Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Traction Magazine

I picked up a copy of Traction Magazine today - it's the first issue with their 'new look' with a new editor. The overall standard seems pretty good and the reproduction is very good indeed - probably better than the Traction Annual. It also provided a welcome antidote to going back and forth across the country!

There are some excellent articles in this issue - I'm really not sure about the Traction Modelling part of the magazine. I think the main problem is that Rail Express does the modelling supplement so much better. Any similar effort just seems to pale in comparison.

I really enjoyed John Wells' (no relation!) article on the Cynon Valley with some excellent industrial photographs. But the main reason for me buying this issue was Tony Buckton's article on acetic acid workings in and out of Saltend near Hull.

This is an excellent article with superb photography! I always enjoy articles on local subject (the previous issue had a lovely article on Beverley in the 1970's too) and this one was well worth cover price alone and illustrates just how much some of the areas have changed - made all the more interesting for me as a lot of the photos depicted locations where I have worked.

And one site which is really worth a look is Tony Buckton's excellent Fotopic site - there's a huge selection of photos which are of local interest!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Death of a Shunter

Taken from

This rather interesting photo has appeared on End of the Line. It might not appear interesting to many people; however there is a little personal connection for me.

Previously this was one of a number of Janus type locos stored just by the scrap bay at Corus Scunthorpe. I remember seeing some of them being loaded onto low loaders by the loco sheds too, having first been dragged across the works - an interesting site considering most of them didn't have springs anymore! Some funny noises could be heard as they creaked and groaned their way past!

I remember climbing over them whilst waiting for equipment to arrive for some work we were undertaking just next to them - I have the fuel card from one of them too. It showed that the loco in question hadn't worked for some considerable time too! What seems odd to me is why they would be sent to Booth's for disposal when they were, quite literally, within yards of a scrap yard. But maybe I can have sympathy with an unexpected end?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Competitive Hoppers

Just a couple of views of two hoppers which have recently been completed for Botanic Gardens - they're the work of Chris Leach but have been weathered by me. They were sorted in readiness for Hull MRS' annual competition which, in the end, didn't take place due to the judge getting his dates mixed up...

The finishing touch for both models was the addition of coal loads made from a combination or black foam and crushed coal. I hope to show the process step by step soon. It makes a huge difference and is much more realistic than any moulded loads available (not that there are any for our pre-grouping stock!). Any comments are, of course, welcome!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Semaphore Sunset

We went up to Scarborough on Friday as it was Suzi's birthday on Wednesday - a little bit of a break from applying for jobs too! Well, I say Scarborough, we primarily went to the Sealife Centre, however on the way back we stopped so I could have what might be a last look at one of Scarborough lesser know landmarks. I say 'lesser known' but thousands, probably millions, of passengers will have passed beneath it over the years!

The signal gantry which spans the outer end of Scarborough station is due to be removed soon as part of a large resignalling scheme. I believed it's listed which makes things a little complicated, though it will be moved to the NYMR for use there, though obviously it will look a little different in order to suit the operational needs there.

The site of a large mechanical 'box on the national network is increasing rare and Falsgrave Signal Box is a wonderful and large example which compliments the gantry beautifully.

For now, it still stands proudly guarding the entry and exit of every working in and out of the station. However it will soon be gone - although progress is being made what is still an essentially steam age part of the network, still with predominantly bullhead trackwork, will soon disappear; enjoy it while you can.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

VolkerRail, The End

Friday marked my last day with VolkerRail; made formally redundant. Not a nice way to end your time with a company at all, and sadly I am not the only one either. Uncertainty is something which does really get to me; although I'm odd and like to have variety and not always know exactly what is in store for me, a bit of security is always very comforting. Still not actually sure how I feel - my head's still all over the place. It all seems a long, long way from when I started on the company's graduate scheme in 2007; a time of hope and positivity. GrantRail was a very different compared with VolkerRail - the change coming around a year ago when VolkerWessels bought out Corus. What was once a small company punching well above its weight having secured high profile contracts such as Network Rail's National Renewals contracts, had steadily become a just a small part of an enormous corporate machine.

My time with the company has been, however, a happy time in my life. Right from the start from going out on track with David Philpott, the Engineering Director, and Adrian Haughton I knew this was the industry for me!

