Monday, December 20, 2010

'Stainmore 150' web site open

Due to personal circumstances 'Railway Roundabout' has been 'off air' for three years but I think that the time has come to resurrect this 'blog' - although probably on an occasional rather than a regular basis.

I have become very involved with the 'Stainmore Railway Company' project at Kirkby Stephen East, which will involve re-opening a short section of this coast-to-coast line across the north of England in some beautiful countryside just to the west of the little town of Kirkby Stephen.

2011 is the 150th anniversary of the first passenger trains to operate on the route, and during the year steam trains will be running again in this quiet corner of Cumbria.

I have just published a first version of a large web site that will be used to advertise details of the programme of events during 'Stainmore150'. If you want to read more about the history of the line and the plans for 2011 take a look here!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Made That....

Our train at Llangollen pulled into Carrog Station and there in the siding was an old North British Class 03 six wheeled diesel shunter. Many years ago when I worked at Alston Foundry in Cumberland as it then was, I helped make many of the castings that went to make up these locos. We also made replacement bits and pieces for older steam engines from time to time. But what caught my eye was these 32" driving wheels. Each one weighed in at 10 cwt, half a ton, each. The wheel was 6" thick. What is particularly memorable about them was, my job involved cutting off the ingates and risers with an oxy-acetyline torch. Now the riser was on the balance weight where the metal was at its most dense. The riser covered the entire surface of the balancer. The wheel was cast flat. Because the cut was 12" or so deep it needed something like 200psi of oxygen pushed through a 1/8" nozzle. Oh, and a steady hand to hold the burner (cutting torch). There were no profile machines in those days and we measured things in English, not this foreign metric stuff. I got very well paid for doing this because the wheel had to be cut while the metal (cast steel) was still at dull cherry. Warm work to say the least.

We also made the brake shoes and its mechanism which you can also see here.

The connecting rods were not cast but drop forged and not by Alston Foundry.

I can truly say, "I made that," my mark is still on the inside rim. Mind you that was over 30 years ago.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

GWR or God's Wonderful Railway

After a prolonged absence from this site, due mainly to my studios which were beside the West Coast Main Line,having been taken over by developers and so I was perforce removed from access to trains, - I'm back. Went on a coach trip to LLangollen yesterday and took a ride on the Llangollen Railway.
This is a short stretch of standard guage track running a regular steam service. The track is a disconnected fragment of I. K. Brunell's great GWR network. Back in the pre-British Railways days it was dubbed "God's Wonderful Railway. The locos are some real classics. None of the Pacific Giants of my LNER days here. The terrain had no use for them. Instead it was smaller, more compact machinery that was called for; saddle tankers and pannier tankers. The largest loco would have been something like the 2-6-0 that hauled our train shown here.
A view inside the cab. Notice how the regulator is set up for a driver on the right. Old LNER stuff had the regulator on the left. Take a look at "Mallard" of the "Green Arrow" in York to see what I mean.

Here is a shot of her moving down the opposite track enabling a decent look at the Stephenson's Link Motion.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sayonara '183'

A real unexpected treat today. After several weeks of 'nose to the grindstone' writing at home I had to make a trip into Tokyo and on the way home I had to change trains at Tsudanuma ...

Just a few moments before our 'kaisoku' showed up this old 183 class drew up for a signal on the opposite platform. It was travelling light somewhere, maybe into Tokyo to handle one of the afternoon expresses standing in for a more modern unit under repair.

I love these '183's - classic Japanese 1970's express EMU developments and in a classic livery too. They handled all the expresses on our line until 255 class took over in December 2005 and I miss them rumbling through our village. Makuhari deport still seem to have at least two kept for emergency stand-by though. Long may it last ...

Surely in a land so full of rail enthusiasts at least one of these sets will be preserved for posterity?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


If you come to Japan the first railway station you will see - apart from the platform at the Tokyo International Airport air terminal of course - is Narita town station.

It is almost ten years to the day since our Tokyo-bound 'Narita Express' pulled up at Platform 1 (where I'm standing) on our first trip to Japan. I was astonished just how 'English' the place looked, even down to the platform canopies and railings.

Narita is junction. A double track main line comes in from Tokyo here from the south west, and to the north a busy single track route heads towards Choshi. A line diverges west towards the main line for Mito, and of course just north of the station the line to the airport heads off to the east. By Japanese standards it isn't a busy place but you'll see around six trains an hour.

