Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Platform Progress

Took this picture on Sunday of progress on the extension of the platform. Sea of mud job there eh? I can hear my granddad muttering "Just like the trenches!" With all the heavy equipment, deep holes and general mess out here we aren't going to be able to allow visitors to the Model Railway Show this weekend out of the trainshed to walk up the site.

But you can see the general lines of progress here. On the right the connection is complete between the new platform - built to modern UK railway standards - and the existing 'vintage' length of the Darlington Platform. The paving stones for the platform edge are all stacked up and ready to be laid. To the left you can see the two trenches for footings to widen the 4 metre single platform already constructed - this new platform will now have a double facing by August.

With the better weather work is advancing quickly - perhaps I'll put up an 'update' picture after next weekend so that you can check on progress.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Show looms Saturday

A reminder to everyone today that the next of our key 2011 events is looming on Saturday. Our Second Annual Model Railway Show is being held at Kirkby Stephen East and the Heritage Centre will be open to visitors from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  There will be an admission charge of £2.00 for adults and £1.00 for children and limited parking will be available on site

You can find details of the event on the main 'Stainmore 150' web site here. From what I here there will be eight layouts on site and also four trade stalls and also we hope plenty of action in the Company's own shop. It will also be an opportunity to take a look at what is happening with the platform extension work - at least through the door or over the fence for I've heard that so much is happening at the moment that for Health and Safety reasons we will need to close that part of the outdoor area to the public.

I also had an e-mail from Cath this morning. Her fund-raising sales for the Stainmore Railway Company on Ebay are taking off now and she is running out of the packaging materials that she has been setting aside to dispatch stuff. If you have any old jiffy bags, bubble wrap, polystyrene strips etc in reasonable re-usable condition please bring it with you on Saturday and leave it at the entrance and she will pick it up on the day. Also of course any items that you might have for her to put up for auction. You can contact Cath at cathainsley1829@hotmail.com

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Is spending your money a problem?

Wondering what to spend my money on is always a big problem for me, I never seem to be able to get through the darn stuff quickly enough. And if you are the same  I have a couple of excellent bits of news for you today!

The first of these is that over the last couple of days we have had some very generous donations of books and magazines made for the shop, and today I have been very busy checking and pricing this new stock. Most of it will be on the shelves for the Model Railway Show on Saturday, so come and take a look. But some of the items offered were so valuable that we have decided to try putting them on Amazon rather than in the bookshop where average prices are a 'fiver' or often less and around £20 seems to be the most we can ask.

As we don't currently have a Stainmore Railway Bookshop Amazon Merchant Account you will find these items listed on my own account here. All the railway related items are posted there on behalf of our bookshop and all income earned on them will go to SRC funds. On the other hand if you want to buy an interesting book on East Asian urbanisation it's all mine!

The other thing to remind you of today is that places are going fast now for the 'Stainmore 150' Photo Charter on Tuesday 30th August. This event is intended for serious railway photographers and the day will be spent organising locomotives and stock on site for photo-shoots. There are only a limited number of places available and the cost is £30 - if you are interested in attending please e-mail David Tillotson on dbt1k@yahoo.co.uk

Saturday, 28 May 2011

'Black Five' arriving soon

Working in the shop at Kirkby Stephen East oday - where were you all? It was pretty darn cool in there, you wouldn't have needed much air conditioning. I guess it is all we can hope for on Bank Holidays.

Anyway we had plenty of visitors to keep us moving. And around lunch time Anthony from the Croglin Brewery dropped in with some very interesting news. He was telling me that they are planning a special brew to celebrate the 'Stainmore 150' weekend and he brought along the artwork for the pump clip to show me. The 'Crog' will be running a Beer Festival to concide with the '150' event. Things are certainly going to be hopping along at our end of town during the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The new  ale will be called 'Black Five' and as soon as I get more information I will put a page up on the main 'Stainmore 150' website and I am sure the brew will be featured on the CAMRA site too. You might think that LMS 'B;ack Fives' were much more of a feature of the West station and of course they were but there was at least one visited Kirkby Stephen East in the 1950's on an SLS 'NorthernFells Railtour'. There is a photograph of the engine (42962) at the Darlington Platform not 50 yards from the 'Crog'  (see page 184 of Peter Walton's book). Of course that is as far as it ever got - no chance of anything as large as a 'Black Five' being allowed eastwards over Stainmore.

