Wednesday, 31 March 2010

When the Boat comes in...

A new arrival at York yesterday was the Ffestiniog Railway's "Spooner's Boat". I cannot do better than this cracking bit of film:

The Boat will be on display in the Great Hall over Easter.
In the background you may just see our Class 47 diesel, 47 798, which was ticking over having become a runner again after its failure a few weeks ago. It is the intention to loan the loco to the Wensleydale Railway over 1-3 May weekend - a busy time with Tornado visiting Shildon too!

Monday, 29 March 2010

The steam powered commuter

Today saw a visit by three of our team to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, me to Pickering for meetings and Richard Pearson and Johnny Molloy from the workshop at Shildon to Grosmont to collect and steam crane parts. The NYMR is in the final stages of a learning and archive project called "Train of Thought" with a new centre on platform 2 at Pickering. Here's the fantastic new archive store and workroom - purpose built and with 70% capacity for growth of the archive collection. Fantastic!
With my meetings finished and Richard (with the van) not yet done at Grosmont, there was only one thing to do - take the train to Grosmont during which time he'd hopefully have finished loading the van! So, I obtained a ticket for the 1pm train and awaited its arrival, behind S15 number 825, arriving at Pickering just after half twelve.
It seemed almost to be a Southern themed day as on arrival at Grosmont, Schools class "Repton" number 30926 was waiting the incoming Whitby train, which it would then take on to Pickering, whilst 76079 seen alongside would work the next Whtiby departure - that will have to wait another time!
Walking through the loco yard to the John Bellwood shed to meet Richard, I passed Standard 4 number 75029 over the wheeldrop, in the throes of a heavy overhaul. The engineering facilities on the railway are second to none - they have to be for a 20+ mile line with some steep gradients to contend with.
In the meantime, 825 arrived at the shed for servicing and is seen under the working coaling plant, which saves a lot of effort. I don't believe that there are any other mechanical coaling plants in operation in the UK, other than the coaling stage at Didcot, though several others survive.
Thus I met with Richard and Johnny and headed back to Shildon to unload the van - an eventful and unexpectedly enjoyable day - and lots of emails to deal with this evening!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Foxfield foray

A visit to Cheshire and Staffordshire on Friday allowed me a quick visit to the Foxfield Railway at Blythe Bridge - somewhere I'd not been for 11 years; too long! I have a few friends at Foxfield, most of whom have a share in this loco, Avonside 1563, which is undergoing a very extensive restoration alongside the loco shed. It latterly worked for Hodbarrow Mines near Barrow, where haematite was extracted and the whole railway and works was a steam powered museum piece by the time it all closed. During my visit, I was given a ride in the cab of a Bagnall 0-6-0 diesel shunter, essentially an industrial version of the class 03, even down to the Gardner 8 cylinder diesel engine. This is the station and yard throat at Caverswall Road, the headquarters of the railway.

During the shunt, 1874 built Haydock Foundry 0-6-0WT "Bellerophon" was pulled out of the shed to check some repairs to its springs.
Whilst stabled in the sidings was this unusual Motor Rail (Simplex), known as"Helen". Nice to see something a bit different - as time goes by, more of the odd internal combustion shunters on heritage lines get scrapped, hopefully Foxfield with its industrial theme to its collection will prove more enlightened to the heritage of assets such as this.
Just before I left, the shunt finished and the loco for the following day's service was positioned for preparation and steam raising - this being "Florence", a locally built Bagnall 0-6-0ST new to the National Coal Board in Staffordshire and fitted in the 1960s with the distinctive Giesl ejector chimney. I'll have to go back sometime to see how it performs - the last loco I saw in steam using a Giesl was Bulleid pacific "City of Wells" 20+ years ago. Foxfield is a gem of a railway, with no BR locos in sight, allowing the industrial heritage to shine - and their cafe and bar are excellent too - not that I sampled the latter in works time!

