Tag Archives: Tanfield

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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Merry Christmas relief

The Tanfield Railway, and Twizell No.3 ‘s exhaust catches the setting sun, as she crosses Causey Arch car park bridge, heading for Andrews House, with the last North Pole Express of the day. The festive season is upon us and once the Mince Pie specials have run their course many of our heritage lines take a winter break, though Tanfield isn’t one of them.

My own memories of working for BR, during the festive season, are somewhat less than festive, I don’t remember joyful passengers bringing us a plate of mince pies, or a slice of Christmas cake, the engines weren’t decked with tinsel and no one wore reindeer antlers. On Boxing day the railway provided a skeleton service and single blokes often dropped for a Boxing day shift. When I drew the short straw, my reward could have been a lot worse than the time and three quarters plus a day in lieu for a mundane day at the office on an ECS, station pilot, and train heating duties, turn.

From the day after Boxing day it was pretty much business as usual until New Year’s Eve. And I have a vague memory of working a boat train special, down to Ocean Liner terminal, during this time, in 1963, with driver Gordon Porter and No.35001 Channel Packet.  Gordon was a lovely bloke to work with and I was fortunate enough to have had a few runs with him during my time at Nine Elms; including a fine run with No.34006 Bude, one of the engines chosen for the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials, on the 22:35 Ex-Waterloo, where we reached 95mph on the run down to Winchester. RIP Gordon.

Well that’s the ‘relief’ – now where’s that plate of mince pies?

Merry Christmas to all who follow and enjoy Steam Age Daydreams.

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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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

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A Winter’s tale

In a number of recent commentaries, several views have been aired about ‘professionalism’, the need to adhere to modern-day standards of maintenance and safety, customer services and information, and the operation of everything from main line charters to photo shoots. Thing is, did any of the preservationists ever imagine, when they began their efforts at the Talyllyn, Middleton, Bluebell, and Festiniog, that they were giving birth to a new ‘industry’.

This new ‘heritage railway’ industry might have a substantial volunteer input but, most of the large lines, both standard and narrow gauge, have paid staff, employ contractors in a variety of ways from catering and toilet hygiene to p-way work and locomotive repairs. They employ haulage contractors to move engines, or deliver water, engineering companies manufacturing parts and spares, specialist oil and coal suppliers and suppliers of gifts, souvenirs,  sandwiches, pies, printers, leaflet distributors and probably Uncle Tom Cobleigh too, all of them, and more, help to keep the show on the road.

The 1960s ‘Pie in the sky’ trainspotters, of which I was one, trying to raise money, selling cake, buns, and raffle tickets, to extricate a ‘rusting’ Barry hulk are today, the stuff of legend. The tales they tell are worthy of a pint down the local each time they are told, polished and retold with some new embellishment added.

And there’s the rub, heritage railways are businesses, with customers, complaints, insurance claims, rates, VAT, and a mountain of paperwork. None of which is the stuff that led a bunch of wildly optimistic kids, in the main, to undertake one of the most monumental feats of industrial archeology. However, for some, especially those who have been around for the odd decade or three,  the increased levels of commercialisation are seen as little more than a necessary evil – faces on the smokebox to pay the bills.

Starry eyed romantics have, in the past, achieved miracles, but today it’s hard-headed commercialism which keeps steam in the boiler and the pint in the refreshment room. There’s no shortage of truth in the old adage – ‘you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time’. And this can be applied in Spades to; loco liveries, Flying Scotsman, black smoke, cylinder drain cocks, paucity of info, and the rumour mill. I nearly called this piece ‘winter of discontent’  but then I thought maybe being discontent is what makes us try and improve things, so not all bad.

The photo shows Ex-Keighley Gas works 0-4-0ST No.2 at Bobgins 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

 

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Land of the midnight sun

Like No. 3 Twizell, in this picture, the clocks have gone backwards, the trees have lost their leaves, and we’ve had gunpowder, treason, and plot, so it must be time for the North Pole Express. The curmdugeons will ‘bah humbug’, the volunteers will gird their loins, for one more ‘yo, ho, ho,’ as Santa and his Grotto come to a line near you.

Before the hurly-burly begins, this coming weekend, a shed load of gifts from Santa have all to be wrapped, the tickets have been sold, queries answered, Sherry bought, mince pies ordered, and all to keep the fires burning, wheels turning, great railway steam show, rolling for another generation to savour and enjoy. Every railway has its Fat Controller and its Santa Claus, often the same person,  and there are his little helpers, dressed as eleves, or wearing reindeer antlers. Well done to all of you, guys and gals.

How different this all is from my Christmas on the railway in 1964, when, on December the 22nd I was working the 17:30 departure from Waterloo to Bournemouth, as far as Southampton. The load was 12 for 435tons and the turn was usually booked a Merchant Navy. On the day were had No. 34097 Holsworthy and the run was marred by two severe signal checks, one between Surbiton and Hampton Court Jct. and one between Winchfield and Hook. However, the really remarkable bit of running was between Woking and Milepost 31.