Here's the Tokyo bound Narita Express heading non-stop through Platform 2 and slowing for the crossovers to the south of the station. In fifty minutes the passengers will be getting out at Tokyo central station.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I sometimes think that the trains I enjoy most in Japan are those third or fourth 'rankers' that nevertheless offer some immaculate operation. Like this one for example.

This is the 'Miyako' ('Capital') half hourly service form Kyoto down to Nara, two former capitals of ancient Japan. It is a 'kaisoku' (limited stop) service taking about 50 minutes for the thirty mile trip. No great speed - but with most of the route single line and an 'all-stations' service to 'dodge around' in various loops together with six intermediate stops to make and several 'meets' with trains coming the other way - you'll appreciate that it needs to the second timing to make the service work.

These JR West Japan units offer a lovely view to 'gricers' too - you can follow every inch of the way as if you were sitting in the pssenger seat of a car.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

High in the Sky

Kyoto Station is a pretty spectaclar building and I feel a certain sense of affinity with it as it was opened the week we visited the city on my very first trip to Japan in 1997. Ten years ago now almost to the day. In fact somewhere in Lancashire we have a even have a souvenir fan we were presented with as we hurried through the barrier on that day looking for the express to Kanazawa ...

Here is the bit that is far from the trains ... which are down to the right from here. Straight ahead down all those distant and dizzying escalators - this is no place for vertigo sufferers - is the main concourse where you buy your tickets and then underground beneath that a shopping centre and the subway platforms. The building to the right here is a department store, and the other end of the station on the upper floors is a large modern hotel. Contemporary architecture at its most impressive...

Most bigger Japanese stations are modern and exceptionally clean and well run but Kyoto is something special even for here. It is a building that is a pleasure to use even when you aren't down on the platforms gricing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ready to Roll

A busy couple of weeks - my daughter Julia and her friend has been here and we've travelled a lot.But after a trip down to Kansai I left them to travel down to Hiroshima on their own and caught Nozomi Train 26 back up from Kyoto. I fancy putting my feet up for a day or two ...

I'd carefully planned my return time to get a trip on a Series 500 shinkansen at last but with a reservation in Car 13 I should have known better. When the train rolled in at 15:08 it was a substitute 700 series so I still have to fulfil my dearest wish in terms of Japanese train travel.

Here we go ... the train just rolled in frm Okayama and just one minute for passengers to get aboard before the doors close. The platform controller is already blowing his whistle and waving a white gloved finger. In a few minutes we'll be streaking along the south side of Lake Biwa at 180 mph. Nothing like the 'shink' for the sheer experience of noise and speed

Monday, March 19, 2007

Keisei 'buff'

I see all the 'danger signs' here of me being in the process of becoming a bit of a 'Keisei Railway' buff. Last month I had to make several trips along their main Narita line and enjoyed myself like a kid. Since then I've come across two new books on the Keisei that I just couldn't resist buying.

I've mentioned the Keisei Railway here before - as Keisei Dententsu Kaisha it was one of Tokyo's first private railway systems and their 'main lines' stretch far into Chiba Prefecture. Until about 1960 it was what Americans would consider a classic 'inter-urban' along 'Pacific Electric' lines and I've got some lovely plans of their early cars that would make your mouth water. But unlike PE the system has actually been modernised and extended into a very 'state of the art' railway now although some of the gradients and curves on the Narita line are clearly from the former tramway days.

Here is Keisei's crack express - the 'Skyliner' - that offers the fastest service between Narita Airport and central Tokyo humming along near Yachiyodai.

Watch this space for more on the Keisei Line!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lonesome Whistle

I was out doing some fieldwork in Chiba City on the 29th January - a lovely day, real 'shirt sleeves weather' with bright sunshine. Somewhere near the level crossing at Tsuga I heard a lonesome whistle and thought "Wow! That sounds just like a steam locomotive!"

That whistle was blowing far away off and on for nearly thirty minutes. Impossible that it could have been a steam locomotive of course, there hasn't been one in Chiba for thirty years. It had to be a crane down in the JFE steel works somewhere but it was VERY convincing - so convincing that I hung aorund that level crosssing for half and hour.

Two days later - I heard from a student I know that it HAD been a steam locomotive. East Japan Railways preserved D51 498 was down from Tohoku and headed through town to run some special trains around Tateyama over two weekends in February. But it had taken the other route south out of the city. I'd been THAT close to seeing a D51 in steam in Chiba!

