Saturday, 20 August 2016

Tyseley: "Rood Ashton" Rain Or Shine...

Hi all. Today included another jaunt over to Tyseley to help with the Saturday preparation of the "Shakespeare Express". The usual 'Shakespeare Engine' No4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" would be prepped under threatening skies as the weather simply refused to make its mind up. I arrived not long after 10am in dreary conditions and immediately set to eating my recently collected breakfast, courtesy of the Tyseley Corner Cafe...
Stomach satisfied, I changed into my (now a snug fit!) overalls before wandering down through the loco shed. I discovered Andrew and Alastair already with 4965, which was outside on No1 road having her warming fire lit. The immaculate Hall had a week off last week as the larger Castle Class No5043 did the honours on the "Welsh Marches" trip whilst Sunday engineering works prevented the running of the Shakespeare. With the fire now lit, 4965 began crackling away to herself. After a good chat and a cuppa', we began some of the usual shunting procedures. I opted to work the Signalbox, still enjoying the practise which helps keep everything fresh. The trusty Class 08 rumbled down onto the waiting stock at Platform 1 road, ready to pick up the load and trundle over to the turntable to collect another coach. The track layout at Tyseley requires plenty of shunting to get the consist in the all-important correct order. Here, the 08 is spotted through the signalbox window, with me having just pulled off the Starter signal allowing it to move away with the coaches. The road would then have to be changed accordingly before setting back...
"The Class 08 Waiting With The ECS"
The 08' went down into the turntable road with most of the rake and the little Ruston mechanical 0-4-0 was then called into action to shunt out the extra coach. The 08' then drew the coach from the turntable before proceeding back over to Platform 1 road to make up the final formation. With the stock shunted, the call was made for the Hall and so I signalled the 08' over into the Workshop Siding (No1 Road). We then had a break for lunch whilst more intermittent rain fell, before returning to the job soon after. The Hall was dragged from her resting place and propelled down into the turntable area ready for coaling. The digger filled up the engines tender before the 08' took her back to the shed...
"The 08' And The Hall Return To The Shed"
With the 08' back 'inside', the Signalbox could be shut up and switched out. The Hall was now warming up nicely and sat simmering quietly outside the shed as the changeable weather continued. One minute you had warm sun, the next minute it was pouring down...
Despite the weather, 4965 looked immaculate today thanks to the efforts of the midweek cleaning team. She looks well for 87 years old...
"GWR Hall Class No4965 'Rood Ashton Hall' of 1929"
I left Tyseley at around 5:30pm after another most enjoyable day around some beautiful main line steam locomotives. The "Shakespeare" is out & about tomorrow and after that there are two more weeks of steam to Stratford to enjoy before the season ends. For more information just click here. There are also other excursions available to book which see the Tyseley engines steaming further afield. Well folks, that's it for me for a bit. Monday morning we're off on holiday...I can't wait. All the best everyone - Keep Steaming - Sam...

Saturday, 13 August 2016

"The Welsh Marches": A Castle to Hereford...