As the famous Fletcher 2-4-0 is going to be on loan to use Kirkby Stephen from the National Railway Museum from August for the next five years I can't help but feel that the Croglin Brewery might have missed a bit of a trick in not calling this new ale 'Old 910' after their legendary new neighbour but maybe that's one that they can consider for some future amber nectar!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Volunteer 'guides'.

This week I have been typing up some guides for volunteers working in the Kirkby Stephen East shop and also serving in the Company's buffet car. I spent a large slice of last Sunday following Sue around as she got into 'full flow' with a note pad and we went right through everything we do in the shop and galley from turning on the power in the morning and re-stocking shelves through to cashing-up the till and locking up.

To be honest I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to doing guides like this. On Wednesday I was back with my camera to take some pictures to include so that anyone using these little guides in future could see just which buttons to press and which cups to use for tea, coffee, chocolate and soup!

Here is the key point though! We are almost into June and by the time we arrive at the '150 Celebrations' at the end of August we will need many more volunteers who can give a few hours sometimes to help us run the visitor services. We are moving now from a focus on re-building to a focus on running a railway and that can be a lot of fun.

Would you like to sign up as a visitor services volunteer, or at least come up to the station and see the kind of things involved? Then why not give us a ring? You can contact me, Iain Robinson, on (017683) 74988 and I will tell you all about it

Thursday, 26 May 2011

June 1890 Timetable

Ann Sandell sent me an interesting image today - a copy of the Stainmore Line passenger timetable for June 1890. And it has got a 'local' slant too - it is a copy printed by J.W. Braithwaite's in Kirkby Stephen. It was clearly intended for local use as it also includes Midland Railway services from the West Station.

In June 1890 there were five services daily each way between Kirkby Stephen and Darlington, and five services each way between Kirkby Stephen and Penrith. In Victorian times the through trains from Darlington ran on to Tebay, and you changed at the East Station for the 'Valley Branch'. There are a couple of pictures taken from  what is now the A685 bridge looking east where you can see a train hurrying in from Stainmore with another train 'waiting in the clear' in the loop just beyond the bridge waiting for the incoming Tebay train to depart before it pulls into the platform behind it with the 'Valley Branch' connection.

You can enlarge the picture by left-clicking on it. The 5:00 PM departure from Darlington espcially caught my eye - into Kirkby Stephen by 6:24 PM with nine intermediate stops! So probably around 70 minutes net running time. You would pushed to drive it in that time via 'Barney' today. Must have been a speedy locomotive in charge - in the 1890's perhaps a Fletcher '910' Class 2-4-0?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Bowes Level

Apart from the main junctions I always used to think that Bowes was by far the most interesting station on the Stainmore line. I often used to spend time there and I will probably write about the place several times here over the next few months. It makes me sad to see the ruin of it all now as I turn off the A66 towards 'Barney' but  at least the old SDLUR goods shed still seems to be faring well.

But what I wanted to talk about today was the 'Bowes Level'. Many aficionados of the Stainmore Line seem to think that the climb to the summit was unremitting but that was far from the case. Through Bowes station there was nearly a mile of almost level track.

Climbing up from Tees Valley the ruling gradient was about 1 in 69 but that stopped at the farm accommodation bridge just east of Bowes station where the gradient - though not actually completely level - eased right down to 1 in 3,900. It picked up again just at the skew bridge over the A66 at the west end of Bowes village to 1 in 154 and then a steep 1 in 62 again by Spital.

From the signal box or station platform this 'roller coaster' was clearly visible. Eastwards it almost looked like the line was dropping off a cliff while westwards it climbed away towards the sky. But I have never seen a photograph that captured this sight. Of course the irony was that in railway terms 'Up' was down while 'Down' was very much up.

