Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Mountsorrel Railway Project

We had a VolkerRail visit to The Mountsorrel Railway Project which is concerned with rebuilding part of the branch between Mountsorrel Quarry and the Great Central mainline at Swithland Sidings. The quarry also had a branch to the Midland Mainline and built the connection the the GC when they won the contract to supply ballast when the GC was originally constructed. This stretch of the line saw just a handful of trains leaving each week (the gradients meant wagons had to be brought up just three at a time!) and this contrasted greatly with the volume of traffic which left via the Midland, where ten trains a day was not uncommon. About three quarters of the quarry's output still leaves by rail, although the movement between the quarry and the Midland mainline is now by a conveyor which uses the former trackbed.

The branch to the Great Central fell out of use in 1953 but the route was never formerly abandoned and, much like the Welsh Highland Railway, the powers of the original Act of Parliament still remained. However, the Mountsorrel project couldn't be more of a contrast with the Welsh Highland. Whereas the WHR is a huge multi-million pound project with its own construction company Mountsorrel is a small project which is very careful with its limited resources - in fact, the amount they have achieved with such a small outlay is amazing!

We met with Steve Cramp, who is the driving force behind the project and you cannot help but be impressed by his enormous enthusiasm for the project!

He explained that the project is more of a community project than a heritage railway one; the help and support from the local area is very impressive and at a level I've not seen before. As a railway corridor local ecologists have been able to study it before track is laid, and thus without risk of being hit by anything! Similarly local schools and children's group (Scouts, etc.) have planted and cultivated wild flowers along the cutting sides - this a reflection of what used to grow before trees took over the trackbed and blocked out their light. Obviously this will have to stop once the line opens but for now it has created a rather unique attraction. Perhaps one of the most innovative activities we heard today was an archaeological dig!

Part way along the line is an occupation crossing allowing farmers access to land on either side of the line; in this are about sixteen original chairs as well as sets which formed the roadway. A local school want to come and excavate this and links have been made with Liecester University's Archaeology Department who will be helping and advising on the 'dig' - this is truly an wonderful project!

This all means that the railway is not seen as 'men playing with trains' but as an integral part of the area. The way Steve and his team have integrated and embraced local and ecological needs is very impressive - in fact I'm sure many 'professional' civil engineering projects and project managers could a lot from this approach.

As time has gone by companies in the vicinity have been very generous with time and resources - Lafarge, who now own and operate the quarry have donated a large quantity of ballast, which has allowed the be to be laid along approximately two thirds of the branch (as above). Similarly companies have been generous with providing plant too.

As well as having usual tasks such as vegetation clearance the group are also faced with a few more challenging tasks. One such example is how to ease the curve around the bridge at Swithland Road, above. The issue is how to create enough room for a bogie vehicle to pass through without catching the structure whilst not imposing upon the aesthetics of surroundings.

The line will terminate just by the edge of the current quarrying operation just near a farm park - this is another example of how the railway will integrate with the local community - in this case it should help the local economy.

This is truly an amazing and wonderful project - as well as the infrastructure itself the icing on the cake will be seeing the Mountsorrel Granite liveried wagons being worked along the branch by the sole remaining locomotive (Peckett 0-4-0ST, works number 1759 of 1928 named Elizabeth) from the company, which is currently undergoing restoration at the Rutland Railway Museum. When this happens the Mounstsorrel Railway will be a superb recreation of how this part of the world used to be and will demonstrate how the railway was a part of the local community.

Elizabeth at Mountsorrel Quarry before being rescued for preservation.
We had a very enjoyable visit and I would just like to thank Steve for his time and hospitality!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Modern Locomotives Illustrated

To lift my mood a bit and give me something to think about other than job hunting, I bought my first copy of Modern Locomotives Illustrated - the appeal of Class 47s very much influencing my decision! It seems to be hard to find in East Yorkshire though - I bought this at WH Smiths in Kingswood, and this is the only branch in which I've seen it.

I still think it was such a shame to loose the old Locomotives Illustrated as it was such a wonderful publication - the adoption of the word 'modern' rules any future possibility of editions on steam locomotives not covered in LI. However if we move beyond this and look at MLI as a publication in its own right things are rather good.

Maybe coming to an issue which is a second part is like watching a film from halfway through, but this issue covers the later years of the class. Sadly this does start to make me feel old as nostalgia used to be something only old people indulged in! But seeing photos of large logo and sector liveried forty-sevens is great! The photos are nicely printed on high quality glossy paper with well written captions.

Based on this I will try to buy future issues and think you should too!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Engineer for Sale or Rent

As some of you may be aware I am actively looking for a new position due to the current situation at VolkerRail.

I’m aware that a number of regular readers work on the railway or in the rail industry, so on the off chance any of you can help please do get in touch.

I am looking for a role in Permanent Way, either a technical or an engineering position. I’m flexible in which hours I work, as well as the location, though ideally we’d want to remain in the Yorkshire/North East region.

I’m very enthusiastic about the whole industry, as can be seen here, and eager to learn at every available opportunity.

You can view an online version of my CV by visiting this page;

Saturday, 6 February 2010

A Souvenir of Scunthorpe

As regular readers may be aware, I enjoyed my time at Scunthorpe Steelworks - industrial railways can be truly fascinating! Following my paternity leave ending I was told to report back to Scunthorpe until further notice. Sadly recent news means that this maybe the last location where I will be working for VolkerRail.

So, I feel I would like some kind of souvenir of my time in Scunthorpe. For Christmas Suzi bought me a kit for the 'Janus' type diesel shunter of which Scunthorpe have plenty! It's from Judith Edge Kits and looks very promising! Scenes like No. 51 sitting by the plate mills (above) or 95 on a train of scrap wagons I find very inspiring and the just cry out to be modelled!

Photo found on - great site and well worth a look!
I don't have the room to model a steelworks, but I think a model of one of the locos may raise a smile every time I look at it. A model which will remind me of some great times working at the works with some great people!