Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Raise the Roof

We popped up to Pickering today for lunch and a wander round the town - a lovely relaxed day after a couple of busy days over Christmas which seemed to involve a lot of rushing about to please other people...

Anyway, a nice bonus today was a, I suppose, preview of the roof which the NYMR are reinstating at Pickering railway station. Although there are other working stations still with their GT Andrews designed roofs in place I think this should make a rather nice feature.

There's a lot more information on the NYMR's website, including how you can very easily support the project.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

I just wanted to wish all those who read my blog a Happy Christmas! And if all goes to plan this Christmas should be a much less eventful one than last year!

And the photo? One taken by my Dad - D9000 passing through Brough station in January 1997 shortly after its return to the mainline.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Pre-Christmas Relaxation

As an escape from pre-Christmas, and Birthday preparations, we went to the National Railway Museum in York today.

My mum and dad hadn't been for a couple of years, so it was interesting for them (well, my dad in particular!) to see some of the changes which have taken place. It was also a chance for him to see Duchess of Hamilton is its 'new' streamlined form. With an added bonus of 60163 Tornado in the NRM workshop awaiting repainting into BR passenger green. A site which, I think, will be rather nice and one to bring back memories to far more people than the BR apple green does.

It was also a good day out for Thomas who is now very aware of things around him, and certainly more so than the last visit of his I reported upon! He didn't want to be in his pram for most of the day and was carried around and seemed in awe at many things! He seemed quite impressed with the North Eastern Railway 4-4-0, No. 1621, in particular!

A really nice way to spend a day, especially as the NRM is often wonderfully quiet just before Christmas!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Once You Pop...

As the 'Festive' season is upon us, one thing worth bearing in mind is how useful the plastic lids from Pringles tubes are! They make superb mixing trays and palettes for weathering a when you need to use only small quantities of paint.

So as tubes are emptied on those quiet, relaxed evenings over Christmas, or more likely by relatives and in-laws who you wish would really clear off and stop eating all your food, put the lids to one side!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Jack and the Beanstalk

On Friday night we made our annual pre-Christmas trip to York Theatre Royal.

Berwick Kaler’s Pantomime is always a real gem – as I’ve said before, it’s production which doesn’t provide a vehicle for the fading star and as such should never be lumped in with other pantomimes.

Every year Kaler brings a magical production to York – magical and always ready to throw the unexpected at you! This year is no exception – Jack and the Beanstalk but the title doesn’t give anything away when it comes to the plot! Quite what sort of mind can make the link between the Beanstalk and an invasion of millions of aliens I’m not sure but the results fantastic, helped by a core of regular actors and the classically trained villain, David Leonard.

The plot is beautifully summed in The Guardian -

"Instead, the denouement involves David Leonard's dastardly villain being crushed by an enormous chicken while a chorus of nuns swing from some bell ropes and an invading horde of puzzled green Martians looks on."

I don’t like the ‘normal’ pantomime productions so beloved of provincial theatres – they represent the very worst of both entertainment and culture. The public aren’t stupid and deserve better than tired ideas and fading, failing stars. Every year Berwick Kaler, York Theatre Royal and the regular cast deliver something so much better than anywhere else. And this is why people return year after year and travel, in some cases, huge distances to see it.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Return to Scunthorpe

Returning to a place which is full of memories can be a strange experience. In some ways it can often be sensible not to go back but sometimes you may find yourself drawn there. Scunthorpe is a such a place for me; as a place it sits in the shadow of the steelworks and areas which adjoin the works are often quite filthy, covered in a fine layer of whatever the works has spewed out that day. The works itself is a horrible dirty place but it’s a place which holds a lot of happy memories for me, even though I was only there for a few months.

On Saturday I did return to Scunthorpe and the steelworks for a brake van tour around the site. The tours are run by the Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Society, who occupy the former loco shed within the complex. The mere fact they can exist within the huge corporate entity which is Tata is fantastic and that they operate on the works’ railway system is just amazing!

The brake van tours take twice as long as the ‘normal’ tours and reach parts that the regular tours can’t. It was interesting to see things from a different perspective than I was used to. We’d been expecting to be hauled by one of the preserved diesel but a nice surprise was the Society’s Austerity tank, no. 22 in steam. The loco is a real credit to the society!

The first part of the tour took in the ‘High Line’ which is a self contained railway with dedicated locos and rolling stock which services the blast furnaces. The blast furnace staff look after their own track so it was an area in which I never worked during my time there. The wagons are interesting creations in their own right – they probably appear odd to those who haven’t experienced industrial railways. They’re much like Driving Van Trailers (DVTs) on the mainline, but are hopper wagons with a cab at one end. The do look rather sinister, or “like something from Death Train” as one of the lads I used to work with said!

