Thursday, 24 December 2009

A snowy postscript

Well, I know I'd signed off with Christmas greetings, but the snow and hard frost have persisted and remained for our shunting operations this last week, so here are a few images from Tuesday to get us in the festive spirit! Here's the signal and wheels on the road island at the main road junction into town.

And the view from 663 as we head up the yard with Green Arrow, GE No.3 and 75s in tow. Almost good enough for a Christmas card.

With there having been a hard frost, I was rather taken by the cobwebs on the vehicles parked outside - the bogie bolster and GNR tender being particularly good as you can see below.

And I'll leave you with the shot of the day - Green Arrow and the Great Eastern saloon on the running line out of the way whilst we shunted in the building.

So, one more time for this year, Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year! More to come in 2010...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ho ho ho

This weekend was the last of the Santa Special events at Locomotion and to add to the festive feel, the temperatures dropped and the snow stayed - indeed, more fell on Saturday night. It got so cold on Saturday that one of Furness 20's injectors that had frozen on Friday night never fully thawed out. We therefore elected on Saturday afternoon to bring the engine and Dutch shunter in overnight to prevent any more frost problems and make sure the diesel stood a chance of starting on Sunday morning to pull 20 out. The nice warm museum interior provided an impromptu caravan site for Tim Owen and Alan Middleton - with temperatures below -4 degrees Centigrade, it was no weather for engines or people to be outside.
Sunday morning dawned very cold but bright, and fortunately we had put a hosepipe into 20s tender overnight from inside as the external hose used for watering stayed frozen all weekend. With a chimney lid on, the engine still had steam from the previous day so Alan set to work lighting the fire whilst we pulled 20 out and put her over the pit for preparation. Here's the view from 663's cab as we head down to the water tower.
After 20 had been oiled and steam raised, she moved off to begin her work, but not before we posed her in the snow for next year's Christmas card pictures!

1348 visitors later, I don't know how many trips to and fro, and floors mopped, bins emptied and tickets clipped; plus 1 1/2 hours as relief driver, it was time to pack up. We took pity on the poor frozen 03 which looked like an iced cake and put it inside along with 663 and 20.

Tim, Alan & Kate spent another night in the museum (and watched on a video "Night at The Museum"!) and found a use for the 03 as a wine cooler for their dinner bottle of white...
With the museum now closed until 4th January, we are shunting tomorrow to put the Stirling tender inside and also move the HAA Merry Go Round hopper to the workshop so it can join the queue for attention - then of course still paperwork and other things to get on with.
In the meantime, I'd like to wish you all a Happy & Peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year, let's see what 2010 brings!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Let it snow...

Wandering around the NRM this week, I noticed that in the Triangle part of the Great Hall was one of our most unsung exhibits and also one of our hardest working on the York site. Class 02 diesel shunter D2860 usually lives outside in the North yard and is seldom seem by visitors, though passengers on the East Coast Main line often get a view of it in the yard. With cold weather looming, the loco was brought into the warmer climes of the Triangle where it risks less chance of frost damage. Nice to see it inside for visitors to see as something different.
This week has been one of learning certain corporate aspects of the job, along with some long hours on the computer and phone beginning to deal with collections issues, loans and maintenance matters. It was good to have a cup of tea yesterday with Andrew Goodman, haulier, corporate partner and custodian of "City of Truro" - especially as there has just been released a 00 gauge model of the loco: and I will admit to pushing the boat out and Dad & I have bought one to share between us!

Meanwhile, we awoke in County Durham to snow storms and several inches of snow, a lot having fallen last night anyway. Knowing we had to shunt Furness 2o out for Santa Special steaming this weekend, I wondered who we'd have to help as some staff were stuck trying to get in. The 03 refused to start it was so cold, and we breathed a sigh of relief when the trusty Dutch shunter fired up. We treated it to some fuel later this morning in gratitude! Here's FR 20 and the two shunters on the museum apron ready for coaling the steamer.
I rather liked this view of our running line and Shildon station as seen from the cab of 663 as Jason and Dale cleared the yard points so we could take FR20 over the pit.

