Sunday, 17 June 2018

PWay trip to the NYMR

An outing by 11 members of the PWay gang to the NYMR, to be completed uniquely by train. Would we make it all the way?

We set off in three groups, depending on where we lived (on the Gloucester-Birmingham axis essentially). This meant separate ticketing, and different travel arrangements, so that, surprisingly, we did not end up on the same train after Birmingham, except for the last stretch into Whitby.

Yours truly was with Robert and Peter on a cross country train to Darlington. We had a 5 minute changeover there for a train to Middlesborough, from where our tickets took us on a third train down the Esk valley line to Whitby.

Now some blog readers earlier doubted the feasibility of a 5 minute changeover at Darlington. These doubts, it soon appeared, were well grounded as our train was held for 2 vital minutes outside Doncaster. As we neared Darlington and stood in the doorway armed and ready for our cross platform dash, Robert began to lower our chances of catching the Middlesborough train from a still hopeful '40 per cent chance' to a somewhat resigned '20 per cent chance' when a fellow traveller, armed with a Northern Rail app, helpfully announced that it had just left.

We pulled into Darlington...

Alas, it was all true. It dawned on us that our brief pause outside the station was to let the Northern Rail train out. Hot damn! Don't these people talk to each other?

After 20 minutes another Northern rail train to Middlesborough duly appeared, but a hasty calculation revealed that it would arrive there too late to catch the Whitby train. We boarded the Sprinter, a DMU with bus seats that was rather better than often described in the press. We bowled along merrily, passing a famous swing bridge and another with a traverser under it.

Our plan B at Middlesborough, after a failed 5 minute connection at Darlington, was (don't say it too loudly) to catch a bus to Whitby. A bus!

Yes, here are two PWay gang members, now in civvies, about to board a double decker to conclude our railway trip to Whitby by road.

This after a breathless dash across town, as the bus terminal was nowhere near the railway station, but a good 15 minute gallop along the streets with little or no signposting from one to the other. Fortunately Robert had done his homework, but what would Joe Ordinary Public have done?

And so it was that group one, ex Birmingham new street railway station, arrived at Whitby station - by road. Our first glimpse of it therefore was from the outside.

We allowed ourselves a victorious chuckle though, as although group 2 travelling via York had indeed caught their Esk valley line train, we beat them to Whitby by 5 minutes with our double decker bus. Hah !

Whitby is a pretty town, and we even had 5 minutes to look into the harbour before making for the station to greet the others arriving from Middlesborough by train.

Group 2 arrive by rail in a Sprinter
Been here for hours....
Inside Whitby station, Robert stood leaning against a railing and greeted group 2 with an air of practiced nonchalance. John R, orange bag, just couldn't believe it.

Group 3 consisted of Dave P, travelling solo, who had decided to attack the NYMR from the rear, arriving in a surprise move at Pickering instead. He then took a NYMR train north, and we met at Grosmont.

Grosmont was in Yorkshire, as we soon found out. Proud people there. A proud passenger in the train firmly but helpfully pointed out our mispronunciation of not only Slaithwaite, but also Standedge and Bury. Ouch !

Our loco for the day was Schools class No. 926  REPTON, a 4-4-0 built by the Southern Railway. Would it be suitable for the steep 1 in 49 climb with a 7 coach train?

The loco crew were cheerful and competent, as we tackled the climb steadily, with just a brief slip as we pulled away, uphill round a curve, from a slack inconveniently situated at the bottom of the steepest part.

The Schools class was the most powerful 4-4-0 ever built in Britain, and handled the steep gradients and many curves of the NYMR in fine style. Here it is on arrival at Pickering, another station with a fine, reinstated heritage roof. It had great atmosphere.

John M had got us a great deal in a local pub with dinner, bed and breakfast for all 11 of us. We stayed at the Black Swan, a 1740 coaching inn with its own micro brewery. This pleased several of us, and we felt it downright impolite not to sample the local brew extensively.

Breakfast had choice of healthy (L) and less healthy (R) but in any case it was clear where we were: Yorkshire! An offering of black pudding by the waitress was politely declined.

This next day we were due to return home, again by train, but not before a full return trip to Whitby. It was ambitious, but as it proved, perfectly do-able. REPTON took us north again, with one party continuing to Whitby and the other alighting at Grosmont for a good poke round this interesting junction, and a look round the shed. Before continuing northwards, REPTON paused to let B1 1264 into the station from the single line further down the Esk valley.

Staying behind at Grosmont, we took in the atmosphere and watched the two trains depart in opposite directions.