Drivers of westbound mineral trains made good use of the 'Bowes Level'. The train engine and 'bankers' would burst under that eastern farm accommodation bridge struggling against the bank and then really get shifting through the station in the hope of building up a good head of speed and momentum before they had to put their shoulders into the bank again. I wish that I'd taken some 8mm cine film of it!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Some J21 history.

I had an e-mail passed on from Sue today from Don Nicol who is a volunteer guard on the North Norfolk Railway (I had forgotten for a moment that there were even chillier places than Kirkby Stephen East!). The information he has provided answers some questions that have been puzzling people about the preservation of the LCLT-owned J21 '65033' which will be visiting us in August

Don worked at the Stooperdale Offices in Darlington and had open entry to North Road Works from 1960 until end of 1964. At that time two J21's were stored there, '65033' and '65099'. He confirms that people in the works thought that '65099'was in better general condition and was probably the one to be preserved. However when a thorough inspection was made of the locomotive it was found that one of the frames was cracked and so '65099' went for scrap (according to Yeadon's register in February 1966). However the boiler from '65099' was retained and swapped for the boiler on '65033' which was not in such good condition before the engine was rescued by Beamish.

Don comments that he was looking forward to the day when he would be guard on the NNR 'Quad-Art' set with '65033' at the head of the train. But it was good  to see her leave for Shildon knowing she was to be looked after by the LCLT. Let's hope that he soon gets a chance to be a 'guest' guard on the Stainmore line with '65033' in steam at the head of some of our own Gresley coaches ...

Monday, 23 May 2011

KSE goes live on Ebay

I heard today that Cath Ainsley has recently set up a dedicated 'Ebay' account for the Stainmore Railway to sell donated items - and especially surplus shop stuff, items that we wouldn't normally stock in the shop at Kirkby Stephen East and donations that we may get a better price for with national coverage. She says that this will enable her to do something positive towards fundraising when she is unable to get over to Kirkby Stephen very often.

The account name on Ebay is stainmorerailway and she has already begun posting items.

Cath wants readers to know that she can accept donations of ANY item to sell on Ebay, just so long as it is in good condition and postable and within Ebay rules to list!  They don't have to be railway related - they could be household goods,  clothes and shoes, DVD's and CD's, any bric a brac or collectables etc. Certain larger or heavy items might be advertised for collection only, either from the KSE shop or from my Cath's house. She doesn't want to pass up anything that might raise funds for the project.

At the moment the scheme is being given a trial and we will review how it is going after a few months to see if it is worth continuing after Ebay have taken their commission. Cath adds that 100% of profits will go to the railway and comments "Anything recieved that I think may better used for a tombola or raffle I will keep for that purpose. Its all about maximising profit as we can"

If you want to donate items please contact Cath by e-mailing her on cathainsley1829@hotmail.com

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Passengers Past

This weekend I have been busy in the shop at Kirkby Stephen East. We have some nice new stock in there - especially some crystal ware that we have ordered in for the '150' celebrations. if you get a chance stop by at the weekend and see what we have on display.

Often when I walk along the Darlington Platform these days I find myself thinking about all those 'passengers past' - the people that must have passed through on trains over the century that the line was working. Even assuming an average of a couple of hundred a day on the half dozen trains then it would add up to more than seven million over the years. That number must have included many famous people but of course we will never know who was on all those trains. It might make an interesting collection  - maybe even a literary competition! - to put together a collection of short stories that shared a common thread of what brought passengers to draw up on the Darlington Platform.

One person that we surely know for example must have often been on trains passing through Kirkby Stephen around the turn of the century would have been the locomotive engineer William Worsdell. When he retired in 1890 he moved to Arnside where he built a beautiful house for his family. But then he must have made frequent trips to see family and colleagues back over to the North East for another 25 years.

But what about all those we don't know about? An ageing Charles Dickens meeting up with friends in 'Barney' maybe? Or Benjamin Disraeli perhaps during the 1868 Election campaign, Marie Lloyd on her way to sing at the Newcastle 'Empire', or General Kitchener headed from Deerbolt Camp to pick up a convoy at Liverpool?

