Tag Archives: Tay Bridge

‘Goodnight Ollie, over and out’

A selection of some of my favourite photos of No.70013 Oliver Cromwell, to mark her imminent retirement for a 10-year overhaul. This photo of her steaming away from Quorn & Woodhouse, which could have been taken in the 1960s, and can be viewed as a fresh start or heading off into the sunset, seemed an ideal opener.

From the flat lands of the East Midlands, this next shot of ‘Ollie’ was taken in the Highlands of Scotland, the southbound summit of Druimauchdar to be precise.

In this photo, No.70013 Oliver Cromwell was putting in the lion’s share of the effort, even though No.61993 Great Marquess seems to be making the lion’s share of the clag. Earlier in the same tour I was at Blackford, in Perthshire, to witness Ollie heading north with the climbs of Druimauchdar and Slochd still to come.

Behind the train is Blackford Crossing Box, a mile or two further up the line is the famous Gleneagles hotel and golf course. The station at Gleneagles, and departures from it, featured regularly in magazine photographs of Scottish railways.

For about a year in late 1963 through into 1964 I was a resident in the notorious ‘huts’ at Old Oak Common enginemen’s hostel, sadly, the only things I saw carrying the Red Dragon head board were Warship class diesels. If you put a few more coaches, and express lamps and the headboard on this picture …….

Still on the GCR we see Ollie with the TPO heading for Quorn & Woodhouse and the mail drop.  I dare say, that back in the day, the Brits would have worked their share of mail trains and with several, at one time, sheded at Holyhead, they would have worked the titled train ‘The Irish Mail’ Euston – Holyhead service..

This final image is Ollie crossing the Tay. In the background is Dundee and at the top left of the picture you can see a white tower it’s a war memorial and it sits atop Dundee Law, an extinct volcano. The Law provides a panoramic viewing platform for the whole of the Tay estuary, and around the perimeter has  a series of etched plaques detailing what features are in the landscape that you are looking at.

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The bridge that Jack built.

45407peacehillSteaming out of Dundee bound for Edinburgh, No.45407 catches the late evening sun as she passes Peacehill Farm, close to the long closed Wormit station. The foreshore of the Tay, at Wormit, was were the original girders of the first Tay bridge were cast. Whilst it may be true that Thomas Bouch, the bridge’s designer, carried the can for the collapse of part of the original structure, the workers at the Wormit foundry, set up to cast the columns, had complained about various aspects of the casting process. These complaints included uneven thickness in the column walls, missing lugs which were ‘burned on’ after the casting, and blow holes and other minor defects being filled with Beaumont Egg , a conncoction of Beeswax, iron filings, lamp black, and rosin, in other words they bodged it up.

In the aftermath of the collapse, the inquiry set up to ascertain what had gone wrong, saw blame being cast in all directions. Inexperienced management, poor quality control, lack of inspection, and inspections being carried out by people lacking the proper qualification to do so. It all seemed to have the familiar ring of ‘ it wasn’t me guv’ ‘it isn’t my fault’ – Bouch was ultimately held responsible. Devasted by the findings Bouch died 18 months later, a broken man.

The current Tay Bridge, it is to be hoped, is better inspected and mainted than the original structure, the remaining piers of which can still be seen in the Tay on the Eastern side of the bridge.

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”

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

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

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

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Today in 1878


One hundred and thirty seven years ago today, the 1st of June 1878,  the Tay Bridge opened to regular traffic. Few would have imagined then, that barely eighteen months later a sizeable chunk of the bridge would collapse, during a violent storm, and with a train passing over at the time. The Tay Bridge disaster has been a well trodden path for both local and railway historians over the years and the much loved Scottish word mangler, William McGonagle, wrote one of his finest pieces on the subject.

The houses in the foreground are modern additions to the village of Wormit, the village where the Cleveland Ironmasters set up their foundry, making the castings which failed, so catastrophically, during the dark and stormy night of December 28th 1879. The bridge engineer, Thomas Bouch, carried the can for the debacle, and he died, a broken man, in October 1880, he was 58. However, subsequent researches have indicated that some of the castings, used in the construction, were bodged and the weakness caused by these defects were, at the very least, a contributory factor in the collapse. The whole disaster is a sad tale, and if you want to know more here’s a link to a starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bouch

Something of the size and scale of the bridge can, possibly, be gauged from the size of No.70013 Oliver Cromwell which is 67 feet 8 inches long and weighs 143 tons, with tender. No.70013 has just  cleared the ‘high girders’ with the Aberdeen – Edinburgh leg of one of the GB series of Rail Tours. In the background is modern day Dundee, home of Desperate Dan and the Bash street kids.

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