Inside in the relative warm, Phil Anderson was putting the finishing touches to the lettering on the new bufferbeams on NER electric loco No.1. Here he's trying to dry the paint a bit faster with a fan heater so he could come out to lunch with the workshop team! A beautiful job has resulted from a true craftsman - look out for it next time you visit Shildon.

Coming back from lunch (ok, it was more like afternoon tea by the time we got to Darlington with the train delays for the snow...) I rather liked this view from the level crossing by Shildon station. I'll hopefully see a bit more on Sunday as I'll be in at work with all our team on the Santa steamings, and maybe as relief loco crew. Better look out my woolly hat!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Shepherd, a Centenary and a Scots interlude...

This week was the week my cover got blown and a picture appeared of me in Steam Railway magazine, so I am now going to shave my head and grow a beard... It's been another busy week of meetings in York & Shildon, plus writing of conservation management plans and one or two little surprises, including a positive future for the class 306 electric unit that has been stored at Kineton for the last few years.

This has also been the week that the Stephenson Locomotive Society celebrated its centenary, and as part of this, there's a small display at York until 3rd January, of the class 87 electric named "Stephenson", the LBSCR loco "Gladstone" which the SLS preserved back in 1927, and the 9 1/2" miniature locomotive "Orion" which is normally kept and demonstrated in steam at Shildon. Below are "Orion" and "Gladstone" on display together.
The SLS display was formally opened on Friday 11th December with a centenary dinner (at which "Orion"'s caretaker Derek Cobby was made a Vice President and the gathering addressed by Sir William McAlpine), and talk and tour the following day. The talk was by the eminent railway artist David Shepherd, and Ed Bartholomew & I were privileged to have lunch on Friday with David and show him photos of progress on the restoration of the loco and carriage that he brought back from the Zambesi Sawmills Railway in the 1970s and gave to the NRM about 5 years ago. He was delighted and we then took him to see some of his work in the collection, including the sketches below that he made at the old Clapham Transport Museum in the 1960s. He showed great interest in the works of Terence Cuneo, saying that Cuneo was the real master of railway pinting and that his (David's) efforts were mere daubings in comparison - which I had to dispute! Anyhow, a fascinating half day in the company of a legend!

This weekend we've had a christening to attend in the Scottish Borders, so travelled up to stay overnight in Edinburgh on Saturday. On our way up the A1, we took a short detour to see this Peckett in a garden at Beal alongside the East Coast Main Line. It was sold on eBay from the Swanage Railway last year, and whilst I doubt it'll run again, it's nice to see it in one piece and loved albeit in a different setting to normal. Thenumber on the cab "1611" is its works number. I regret that typing this late on a Sunday night, I can't tell you what year it is, other than 1920s, nor without my Peckett works list, who it was supplied to...
Having arrived at our accommodation, we took a bus ride into Edinburgh en famille and then I'm ashamed to say I abandoned the family to shopping whilst I shot up to the National Museum of Scotland - never having visited before. What a place, I shall have to go back! However, I'll share two highlights (the Lewis chessmen don't really fit in a railway blog...). The first was to see "Wylam Dilly" on display in the old Royal Scottish Museum gallery, a wonderful link to the earliest days of steam traction:

The second was the locomotive below. With my industrial railway fetish hat on, I had long wanted to see "Ellesmere", built by Hawthorn's of Leith - and there she was, built in 1861 and worked in Lancashire until preservation. Restored for display in the NMS by an acquaintance, Geoff Hayes, she flies the flag for the story of railways and locomotive building in Scotland and is a joy to behold. I can't promise the same excitement for this next week - but who knows...?

Friday, 4 December 2009

First week survived!

After the wet weekend, I began this week in my new position and have had a REALLY busy time, which has been great, and very challenging already! On Wednesday, I had a York day and popping into town over the Lendal Bridge took a picture of the River Ouse, looking towards the Scarborough line bridge. The waters were going down, but I really feel for anyone affected recently - it gets very high in York...

Back in the warm and dry of the NRM, one of the less recognised stars rests in the Lean To next to the Station Hall. South Eastern & Chatham Railway "D" class 737, an absolute piece of mechanical artistry, which, if all is well, will get a better airing next year - as ever, watch this space! It's a beautiful engine, set off by the amazing SECR livery and repays careful study if you are at the NRM in the future.

