Saturday, 27 February 2010

Through Train 2

Today's entertainment was Spitfire Railtours trip through Shildon and on to Stanhope. I went down to see it pass and ended up using Andy Mills' Dutch shunter 663 as a photographic vantage point. Here the tour arrives at Shildon, with 37 038 leading 37 617 (I think - I didn't make a note sorry!)
47 826 was bringing up the rear as it would lead the train back from Stanhope as the loop there is not long enough to take such a long train as this. The train was well filled, sadly only 40 odd passengers dismounted for Locomotion, but we hope that the passing enthusiasts who came to see it might have dropped in for a cup of tea at least!
I understand that several more through charters are planned; let's hope this is the start of a revival for the branch from Darlington past Shildon and up Weardale.

Friday, 26 February 2010

"The Best Day Ever" (quote)

On a foul day which saw snow, sleet and rain in equally heavy measure, NELPG test steamed their BR class J72 tank loco 69023 at Darlington today. At lunchtime a group of staff and volunteers from Shildon popped over to see what was going on. Below, Richard Pearson tests the loco's safety valves before moving on up to the running line of the Darlington Railway Preservation Society.
Some of our group at the entrance to the NELPG compound at Hopetown as the J72 passes, crossing over to the running line.
With all points locked and secured, the J72 begins running up and down to test various bits. It runs very smoothly, with nicely set up valves, but as ever a few niggles have shown themselves! These were not bad enough to stop play, so in the pouring rain, a few cab rides were offered.
During the course of my ride, our driver was Fred Ramshaw, NELPG stalwart and one of our Shildon volunteer team. Below, Fred eases open the regulator and sets off to the other end of the demonstration line.
The view from the fireman's side as we approach the limit of run, with a group of NELPG members and the folk from Locomotion looking on. The quote "Best Day Ever" comes from Locomotion's Events Officer Pam Porter, after having a drive. She now tells me that 69023 is her favourite engine, even beating "Oliver Cromwell"! Well, I think everyone has a soft spot for this little loco - I certainly do as my first train set was a J72, thirtysomething years ago...
69023 is now to be fettled and the top coat of paint added before it moves to Shildon for lining out and varnishing and proper running in. Watch this space to find out when it is due to make its first runs at the Museum.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Progress on all fronts

Late last week, Richard at Shildon began to assess the Stirling tender which is to be restored to go behind the Single. He's been measuring tyres, using a thickness tester on the platework and scraping back the paintwork. Below you can see the result of this latter activity as the LNER black gives way to the Great Northern Railway livery of pre-1923. A wonderful piece of transport archaeology which will help us no end in documenting the repaint.
In blizzard conditions on Saturday, Furness 20 was being run for Half Term Shildon operations by Tim Owen and Merling Loco Group stalwarts.
In York yesterday, I noticed that the use of the turntable for the "Once Upon a Tide" exhibition opened up this new vista of GWR Star class No. 4003 "Lode Star". What a lovely machine!
And finally, for everyone who wants to know what's going on with "Flying Scotsman", the Cartazzi truck went in under the cab today...
...whilst alongside the wheel drop, the front bogie awaits refitting, hopefully later this week!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Through Train

Yesterday (Friday) back at Shildon saw the first through train from London Kings Cross to Shildon since 2004, and more historically, the first train beyond Shildon on to the Weardale Railway to Stanhope since the line was closed to cement trains in the 1990s. An hour and a half stop at Shildon meant that all passengers had a chance to visit Locomotion before continuing on their journey. Here the passengers await the return of the train, which had been stabled at North Road, Darlington, to keep the line clear for service trains. Class 67 "Royal Diamond" leads the charter into Shildon where the passengers were waiting.
At the other end of the train was 67 002 "Special Delivery", seen alongside Shildon signal box as Aycliffe & District Bus Preservation Society's Bristol single decker passes on half term site shuttle service. There's another charter next Saturday going up the dale with a pair of class 37's on the front. I hope it'll be just as busy!

Snow in the Forest

A complete change of weather on Thursday morning as I headed west on the M4. As I crossed the Severn Bridge, I couldn't see the river for fog, and as I left Chepstow for the Forest of Dean, the snow began to fall and roads quickly became atrocious. Nevertheless, I eventually made it to the Flour Mill workshops at Bream, there to look at the NRM's LSWR T9 loco, number 120, or 30120 as it will be after restoration to British Railways livery. Geoff Phelps gave me a welcome cup of tea - these have been a feature of the last 3 blogs I know! Out in the snow was 120's boiler, having had a new foundation ring, lower portion of backplate and numerous other repairs, including patch screws. Tubing will await warmer weather! Meanwhile alongside 120 was this Hunslet Austerity boiler with a makeshift shelter over the firebox where stay work was progressing.
Inside the workshop were the frames and wheels of 120, almost complete apart from brakes and a very nice job it looks too.
Elsewhere in the works is this former Swindon Works wheel lathe, on loan from the NRM to the Flour Mill and still earning its keep.
Finally, I was able to indulge my narrow gauge interest by seeing this 2' 6" gauge Manning Wardle "Chevallier" in the last stages of overhaul. Formerly used on the Chattenden & Upnor and Bowaters systems, it is privately owned and should run later this year.