Here's D51 498 in more familiar country, on the Joetsu line up in the mountains of Tohoku. Beautiful eh?

Nice to be back here after some very difficult family times and a trip to Europe. I hope I'll be writing here regularly again but probably only around once a week for now

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monorail 'car barn'

My studies today took me into a part of Chiba that I've meant to visit for a while. Down a small valley near the zoo there's a short branch of the city monorail system. The track leads to the car barn and maintenance depot.

As you can see the cars are docked on two levels with three reception tracks on each. Trains on the lower level are berthed just a couple of feet above the ground.

In the time I've been studying Chiba I've come to really like this extensive monorail system, which is soon to be extended for a further mile. It is a great way to get around the north side of town and fast too - if you haven't had a ride on a monorail yet find one soon!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Some new stock

The last couple of mornings I've been catching the Keisei Railway out from central Chiba into the south east suburbs where I've been doing my studies. Getting into town just before ten both my trips have coincided with what must be crew training runs on some new stock.

Here's a picture of the new 8800 series. This unit has parked up at Honchiba and is about to set off back towards Ueno. I think they bear more than a passing resemblance to the trains Keisei use on the line north of Tsudanuma. They are smart enough and I'm sure very energy efficient and this one took off like a rocket but I found myself wondering with a sinking heart what old stock would be headed off to the breaker's year. The 3000 series I guess, a really classic 70's design.

I must publish some pictures here before they are just a thing of the past.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Enoden Railway

At the moment I'm not able to add items here as often as I would like but keep checking back please - I'll make sure that something gets posted regularly. My collaborator Norman is still in Cyprus I think, which has no railways at all, but something deep in my memory suggests that it once had a 3' gauge line. Is that right?

Anyway - last week a trip with visiting friends over to Kamakura to see the daibutsu - the great bronze Buddha statue. Although this is now outdoors it was once housed in a temple that was swept away by a tsunami in 1498. It must have been a heck of a wave as the statue is about half a mile from the sea ...

To get to the daibutsu you take the Enoden Railway three stops from JR Kamakura station to Hase. This line runs around the coast for about 20 miles and is one of the most charming 3'6" gauge tram systems you will ever come across. These little geen and yellow cars clatter along tracks just a few inches from people's back yards. It would make a perfect prototype for anyone interested in modelling Japanese towns ...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Boso View Express

Normally I only see 255 Units whizzing through our village but on Friday I happened to be changing trains at Sakura when the down afternoon 'Shiosai' came in so I got a good look at one at rest.

Here's 'train-time' for the Choshi bound tokkyu - a quick check along the train and then the guard gets into the rear driving compartment, closes the doors and they are off. To the right, just out of view a battery of four TV monitors to enable him to check the whole length of the train and the button to play the 'hurry up music' to warn passengers that the doors are about to close. Japanese expresses are off within a minute, sometimes even 30 seconds.

Looking at this kind of 'high-tech' hardware I find myself wondering how on earth you would model this stuff in, say, Gauge '0'. I suppose there must be fibre glass techniques if you made a wooden master but how would you even do that convincingly?

Huh! Anyone ever attempted that kind of thing?

Friday, October 27, 2006

One car less

Getting back to Japan a couple of weeks ago I discovered that changes are being made in our local service on the Sobu Line ...

The 1970's vintage 113 class (left) have been partly replaced by 211 Class (right)and it's causing a lot of trouble too.

The 113's are coupled in sets of four, six and eight cars. The four and eight car versions are still running but the six car sets, which are maybe 50% of the trains during the day, have been replaced by second-hand five car 211 sets which I think have been sent over from Saitama Prefecture to the north of Tokyo.

Hopeless. This means a one coach reduction on many busy trains and commuters are getting restless! Watch this space for further developments

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

L'isle sur Sorgue

It really struck me on my recnt trip to France just how much railway routes can get 'sidelined' in the same way as roads do and end up as local links or even just dead ends when the new 'six-laner' goes through.

Not far from our cottage was this station at L'isle sur Sorgue in the Vaucluse We'd been there a couple of days when I realised that actually this was no branch line but the original PLM main line from Paris to Marseilles. But no longer do expresses thunder down this stretch of track south of Avignon. Once you could have seen the cream of the Chapelon steam locomotive fleet racing around this bend, or the heavy SNCF co-co electrics on the 'Blue Train' but that's history now.