Fact or fiction, there must be a lot you could write about the 'Darlington Platform'.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Cats go everywhere

Our station cat 'Quaker' featured in the '150 Diary' last week when Rieko and Tom from Tokyo came to take her picture for a new Japanese book in preparation on 'Station Cats'. Actually the previous week Sue had sent me this lovely picture of 'Quaker' settled on Mike's lap as he works on 'F.C. Tingey' which might have been handy if we hadn't been able to coax 'Quaker' out of the valve gear.

It is interesting how quickly and easily cats adapt to the interests and passions of their humans. In almost every context from the Amazonian jungles tot he polar ice caps cats seem to happily adapt to events in the the lives of their two-footed friends.

This particularly struck me this week because someone sent me a link to a cat on the deck of a boat involved in some dolphin watching. You can find this amazing little piece of film here.

Friday, 20 May 2011

KSGS visit soon.

I learned yesterday that we are expecting a visit from some of the students from Kirkby Stephen Grammar School before the end of term. Mrs. Rachel Steels, Head of the History Department, hopes to bring her Year 8 students up to Kirkby Stephen East one Wednesday before the summer holidays start.

Year 8 are just beginning their studies on the Industrial Revolution. As part of the project the plan is for one of the students to write up the visit and  I will publish their material either on the main '150 Site' or here on the '150 Diary'.

I am looking forward to receiving their stuff - and I hope I'm around at KSE on the day they visit. I used to love history and geography excursions when I was a teenager. And now we have enough material on site to make for some really interesting educational visits.

It is strange to think that not only does the current generation of students in the area have no idea about the reality of the railway that was once so important to the town, but actually the station was long closed even before their parents were born. Makes me feel old!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

'B1' at 'Barney'?

At our committee meeting yesterday evening David Rayner was showing us a photograph that he had been loaned. It showed when appeared to be an LNER 'B1' Class 4-6-0 at Barnard Castle station. The locomotive was at the head of a train headed westwards.

Now all aficionados of the 'Stainmore Line' will know that B1's were far too big and heavy to pull trains over the Stainmore viaducts.The route was limited to engines light enough to classified RA2 but the B1's were much heavier - RA5.

It is an interesting one and I wondered if any regular readers here could offer any information. I think that on the branch to Middleton-in-Teesdale RA5 engines were - in theory anyway - permitted to haul trains and perhaps this was a special  'Bank Holiday' excursion. But what would you do with such a big engine when it reached the buffers at the end of the single line at Middleton? It doesn't seem plausible.

Thinking about the picture driving home afterwards another possible explanation occurred to me. During the early 1950's there was a considerable traffic in military trains at Barnard Castle moving troops to and from Deerbolt Camp. Some 'big beasts' were used for this traffic - sometimes V2's and on at least one occasion an A1 Pacific. The trains pulled into the platform and then the locomotives ran around the train and hauled it back to Darlington tender first. This picture of a B1 could be one such event

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

'150' leaflet available ...

Committee meeting tonight to talk through the details of the 'Stainmore 150' programme - all the things that need to be done before the end of August. It is a scary list, and we are going to have to work hard to get through it in the fourteen weeks and two days that we have left to finish all the work.

But once good piece of news tonight was that our 1/3A4 'Flyer' leaflets are back from the printers. Copies are already heading to railway centres and museums around England and in Kirkby Stephen you should soon be able to get a copy at the Tourist Information Centre. From Saturday there will also be copies available at Kirkby Stephen East in the shop. The posters should also be soon available.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Bain 'Clerestories'

I was writing up a page for the main '150' web site today about David Bain's stylish coaching stock  used on passenger trains over Stainmore from the late 1890's until about 1945. Somehow I just missed riding in them, my earliest memories of travelling by train involve the later and more prosaic Thomson stock introduced in the late 1940's. But I guess some in the 'gang' at Kirkby Stephen East will remember riding in style in clerestory coaches in late LNER days.

David Bain left York in 1902 to go and work for the Midland Railway where he developed railway coaches very similar to those that he had designed for the North Eastern Railway.

A handful of these coaches survive. In August we are borrowing Diagram 7 No.818 from Beamish. I'm not sure if there will be any opportunity to ride in the vehicle but for the celebrations it will be marshaled next to '910' on the Darlington platform. It was sold on to the NCB by British Railways in 1949 and worked for years on miner's trains at Ashington colliery and so survived to be saved for preservation.