Diesel doings

In between meetings at York on Thursday, I popped into the workshop to catch up with the team. Dave Hewson is busy onbody repairs to the class 37 and these are going well.
Steve Huggins is dealing with the collapsed bearing in the Western's transmission and here's part of the gubbins having been removed from the loco for attention.
Outside, Matt Ellis and Dave Leyshon were bringing the 52 back into the workshop for further internal attnetion whilst the transmission is out.
I had a look over the 4VEP car too with a view to drawing up a conservation management plan for it - it is essentially untouched since withdrawal in October 2005 and I'd like to keep it that way, but clean and stabilise it. Whether that means we keep the Evening Standards left on the seats, I'm not sure...
The exterior of the unit in Connex livery, representing the privatised railway.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Edward Sholto's return

For a good many years, I have known railway bookseller Andrew Neale of Leeds, as he caters for my esoteric reading requirements! In 2006, Andrew repatriated the narrow gauge former Penrhyn Quarry Hunslet saddle tank loco "Edward Sholto" from the USA, where it had been sold to in the 1960s and with a dedicated team carried out a fabulous restoration, the engine steaming late last year. Today was the day of "Sholto"'s launch, at the amazing Statfold Barn Railway in Staffordshire, the creation of Graham Lee and the modern day Hunslet Engine Company. I was fortunate to be invited to the rededication ceremony, and on entering the loco shed was greeted with the immaculate fleet of steam locos, the O&K "Max" below being one of the more recent restorations.
Outside in the fitful sunshine, was the star "Edward Sholto". Andrew has worked hard to ensure that the locomotive has been conserved and restored, using as many original components as possible, and the result is a superb restoration with a loco that looks lived in and true to its long-lived status. It was nice that the two new Hunslet quarry tanks that live at Statfold were also in steam, allowing a three loco line up during the morning.
After a fine speech by Andrew and a blessing of the loco, I took a quick look around the railway, escorted by Phill Bates, one of Graham's employees, who I knew as one of my voulnteers at Snibston over ten years ago. Here is a small turntable with two South African Funkey mines diesels flanking Roy Etherington's compressed air loco "Issinsid", a replica of a 19th century loco by Lishman and Young which worked at the Lambton Collieries in County Durham. Roy hankers after a visit to the North East by the engine - we shall have to see about that!
Hunslet also undertake commercial contract overhauls and rebuilds, here a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 side tank converted from a saddle tank awaits its turn in the workshops. Built as works number 1631, it began life as a sister to "Renishaw" on the Tanfield Railway.
Under contract restoration was Hunslet Austerity 2868 of 1943, later rebuilt as Hunslet 3883 of 1963 and the test bed loco for the Gas Producer combustion system and mechanical stoker.
I briefly swapped hats to have a look at The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust's Baguley 0-4-0 petrol mechanical loco number 774, on loan for display at Statfold as it was built down the road in Burton on Trent. The loco was cosmetically restored at the Amerton Railway and it was the first time I'd seen it since it has been done.
New into service with the paint still tacky and smelling fresh was Fowler "Saccharine", once part of the scheme to run a railway at Kielder in Northumberland by my friend and predecessor Jim Rees. The coach behind the loco was also part of the plan. They are seen at Oak Tree Halt, waiting for "Edward Sholto" to pass with a slate train
A further reason for my visit was to acquire the Hunslet underfeed stoker from 2868 for the NRM and here it is, being lifted for loading into our van in the background.
Just as I was about to leave, I was shown this Great North of Scotland Railway carriage under restoration - a very fine job, and an underframe is under preparation for it.
And this amazing new build Midland style signal box for the narrow gauge station. Great care has been taken to make it look traditional and handcrafted - and I think it works!
A splendid day, and thanks to Andrew Neale for the invite, and Graham Lee and Henry Noon for their time and hospitality. The Statfold Barn Railway is on private land, but has three open days a year - keep an eye out for them!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Mini Shildon, a Chinook, a shunt and the Golden Arrow