"5043 Leaves Droitwich Behind" (Pic - J.Donohoe)
Evening all. Today Tyseley's immaculate Castle Class 4-6-0 No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" would be out and about in South Wales. "The Welsh Marches" railtour would see the formidable double chimney 4-6-0 leave Birmingham before racing down to Gloucester, onward to Newport and then skirt around through Abergavenny and on to Hereford. There would be a few hours break at Hereford, allowing the many passengers to explore the city and stretch their legs. The Castle would then come home via Walsall and the Sutton Park Line before arriving back at her 84E base at Tyseley. Not long after dawn, I was in the car and on route to Birmingham. Nothing can draw me out from my blurry eyed tiredness better than a visit to McDonalds for the now traditional 'railway day' breakfast...
Breakfast devoured, I changed into my overalls before heading down to the shed frontage. 5043 was already outside with the fire lit and smoke rising steadily from her double chimney. The next hour or so saw the typical morning oiling procedures take place as well as a final buff up of the brass-work and buffers. The Castle looked splendid...
With the 9-coach train, plus the GUV (Water Carrier), waiting on the demo line for the 9:30am departure, the Castle was watered at the shed. The large Hawksworth flat-sided tender certainly holds strong quantities of both of the necessaries...
Not long after 8am, the Castle was moved over onto the waiting set as final preparations got underway. With the turning of 9am, the passengers would begin boarding in all classes in readiness for a prompt departure. The Tyseley site's own platform ("Warwick Road") was in use once again, allowing passengers to board 'away' from a main line station...
"The Castle Awaits Departure With The 'Welsh Marches' Railtour"
This is about the time that we on the Support Crew take a break and have a most welcome cuppa'. Meanwhile, aboard the Support Coach, bacon chef Tony can often be found slaving over a hot cooker making the morning sandwiches! We were soon all aboard the train and ready for the off. The Castle got the weight moving effortlessly before roaring out of Tyseley bound for Snow Hill. The dark mouth of the gloomy 635-yard long Snow Hill Tunnel soon beckoned and the Castle made an impressive sound barking up into the platform. More passengers boarded at Snow Hill before 5043 got the train moving once again. Due to being aboard the Support Coach, I can only take a very limited number of pictures during these days out on tours and therefore rely on the kindness of photographers sending them in. Thankfully, a few have taken pity on me for this post and the first image of our progress is seen below. The roar through the Jewellery Quarter tunnels is always worth a listen...
"Passing The Jewellery Quarter" (Pic - G.Nuttall)
Leaving the suburbs of Birmingham behind, the Castle was well into a sprint as we sailed on towards Stourbridge. The 4-6-0 whistled loudly, with speed at roughly 60mph, through Kidderminster, passing No7802 "Bradley Manor" and Autotank No1450 as they simmered away on Severn Valley metals. The assembled crowds admiring the Manor at the SVR station all turned their heads in unison as the four-cylinder beast flew by! Not long after Kidderminster, the brakes were applied in readiness for a water stop at Droitwich Spa. The tender was replenished from a road tanker before the Castle steamed onwards...
"Leaving Droitwich Spa" (Pic - J.Donohoe)
The engine then made wonderful progress, speeding along for mile after mile. All you could hear was the occasional Great Western whistle over the unending chorus of crisp beats leaving the copper cap...
"5043 Near Ashchurch" (Pic - S.Tucker)
After Gloucester, the Castle roared past the Dean Forest Railway at Lydney and, though we saw no steamer, I think we heard a separate whistle replying to the cry of the Castle! Progress slowed as we approached Pontypool - I think we were stuck behind a stopper...
"Castle Class No5043 at Pontypool" (Pic - A.Williams)
After Pontypool, the Castle was flying once again through the Welsh countryside...
The run through Abergavenny and onward towards Hereford was nothing short of storming! The Castle was absolutely flying and the noise was just tremendous as she bowled along. At Hereford, the passengers left the train before the ECS was backed into some nearby sidings for the loco to be serviced. The fire is cleaned at this point, the loco re-oiled and the tender coaled and watered. In short, its a pit stop! Our departure from Hereford was scheduled for tea-time and the Castle was back in the platform right on time, feathering loudly at the valves...
"5043 Is Ready For The Homeward Sprint at Hereford"
The run back to Tyseley was quite staggering. The Water Carrier was topping up the tender on route, allowing the 4-6-0 to run non stop as far as Wolverhampton, where passengers were set down. The pull out of Hereford was completed with ease and the Castle was flying once again, mile after mile. What a machine! Passengers were also set down at Walsall before we arrived home 15-minutes or so early at just after 8pm. The usual evening ritual of putting the train away then took place, shunting the yard with the help of the 08'. The Castle was shunt released and turned on the table before steaming gracefully back into the shed after a most energetic day out! Well done 5043...
"Goodnight 5043"
It absolutely amazes me how an engine like 5043, at 80 years old, can still do what she did today. The fact that she can perform like this at her age is testament to the quality of the restoration and maintenance undertaken at Tyseley. Everyone aboard the fully loaded train seemed to have a very pleasant day today and 5043 seemed to take on some kind of celebrity status. There were people on every bridge and crossing as well as every field and station. Main line steam is still certainly very popular. These railtours really are an adventure all of their own. We steamed out of the industrial heartland of Birmingham this morning, through Gloucester, along the estuary into Wales and then around into the Welsh hills before racing back up into the Midlands once more. Great stuff! I must thank the Tyseley lads once again for their hospitality and of course the four photographers who kindly sent in images for use in this post. All the best everyone, Sam...

Friday, 12 August 2016

Tyseley: An Afternoon With The Castle...