Like most of the original PLM route the fast trains now run on the new TGV tracks - here several miles south towards Avignon. L'isle sur Sorgue still has a fine old Paris-Lyon-Mediterraine station building but the only train you will catch from here now is a 'local'

Monday, September 04, 2006

Going for a trip?

JR East has a number of party trains that are in regular demand for company outings and the like. Most of them are built on the 'mechanics' of 485 EMU tokkyu express units. Here's one of them in delightful honeymoon style pink - at this end trailer 484-3.

Hard to imagine six or eight car EMU trains making a revenue earning living like this anywhere else in the world. But in Japan company and other group outings are popular and you go with colleagues, not you wife or husband. The trains usually are fitted internally with long tables and chairs both sides, and en route revellers are served with bento and beer. Also there are plenty of nice locations that can be reached 'under the wire'

Well, I'm off on a trip myself now, no 'Railway Roundabout' from me for a day or two although I see Norman is back now. My next entries will be from Lancashire. Maybe I'll be gricing Preston or Durham station at the weekend!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Oil Movement

Japanese railways have a lot of 'block movements' but of course the trains are tiny compared with North America, typically around 20 or 30 vehicles. Oil and fuel distribution in this way is very common.

Here are two class EF64 Co-Co-Co locomotives with a load of fuel for central Japan, I'd guess probably headed for Matsumoto. They are on the Chuo Line at Hachioji, waiting 'in the hole' for a passenger train to pass. If you are a driver working these diagrams I'd guess that patience is definitely a virtue! But I've never noticed a JR driver reading a book in such situations.

This train will have come from Chiba Prefecture - the big refineries along the east side of Tokyo Bay at Ichihara then via the Keio Line to Shin-Koiwa marshalling yard and around the north side of Tokyo. Now the driver can look forward to a pretty run through the mountains to Kofu.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Don't know why I should think of that music but maybe because these trains are about the same colour and also make a buzzing bee kind of noise as they lurch by. These Tokyo inner suburban units are all a bit of a blur to me, you need to be a specialist to identify them but I'm pretty sure this is a 201 Class. The yellow colour says 'Chuo Line' and in fact this is a crossing in Hachioji about 30 miles west of Tokyo. If you go to platforms 1 and 2 in Tokyo station there's one leaving about every two minutes

These trains have evolved in design over fifty years and are amazingly robust and reliable. If they aren't speeding up or slowing down they bucket along at 62 mph and in the rush hour each of the ten coaches probably has 350 people aboard. So this is a 'ten Jumbo train' in areonautical terms! An experience worth missing as you might imagine.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Locomotive Archaeology

Well, almost. I'm not literally digging this one up but I have been digging in my Japanese railway history books the last couple of days and I've discovered that this 4-4-2T I found at Go-i on Wednesday is a pretty interesting beast. I can't wait to get back and take photos and dimensions for a plan of her.

It seems that this B10 class were not originally built in Saitama and Shizuoka in the 1920'a but rebuilt there. They were previously 4-4-0 tender engines! They were built in 1895 for the Nippon Railway - a major private line that ran from Tokyo (Ueno) to the far north of Japan. When the line was nationalised in 1906 they were classified as the 5500 Class by the Imperial Japanese Railways. Later, as the need for elderly 4-4-0 express engines evaporated, they were rebuilt as tank engines for brach line service by tacking a bunker on the back, adding to the frames and adding an extra axle under the coal. Some foind their way latyer to small private railways - including this one to the Kominato line

So everything behind the cab - and the side tanks - in this picture is added around the original 4-4-0 engine 25 years after she was first built!

And now here's the thing that really tickled me. Guess where the Nippon Railway bought these engines from back in 1895. Beyer Peacock in Manchester! Yes - this is a Lancashire built locomotive - isn't that amazing!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gricing at Goi

Kominato Railway

We had to pick up someone from JR Goi station station just south of Chiba yesterday. It's the junction too for the Kominato Railway, an almost ridiculously pittoresque private line that heads west into rural Kazusa and links up with another private line that will take you down in a bumpy railcar to Ohara on the Pacific Coast.

The Kominato workshops are at Goi - untidy old timber buildings full of lathes and the like out of the ark and dedicated to keeping their vintage railcars moving. It all dates back to the 1920's when the line was built - or at least looks like it. An absolute gem, worth a trip to Japan just to ride this one I would say.