After the stop for signals, and the distant for Hersham only coming off as we approched, speed was back up to 69mph when we went through Woking and only on the final stretch between Brookwood and MP31 did it fall below that, and the summit was reached at 66mph. A fair effort for a light-Pacific with 12 on. (My thanks to performance recorder, Terry Jackson, for the details)

No.3 Twizell is pictured in Causey woods, on the Tanfield Railway, with a North Pole Express working, trundling backwards down to 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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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 railway landscape pt.II

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

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

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

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

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

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Roll out the barrow

In a couple of weeks time it will be 3 years since the first of Steam Age Daydream’s posts appeared. During those three years around  100,000 people have visited the site – that’s a lot of daydreams! Even more surprising is the number of different countries these visitors come from, more than 130 at the last count, and from Bhutan to Laos, Argentina and Khazakstan to name but a few.

Having been born into the steam age, this world-wide interconnectedness never ceases to amaze me – we shared our first telephone line with the local vicar, my first ‘mobile’ phone was the size of a couple of house bricks, and about as ‘mobile’. In a way, the railways were the internet of their day, the fastest means of communication, in many cases, was the railway’s telegraph system. The delivery of ‘snail’ mail was an important revenue stream for the railways from 1840 onwards. And who can forget that ‘Night Mail’ – ‘crossing the border, bringing the cheque and the Postal Order’  – do Postal Orders still exist?

The daydreams themselves have covered topics from my own days as a main line fireman, in that ‘age of steam’, to the comings and goings of the current day preservationists. I have mused on  topics from ‘trainspotting’ to running with the cylinder cocks open and enjoyed online conversations with Russian train drivers. It has given me something to do, I’ve learned new skills and made new friends. I haven’t ‘rolled out the barrel but, I have had a barrow load of enjoyment – and I hope you have too.

The photograph shows Ex-Keighley Ggasworks 0-4-0, No.2, rolling into Andrews House Station with a train from East Tanfield, 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

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End of the shift

Shifts could end in a number of ways; on some you arrived at your destination and a relief crew would be waiting to take over, others you would uncouple and run light to the shed. On long distance runs you might book off and go to the Lodging House or work back with a return service. On some, albeit rare occasions, you rode home on the cushions.  If you were less fortunate, your shift ended by having to dispose of the engine, i.e, clean the fire, empty the smokebox, fill the tender with coal and water, empty the ash pans, and if need be turn the engine and put it on the shed road you were given by the shed foreman.

Being the railway, shifts would begin and end at every hour of the day and night and on the very early starts or very late finishes getting to work or home wasn’t easy – especially when you were the ‘public transport’! Cycling to work was common place  and a bike ride home, in the wet, wasn’t the best way to finish 8 or more hours on the footplate: Any more than getting up at 2a.m on a freezing cold morning to cycle to work was the ideal way to start a shift.

I never workd a lodging job but some of the stories were the stuff of nightmare, or legend. Tales of a bawdy nature were leavend with practical jokes, sweaty bodies and dirty sheets. I did however, spend around 8 or 9 months living in the GWR hostel at Old Oak Common. A twenty four hour canteen, clean sheets, and a room cleaning service – the best bit was Reggies cafe right out side the gates and the girls from the Wall’s sausage factory over the road.

The photo shows ‘Ugly’, a Robert Stephenson & Hawthorne  0-6-0ST, and her crew at the Tanfield Railway’s Marley Hill Shed, during the recent ‘ Legends of Industry’ gala.

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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Trumpton Chigley & Llaniog Railway

‘Under bridges over bridges to our destination’ – all well and good if you know your destination, Treddle’s Wharf in the case of Chigley. Today, of course, some anodyne female voice, on your satnav, announces, ‘you have reached your destination’, you hope it’s not your final one.

In the world of children’s railway stories engines, coaches, and trucks all talk, squealing when they go too fast. In the 1950s Sammy the Shunter, which was published by Ian Allan, was rival to Thomas the Tank Engine; in the 1960s it was Ivor the Engine, animated for TV by the late Oliver Postgate, of Postman Pat fame. Oddly, we don’t have  Harry the Dustbin lorry events, nor talking animated drain cleaners either. Generally speaking,  mucky jobs just don’t translate to kids stories – no one wanted to be a fat refiner or sewer cleaner when they grew up. Engine driving was different, but why?

Becoming an engine driver could, and for a great many, did take years, decades even, as cleaner, passed cleaner, and fireman. Think about that, 20 or more years, cleaning fires, emptying ash pans, and smokeboxes or shovelling tons of coal. The inevitable nasty burns and ash, grit, or coal dust in your eyes; getting up at all hours to spend your day shunting, or running tender first down some freight only line when it’s blowing a gale and lashing down – aaaah, the romance of the footplate.

Under the bridge, Andrews House Station and Ex-Keighley Gasworks 0-4-0ST No.2, its destination is Sunniside – the side of life you always look on!!

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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