Tag Archives: Tanfield Railway

The essential ingredients

cescoal&waterFor several years, during the mid-1990s, I was involved in some research on the Railway Races to the North and Railway Labour using the facilities of the reading room of the National Railway Museum. During my lunch breaks I would go into the museum and sit on an old ‘waiting room’ bench, with a sandwich and a flask of coffee. The bench was opposite a locomotive I had fired, many times, 30 years previously, over the LSWR main lines from Waterloo to Bournemouth or Salisbury and back. The engine concerned is the ‘sectioned’ display No. 35029 Ellerman Lines, and a fine machine she was too.

What struck me most, apart from the very odd conversations that folk had about the engine and what did what, was that despite being cut in half, and the motion slowly turning, so that the actions of valves and pistons were clearly visible, there was a glaring omission. In the attempt to show how the locomotive worked, and what its constituent parts were, there was not one word about the essential ingredients, no not the coal and water – it was the footplate crew who were missing. There was no explanation of how it was the skill, effort, and team work of the footplatemen that really made the steam engine steam and create the power to turn the wheels and haul the train. Nor, for that matter, was there any explanation of the countless others, fitters, boilersmiths, steam risers, etc. etc. who worked, behind the scenes, to keep the engine available for traffic. Just as there was only ‘half’ an engine to see there was, sadly, only ‘half’ a tale being told.

The photograph is at Andrews House Station on the Tanfield Railway.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

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Marley Hill MPD

20tanshed

Shed bashing, for many a young lad in the 1950s and 60s, was a regular weekend pastime. Sundays were the best, because fewer trains ran on Sundays and almost all the sheds were full. Shed bashing involved a lot of scurrying about, trying not to be seen, at least not by the Running Shed Foreman or his deputy. For myself and a couple of chums the years 1964 and 65, even though I was a main line fireman, were the ‘pilgrimage years’.

In 64 and 5 we did a complete bash, or almost, of all the sheds, and most of the routes in Scotland, Wales, and the West of England. On the Scottish Tour we spent almost every night ‘sleeping on the train’ and, memorably, rode a Glasgow tram out to the shed at Yoker – 65G. Yoker was a tiny two road shed with huge wooden doors, anything further removed from ‘top shed’ was hard to imagine. In 1960, as far as I can tell, Yoker had six locos allocated, 5 Class 3F 0-6-0Ts of 1895 vintage and one Class 2F 0-6-0 No. 57259,  a Drummond designed ‘standard goods’ built in 1883. The allocation in 1964 was probably even smaller and, if memory serves, there was just one engine on shed when we got there. Still, the tram ride was nice!

The shed in the photograph is the 1855 built Marley Hill MPD, to the right of No.20, there’s a vintage belt driven workshop,  behind No.3 Twizell, the engine on the left, is a forge and, on occasions, this can be seen ‘working’, or at least a demonstration of the work which would have been done when Marley Hill was a ‘regular’ working depot.

For anyone interested, I have a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, this is a link to it:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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A little light decay

abandonedsadd

In a siding far, far, away, lie the last remaining rights of some, long since deceased, wagon builders handiwork. This ‘project for the future’ will need all the carriage and wagon department’s skills and expertise if it is to enhance the current fleet of rolling stock on the Tanfield Railway, where this photograph was taken.

The legend on the wagon is the language of another age, haulage is logistics now and domestic fuel a thing of the past, like the mining which once knitted the communities around ‘Derwentside’ together. Mental landscapes decay, just as those of the physical variety do, steam rollers no longer steam, replaced by rumbling behemoths, in garish colours, bleeping and flashing as they mash all before them. Rag and bone men and the half dead goldfish, in a plastic bag, which they’d give you in exchange for your old clothes, washing machine or vacuum cleaner is, today, the high street Charity shop business.

The tanks and chimney of an ‘industrial’ locomotive are rusting gently, supported on an old wagon underframe. The weeds are becoming shrubs and time’s predation ticks, relentlessly, on. Maybe some inspirational ‘ blue sky’ thinking will find a way to halt the  slide into decrepitude – ‘the paint’s a peeling’, but there’ll need to be a broader appeal if money, skills, and time are to ride to the rescue of this particular pair of down, but not outs.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing' which contains around 100 of my photos and 37,000 words, on all things railway, and the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

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