I am looking forward to getting a good 'gander' at No.818 and running a ruler over all that beautiful 'Crimson Lake' side panelling. Back in my garden shed in leafy Chiba Prefecture in Japan I have a stash of 'Plastikard' awaiting my attention this winter, and I am hoping to build a rake of at least four '0' gauge models of Bain clerestory coaches before I get back to Kirkby Stephen East again in Spring 2012.

Monday, 16 May 2011


One aspect of working as a signalman over Stainmore which is probably now almost forgotten was the effect that the aurora borealis could have on the block and telephone circuits between signal boxes. This could occasionally be a problem anywhere in northern Britain but especially on upland lines. In those years of heavy sunspot and geomagnetic activity when an aurora appeared in the northern night sky these magnetic storms could play havoc with those long strands of copper wire stretched from pole to pole across high lonely moorlands.

I remember seeing this happen at the summit box once in the autumn of 1958. It had been dark a couple of hours and we were waiting for the last DMU from Penrith back to Darlington when all the bell circuits and phones started to jangle and the 'train on line' needle began to twitch. But the ringing was erratic and variable, when the train eventually came it was easy to notice the firm 'real' ring from the block telegraph instrument at Belah. I was told that 1947 had been a very bad year for it.

Even confident in the knowledge of the cause it was darn spooky I can tell you.  I wouldn't have fancied working a night shift alone at one of the lonelier boxes with the instruments ringing and dancing through the cold 'wee hours' and the fingers of the aurora creeping up the northern sky!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Seen any cats?

A feline 'interview' on the agenda at Kirkby Stephen East today - a reporter and photographer arrived from Japan to meet our station cat 'Quaker'. Rieko Ishii is a journalist with a Japanese cat magazine and is currently putting together a book on English 'Railway Cats' and 'Quaker' was second on her list this trip. But the feline that she was expecting to meet at Scarborough yesterday failed to show and so Kirkby Stephen turned out to be the first successful photo-shoot in an itinerary that will take then as far south as Devon.

'Quaker' turned up for her first appointment and we got a few photographs but then she got a bit concerned about Rieko's swizzly stick and catnip and disappeared behind the 'Peckett' where photographer Tom Coulton managed to follow her and get some more images. Later she regained her 'cool' and came through the 'motion' onto the footplate to settle down next to Mike, and Tom managed to get some really lovely portraits.

Now we'll have to await the book - in Japanese of course so I'm not sure if we will be stocking copies in the station shop. But of any 'Quaker' aficionados would like a copy let me know and I'll order you one from Tokyo.

The picture shows Rieko and Tom at Kirkby Stephen East with Sue and Mike. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Rare Book

After a long time looking I managed to locate a book this week that has been on my 'little list' for years. "The Darlington and Barnard Castle Railway" was published in 1877 and was described at the time as being written by "An Inhabitant of Barnard Castle". But my copy was part of a small private reprint made in 1925 by Mr. R.T. Richardson of Barnard Castle to coincide with the railway 'Centenary Celebrations'. He records that the original book was actually written by his father Mr. Thompson Richardson who was one of the joint solicitors during the construction of the railway.

The antiquarian bookseller that I bought this volume from believes that the main part of the book has been bound up from original pages printed in 1877 with a new preface set in 1925. In any case in must have been a small print run as a note makes it clear that copies were distributed free to local friends and dignitaries.

If you are looking for details of S&D locomotive and stock rosters and the like from the 1850's I'm afraid that this is not the book for you. It concentrates on the various efforts made to get a Parliamentary Bill to build the line and especially the thorny relationship between the railway promoters and the Duke of Cleveland who was none too keen to have a railway across the estate of Raby Castle. This is the same Duke of Cleveland of course that only five years later was wielding the spade at the 'first sod' ceremony at Kirkby Stephen. But as a first hand from the horse's mouth account of the problems of railway promotion and construction it is absolutely gripping and probably rather relevant to the immediate future of the Stainmore Railway Company too.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Tebay Platform

Here is a view that has long been hidden - the 'Tebay Platform' well has been re-excavated over the past couple of weeks and now a breeze block partition wall has been knocked through to give clear passage from end to end inside. In the distance you can see the Gresley coach stored in the workshop - an area of the building not normally open to visitors. In the foreground the sleepers have been laid and two rails manhandled into position so that the new track panel can be completed. Kirkby Stephen East is a two platform station once again, although it will be some time before this side of the building is restored to its former glory.