There was even time for a quick video of 1264's departure and on to the main running line through the tunnel.
We went off through the smaller tunnel to find the loco shed behind it. Yorkshiremen are friendly, and on revealing our common railway preservation aims we were soon engaged in a lively conversation which resulted in an impromptu behind the scenes tour of the site.
There were numerous locos being prepared for service, under repair or stored pending better days. Just like the real thing really. This coaled up but chimneyless Q6 for example, a heavy duty coal train slogger from 1913. Others glimpsed were The Green Knight, Hartland, a Southern S15, 80136, Eric Treacy and sister engine to our 76077, BR 76079.
Better than anything you lot have down south...

Black 5 Eric Treacy was near the end of the production line on a 7 year boiler service, already equipped with a fabulous black paint scheme. Look at the depth of that shine!

Then we were shown the wheel drop, recovered from Hull Dairycoates and completely rebuilt in a new (and rather unattractive modern) shed. Complete axles can be removed from under the loco without lifting it, and removed to be stored to one side. Current customer, just visible above with an axle missing, is 76079 which developed a knock only on LH bends. Investigations are ongoing!

To our amazement our little sub group of 3 with the full shed tour met another GWSR sub party, fully kitted out in the orange they had brought all the way to the NYMR, but installed customer side behind a fence. There's justice for you. John M holds forth with a sad, moving story, which has brought tears to John R, who has got his hankie out.

The GWSR group were somewhat taken aback by some claims of the Northern Powerhouse...

''LNER engines are twice as strong and twice as fast as GWR ones''

''Gad Sir, surely not?''

That same afternoon we were already due back in Birmingham again, far away but true. While waiting for our service train to Pickering we discovered that the Moorlander lunch train in the rear platform, comprising teak bodied, Pullman and GWR auto coaches, was also open to regular passengers in the rear two coaches. It was to be hauled by 80136, so we watched it couple up and then went to find the rear portion for public use.

We found an LNER 1930s teak bodied third, a new experience for most of us.

The decor was very unusual for us, with our unrelenting diet of Mk1s. Despite the third class there was a certain opulence about it, with thickly chromed fittings, mirrors, Rexine surfaces and these superb bucket seats. The ride seemed slightly harsher than a Mk1, and the track ranged from distinctly bumpy with dipped joints to perfectly smooth on recently relaid and completely new sections of track. The NYMR's heavy track investment programme is well known to PWay people, especially its use of large capacity bogie Seacow hoppers brought in via the railway's main line connection.

Safely back at Pickering and finding our rail link to Malton dismantled since 1966, we opted to take a bus connection from Eastgate. Here our group's travel plans split again. Having booked separately, the routes taken were once more completely different. Both groups took the bus to Malton, where Peter, Robert and yours truly got off while the rest carried on to York to head south.

Our little group of 3 was once again reduced to fretfully consulting our watches, as we had a train to catch at Malton! Although it only started 4 miles away, the bus failed to arrive on time. We waited and waited were on the point of abandoning everything, racing back to the station and taking an expensive taxi when the bus finally appeared - preceded by a horse and cart!

We made Malton on time, to find a train (that was supposed to stop only briefly) terminated at the station.

This was rather unexpected, but Robert eventually worked it out and explained it here to Peter B. To mislead Joe Ordinary Public the destination board told only half truths:

You needed to know (and Robert did) that Malton station used to have both up and down tracks (as well as a bay to Pickering) and even had an overall roof, taken down in 1989. Today it only had one platform, at which a train was parked, doors closed. This was an earlier train going the other way to Scarborough which had been terminated here, to form our (passing through) train at 16.11. So far so good for us. However, the destination board said 'expected 16.28' and the ticker tape running underneath showed adjusted times to all the stations along the line, including a late arrival for our onward connection at York. Disaster! And so early into our rail journey too.

You could also work out from this board, knowing there was but a single line, that our train heading west was going to interfere with the 16.08 heading east, even if it did arrive at 16.21 as 'expected'.

It turned out that the correct timing on the board was 16.11, and our train left on time. What an introduction to train travel in the UK....

Our dastardly plan was to change at York, not to head south directly to Birmingham, but further west over the Pennines to Manchester. This roundabout saved £20 on the cost of the ticket, and was worth the extra adventure. We needed to change to a Manchester Piccadilly train at York, whereas ours from Malton also headed to Manchester, but to its Victoria station on the other side of town.

We were on time, but would our Piccadilly train be on time at York? If not, we would fail to connect with our Birmingham train at Piccadilly. This did not make for a relaxing journey. We asked the train manager for news of the Piccadilly train, but as it did not show up on his online directory he had to confess that it might have been cancelled. Via text messages with group 2 already at York by bus, we learned that our connection did exist, but was increasingly late.

An anxious John M tries to read a destination board at York from a moving train
What to do? Get off at York as planned, and throw ourselves at the mercy of a delayed train to Piccadilly, or stay on the Victoria train, and find a way across Manchester with only a few minutes left?