I was quite happy to make the most of every opportunity too! When I worked for Safety and Standards Director, Chris Hext, I spent three months investigating ROGS 25 and how it applied to our OTM crews. Now my reasoning behind a lot of this was that since I was investigating working hours then the best way to do this was to go out with the crews - not only would this get much better results and observations but it also meant I had countless cab rides! Including one along the ECML which was a fantastic experience! And the end result of all the work was indeed successful! I do, however, suspect that those around me were fully aware of just how much I was enjoying it all! A very different task was cataloguing a large archive of company photographs - five weeks spent looking through thousands of railway photographs? Not a bad way to earn a living!

One of the highlights for me was a week spent in Wales. The Welsh Highland Railway is an amazing project - perhaps one of railway preservation's greatest achievements - and I was so proud to have been a part of it, even though my own role was only a very, very small part of the overall project.

The week was also a very enjoyable time too! The days were very hard - proper working hours and although it was a volunteer and heritage project there was no room for slack or laziness! I still felt like I was on holiday though! Every night was spent in the pub! (Well apart from the one evening when I disappeared to visit Neil Rushby at his idyllic home!) I even vaguely remember Laura leading me astray with wine - how classy we were? Drinking wine out of mugs!

Travelling along the line through the Aberglaslyn Pass before the line opened to passengers was awe inspiring - I hope to return to witness steam hauled trains along this section of the WHR. I especially would love to see the Ffestiniog Railway's vintage train running on the WHR. It was a magical week and one that I will treasure for a very long time.

Following Wales I moved much nearer home to the Hull Docks Project. It was a strange project in many ways; one which was always great to learn from, though not always for the right reasons! It was an interesting project which had all sorts of different aspects to it - it should have been a wonderful calling card for GrantRail, very much a 'turn key' (as management text books might say) product, but certain aspects of the project meant that it was far from easy to work upon.

Initially I was working with the civils aspects of the work; in hindsight it was good experience to see how the different disciplines interacted but it wasn't the area in which I wanted to work. One of the highlights was working an awful lot on the swingbridge over the River Hull. This was one of the original Hull & Barnsley Railway structures and a wonderful piece of engineering, although it didn't always take kindly to modern additions! Another thing about working round here was rather personal; just down from the swingbridge were the remains of Sculcoates Yard, where my grandfather had been foreman. He died some years before I was born, but this association and working where he did made me feel like I had some real and tangible connection with him.

As the civils work started to tale off I moved across to the p-way side of the project, working a lot with people like Steve Johnson and Mick Clark and I have to say this was when I knew that p-way was an area which really interested me. I never really wanted to do the civils side, despite it being good expereince in the end. I very much enjoyed both the site and office parts of the p-way work we were undertaking - even the countless days spent cant marking! Other aspects like attending the planning meetings in York added to the overall experience and provided a rounded view of how what we were doing fitted in with the railway as a whole. Even after I moved on I still had a few weekend shifts at Hull, thanks to Mick! I did, however, learn to check more carefully as to exactly what is going to be happening and never assuming! I assumed that when I was told we were realigning one of the branches at Hessle Road and then tamper it would involve a tamper and following it holding one end of a tape, but no! It was manualling slewing the track with jacks and then tamping it with an attachment on an RRV! I still enjoyed it though!

I was very upset to leave the Hull project - the way it was sorted out whilst I was on annual leave was wrong - to come home to find a letter that gives you eighteen hours notice of moving across the country isn't really fair. Travelling is part of working for a contractor but even so I felt rather put out. I won't dwell on this move too much, but I felt very short changed not being allowed on site during the three month spell, a time which was probably the low point of my time with the company.

So when I was told I would be moving to the Corus Scunthorpe maintenance contract I was over the moon! Something which would mean I'd be out and about seeing all sorts of things! Within a couple of days Suzi said it was like living with a different person as it was such a positive change! I've previously explained how much I enjoyed the work here, but it really was a good time! It was a fantastic grounding in the basic principles of p-way, doing things without using big expensive machinery. I greatly enjoyed working with all the lads with whom I worked - I'll take some great memories from my time there.

Precision Engineering at Hull Docks!
I have made some very good friends during my time with GrantRail and VolkerRail, one of whom was there with me right at the end! It's heart breaking to see so many of them having to go through this whole process. To all those I worked with I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that VolkerRail can successfully turn things round from the current situation.