The Tebay trainshed roof was removed in the early 1950's leaving just the outer retaining wall on the right here. When the building was sold off as a bobbin factory the wall was lowered a few feet and also shortened by one bay at the far end and a new lean-to roof added - the one which survives here.

Great to see this part of the station building reconnected to the rest of the world once more!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

New 'Summit Sign' laid out ...

Two days ago I put up a picture of the new 'Stainmore Summit' sign being cut for us by Hydram at their factory at Ferryhill and today Mike has sent me a picture of the new sign laid out yesterday afternoon on the shop floor at the works. The operator who created the new sign is Martin Bayliss and in the background is his trusty 4.4Kw Bysprint Pro laser which was used to cut the plates.

I am told that they are heavy! Those are big bits of steel and the assembled sign will be twenty feet long - I certainly wouldn't want to have to carry them up to the top of a tall building!

Amazing the interest the new summit sign is already creating - I guess it is going to be as 'iconic' in its little way as the 'Angel of the North' if on a rather smaller scale and will soon be welcoming travellers on the A66 again as they cross into Westmorland. I am not yet if these plates will be stored at Kirkby Stephen East before they are taken for construction and erection at the summit by the A66 - watch 'Stainmore Diary' for further details. And please don't forget that we still need contributions to Sue Jones to cover the construction costs.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Yesteryear Excursions?

This example of an Edwardian 'Valentine' card (the publisher, not the saint) arrived in my e-mail today from Ann Sandell. It is entitled 'Tebay to Kirkby Stephen Express' but to be honest it doesn't bear TOO close a resemblance to any North Eastern Railway locomotives that I am familiar with! After several pints it might just about pass as a Class 'R' 4-4-0 but maybe I'm taking it all too literally eh? It is a fault of mine.

I like to think that every train to depart our spanking new platform at Kirkby Stephen East in future is going to have a similar carnival air to this. Perhaps we can't literally have cheerful young men in straw 'boaters' perched on the saddle tank of 'F.C.Tingey' nor young couples canoodling  on the front buffer beam. Can't see it going down well with the 'Health and Safety'. I'm thinking of something a tad more symbolic here, even allegorical. When our passengers climb aboard a Stainmore Railway Company train we want the sun to put his hat on and come out and shine! This is how we want them all to FEEL!

Did young testosterone-fuelled twenty-somethings really put on their best suits and blouses in these long vanished 'Harry went to Harrogate' years and head off for a once a year exciting day out in Tebay courtesy of the North Eastern Railway Excursion Department? Dunno. Probably though.

I like the geese too.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ozymandias moment ...

Just had a really exciting photograph mailed to me by Mike Thompson. It shows the new 'Stainmore Summit'' sign being cut today at the Hydram Factory up at Ferryhill. The quality looks amazing. This high technology certainly offers some advantages over the old methods - I wouldn't fancy having to have to cut out all those letters with the aid of only a pillar drill and a few cold steel chisels and bastard files! That is probably how they had to tackle it the first time around.

Seeing this in real steel at last makes me realise what a great project this is. Imagine seeing it of an evening as you come over the brow at the County Boundary and start to dip down into the valley into the westering sun. Even with the track gone it will make an impressive monument casting its shadow over the moor. We need a modern 'Poet Close' to place all this within the weft and warp of language ... I feel an Ozymandias Moment' coming on here ...

But let's not forget that is isn't paid for yet! We have raised enough now to get this initial work completed but we still have a way to go in terms of fundraising before we can actually get that sign cemented into the ground. If you haven't donated so far this would be a good time to do so.