And next to the workshop is this wonderful tin shed sheltering three veterans from the rain. I wonder if any of them could be restored to working order now, I'm sure that in the UK someone would leap at the chance. There are two Baldwin 2-6-2T's (Nos. 1 and 2) built in the USA in May 1924 (Works nos. 57776 and 57777)And next to them is a Japanese Imperial Railways B10 4-4-2T (yes - an 'Atlantic' tank!) No. B104.

Does anyone know if the Baldwin drawings from that era are in an archive somewhere? I'd love to build a 7mm model of one of these.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mytsery Grice

A mystery grice today. I was in Tsudanuma and walked down the stairs to the platforms and there was this train waiting 'in the hole' in Platform 2 hauled by a Bo-Bo diesel switcher. Unfortunately and as these things always turn out it got a clear road about 15 seconds after I got there so it was off before I could get some good photos.

What is it I wonder? There were three coaches in the set and 0ne was numbered 'ki-ya 192-1' and had a logo that read 'East-i D'.

My guess is that it is a new test train for checking the permanent way quality and the alignment of the catenary. It was absolutely packed out with high-tech electronic gear. A while back there was an article in 'Tetsudo-fan' about the latest shinkansen unit for testing the track - yes, they have a dedicated five car train. It was a similar livery and I think called 'East-i'. So I guess this is the 1070mm gauge counterpart.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Super Azusa

There are scores of 'named trains' running on Japanese Railways and here's one that I always think is pleasingly 'exotic' because of the 'bubble car' design of the front end of the EMU units. This is the 'Super Azusa'

The 'Azusa' was a train in steam days on this line and I think the name comes from a mythical bow used by Shinto deities. It runs from Tokyo(Shinjuku) to Matsumoto in the central ountains of Honshu, a run of about 150 miles, calling at Chino, Kofu, O-tsuki and Hachioji. The 'Super' version runs I think four times a day and only calls at Kofu.

Nice looking train. This picture was taken at a wayside station on my way back from O-tsuki last week when our local train was waiting 'in the hole' on the platform to the left for the 'pass'. I'd guess there was less than two minutes between us pulling up and the express rolling by, typical of JR's passion for split second timing.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fuji Railway

On my trip to the MAGLEV line last week I had to catch a train on the Fuji Railway, one of hundreds of private railways in Japan. I don't have the statistics to hand but I seem to remember that the combined length of private lines is almost as much as the national JR system

If I could find the same book I'm looking for I could also tell you when the line was opened. But it's around 20 miles long and runs from O-tsuki up to the northern slopes of Mount Fuji. If you want to climb the mountain this is the easiest way to reach it. Maybe next year!

Many of the smaller private railways are 3'6" gauge and in fact the Fuji Railway has a junction with JR although I don't think there is any regular through running. Most trains are as you see here - two or four car EMU's.

It all reminds me of Switzerland or Austria a bit. Better service though - about three trains each way an hour.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A few more MAGLEV photos

I'm feeling lazy today so I thought I'd post three more of my photographs from my trip to Yamanashi yesterday. This first one is of the 'airport-like' access to MAGLEV trains. I can't see this ever catching on with gricers eh? No draughty acres of concrete platform to sit and eat your cheese and onion sandwiches on here ...

And here's the back 'slow end' of the test train - the end first designed for 350 km/h running. So when the train is running west to east that is still the maximum test speed. Just heading out over the points onto the main line ...

And finally here's another shot of an east to west 500 km/h run. It's across this valley in about five seconds, so you can see why I say it's like trying to photograph fighter aircraft. This has to be one of the worlds great train photographing vantage points though.

Back to normal speed tomorrow - on the Fuji line ...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ultra-speed gricing

Some ultra-speed gricing to report on today. I’m just back, very hot and tired, after making the trip over to Yamanashi Prefecture for my ride on the ‘Linear Express’ MAGLEV train. The line runs under the mountains a few miles south of JR’s Chuo Line so to get there you take the Tokyo – Kofu train and get off at O-tsuki to catch the small private Fuji line for three stops. Then you walk over the hill to the test centre.

Wow! Was I impressed! It’s much more like a plane than a train I guess, a ‘plane’ of coaches that flies a few inches above the ground. The levitation cuts in and out at about 70 mph.