This weekend just passed saw the very popular Modelmotion event at Shildon, showcasing model railways from around the North East and with many trade stands allowing that special purchase to be made for the layout at home. Despite having lived in Shildon for 6 years now, I had never seen Shildon Model Railway Club's 00 gauge model of our local station as it was in the 1930s, and I couldn't resist taking this picture to compare with photos of the real thing. On Saturday 27th March, there is a "Help for Heroes" event at York to raise awareness, funds and assistance for the servicemen and womens' charity. There's lots going on, including the arrival of a steam charter, hopefully hauled by "Oliver Cromwell" posing as sister locomotive "The Territorial Army" and possibly "Scots Guardsman". There will also be a visit by a GB Railfreight class 66 diesel named "Chinook" and to go with this, a full size Chinook helicopter also will be present in the Museum car park. In preparation for this, a trial landing was made in York yesterday lunchtime and here's a picture of the Chinook as it comes down to land. The NRM has never seen or heard anything like it!
After York's business was done for the day, I headed back to Shildon to help with a shunt to re-arrange vehicles in the workshop. This included the Smith Rodley steam crane out in the open for the first time during its restoration. We'll not be able to shunt it out once the chimney is on, it will be too tall for the doors...
Now in the workshop and properly accessible from all sides is the prototype HAA "Merry Go Round" hopper wagon. Richard and the team can now assess and repair the wagon before Phil Anderson comes in to add the finishing paint touches of lettering in the appropriate style.
With a Heritage Traction Cab-It event looming at Shildon on 10-11 April, I asked to borrow the Golden Arrow headboard and one arrow from York for the event. Once we have found suitable flags, the class 71 will be decked out at one end in Golden Arrow regalia for that weekend only - but of course, I just had to try out the arrow and headboard in advance to make sure that they fitted...

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Roaring Monster takes on Shap

It's true to say that there's never a dull day at work, but theyn ,it's not all play either. Yesterday was one of those pleasant days where I was out of the office - and yes, the emails began to stack up, but sometimes one gets to really enjoy the collection - as well as thousands of others by the look of the lineside. It was the Cumbrian Mountain Express, heading north over Shap with the National Collection's Britannia "Oliver Cromwell" tackling that route for the first time since Boxing Day 1967. We picked it up at Preston, meeting a beaming Steve Davies who had been on the footplate since Crewe!So here we are, acclerating north out of Preston - there's Steve's orange GPS in the next window! Our part of the trip was to meet and enjoy the company of the German Enthusiasts who look after DB Pacific 03 1010 stationed at Halle and operated on the main line in Germany. It is known as the Roaring Monster, so the Germans looked forward to hearing how 70013 compared - and hence the headboard as an unofficial twinning exists between the group and the 5305LA who look after Cromwell.
Well, what can I say about the trip up Shap? No doubt it will be minutely pored over and written up in due course, but we looked to have a fantastic ascent, as we blasted through Oxenholme with an eye watering blockade of sound from the engine, but sadly the brakes soon came on for a temporary speed restriction at Tebay. This is all there was, taking speed down to 20mph, but the crew did their best, getting 70013 back up to 55mph before the climb settled in. We went over the top at 21mph, not bad for having accelerated from the TSR with 12 coaches and no diesel in tow. Applause broke out in the support coach as we crested the summit, and there is some very fine film on Youtube of it all.
Belwo on arrival at Carlisle, German enthusiast and artist Peter Bomhard poses with his painting of 70013 and 03 1010 at Halle. Prints of this will soon be available to help support 03 1010. Look at for more of Peter's fine work.