This part of the works contrasts enormously with the next port of call. We took in the exchange sidings right next to the mainline – I don’t think the gleaming saddle tank would be quite what passengers travelling by TransPennine Express would be expecting to see! Following this we headed round the back of the blast furnaces before reversing and moving towards the Society’s shed for lunch – a most civilised way to conduct things!

It allowed chance for a leisurely lunch and a look round the shed – various locos ‘live’ here, both those in full working order and a number undergoing restoration. What seems strange is seeing one a Yorkshire Engine Company Janus type being restored when examples of the same type are plying their trade day in, day out round the works. The weather, as well as affecting the number on the tour, had also frozen the loco water supply! The works fire service helped out and replenished no. 22’s tank. And with the both loco and people refuelled we resumed our travels.

The second half of the tour took us right round the perimeter of the whole site – bearing in mind that the system totals around a hundred miles, this is no small journey. The first part from ‘Bottleneck Junction’, which crosses the public Dawes Lane, to the Mills Exchange Sidings (referred to normally as ‘Nine Control’ after the control tower there) is interesting being an industrial example of double track and allows for running at a much faster line speed than elsewhere within the complex. It’s also one of the less accessible parts of the site – if you were working down there, it could involve some rather ‘interesting’ routes around piles of coke and avoiding all sorts of obstacles! Having thundered out from beneath the Foreign Ore branch we coasted to a halt outside Nine Control. A long wait ensued and we would shortly discover why.

Twenty two took us between the mills – this is when the railway really feels industrial as in threads its way between enormous, towering buildings and large pieces of discarded equipment before diving into one of the mills where you immediately feel the heat coming from the freshly delivered billets which are awaiting rolling into all sorts of different sections. Almost as soon as darkness and dust surrounds you it’s gone again as you burst out into brightness as you round the tightest curve on the system which looks like it was laid in Peco setrack – it’s a wonder more space starved modellers don’t choose industrial subject where such tight curves not only look fine but are quite prototypical!

Soon we passed the Slab Bay where I spent a very cold week this time last year and slowly came up to the rear of the train ahead. A traffic supervisor coupled up and we were told what would be happening. We’d be banking a three hundred ton train up a 1 in 100 grade towards the rod mill! We had prime position just feet away from the locos smokebox and the sound was amazing! The exhaust was thunderously loud and this was undoubtedly the highlight of the day! We blasted up the grade towards Ashbyville Top adding a little to the fumes and pollution which the steelworks emits. The loco kept this going right up to the Rod Mill where the diesel uncoupled and retreated with a train of empty wagons leaving twenty two to move the wagons into the mill. The driver quite clearly enjoyed the trip, leaning out with a beaming grin across his face! Proper working steam and I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!

The final part of the trip seemed unremarkable compared with this effort but even this involved a sprint up the grade to the blast furnaces where the loco was given its head and the exhaust turned into a roar. After waiting by the furnaces we gently made our way back to the start and the end of a wonderful day.

The day brought back a lot of memories – it’s not long ago since I was there, but there were a lot of things which had which were already fading from my memory and it was lovely to be reminded of them. The only thing missing were the people I remembered.

I would encourage any enthusiast to go on one of these tours and help support the AFRPS – what they are preserving is just as important as the major heritage railways, perhaps more so as they are preserving these things in their natural environment rather than steam zoos into which many preserved railways seem have developed. We should celebrate the whole set up in Scunthorpe where an organisation set up to preserve out heritage exists alongside multi-million pound, multi-national industry.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

Snow has covered the Wolds, much like the rest of the country actually, and at times getting anywhere is rather difficult! At the end of last week, after not going anywhere for several days I went to get vital supplies as we were running low on baby milk and cat food. It took twenty minutes, four people, two shovels and a fair bit of shoving to get my car out of our road! Thankfully it's improving a little bit now. But Thomas has seen his first snow - first he's conscious of anyway - and seems to like despite the look of confusion he had when he first saw it falling.

So lots of time inside and I decided to spend a bit of time on an ongoing project. I was quite shocked to see the last update of it on here and how long has passed since. Some of you may have seen it when Botanic Gardens made its exhibition debut though.

I still think it's a lovely kit - it's not too far off from being ready for the paintshop either. The boiler is only resting in place for now so doesn't sit properly and the whole thing sits too high as it's waiting for lead weights - it's my first sprung chassis and it seem to have gone OK, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it runs.

It's providing a nice opportunity to hide away from the bad weather too!