Hi all. If all happens to fall right with my shifts the day before a trip, I try to make the effort to get over to Tyseley to assist with the Friday afternoon loco prep. Today, in very warm sunshine, I arrived at the Birmingham site of the former 84E shed at around Midday. Having changed into my overalls and wandered down through the bustling workshop, I found the engine for tomorrows outing warming up on No1 road. The jewel in the crown of Tyseley Loco Works is the immaculate Castle Class 4-6-0 No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe", built in 1936. The 80-year old lady is off out for the day tomorrow, taking a sprint around South Wales and back up to Hereford before returning home. I'll be joining the lads on the trip aboard the Support Coach and apparently every passenger seat aboard the train is full - that's always good to hear! I spent a few hours this afternoon cleaning the Castle's cab brasses, helping with shunting, trimming the coal and working the signalbox. Tyseley is a great pleasure to be involved with, particularly when helping on and around engines with a pedigree as strong as the one this Castle possesses. She's a beautiful machine - roll on tomorrow! Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 6 August 2016

NYMR: The "North Yorkshire Pullman" Dining Train...

Hello all. This weekend has seen our first visit to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at Grosmont, which runs for 18 miles through picturesque moorland to its terminus at Pickering. In order to savour the best of the railway, I had booked us aboard one of their well recommended Pullman Dining Trains. I booked this outing some time ago (not long after Christmas) and so it had been a long time looking forward to it! Having changed following our walk to Goathland earlier today, we arrived back at Grosmont station at not long after 6:30pm. The departure of the Diner was scheduled for 7:15pm and so we had a bit of time to enjoy the atmosphere and admire the engine...
The locomotive at the head of the train was once again 45428 "Eric Treacy" which I spotted last night on another dining turn. Built in 1937 by Armstrong Whitworth, 45428 is one of the 842-strong class of Stanier's extremely popular Black Five. A Mixed Traffic engine of 5MT classification, the Black Five 4-6-0's were probably the best all round, go anywhere locomotive that the amalgamated companies produced. They were not the strongest or the fastest, but they would have a go at anything and it is a testament to their usefulness that so many were built and also that 18 have survived into preservation in one form or another. 45428 was simmering nicely at the head of the 8-coach train...
Having wandered over the crossing, we admired the engine as she waited at Grosmont's Platform 3. She looked well tonight, carrying her smart headboard and displaying nicely polished door hinges. I was lucky to get an unhindered shot of her...
People were scurrying around all over the place trying to catch that all important souvenir shot of the Black Five. Its interesting to think how little attention a workaday 5MT would have received in everyday service on BR compared to their 'celebrity' status of today. I love them, I think they're cracking machines...
Tickets in hand, we walked down towards the Red Carpet ("Oo Er, Very Swish!") where passengers were boarding. You can select your own Dining Car in advance on NYMR Pullman services and, for me, there could only be one: Car No 79. Built in 1928, Car 79 was part of a batch of 29 cars ordered for use on the LNER. These 1920's cars offer the true Pullman look and are much older in style than the Met Cam Pullman's that came later in the 1960's. Car 79 is very elegant...
Having boarded Car 79 we walked down through the coach to find our table for two. The table was set for the 4-course Meal that we would enjoy during the 36-mile round trip...
Right on time at 7:15pm, 45428 gave a deep blast of her Stanier Hooter before hissing loudly out of Grosmont. The engine chugged merrily through Grosmont Tunnel, passing the engine shed on the left. We then came alongside the pathway of the Rail Trail which we walked earlier today, before the train climbed away towards Beck Hole. Meanwhile there was some lovely red wine to enjoy...
The Black Five dug into the climb towards Goathland, barking loudly in the typical duff tone of the Midland beat. Progress slowed as we neared Goathland on the 1 in 49, with the engine shouting her head off as we meandered uphill. I couldn't help but think how 'cold' she must have been having stood for an hour before climbing up a gradient as stiff as that...
"Rolling Fields And Farmland Towards Goathland"
The starter was served on route to Goathland as we looked out across the fields...
The second course was a second starter basically: a Soup Course. The engine was now making steady progress away from Goathland as the rolls were served...
The speed of the train was steady on the outward run to Pickering, probably to allow the many waitress' to make their way up and down the train without falling over. Car 79 was exquisitely furnished and I was so pleased that I chose her. The main course was served as we took a break at Levisham...
"Main Course"
From Levisham, the Black Five made faster progress towards Pickering, where we arrived at around 8:50pm. As the 4-6-0 barked on through the lonely moorland, I couldn't help but think of Dave Goulder's song about the class. It goes like this...

