Monday, 29 August 2011

My August bank holiday weekend

My bank holiday weekend encountered some aspects of the National Railway Museum's outreach. This summer our family efforts have been centred on commissioning Clare's new bedroom. That project in turn is directly related to the freeing up of space when the NRM purchased our collection in 2009. No grand summer holiday then. Instead some interesting days out which have included the Aysgarth Bus Rally (we enjoyed going there but it does help to have some buses), Goats on the Roof at Fontburn Reservoir (photos of these are in Facebook albums) and so to this weekend. It became clear that four interesting days on the trot could be arranged (and if you start with Thursday last that added a walk with our MP Guy Opperman from Newcastle to Heddon along the Hadrian's Wall Path).

The Saturday attraction was Railex NE at North Shields. This was the erstwhile Blyth Model Railway Exhibition relocated in time and space. I attend these exhibitions intermittently. I think my last was Perth Green in the spring. Railex NE was excellent and as the photo shows next year's is already booked. Both the model railways and stands provided compelling material. I liked the South African set up populated with the products of Lima and DJH. Numerous North Eastern themed layouts offered working coal loading installations, a NER Petrol Electric Railcar and a Harton electric. My interest in the offbeat was well sustained down to a Southern Region Drewry Railcar and a layout called Annascaul full of working Worsley Works products. Four hours were spent at the exhibition and by my standards that is a lot. I came away with two keynote recent pieces of scholarship and something I had not anticipated buying at all. On North Road Train's stall was a RTR South Tyneside 2 car BR Eastleigh built EMU and at a price somewhat cheaper than the new Bachmann 2 EPB. This was an excellent and original buy from someone who patronises the obscure. It combined Replica and Hornby components.

So to Sunday. The whole weekend had for many months been billed as Stainmore 150. The anniversary of the opening of the South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway in 1861. As can be seen from the traffic on the adjacent A66 this is a prime example of a railway line that should never have been closed. One must hope that (probably long after I am dead) its full restoration comes about. However a start has been made and here the NRM comes into the story. Both at Warcop and at Kirby Stephen East two groups are working on the former route. They are on talking terms and the Eden Valley project from Warcop was an exhibitor. The Stainmore Railway Company at Kirkby Stephen East with the help of lottery money has done an outstanding job at restoring this wonderful NER overall roofed station from utter decay. In fact along with the S&C and the regeneration of Kirby Stephen West and the Northern Viaducts Trust not to forget Cumbria Classic Coaches , Kirkby Stephen is a hotbed for transport preservationists. These various organisations had all come together to put on a splendid three day show which would see the first steam passenger trains leave Kirkby Stephen East since 1961.

The NRM contributed its director Colonel Steve Davies OBE who opened the proceedings and also participated in the unveiling of the new sign at the summit on Saturday. Also from the NRM collection came NER 910 a Fletcher 2-4-0 a former stalwart of the original York Railway Museum which class worked on the line. Two vehicles associated with Beamish and /or NRM Locomotion at Shildon were present each with connections. These were the LNER J21 and an NER Clerestorey coach 3071. Sat in the platform they were very convincing.

If you like me grew up with British Transport Films then Snowdrift at Bleath Gill will be etched on the psyche. It was quite tearjerking to realise that one of the actual ploughs and one of the engines 78019 which was a Kirkby Stephen engine have been fully restored. Both were present and 78019 was proudly heading two BR Mark Ones. I hope the photos suggest that the time warp was pretty effective.

I love Mark Ones (and their models). Fiona and I have had many romantic moments in their compartments and we had one more.

Once we left the celebrations we could not resist driving the appalling lanes to Smardale (hope they build the line back there next) and then walking to and across the NER viaduct. What a feast of industrial archaeology and wildlife is in that valley: two huge viaducts, an old railway and limekilns.

It was then the drive to mother in law for Sunday night at Castle Douglas. Monday meant coming home on my own for work. Even that took on an edge. The 100 miles back to Prudhoe can be very easily and cheaply undertaken by public transport. The 0935 X75 from Castle Douglas goes through to Carlisle whence the hourly train continues to Prudhoe for about £16.50. This time as I wandered through Carlisle from bus to train station I espied the Hadrian's Wall Bus AD122 an Optare Solo of Alba Coaches awaiting to start for Hexham at 1155.

At numerous times my life has connected up with AD122 and it seemed a good day for another journey which ultimately led me to the 10 of Go North East at Hexham and so an all bus return.

Now Tueday morning.........................The Royal Society of St George at Shepherd's Dene.

Friday, 12 August 2011

A National Museum closes its library.

This link relates to an important story from the British Museum. The imminent closure of its Paul Hamlyn library. In addition to the subject being of considerable inherent importance I noted the concern being expressed about a failure to deal with correspondence. What is it National Museum directors have against replying to letters? I am aware of at least two other recent instances that I can verify. One is here.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Man in Seat 61 and timetables

The Man in Seat 61's book is on our shelves and has been used to aid our European travels. Of course the Forsythe Collection at York is packed with European railway timetables and material produced by the British Railways departments concerned with cross channel travel. Now The Man in Seat 61 is the topic of this September's Railway Magazine interview. How fascinating it is. One man has privately taken over the role of a British Rail department. Doubtless some advocates of privatisation and removal of wasteful spend will applaud although my conclusion is somewhat oversimplified. Actually DB Rail and the French Railways have been two of the bigger beneficiaries of this process. The article includes this telling quote "Britain, where train operators often seem reluctant to fully co-operate with each other in terms of information and connections". Yes, what a struggle it is to work out a journey compared with the mid 1980s. In getting to the Tom Rolt symposium which has NRM involvement at Tywyn this year I shall have to confront the vagaries of a long cross country journey by train into Wales. Something I have not done in decades. I have already discovered that The Corbett Arms in Tywyn is not what it was. Thankfully it appears nicer alternatives do exist. To plan my journey I have finally given up on the printed timetable. I do have the full PDF version and I shall next Monday go and see my friends at Chester Le Track who we rely on to fix our long distance train travel nowadays. I shall be taking nearly a ton's worth of smackers in rail vouchers delivered by East Coast in exchange for the last cock up they made when I ventured out on a long distance rail journey. The same Railway Magazine throws out on p10 the prospect that the new ERTMS signalling on the Cambrian is far from what it should be. I hope I come back in one piece.