Bright future at the Mid Hants

Having looked at Woolmer at Milestones, where it looks very much at home, Wednesday morning saw me land at Alresford station on the Mid Hants Railway, where a vintage bus service had been laid on to fetch us from a local school where we had parked. Seeing a plume of steam from the bus, we had to investigate before signing in to the reception. There was Peckett 1555 in the guise of "Ivor the Engine" giving brake van rides to all and sundry in station limits between service trains.
Eventually after much chat and a cuppa, we boarded the MHR's "Watercress Belle" dining train set, headed by "Lord Nelson" and driven by my friend Chris Smith, we arrived at the very temporary platform outside Ropley works and went inside. Speeches were made by MHR directors, the HLF officer and finally, Pete Waterman, who unveiled the plate to open the workshop, now known as "The David Snow Building" - David Snow being the driving force behind the project. Here, Pete has just performed the ceremony.In this picture taken from one end of the carriage and wagon shop, you can see that the roller shutter doors into the boiler shop have been opened and the boilers of 31806 and 30506 are visible beyond. A smashing facility and the railway has taken on two apprentices as well, one to work on boilers and the other to learn Carriage & Wagon work. The boilersmith is another friend, fellow Talyllyn volunteer Sam Rowbotham, so it was good to catch up with him too during the day.
The Mid Hants Railway has a growing fleet of restored goods wagons, and here is the latest to be outshopped, an 8 plank open in the livery of a local coal merchant from Winchester. Hopefully the new facility will see more restorations such as this in the years to come.
Guests were then treated to a superb 3 course meal on the train, the best I have ever had, compliments to the MHR team of volunteers who run the Watercress Belle. On return to Alresford, I took this picture from the footbridge of our engine "Lord Nelson", running round the set of coaches prior to shunting the stock away for the day.

Green Badger country

Tuesday last saw me set off bright and early for Hampshire again, this time to visit Knights Rail Services at Eastleigh Works, check on Woolmer at Milestones and then on Wednesday represent work at the opening of the Mid Hants Railway's new workshops at Ropley. An early afternoon arrival at Eastleigh in the rain, and after a cup of tea and chat with Bruce Knights, he gave me a quick tour of the works on a very busy day. Plenty of potential for working together in the future, especially for some of our Southern Region vehicles, but great to see such activity going on in a works which was until KRS took over, a sad empty reminder of Eastleigh's railway past. KRS have over 50 staff now on site and a lease on the buildings for 40 years - and hopefully a bright future. Here is a 444 unit on jacks undergoing work.
Whilst KRS are fully engaged in main line railway work, a small space in the works is given over to the 71A Loco Group's class 33 D6515, a very thorough overhaul is being undertaken, more details on:
Another link with the past is 4VEP unit 3417 "Gordon Pettit" owned by the Bluebell Railway, but stored safely under cover at Eastleigh and occasionally operated on the 3rd rail (or "juice") within works limits, one of only two units to remain operational in heritage ownership.
Outside was the works shunter, 07 007 (originally D2991), now main line registered and resident at Eastleigh under both BR and KRS regimes, and here for over four decades - still in daily use. Parked next to it is Bruce Knights' own class 73 Electro-Diesel "Borough of Eastleigh", also still live on the juice.

Several Direct Rail Services locomotives are stored or maintained here, this is 47 841 outside the Test House, with the former works offices behind it.
I'd like to conclude this blog with thanks to Bruce Knights for his hospitality and time taken to show me around this amazing facility. I hope it grows and prospers, it was good to see rail engineering carrying on into the 21st century at this historic site.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Rocket runs

Having another day at York today, I took a walk into the yard after my meetings and lunch to have a look at "Rocket" undertaking trial runs and crew training. Here, Steve Piper under the guidance of Rod Lytton drives the loco back into the NRM's South Yard having run out beyond our gates to the limit of shunt where we are allowed to operate to. Please note this photo was taken from a non-public area and I hold a full Personal Track Safety card.
Back it the loco preparation area, "Rocket" contrasts with the Southern Region electric 2HAP unit that is stored in the yard along with a few other items of rolling stock. "Rocket"will be in service for the whole of Half Term week with "Locomotion" as stand by.
In the Great Hall, a new exhibition "Once upon a Tide" opened last night, about the railway operated Harwich-Hook of Holland ferries, for which the turntable has been transformed into a cross channel ferry - and yes, we can still turn locos on it!
Back at Shildon briefly this afternoon, the crane has had its bufferbeam fitted, more parts painted and the newly relined brake bands will be refitted tomorrow. We were sorry to hear that our regular volunteer John Shiel, stalwart of scraper and paintbrush, has had a mild stroke, and we wish him well for his recovery and look forward to him coming back to help drink the tea before too long.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