"Well you're up and you're groaping for coal
For the fire had blinded your eyes
Feel the boiler's need and the fire-hole's greed
As you blacken the sun and the sky

She goes hammering over the hill
And you're bloody near roasted alive
Like a hound of steel riding runaway wheels
There's a devil astride a Black Five"
Dave Goulder - Black Five

At Pickering, the illuminated table lamps of the Pullman Cars was all that I could find to light the scene. The section of overall roof at the station is impressive...
"Pullman Cars 'Robin' and 'Car 79' At Pickering"
I took a gamble with trying to take photographs of the Black Five running round; perhaps I shouldn't have. The auto-focus on my camera makes it look lighter than it actually was. The light had faded significantly by this time and the resulting images were nothing short of poor. Ah well, still a record of the occasion...
"45428 Runs Round at Pickering"
The Black Five steamed gently around to the head of the train in preparation for a tender first departure back towards Grosmont. Most of the passengers had alighted for some fresh air and a leg stretch during the stop...
We reboarded Car 79 and took our seats once again. The ornate interior of the Pullman was straight out of the 1920's. I really love the way she's been restored. The Met Cam Pullman's are very nice but they just don't have the charm of these older examples...
"Interior of 1928-Built Pullman Car No79"
Leaving Pickering, the Black Five got the train away smartly as we steamed into the darkness of the moors. As the track weaves away along the foot of the hills, the train is engulfed in darkness by this time of night. The 5MT steamed out past New Bridge engine shed where sister Black Five No44806 and B1 No61264 sat resting for the night, with smoke still drifting casually from their chimneys. I suppose their duties will see them starting out from Pickering tomorrow! Desert was served on the return and very nice it was too...
Following the mammoth 4-course meal (Eddie the Late would have been proud!) we enjoyed a nice cup of tea to settle the stomach. The after dinner mint was very nearly too much to bear!... 
At just before 10:30pm, the Black Five rolled gently back into Platform 3 at Grosmont after a most enjoyable evening out. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is wonderful. The scenery is great, the climbs are strong and there is a thriving steam locomotive fleet. I can heartily recommend the Pullman Dining Trains to anybody: they offer a great night (or day) out and are great value for money in my book: the food was great! Here is a final blurry shot of a dimly lit Grosmont Station...
"Final View of Grosmont Station"
What a pleasant two days viewing the goings on at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Tomorrow we're off home but I'm so glad that I've finally visited the NYMR. The Pullman Dining Train is absolutely superb and well worth an evening out. One thing I will say, before I finish this post, is that I was fairly disappointed with some of the other diners in our vicinity tonight. One couple moaned about everything and not because it wasn't nice but because they didn't like the menu which had 4 choices for each course and was available before you booked. I don't know what some people want. The service and presentation of the entire evening was wonderful - I couldn't fault it. Some people just can't be pleased. Well done NYMR - we loved it. All the best everyone and thanks for reading, Sam...

NYMR: Grosmont to Goathland On The Rail Trail...