Today was another York day, and part of it consisted of having to examine "Hardwicke" on the turntable to answer a query and I took the chance to photograph some of the collection from a slightly different angle. Here are the Chinese 4-8-4(left), the Southern Railway Q1 0-6-0 and the British Railways class 76 electric loco taken from the footplate of "Hardwicke". The line up still remains rather special - and now it's all my responsibility...

I am trying to get my head around the collection and what is going on with it, so I was pleased to get the chance today to meet Alex Williams and some of the team working on Deltic 55 002 "King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry". The loco is currently in the Flying Scotsman exhibition, awaiting a move into the workshops to allow heavier work to be undertaken.

A major milestone has been reached today with the delivery of the refurbished radiators for the loco, and the group hope to get the loco back into working order during 2010, which will be fantastic. There's still a lot more to do, but further info can be gleaned from the group's website and I am sure that they'd welcome more assistance if anyone feels able. I stood in the South Yard at York in 1998 and watched the loco leave for its abortive restoration and finally it's all coming right for the loco - please have a look and give the group your support.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Making the grade...

A little personal indulgence and side-track...

I have been a member of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society since 1985 and a Loco Department volunteer since 1990. I was made up to Passed Cleaner in 1992 and have made regular visits ever since, although since moving North in 1997-8, I have not had as many occasions to get there as I once did. Marriage and children meant that the TR took a back seat actively until the last couple of years when I have made a bit of a practical comeback! I had 3 weeks in Wales this year, with several days booked on the footplate. On a beautiful July afternoon I was on a firing turn with Terry Gurd driving, and this was the view from the footplate of No.2 "Dolgoch" climbing Cynfal bank, with Cader Idris in the distance.

Whilst nothing to do with work, today was the annual Drivers' Meeting where all loco department volunteers are assessed and promotions made, cleaner to passed cleaner, fireman to passed fireman, and so on. I was delighted to hear this evening that I have been made up to fireman grade, subject to a rules exam (funny, I only had one at Easter this year!), so two promotions in a weekend is really rather special!

Of course, a major piece of TR current concern is No.2 "Dolgoch". Her boiler has now expired and a major fundraising initiative is under way to reboiler and overhaul her in time for the 60th anniversary of the railway opening as a preserved line. The loco's significance has been well documented in the railway press recently but if any readers would like to help the appeal in any way, please look at: . The picture above shows No.2 drifting through Pendre yard, slowing for the token exchange in August 2009.

Friday, 27 November 2009

A long day closes...the ups and downs of railways

Well, more report writing this week, meetings and visits to and from folk. Discussions of new loans, new books, sharing colleagues in other museums joys and frustrations and assisting with advice on loco restoration projects. All part of another busy week, along with the need for me to learn Microsoft Project, which will be a challenge for techno-numpty me! Richard Pearson, Shildon's Workshop Manager has been to Tyseley to collect the last bits of Duchess of Hamilton left over from the streamlining and has worked very hard with his team this week over some unsociable hours - and today has been no exception.

And so to Friday, Richard and the lads set off by road to York to take Orion, the 9 1/2" gauge Ebb Compound loco model owned by the Stephenson Locomotive Society, down to York for their centenary dinner in a couple of weeks' time and assist with the major task of the day of which more anon.

I went by train, and it was delayed outside Darlington and arriving into the station we were told the train would terminate there due to a derailment at the south of the station. On the adjacent track was a Network Rail train headed by this yellow class 31. I presume this was part of the breakdown gang or to do with assessing and repairing damaged trackwork. Every train was otherwise passing though platform 4, in both North & South directions and a delay ensued. My train to York was only 7 minutes late though, giving me just enough time to spot the derailed train just at the end of platform 3 - I am told it had passed a red signal and fell victim to the catch points.

Eventually arrived at York, still in time for my 9am meeting to check out potential cab access to the streamlined Duchess for next year, then down to the store to unload "Orion" and just for a while, it's stored alongside a 9 1/2" gauge Great Northern Atlantic. Hope they don't breed!

