Tag Archives: West Coast Railways

“Nice bit of Wensleydale Gromit”

Back in 1964 I was one of, if not the last, firemen to work on this engine before she was sent for scrap. We had her on Bournemouth – Waterloo service and then next thing she was withdrawn – no idea why, she certainly wasn’t a failure when we stepped off at Waterloo.

I could never have imagined then, that 54 years later I would be standing in a meadow, in the heart of Wensleydale, watching her steam by on her way to Redmire. Even now, several hours later, it still borders on surreal, a Merchant Navy Class Pacific sauntering along a North Eastern Railway branch line. Sometimes the truth really is stranger than the fiction.

The reason behind No.35018 British India Line being there was the 1940s event in Leyburn, the principal village along the line. When the Wensleydale Railway didn’t have a steam engine for the event, West Coast Railways stepped up to the plate and offered them the use of No.35018 British India Line, for the weekend – top marks to WCR for that.

While there every chance that this is  the first time a MN that has been up this line, there is at least some connection with the 1940s event, as the MNs rolled off the drawing board and onto the rails in the middle of WWII, 21C1, (later No.35001 Channel Packet) entered service in June 1941 and the first ten were all in service by July 1942. No.35018 British India Line was one of the second batch of 10 and was built in 1945, she was the 1st to be ‘converted’ and also played a part in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials, so she’s a bit of a star.

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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The Hogweird Express


Railways and films have been bedfellows since the days of the Lumiere Brothers and silent movies – the Hogwarts Express is simply one of the more recent additions to a long line of movies with railway connections. In the photo, a scan from one of my pre-Hogwartian era slides, Ex-LNER B1 Class 4-6-0 No.61264 is approaching Glenfinnan Station, with one of West Coast Railways regular Fort William to Mallaig ‘Jacobite’ services.

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct is just out of shot beyond the hump in the right background. The viaduct is the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland, and, in addition to starring in Harry Potter movies, it has also appeared on Scottish bank notes. Whilst the viaduct might stand as a monument to Robert, ‘concrete Bob’, McAlpine, there’s another monument in Glenfinnan, one directly connected to  the use of ‘Jacobite’ for the train headboard – the Glenfinnan Monument, erected to commemorate the Jacobite rebellion, under Bonnie Prince Charlie, who landed nearby in 1745, and launched his ill-fated campaign, to claim the thrones of Scotland and England, from the somewhat unlikely setting of Glenfinnan.

The fish trade, for which the line was originally built, has long since disappeared, today it’s tourists and travelers to Skye and the Islands using the Mallaig ferries who keep the line open. Regularly voted one of the worlds most scenic railway journeys, its status was only  enhanced by the wizardry of CGI, the imagination of JK Rowling, and teenage pester power, once Harry Potter was on the loose.

Should you ever be fortunate enough to travel this way, the beaches at Morar are stunning and Loch Morar is the deepest body of fresh water in Britain, over 1000 feet deep. Loch Morar has a spook connection too. Swordland Lodge, a building on the northern shore of the loch, was used as a training school by the Special Operations Executive, during World War II.

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