Tag Archives: Tanfield

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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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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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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