 Anyone generous enough to donate £10 or over will receive a special 'Stainmore 150' commemorative certificate acknowledging their valuable contribution to the re-birth of our railway over August Bank Holiday this year. Please make cheques payable to 'Stainmore Railway Company' and send to:
Stainmore Sign Appeal

Dr Sue Jones 
Secretary to Stainmore Railway Company 
1 West End 
TS21 2BW

Monday, 9 May 2011

A question answered

It is nice to pose a question on this 'Stainmore Dairy and get an answer almost straight. That is what has happened with my question on Saturday "Where were the snow ploughs kept?"

It seems that my guess was 'inspired'. Two of the big NER  six wheel ploughs were generally stored away for winter use on the Engineer's Sidings just under Nateby Road Bridge above Stenkrith. Bryan Blundell, who owns Plough No.18 which will be on site at Kirkby Stephen East in August, sent me a copy of a picture taken in the 1950's of two of the NER Steel Ploughs parked there during the 1950's.

But here is an interesting picture from Mark Keefe. It seems that the routine was that during the summer the Kirkby Stephen ploughs would be hauled up from the storage sidings to the short spur at the west end of the station (exactly where we are currently laying the new platform) for annual maintenance - greasing and oiling and painting. Here is a picture that Mark has supplied of two of the earlier ploughs lined up for attention. It was taken by Eddie Foster, I would guess in the 1930's, and in the doorway of the near plough is Eddie's friend John Harrison.

This is a pretty interesting vehicle on the left too - an original vintage NER Engineer's Brake Van. I have seen a drawing of one exactly like it in a back copy of the Model Railway Constructor from the 1960's.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Vintage Lights

At the moment at Kirkby Stephen East we have the bits and pieces on site for the new 'vintage' platform lights. They are really beautiful modern copies of the traditional gas lights that still graced many stations back in the 1950's.

Here are a couple of pictures that will give you the flavour. The glazed heads for the lights are primed and safely stowed away in a coach to prevent any accidental damage to the glass, and the cast iron standards are at present being stored on the Tebay Platform.

I can't wait to see this lot up and in position and switched on, and especially with the lights on the rest of Darlington Platform also switched on and the platform doors open so that you can stand by the bookshop and see the sweep of the platform lights as they vanish out into the darkness. I think this is going to be one of the really 'special' perspectives of the restored station that will draw people's attention.

Unless you are involved in a committee meeting in the buffet car on a winter's evening you aren't likely to have had the experience of being on the Darlington Platform after dark. Amazing place - one of those spaces where you can really sense the ghosts of generations past crowding into the silence but also a very friendly haunting too.  If Walter de la Mare had been around he would have written a poem about it.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Where were the ploughs kept?

Over the next several days I need to give our 'Stainmore 150' web site a good 'Spring Clean', deleting some outdated content and adding a lot of new material. The 'menu bars' - which are often the hardest thing to keep up to date on a fast changing site - also need some attention.

Today I added a new page on Bryan Blundell's North Eastern Railway snowplough, which will be on site over the Celebration weekend. No.18 normally lives on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and I have included one of Frank Dargue's photographs to show what these ploughs looked like in service. You can find the page here

One point that was in my mind writing this piece up was that I could never remember seeing a snowplough parked up at Kirkby Stephen East, although there must have been one. I guess that it was kept on the little set of engineers sidings just up from the Nateby Road Bridge at Stenkrith. That was quite a shady and secluded spot and I never did take a look at what was kept there over the years.

So - there is today's question - can you remember ploughs standing on that track on the left hand side of the train just as it tucked into the bank on the way to the summit? And what else was kept there?

Friday, 6 May 2011

'Steam Gathering' cancelled

A sad piece of news from Mike Thompson today. He has asked me to let everyone know that the 'Steam Gathering' planned for the 19th June has had to be cancelled. You can find the announcement on the official '150 Celebrations' web site here.

Mike explained that the main problem was that in mid June we have so much space on site committed to preparations for the main events in August, and also that we have very limited volunteer time available for running  events because of the work load of heavy manual work. We could really do with some extra strong and fit volunteers at the moment if there are any out there - failing that I guess that even weak and unhealthy ones like me might be considered.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Return to KSE

Arrived back in Kirkby Stephen Tuesday lunchtime after a long long trip. Somewhere on the main flight from Tokyo I started to sneeze and by the time I arrived at Heathrow on Monday afternoon I had a stonking cold and I had picked up a bronchial cough too by the time I got here. After a visit to the Upper Eden Medical Centre for some antibiotics for the chest and two days 'laid out' here from a combination of jet lag and fever I'm starting to hope that it is past its worst. Let's hope so!