At this point a helpful, experienced Manchester commuter overheard our worried discussions and gave us her advice. Catch an airport train at Victoria (which stops at Piccadilly) or if there is none on time, take the tram across town. She would show us how. And she did too!

Airport trains there were none of use to us, so it was the tram outside the station. We galloped across the tracks, to find that the next one on the branch to Ashton under Lyne would be too late to help us. As we stood dejected, another tram rolled in with a PICCADILLY destination blind. Really??? Yessss! We clambered on board to immense relief, and made our Cross Country train back to Birmingham, perfectly on time.

What an adventure. Shall we try another trip next year? Yes, but will our nerves survive the experience? Rail travel in the UK is for the experienced, not for the faint hearted.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Back siding complete

Just 11 of us today, but we finished off the spot resleepering of the C&W back siding.

Nigel offered a palette up to the tool van, and we loaded it full of the heavy stuff needed for changing sleepers, or harder still, changing point timbers.

The pallet was dropped near where we were working, followed by two long second hand timbers and three plain second hand sleepers.

This is the sort of thing they were due to replace. A point timber with a hole in the middle, soft enough to stick a spade right into it.

We took out the chair bolts and then jacked up the turnout in the middle. This is the heaviest part, and it needed two people on the jack to get much upward movement out of it. There's only room for two people on the jack handle, so all the others could do was stand and watch.

Eventually the rails were high enough to extract the recalcitrant timber, but not without considerable prodding with bars from the near end. As the people on nips pulled, the near end reared up and jammed itself under the chair. More heaving on the jack handle eventually sorted that out. Note the remaining bed of perfectly formed humus and garden soil. There was no ballast when this was laid in 1989.

Work paused to watch the first train of the day drift in.

This was 35006 with a partly filled train. It got busier as the day progressed though, there were faces at most windows staring at us.

The rotten timbers were not so heavy, so four of us were able to drag them away without too much trouble.

To make room for the replacement timber the crib had to be dug out. This wasn't too hard in principle, as humus and garden soil are light, but every now and then we would meet a rock or a brick embedded in the bottom, which, according to Pete who had actually helped lay all this in 1989, is how they packed things in those days to get the levels right. Needs must, but those were grim days.

The replacement timbers were turned over and the holes from the previous chair screws were sealed with lengths of broomstick of similar size.

These were hammered in as far as possible, then sawn off to give the chair in its future position a level surface to sit on.

As the replacement timbers were considerably heavier than the rotten ones it took six of us on nips to carry them over to where we were working.

With the old bed dug out the timber was dragged in successfully and marked from above to designate the positions of the new holes for the chair screws.

The timber was then pulled out again a few inches to reveal the marks for the new holes, and drilled accordingly.

After lunch we were treated to a very tasty sponge cake with home made jam filling. A tour de force from Mrs. B. It is the custom to put 50p on the table in exchange for a slice of sponge cake (or perhaps several, if you are cheeky enough) and today was the day that arrives every once in a while when everyone had to scratch around at home to find his 50p, and instead ended up with a pile of small change rather than the desired angular coin.
Came cake eating time and a fulminating Nigel found himself with a vast pile of small coins to take home. Until.... Steve, last to pay, proffered a £10 note. Bingo ! Steve got the pile of small change, and Nigel the £10 note, everyone happy. Well, except Steve....

After lunch we moved on to replace three more sleepers. As punishment for bringing a £10 note for a 50p transaction Steve had to dig out the next crib while we all stood and watched.

The three sleepers didn't take so long and we soon made a start on putting away the tools. Steve L and Neil took a closer look at the point lever here, after finding it reluctant to lock.

The point levers have an interesting mechanism which switches the blades alternatively to the right or the left, always with the same pull backwards.

Except that today it wouldn't lock.
Steve got down on his hands and knees to investigate.
His diagnosis was: old age, leading to loose joints. How fitting for this gang!

This should be the conclusion of our little excursion into the C&W back siding, and next week we'll be doing something else. Here's Paul wheeling the trolley back to base, filled with leftovers. At least we get to add to our scrap pile, as we exchange GWR throughbolters for S1 chairs with regular chair screws. Today the oldest chair spotted was a GWR one dated 1892. They all go to the 2807 group, unless broken, when we can sell then remains for scrap.

As we tidied up, ready for a final fling at the Coffeepot, we watched Foremarke Hall steam past.

Behind us there was a deep droning noise in the sky, what the....?

A WWII aircraft flew across the housing estate behind the yard. If we zoom in, we can see what it was:

A Douglas C47, Aka the Dakota.