Evening all. We've been out walking today! We arrived in Whitby last night and, following a pleasant overnight stay at Raithwaite, we had planned to walk from Grosmont to Goathland today along the 'Rail Trail'. This route follows the North Yorkshire Moors Railway quite closely and takes you through some lovely countryside. It was a beautiful sunny day and I felt we had been very lucky with the weather. We arrived at Grosmont at around 11am and having parked up in the station car park we wandered up onto the platform to watch the next departure. At the head of the train and providing a very attractive sunlit sight was Thompson B1 4-6-0 No61264...
61264 is of course the sister to the other preserved B1: 61306 "Mayflower": of which I had the pleasure of crewing many times when I was younger. The 4-6-0 got the "Right Away" at 11:30 and duly stormed away up the gradient towards Goathland and beyond. A very sunny Grosmont station was then left quiet. From here, NYMR trains can run along the preserved route to Pickering or cross-over onto the main line to Whitby or Battersby. Steam trains to Whitby run daily from Grosmont in the summer I believe...
"Grosmont Station"
We walked over the level crossing before turning right and walking through the pedestrian side of the Grosmont tunnel. This brings you out at the rear of the engine shed and workshops. The NYMR have a viewing gallery above the running shed and also allow you to walk around the side of the shed to reach a gate which looks into the works. From the gated area I snapped the 1918-built Q6 0-8-0 No63395 which was resting in front of the visiting S160 from the Churnet Valley. There were four steamers out today on the railway...
"Engines At Rest At Grosmont Shed"
We walked back through the tunnel before turning right and heading steeply upgrade. The Rail Trail is a 3.5-mile route to Goathland and the first section involves climbing up and over the Grosmont Tunnel. You gain a surprising amount of ground fairly quickly and we were soon looking down over the station from the summit above the tunnel...
Having reached the top of the tunnel, the path descends back down towards the lineside. The route follows the track bed of George Stephenson's original Whitby & Pickering Railway of 1836; a once horse drawn line. The tunnel through to the engine shed was also once part of this system I believe. The path drops down alongside the engine shed once again and from there we spotted Gresley K4 Class "The Great Marquess" on shed...
The full North Yorkshire Moors Railway shed complex...
The countryside along here is just beautiful. The greenery was lovely to see...
Coming away from the engine shed, the Rail Trail joins the NYMR lineside for a short distance. Right on cue, Black Five No44806 rumbled towards us with a train from Pickering. 44806 was built at Derby in 1944 and was purchased by the NYMR in 2013 after spending many years of her preservation life on the Llangollen Railway...
Leaving the lineside, we continued on towards Goathland...
It took us a couple of hours to do the steady walk. The route is well regarded as being ALL uphill in this direction and indeed the final gradient up to the village takes it out of you! The walk was however very pleasant and very varied. Lush trees and greenery would change to open fields before turning into dark wooded areas on the banks of hidden streams...
Wooded rivers would break up the green landscape for a moment before you continued back into the trees...
In a clearing, not too far from Goathland, the final gradient begins. Its quite a climb up here and we did admittedly have to stop for a "blow up" (a sit on a bench in our case!) before continuing on towards the summit. In the days of the horse drawn wagons, this gradient had to be worked by a counterbalanced weight system to haul the loads up the hill as the horses simply couldn't cope...
The gradient continues on for some time and, having crossed a road to reach the final ascent to the village, we wheezed over the top and sauntered into Goathland. Goathland enjoyed TV fame as the base of the television show "Heartbeat". It was called Aidensfield in the show and the area still draws people to the village under the banner of 'Heartbeat Country'. The TV series included many shots of the NYMR and the village itself was used heavily for the external shoots...
"Goathland Village"
We bought a little vintage tin in the Aidensfield (Goathland) shop before wandering down towards the Garage on route to the station...
With the sun continuing to shine and the temperature still fairly strong, we decided we needed some liquid refreshment after our climb to the village. For those not feeling sympathy, we don't do a lot of walking so this was a big thing for us! We enjoyed a drink outside the Aidensfield Arms, again made famous by Heartbeat...
Thirsts quenched, we wandered down towards Goathland Station where we purchased two Single tickets to Grosmont. We thought about walking back and, perhaps if it hadn't been so hot, we might have done. Goathland station was also used during the filming of Heartbeat but in recent years it has gained fame in the Harry Potter film series as "Hogsmeade"...
We enjoyed an Ice Cream from the station cafe whilst waiting for the train to arrive. Sods law, the train was hauled by the Class 25 Diesel "Sybilla"...
"Can't Win Them All"
We boarded the BR stock behind the Class 25 for our short ride to Grosmont, forming the 2:50pm train. The next train up from Grosmont was hauled by the BR Standard Class 4 Mogul No76079 which duly barked into the platform making a right noise! The gradient up into Goathland is 1 in 49 I believe and it certainly made the 'Pocket Rocket' make her voice heard. You can't help but appreciate the effort put in by the loco's up here...
With 76079 out of the section, the 25' was given the "Right Away" and we duly departed down grade towards Grosmont. The full route of the NYMR is 18 miles between Grosmont and Pickering and we'll be riding the entire line tonight on the Diner: I'm looking forward to that! The diesel took us gently downgrade back to base whilst we surveyed the scenery we had just walked through out of the carriage window. The B1 was waiting to take over the service as we pulled into Grosmont...
"Returning To Grosmont"
I finally managed to get an unhindered shot of the B1 No61264...
Having left the train at Grosmont and captured the B1 alone, we wandered back to the car for the journey back to Raithwaite. We hadn't got long before we needed to be back for the Diner and so we headed off without haste. The B1 was simmering at the head of the stock near the level crossing as we passed. What a lovely railway and a very nice walk along the Rail Trail. Cheers all, Sam...