There are two parallel test tracks, the north and south, but only the north was running today – the other is used to trial ‘passing tests’ with a second unit. Out trip comprised four movements, firstly out onto the main line about for 10 km west, then reverse for a run east for about 25 kilometres at around 200 mph. And then the FAST one – back west again accelerating quickly to 500 kph (312 mph). Finally back to the station.

Lovely ride. The acceleration was just amazing and so smooth, but you could really feel the power there.

After my trip I hung around to watch the next one and caught the train at 300 mph on the next run. There’s a great gricer’s vantage point on the adjacent hill and they even helpfully warn you when it’s going to come out of the tunnel in the opposite hillside but it’s a bit like trying to photograph low-flying fighter aircraft. I don’t suppose I’ll ever grice anything faster than that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gricing at Stenkrith

Here's another picture straight out of my childhood, taken I'd guess around 1954. The vantage point is a bridge on the lane between Kirkby Stephen and Nateby and if you walked up the hill a few hundred yards you would come to my grandfather's house.

In the foreground the train is crossing a bridge over the River Eden which is in a small limestone gorge here. The place is known as Stenkrith and is a well known spot for having picnics, walking the dog and the like.

I'd guess this is the afternoon train for Darlington. It's just left Kirkby Stephen East Station which is beyond the bridge in the distance. The J21 on the point is taking it easy but the engine 'banking' at the back - probably one of the 'Mickey Mouses' I mentioned a couple of days ago - is working hard. As soon as the train is past the camera the 1:60 begins and both engines will be straining against the hill.

Lovely gricing eh? You can't find it like this any more.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mickey Mouse

Here's a British Railways Class 2MT 2-6-0. Built from around 1950 these engines were modelled very closely on H.G. Ivatt's equivalent LMS design and they were intended for the lightest routes and branch lines.

This is 78019. You can just about read the '12H' shed plate in the picture which was Kirkby Stephen. In fact I knew one of her her regular drivers, Dick Alderson. He lived just across the village green from our house.

Why they were called 'Mickey Mouses' I don't know but they were a very neat small design and good performers too. She'd make a nice model in 'O' gauge.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Shildon Electrics

Here's an interesting archive photograph. It shows one of the Bo-Bo's designed for the Shildon - Newport electricifcation which I think was energised around 1910 and petered out just before World War Two. The electrification covered parts of the original Stockton and Darlington Railway and Clarence Railway and brought coal down from the West Durham coalfield to the docks at Middlesbrough.

Like most coal-hauling routes it lasted just about as long as the pits it served but in the quarter century that it operated it brought a huge quantity of coal to the coast.

I'd not realised until I started to travel around more just how much the twelve locos ordered by the N.E.R. for this work were modelled on eastern USA prototypes - not surprising as their C.M.E. Wilson Worsdell made a trip to look at Altoona in 1905. They would make an interesting - and rather easy - model.

The train is passing Thornaby station and I have an interesting link with it - this is where my grandfather started working as a porter for the railway in 1912. On the outbreak of the 1914 War he had vivid recollections of helping to throw drunken naval reserves who had collapsed on that platform you can see on the left onto trains bound for Portsmouth.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Coal Road

Here's a picture that brings a smile to my heart - it is on the cover of Norman Hill's book "Teeside Railways" and it shows a signal box called 'Coal Road' about two miles east of Barnard Castle. Many is the sunny afternoon that I've spent here with my grandad, it was one of his 'regular turns'and one he liked the most. There was a lovely sunny view from here over Teesdale.

It's 23 August 1952, almost exactly 54 years ago to the day eh? Two class 'J25's from Kirkby Stephen shed have just blasted up from Barnard Castle station yard heading for West Aukland with a mineral train. The fireman on the pilot engine is working hard as the safety valves are lifting, and a brisk westerly wind off the fells is carrying the smoke and steam away. I can almost hear those LNER hoppers creaking and clanking and groaning behind the engines struggling up the 1 in 60. The train engine driver is about to take the 'tablet' from the signalman for the single line ahead through Bluestone Grange cutting to Forthburn.

This might indeed be a 'family photograph' - I just can't tell. Is that my grandfather by the signal box passing the tablet to the driver. He certainly wore a waistcoat like that to work and it's his 'haircut'. And I think the motorbike parked next to the road is a Triumph 'Thunderbird'. It's probably him - I like to think so.