Outside, Richard, Johnny and Jason were assisting Ray Towell, Duncan & James Milner to load the Great Northern tender that has been in store for the Stirling Single loco. It has deteriorated badly over 40 years in store, and has been moved this afternoon to Shildon, where we will move it inside this next week for assessment for future restoration to display it with the loco (which currently is paired with an 1850 Sturrock designed tender). This picture shows it being manouevered by crane and lorry to the loading position.

Once the tender was loaded, a quick cup of tea to thaw out before an important meeting, which I walked out of to see "Tornado" leaving light engine and van from platform 10, having just brought a train up from King's Cross. I love the lighting at this time of year if it works right!

We very much hope that "Tornado" will grace Shildon with its presence in 2010, and talks have begun. A final note from today on a personal level - the lunchtime "important meeting" alluded to above was an interview for the position of Senior Curator of Rail Vehicle Collections - and I'm delighted to say that all went well and I have been appointed thus on a permanent basis, starting on Monday!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

A steady week

You can read this post at its new home in the official National Railway Museum blog.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Friday, 6 November 2009

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Out and about

You can read this post at its new home in the official National Railway Museum blog.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

York wanderings

You can read this post at its new home in the official National Railway Museum blog.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Pre-weekend postscript

You can read this post at its new home in the official National Railway Museum blog.

Mother Ship

You can read this post at its new home in the official National Railway Museum blog.

The Big Shunt part 1

As part of our ongoing work in the conservation workshop, we needed to make space to bring our 5 ton Smith steam crane undercover to allow our workshop team to work their magic on it in the dry over the winter. Seeing as the workshop is at the very bottom of the museum building, it was mega shunt time! Some rare views of stock were to be had as vehicles moved around last night and adjacent roads cleared. Here's the North Staffordshire tank from the side that isn't usually visible.

Having pulled all of road 6 out, we then fetched the Peckett "Merlin" and the steam crane out of the back of the workshop in readiness to put the rest of the vehicles back on road 6! My 00 gauge models of 30 years ago were much easier!

One of the engines exhumed was the Avonside "Woolmer" formerly at Longmoor and latterly Beverley. It's going on loan soon back to Hampshire to be part of the excellent Milestones museum in Basingstoke. Here it catches the last of the evening light before being put back inside.

The stalwarts of the evening, other than the staff and volunteers who were part of the shunt were our two diesel shunters, 03 090 and 663 (the Dutch class 11 equivalent belonging to Capt Andrew Mills and on long term loan to us). The 03 awaits its next move as dusk falls on Shildon.

Now well and truly dark, here's my view from the cab of 663 as the team put something else back inside with the 03. And we do it all over again tonight to get Sans Pareil out of the workshop and on display to replace it with the crane!

Ok - so I have yet to learn how to rotate a picture once I've posted it...sorry! (Now learned how to do it but not delete the old pic!)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A sleeping Standard and rallying madness

On Saturday lunchtime I needed a distraction to take the girls (my daughters) to; fortunately I remembered that the Darlington Railway Preservation Society were having an open weekend, so we decided to go and see what was going on at North Road. Long overshadowed by the Head of Steam Museum and more latterly the A1 project, this group have been beavering away for 30 years preserving a goodly amount of local railway hardware, most of it housed in the old goods shed adjacent to the Head of Steam Museum.

We arrived and I was pleased to be met by Alan Usher, one of the stalwarts of the Kirkby Stephen project, who is also an active DRPS member, and a fine railway modeller as we discovered, seeing his layout inside the shed. Fortified with a welcoming cup of tea, we had a good wander round, the girls getting a look inside the cab of the ex Cleveland Bridge Fowelr diesel shunter "David Payne" and me gricing the industrial locos present - you will find over the duration of this blog that I have weaknesses - two being miniature railways and industrial ones. A Triang 10 1/4" gauge train set catered for the former too!

One that it was good to learn about was this overhead wire English Electric loco which took power from a 550volt DC system at a chemical works in West Auckland.