Crowds gather around 70013 to shake the crew's hands as two DRS class 20s and a class 47 pass by on the other line.
70013 backs the train out of Carlisle station for servicing. Where have all the crowds gone?
Three hours later, the engine has brought the coaches back into the station ready for the trip south over the Settle & Carlisle line and then runs to its position at the front of the train.
A gathering of the faithful was passed at Birkett Common...
...and once over Ais Gill, we crossed Ribblehead viaduct, always a highlight of any trip over the S & C.
After a splendid southbound trip and then a cracking climb of Wilpshire bank up to Blackburn, we arrived at Preston again, where 70013 was taken off the train to return to Carnforth for servicing. Once again, as the engine pulled off, it was greeted with a round of applause from the platform!
And finally, just before setting off for home, I tried a quick shot of 70013 in platform 7 at Preston, taking on water before heading for Carnforth.
So, thanks to all on the train, the stewards, crew, 5305LA guys, 03 1010 group and Tony Streeter for their hospitality and companionship - we NRM folks had a great time, and look forward to the rematch with Shap in due course...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Loan check with a difference

At the kind invitation of Simon Layfield, I went down to the Rutland Railway Museum at Cottesmore today to see the NRM's restored 1954 Shildon built Iron Ore Tippler wagon finally lettered and, surprise, surprise, in use for a photographic charter alongside the RRM's own wagon fleet. Here it is, right behind the loco, Peckett works number 2000, on loan from Barrow Hill - where I saw it last week!
For those of you unfamiliar with photo charters, these are private events where photographic opportunities are made to raise money usually for the host venue. On this occasion, 3 locos were in steam, resident Bagnall 0-6-0ST "Cranford No.2", which has an ironstone quarrying pedigree, Peckett 2000 and Hunslet Austerity No.22, Hunslet 3844 I think, just restored at Scunthorpe Steelworks and making a one day appearance on its way to the Nene Valley Railway for the summer. The United Steel Company's Ore Mining Branch used identical locos, so the Austerity looked quite at home in the Rutland landscape. Here, the Bagnall and Peckett play to the gallery.
A bit further down the demonstration line, the Peckett performs a spirited run past for the cameras - and yes, it sounded as good as it looked.
However, it proved a little too spirited for the lineside vegetation, and the crew of the Austerity following used the slacker pipe to put out the flames. A further fire in the adjacent field was beaten out by a volunteer, photographer and myself. All part of the fun!
Having put out the fire, No.22 made a more sedate pass, looking well at home with a set of iron ore hoppers on the back.
At lunchtime, the three locos were coaled and watered in the museum yard alongside other resident steamers, making an atmospheric scene that could have dated back 50 years.
After lunch, Simon was kind enough to invite me to ride on Cranford, which translated to "drive". Here's the view from the cab window as we double head up the line, pulling the Peckett behind us.
Similar hospitality was then offered by Alan Freebury and Malcolm Castledine on the Peckett, suffice it to say, we pleased the photographers, but no more fires were started!
The spirit of the East Midlands Ironstone industry lives on at Cottesmore, and should you wish to find a warm welcome and an alternative to the main line scene, do give them a try - you won't regret it!

Finally, thanks again to Simon, Malcolm and Alan for their welcome on the footplate, and charter organiser Russ Hiller for patiently having me around. It's nice to see a part of our collection so appreciated as the tippler is.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A day on the road

This morning I pointed the trusty van south and ended up not far off the M1 looking at this 2 foot gauge Hudswell Clarke, Number 1238 for conservation and restoration advice purposes. A real challenge which I know its owners will rise to, and more details here:
After a splendid fish & chip lunch, it was off to Barrow Hill roundhouse near Chesterfield where there are four items of NRM rolling stock on display. Two are seen below around the turntable, the LNER J17 0-6-0 on the left and the Great Central Railway Director Class "Butler Henderson" on the right. Between them stands the Drury family's A2 Pacific "Blue Peter". None are currently in working order, but the atmosphere is still fantastic as a working shed should be.
Outside the roundhouse in the sidings is our unique 1948 LMS dynamometer car 45049, and I just had to go and have a look inside to assess it and get to know about the collection!
What a fantastic object - the interior of the dynamometer car, now to find out what it all does!
Finally a quick look at our class 84, an electric loco which worked on the 25kV system and now in the care of the AC locos group. Electric locos are few in the collection, but it is right for the AC group to look after the 84, as they have now examples of 81, 82, 83, 84, 85 and 89 at Barrow Hill, good to know that someone is looking after recent heritage.