Before it all really closed in on me on Wednesday morning I made a quick trip up to Kirkby Stephen East to take a look at recent progress for myself and took some pictures which I'll share here over the next few days. Apart from surfacing and the fitting of the platform lights work on the main platform extension is almost complete and now this work needs to be connected up with the existing 'Darlington Platform' in the area by Phyllis' flower bed.

What really impressed me though was the extent to which the site had also spread 'sideways' to the south. Although you still can't see it because of an internal wall the connection through to the 'Tebay Platform' is pretty well complete and ready for track and now that platform facing too has been extended west and the foundations for a 'bay' not unlike the original guards van siding here in NER days is being laid.

Over the next few days - as soon as I track down where I packed the lead I need to download pictures from my camera! - I will bring readers up to date.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Fire at Hulands

The sight of all these forest fires on the television news brought to mind for me all those line-side fires that steam locomotives used to cause around the country in dry summers past. I don't remember them being a major issue on the Stainmore line, even in the very dry and hot summer of 1959.

I do remember sometime during that year though that the little station platform on the 'down' line at Hulands Quarry between Lartington and Bowes was set alight by a passing train. It must have been early on a Saturday morning because my grandfather was called out to 'open up' Hulands Box so that they could shunt the work train that was sent to the incident to get it out of the way of the westbound 'Blackpool Special'. That was the only time that I ever got to see inside Hulands Box which was only usually opened up for the pick-up goods.

That platform was built of old sleepers and thickly creosoted to protect the timber which was why it had burned so well. Presumably before and during the war the early Penrith train stopped there on weekdays to drop off workers. But in the dry weather those flying embers from an early Tebay-bound mineral train had made short work of the structure I'm afraid

Monday, 2 May 2011

Desert Song

I used to know someone whose response to any request for help  that was even moderately troublesome was "Bring me a bucket of sand and I'll sing you the 'Desert Song'". Well, here we are - some buckets of sand!

Actually I lie. They are full of water. But back in the 1950's all stations had such red buckets as these, some of which were full of water and some of which - those stencilled 'SAND' in black letters - were full of sand to deal with oil and fat fires. The buckets themselves were galvanised metal. No plastic in those days.

I don't know when these fire buckets became standard equipment on stations. Were they simply a legacy of World War II air raid precautions, or did they go back much earlier to pre-grouping days? But I guess if we want to have Kirkby Stephen East restored as a 1950's Heritage Site it is a detail we need to check out. These triplets were photographed last summer at Grosmont on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Rain, Steam and Speed

Remember the famous painting 'Rain, Steam and Speed' by William Turner? It was painted in 1844 and shows a westbound Brunel broad gauge train crossing the Thames at Maidenhead. It always catches my eye because we don't normally associate the 1840's with going fast by any means of locomotion. And yet just twenty years after the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway passenger trains were already bucketing along at 40-50 mph.

I remembered this picture the other day when I was flicking through Ken Hoole's book on the Stainmore Line. It was published by Dalesman in 1973 and I can't understand why it has never been reprinted - it would certainly sell well in our shop at Kirkby Stephen East. Back then I bought my copy in the newsagents in town for 90p. Now I see there are four second-hand copies on Amazon ranging fro £15 to £38.

Talking of the first passenger train services from Darlington to Tebay in 1861 the author remarks that the fastest - the 3:00PM - took just two hours and five minutes to make the trip. That's a heck of a lick - it would take you an hour in a car today even with the advantage of the dual carriageway over the summit and you wouldn't have seven intermediate stops to make either. Of course in 1861 'Darlington' for the S&D must have meant North Road and not Bank Top but even with a couple of miles saved it must have been an exciting ride bumping around in four-wheeled second class carriages with a William Bouch 4-4-0 banging away at the front of the train!