North Norfolk

A visit for various reasons yesterday and today to the North Norfolk Railway, a super little line and many kind folk who looked after us. Here's a gem from the Carriage & Wagon workshop at Weybourne, a Midland & Great Northern Railway riding van from a breakdown train, dating from the 1880s, a superb restoration nearing completion.
Further down the works is the Wisbech & Upwell Tramway coach, sister to the one that starred in the "Titfield Thunderbolt". In homage to the film, this rebuild includes a bar very similar to the one propped up by Mr Valentine in the 1950s classic comedy. "Wines and Spirits first!"

Next door in the loco works, was the N7, Number 69621, so Chris Beet and Richard Pearson gave it an inspection before its visit to York over Easter.

Outside in the yard was a part of the National Collection, LEV 1, looking much happier than when I last saw it 6 years ago. All windows replaced, seating renewed and it runs - good news!

Just before leaving, we nipped up to Holt to see the LNER Quad Art carriages, but on our way, we were all taken with this Colman's mustard van, beautifully restored by a community group but awaiting a proper roof. Thanks to all at the NNR who facilitated our visit, I'm sure we shall be back!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Rocket fired

In the South Yard at York today, "Rocket" was lit up and being warmed through in preparation for crew familiarisation tomorrow.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Rocket has landed

Still warm after its steam and running trials at the Avon Valley Railway, the newly rebuilt and reboilered replica of "Rocket" arrived at York this morning and I went for a quick look at it at lunchtime before it was shunted into the yard in preparation for steaming and crew training. Firstly here's a look in the firebox and we see fewer, but larger diameter tubes in the new boiler than the loco had previously. We already know from the experience of the Flour Mill team that the loco's steam raising ability has been transformed.

After the new boiler was designed to follow more closely what we knowof the original after Michael Bailey & John Glitheroe's survey of the 1829 loco, there is now no longer a dome on the engine too - and quite a few other interesting changes. However, it's still "Rocket" and I look forward to the crew training and steam trials next week.
Another major change which can be made out if you look closely is the fitting of a rivetted copper firebox. The chimney folds down for transport by road, it's quite a lift to get it vertical for operation - and even worse to lower when hot!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Round and about

At the end of last week, this was the state of play with the steam crane, nearly all painted and ballast going back into the ballast boxes after new wheel arches were made and fitted to the frames.
Over the weekend, we visited family in Morecambe, and during a walk on the prom, I took advantage of the January sunshine to photograph the Midland Hotel, with LMS ancestry dating from 1933 and being an icon of art deco design. More info here:
I had a call from a friend who is a freelance industrial conservator on Monday, he was going to visit Washington "F" Pit in Washington, Tyne & Wear for its annual condition survey. As someone with an interest in industrial archaeology, I was keen to have a look, so went up yesterday morning and met up with Paul Jarman, curator of transport at Beamish in order to discuss some matters of mutual interest which you'll find out about when they take place! Paul has put photos of the winding engine on his blog . In the yard of the museum in the shadow of the headgear is this unique Ruston & Hornsby mines loco, LHU class number 392157 of 1956, a 2 foot gauge machine. Paul can be seen behind the engine recording it for posterity and he's caught me doing the same!
Heading in to York by train today I caught "Tornado" being prepared outside the museum this morning in readiness for its Royal Train duties tomorrow. That's Richard Pearson, our workshop manager at Shildon climbing into the cab, he having taken this week off to assist the A1 Trust with the run to Manchester where Prince Charles will visit the Museum of Science & Industry on the last day in post for their Director Steve Davies before he begins as the NRM's new Director next week.
Half term will soon be upon us, and the major attraction at York will be our newly rebuilt and reboilered replica of Stephenson's "Rocket", which you can seen here on test after the work was undertaken at the Flour Mill, Bream and Alan Keef Limited and is due to arrive at York later this week: Alongside "Rocket", we have borrowed "Locomotion", the 1975 built replica from Beamish, to run as well. Here it is arriving with James Milner at York this lunchtime. The chimney has been taken off for transport and the motion has been arranged to be at its lowest height to get under the Leeman Road bridge just before the museum. Should be interesting to see the two in steam in a couple of weeks!