If you want to hear what we did, check out this video:

Then it was all hands to the Coffeepot for a social drink:

10 beers please !

An report on the excursion to the NYMR will be posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The King is dead, long live - the rail motor?

The King left today, now it's definite. It's gone. We would find out more at the end of the day.

But first - we met at Winchcombe first thing, to split into two gangs. Both on the same job: track defects repair. Dave took a gang south to Gotherington, while a second gang took the Landie north to continue along the Defford straight between Chicken Curve and Didbrook bridges. It's a routine job, but you're helping the railway and the company is excellent.

While loading up the Landie P&O steamed into Winchcombe station, loaded with happy punters.

As you may have read, 12 of us are off tomorrow on a jolly over 2 days to the NYMR, all by public transport (for the challenge). Tour leader Robert here is giving a last minute briefing, what alternatives exist if you miss your train, where we are staying, and don't forget to tip the tour guide (ahem).

Peter and Jonathan loaded a handful of second hand sleepers for use by the Friends of Winchcombe station.

Then we were off, armed with a list of defects. We decided to concentrate on the missing clips (as last week) as the initially planned replacement of a cracked fishplate was deemed a bit risky in this hot weather.

A clip that was replaced by a newer, stronger one was painted white, so that it could be identified if it should come out a second time. Others were replaced with additional pads underneath.

John worked on ahead and made additional checks by tapping each clip with a hammer. Prevention is better than a cure.

We stepped aside to let the DMU trundle through, here at the start of the Defford straight.

We slowly worked our way up the line, ticking the items off as we went along.

Here we are at the fixed distant for Toddington, with Hayles Abbey Halt just beyond under the bridge.

Approaching Toddington, near the Didbrook bridges, the track walker had identified this broken S2 chair. We needed some extra kit for this (eg a new chair) so decided to do that one after lunch, armed with additional tools. There's always one that you want, but didn't pack.

Rob was keen do dig the holes for the pan jacks - very keen.

A technical supervision committee was formed to oversee this.

In the background is the valley in which the mighty Hailes Abbey once stood, until demolished under the instructions of Henry VIII.

Hole dug, Rob stood aside to let P&O glide past and into its home base of Toddington. The errant chair is marked in yellow on the left.

With the train gone, we had an hour to work in peace.

Here the pan jack is being inserted under the rail (it can stay in place even with trains passing) while the others remove the broken chair, or the bits of it.

With the broken chair in the foreground, the replacement one is slid under at the back.

These chairs come in three sizes, so you need to rummage through the pile at Winchcombe to retrieve the right one. Get the wrong type, and the bolts won't go in the holes in the sleeper.

Here the new chair is coaxed in under the rail with fingertips, and, if the pan jacks have been pumped high enough, it can be slid into place under the rail.

The bolts fit - Yesss - are hammered down and then screwed down tight with the 'animal'.

Pull out the pan jacks, dump on the Landrover, and head for the Coffeepot. Our little treat at the end of the day.

10 teas please :-)

But first we have to turn the Landie round at Toddington. The car park is rammed, as often now, and in the middle are two Allelys low loaders, one for His Majesty, and the other for the tender.

The huge machine is slowly winched on board, with men on both sides on hands and knees, making sure it doesn't disgrace itself by coming off the rails. But all went fine, and we say goodbye to this magnificent visitor.

Next, a Castle? Or: The Rail Motor. Did you know it was photographed at every one of our stations in 1905, except at Broadway. Surely we have to put this right!

Back in the mess coach, Jim and Dave are pouring over paperwork.

We've finally got a new Heritage project in the starting gates. It has taken a long time to get this far, but we are not quite there yet, so there will be more news as soon as we are ready to get up a working party.
In the meantime, it's forms to fill in, pencils - and: a bag of doughnuts. Well, you need fuel to feed the fires. And we are in expert hands here.

Before we go today, an interesting statistic from Blogger. They have been having trouble with message notifications recently, as well as with the page counter. It's not working. Relief is promised on their help forum, but no sign of repairs so far. The administrator can go into the setup page and retrieve the page views manually, and this gives the following statistics for the lifetime views of this group of blogs:

Building Services Bulletin: 212.388 views
Hayles Abbey Herald:         109.014 views
Bridges Blog:                       193.258 views
CRC2 blog (dormant):         295.535 views
Extension blog:                 1.101.506 views, since launch in July 2014.

Over one million views.... who would have imagined that in 2014?

Thank you all for your interest. You might have noticed that the blogs are free of ads, despite Google's prompts to monetise the pages with annoying advertisements. As a quid pro quo, do consider making the occasional donation to our trust, a charity which supports the railway.
Many hands make light work.

See you on Saturday, with news of the trip-by-public-transport to the NYMR. Will we get there with Northern Rail?