Tag Archives: Tyneside

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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A day of two halves

The day was set fair – bit breezy, but cold and bright and there were runs North and South over the S&C; with 60163 Tornado going north with the North Briton and 45699 Galatea heading the Winter Cumbrian Moutain Express south. First stop Lunds viaduct, about a mile and a half beyond Garsdale, for 60163 Tornado. However, the best laid plans and all that, because, instead of 60163 at the head of 12 coaches we were presented with, what is colloquially known as a ‘Shed’ – No.66014 piloting 60163 Tornado. The reason for this was an electrical failure connected with the TWPS. Someone did kindly point out that the resulting picture does have rarity value but, this is scant reward for the effort involved. All was not lost though as the south bound run was yet to come. And as you can see from the photo the sun god was shining, a little less breeze would have been nice – but hey, you can’t have it all!!

Shed, steam, and sun, as you can see not quite the desired effect!  Some folk suggested that I photoshop the ‘Shed’ out of the photo however, there was one suggestion, from Phil Cowle, which I do like; “I’ll just choose to believe the 66 was sick and Tornado came up from behind and banked it to a siding!!”  You can see the headlines in the steam comics – “Tornado rescues stricken Shed”, “Thunderbird ‘Tornado’ is go” – or something along those lines!!

The good news for anyone with tickets for the Tornado event at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is that, according to my source, she was going to the NYMR once the train arrived at Tyne Yard, where she was booked to leave the train. The TPWS fault should not prevent her from working over the moors line.

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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Snow fun and games

British Railways 2-6-0 No.78018 entered traffic in March 1954, and was allocated to West Auckland, less than a year later, according to my 1955 Shed Book, she was based at Kirkby Stephen, the opposite end of the line most commonly known as the Stainmore route.  And, in February 1955, whilst working the 04:20 goods from Kirkby Stephen,  she, and her train of eight 20 ton loaded hopper wagons and a guard’s van, became entombed in a snow drift just beyond Barras station, close to ‘Stainmore’ summit.

What began as an ordinary day’s work for the crew turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. Travelling eastwards out of Kirkby Stephen, No.78018 became fast in the snow at around 05.00 on Thursday 24th of February and it wasn’t until 15:00 the following Monday, the 28th February, that a rescue was made. 50 men, armed with little more than shovels, set out behind an engine and snow plough, from Barnard Castle, and headed west, they were accompanied by a film crew, hastily assembled by British Transport Film’s Producer, Edgar Anstey.

The film crew, Kenneth Fairbairn, Director, and cameraman Robert Paynter and his assistant David Watkin did much of the filming in darkness using Tilley lamps for lighting. Shot in black and white the results of their efforts became one of the most evocative and atmospheric BTF  documentaries ever filmed – ‘Snowdrift at Bleath Gill’.

The photograph shows the ‘film star’ No.78018 getting away from Loughborough with a local service for Leicester North, on the Great Central Railway; with not so much as a snowflake in sight.

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 a getaway

In 1954 No.76038 was one of a number the of BR Class 4 2-6-0s allocated, from new, to Neasden, just tweleve years later she was withdrawn, as we were winning the World Cup, from Machynlleth. Somewhat closer to where this photograph was taken, Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors, the sheds at West Auckland and Kirkby Stephen had an allocation of these 2-6-0s which were used on the ‘Stainmore route’, on both passenger and coal traffic. However, during the summer it was not unknown for them to take holiday makers from Tyneside to the Lancashire resorts.

I mentioned the World Cup because there’s a connection – West Auckland is the home of the First World Cup the Sir Thomas Lipton  Trophy; which was won ‘outright’ by the amatuer side West Auckland Town FC in 1911. Founded in 1893, the players were mainly local miners – they were up against teams put out by the Swiss, Italian, and German FAs, the English FA had declined to nominate a side – and the rest, as they say, is history. West Auckland Town FC are, unlike the mines and No. 76038, still going and playing in the Northern League.

The Stainmore route, which closed for pasenger traffic in 1962 and to goods in 1974, now has  a heritage line based at the former Kirkby Stephen East station. They recently won awards for their restoration of the NER water tower and crane at Kirkby Stephen but, more importantly they have secured Lottery funding to restore LNER J21 0-6-0 No.65033 to working order, for use on the line.

There is another connection between the Stainmore route and preservation which I will cover in a later posting.

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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