Venturing outside, the girls were delighted to have a free ride on a 7 1/4" gauge line set up for the weekend, then with Isobel protesting that she "wanted to look in the workshop", we moved on to see what is regarded as the star of the collection, British Railways Standard Class 2 No. 78018, a 2-6-0 tender locomotive that unwittingly starred in the classic film "Snowdrift at Bleath Gill" (incidentally on show at Locomotion ever day next to the snowplough). After a spell in Barry Scrapyard in South Wales and an abortive perservation attempt in Leicestershire, the DRPS brought 78018 back to the town it was built in and have spent most of 3 decades patiently restoring it and amazingly not owing anyone a penny. Now it is just the boiler that remains to finish the job, and I believe an HLF application is being made to try and speed up the final stages. This will be a very useful little engine once done, well done to the DRPS, and thanks for your hospitality - it's rare my girls complain at having to leave a railway venue!
The following day, Sunday 4th October, saw a chance to indulge another of my passions - but at work. I have had an interest or involvement all my life with vintage road vehicles, especially road steam as those who know me will testify. An annual event in th Locomotion calendar is our end of season rally, this being our 6th. The sun shone and the crowds came - we entertained over 3000 visitors on the one day, and as ever, the quality of exhibits was second to none.
Some of my good friends from the road steam fraternity brought their vehicles. Here we see (left) Mark Sutherland's Wallis & Steevens traction engine, then Alan Borthwick's Aveling roller, Anthony Lister's Clayton & Shuttleworth traction engine and Ronnie & Ruby Linsley's Sri Lankan Aveling & Porter oil engined roller. We took the Aveling stemer and the Clayton for a lunchtime run out to Michael Bowman's Vintage Vehicle museum around the corner from Locomotion where a pleasant half hour of tea an a natter was had before bringing the engines back. The roller is unusually fitted with rubber tyres to the rolls, a modification made this last winter - it's kinder to one's backbone and fillings and was an interesting experience.

Across the museum apron was this fine line up of commercial vehicles, including a Scammell ballast tractor on its first day out. Elsewhere were over 120 classis and vintage cars and a never ending stream of classic motorbikes. Now I know what a Brough Superior is and why it is called the Rolls Royce of motorbikes!

And added attraction were our friends from the Furness Railway Trust and our own Merlin Group volunteers providing train rides along the site. Here Furness 20 approaches the coal drops with Shildon signal box in the distance. FR 20 will be providing steam rides at York over half term along with the FR Trust's North London Railway coach - do pay a visit and see this amazing machine in action.

This morning I've entertained a party from the Nairobi (Kenyan) Railway Museum, who are on a fact finding mission and I may catch up with them again tomorrow in York. Wonder what else I'll find when I get there...?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

5Z13 and a Red Wheel

I've just had a pleasant half hour in the company of Geoff Morris, David Wright, Chris Cubitt and 70013 - making 5Z13 from Shildon to Grosmont. I "bailed" at Darlington where my colleague Pam Porter had kindly agreed to pick me up. It was the first time I'd footplated over the Shildon line and also on steam - and mercifully it was a bright day. Having got the train out of our site, I joined the crew before we crossed over on to the down road. I was amazed how good the track is, and got a new view of the old S&D line from Cromwell's cab. It's all downhill from Shildon to Bank Top, so very little chuff was needed, and very soon I left the train awaiting the road onwards to Eaglescliffe where it would turn, then on to Battersby and Grosmont. There are some perks of the job! In case anyone gets too worried - I do have a full PTS card and have been main line support crew in the past.

Leaving Shildon with visitors and staff watching with green eyes!

David Wright puts a round on as we head for Newton Aycliffe

Looking back out of the cab as we pass Heighington. It was here in 1825 that "Locomotion" was put on the rails and steam raised for the first time.

Having dropped me off, Chris Cubitt opens the regulator and heads through Darlington Bank Top station to the home signal and wait for the road.

One of the other newsworthy items of the last week has been the presentation by the Transport Trust of a Red Wheel plaque to be mounted on Timothy Hackworth's house. This is the transport equivalent of a Blue Plaque, and recognises Hackworth's contribution to the early days of steam locomotion. The picture shows Jane Hackworth Young receiving the plaque with Councillor Brian Stephens outside Hackworth House.