of the Locomotive Journal, was surgical trusses.

Hauling the teak set which, only weeks earlier, had been seriously vandalised, No.80136 looks quite at  home rolling across the North Yorkshire Moors, between Grosmont & Pickering, a duty often performed by these engines, in the last years the line was part of the National network.

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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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.

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Much Steaming in the Dale

With sheep and cattle grazing the hill sides, and the first shades of autumn in the tree tops, Black5 No.45212, is pictured here, between Commondale and Kildale,  with a Whitby to Battersby Junction service, during the North Yorkshire Moors Autumn Gala. Following the closure of the coastal route, in the 1960s, this is now the only route to Whitby by rail, a journey which involves a reversal at Battersby Junction.

The line from Battersby to Northallerton closed, before the coast route, in the 1950s, and the branch to Rosedale Goods, which had been opened in 1861, closed in 1929. The Rosedale branch, which replaced an earlier narrow gauge line, was built to carry Ironstone for the Ingleby Ironstone & Freestone Co. and for the Rosedale Ironstone Co. At Battersby itself, the North Eastern Railway had a 3 road engine shed, with turntable, and built a number of houses which still stand today.

In Kildale, St. Cuthbert’s church, which is reached via a bridge over the line, has a stained glass window depicting a steam train passing through the Esk valley. And, despite the rural location, Commondale had, until 1947, a brick works, with it’s own sidings. In the abutments of the now disused bridge, carrying the line to the works, are all manner of ‘Masonic’ marks, left by the stonemasons who built it.

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 blackout

“Railway in Wartime”, was the name of the event and No.44806 was decorated for the occasion. In Grosmont there was a miltary marching band, a Spitfire in the car park and folk, in 40s / 50s dress, dancing on the platform, to the sound of ‘big band’ music.  I know these events put bums on seats and generate valuable revenue but, the clash with the reality of the railway in wartime could scarcely be more glaring.

During ‘the war’ the mainline railway was just as much under enemy attack as the frontline and a regular target for the Luftwaffe during air raids as this quote from the Locomotive Journal illustrates:  “Within three minutes of attaching, a bomb fell close to their engine killing the driver and severely wounding the fireman. The driver and fireman at the stop block end of the train immediately rushed to the spot, and using a platform trolley lifted the bombed men from the footplate …proceeding along the platform road a few yards a second bomb crashed in the vicinity…. within a few seconds a third bomb fell a few yards away. Blinded by dust and smoke, … they struggled through… handed over their charge to a First Aid squadron.” (Locomotive Journal; 1941, 214)

No dancing on the platform there, or marching bands for that matter. On the footplate, especially at night, during ‘blackouts’ with the cab all sheeted up, must have been a hellish place to be during enemy attacks.  And if being blown up and injured wasn’t bad enough, the railway companies didn’t treat those injured in the line of duty with the respect they deserved, as this piece from a footplateman at one of the Birmingham depots illustrates:  “One of our drivers was on duty during a rather bad blitz when a land mine fell and exploded within 20 yards of his locomotive, inflicting great damage to the engine and serious injury to our brother, which caused him to lose one eye. Now this driver is a shed messenger. For his devotion to duty and harkening to the now-famous slogans “Carry On” and “Go To It,” he has been reduced to shed labourer, deprived of all claim to the footplate; and also, as a generous gesture, deprived of the mean rate. …. Do you think this is justice to a man who has served for 40 years handling trains during an air raid(s)? No, brothers, I say certainly not! Why should we be degraded and cast asunder like dirt?” (C.E.Taylor Locomotive Journal; 1942, 115)

Any serious examination of the railways and the men who ran them, during WWII, paints a very different picture to the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and a nation pulling together during very difficult days. The real railway in wartime, left men stranded miles from their home depots, when the railway was bombed behind them. They were paid overtime for this, the gutter press, however, accused them of profiteering. No, when you take a look at what really went on, marching bands and dancing seem to be in short supply and death, injury, wrecked lives, and destruction are all part of daily existence .

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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