Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of station layouts and out and abouts

5th April 2015


Ah, a portion of my faith in human nature has been restored. For in the latest Railways Illustrated has appeared a picture of 03 901 taken during the lunch break on the February 28th tour, and a write up to go with it that has managed to get all the details correct.

TNT finally made it to Briddon Country Pile on Monday, but not before I'd erected a large signboard, (with the TNT logo in full colour to get his attention, and an arrow pointing him in right direction) on the edge of the estate where he couldn't fail to see it when he drove in. Even then he told us that he'd rung through for directions but they'd given him a completely wrong contact number. In contrast, later in the week, a local carrier from Derby phoned up having missed the house but as I was at the works at the time, obligingly detoured down and I took it off with the forklift.

A week or so ago Andrew acted as intermediary for Toby and Stephen on an auction site (not e-bay!) where a batch of engines were up for sale. The engines Andrew was interested in had too high a reserve price, but Toby wanted a spare Rolls-Royce C6T for a loco shortly to be arriving at Scunthorpe, and that at least turned out to have a  reserve within financial reach. Andrew won it and transferred Toby's money to me to pay the auctioneers (my bank processes payments to new payees quicker than his). The engine was duly collected and run up briefly at Scunthorpe at the weekend. Aside from failing to notice a plastic cap on the oil system (where the gauge line comes off,) which resulted in a volunteers car getting an unexpected oil bath, the engine runs fine with a surprisingly clean exhaust. The video we've seen suggests that it was first burning off preservative, so might be a fully-overhauled engine that had not been used. If so, he got a bargain.

What with the poor weather, the month end, stock taking and the presence of our two-year old grandson, this week has not been very productive from the collection point of view. But I did give myself enough time to get the little relay board assembled, and that will be my primary task next Saturday when if all goes to plan, we return to Scunthorpe. I just need to decide how to mount the board within the instrument panel – preferably without having to detach the panel from the studs that hold it to the cab bulkhead. We also had a hunt through the container and located a couple of wiper motors, from an auction after Jarvis folded,  that ought to be about right to replace the seized one on 03 901, but I need to test them before the weekend and check.

Young grandson was due to go back to his Mum late Saturday afternoon, and as Andrew is determined that he should be brought up properly (i.e. railway-biased) and there had been no opportunity for a train ride, Saturday was allocated to remedying that deficiency in his current education. Originally we had planned on the Northampton and Lamport, but then Andrew spotted that services were cancelled for technical reasons, so he considered Leighton Buzzard, which would suited me fine as it must be 30 years since I was last there, and I am old enough to record my first visit when it was called the “Iron Horse Rail Road” and was going to be an American themed line (though Alf Fisher's vertical boilered DeWinton didn't quite say 'transatlantic') but the train times didn't fit in with the hand-over time at the end of the day.  So Leighton Buzzard must wait for another time and instead the four of us journeyed down to the Nene Valley.
 
Although Andrew has had a cab ride in one of the 14s, I have never made the journey in any form so it was new to me, though I have been at Wansford many times. Operational on Saturday was Hunslet 16” 0-6-0ST “Ring Haw” from the North Norfolk railway, and handling 4 coaches with apparent ease, although the route does not seem to offer any significant gradients.

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The line, some 7.5 miles in length, is roughly twice the length of Peak Rail and since most passengers join at Wansford, which is towards one end of the route, the idea is to go west, then come back through Wansford and continue to Peterborough in the east though of course you can get off at any station  along the way or at the ends. Peak Rail will have a similar set up when the section north to Rowsley village gets built.

Wansford's car park was almost full by 11.30 but we found space and had just reached the station building when the train rolled in from Peterborough and grandson became more interested. Having bought the tickets, you are directed through the shop on to the platform (as every good heritage railway should – the natural flow for arriving and departing passengers should be to ensure maximum temptation to buy the goodies/souvenirs on show).

I watched this go wrong at Llanuwchllyn many years ago. When Llanuwchllyn station was built, it was the first and biggest intermediate station between Bala and Dolgellau, and even then it wasn't much.  When the GWR took over, it added a loop, second platform and signal box, and a northwards extension to the back of the station building as a ticket office, the augment the basic facilities of waiting rooms, plus Ladies and gets toilets to one side.

And so it was when the Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid took over the site in 1970. The key man, George Barnes, acquired the timber waiting rooms from the station at Morfa Mawddach (Barmouth Junction) which were duly added at the west end to form an eating area for a cafe, but passengers entered simply by walking on to the platform.  After 70 years the GW building extension however had started a slow movement north, away from the original structure, and the toilets, well, the gents urinals were made up of large pieces of slate. Appropriate to the area, yes, but not what the paying punters expect.  You have to draw the line of authenticity somewhere.

Anyway, the story went that representatives of the Wales Tourist Board visited, one went to the gents and on his re-emergence, introduced the topic of a grant for improved passenger facilities.  Never one to miss an opportunity, George and the other Directors agreed at once and over 1979-80, the building was transformed into what it is today. The architect drew up a good scheme. As the prevailing window blows up the valley from Dolgellau, the new main entrance was to be at the Bala side of the building. That brought you past new toilets on the site of the old GW extension, to a new ticket office set at one side of the old waiting room. There, the old access door onto the platform was to be blocked, forcing the passengers through a newly-created sales and cafe vending area and on to a new doorway through to the platform.

But George couldn't see the point of blocking one door to create another. For that matter, he couldn't see the point of the new entrance, and worse still, he decided there was a draft so proceeded to erect a glazed partition opposite the ticket office, thus making the sales and cafe vending areas a branch off to the side and a bottleneck to get in or out. Even today (well, when I was last there anyway), the glazed partition has gone, making some improvement, but the main entrance doors remain locked and the logical flow from arrival to platform, giving the punters time to buy refreshments and brows the profitable goodies you have for sale, simply isn't there.

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But the NVR has got it right and I am sure their profitability is the better for it. Our train was waiting on the platform, but on the adjacent line was a small TPO set, powered by a class 14, which promptly set off eastwards  as part of a “Mail by Rail” promotional event, starring “Postie Pete” (no relation). We took our seats and headed west to Yarwell, where “Ring Haw” ran round and took us back, through Wansford, Ferry Meadows and Orton Mere stations, to Peterborough, where we were in sight of the ECML.

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For part of our run east, and our return west, we were joined by Dave S, part owner of Swedish Railways railcar “Helga”, who was popping back to Ferry Meadows to collect some tools. On his return to Wansford he disappeared off to fire up “Helga” which was due in service today (Sunday), while we wandered over the station and took grandson into the model railway, which exists in a Mk3 carriage  on the northern side of the station. I have always liked long, thin layouts – they seem as through the trains are actually going somewhere – and the long, narrow body gives ample space for doing just that. Grandson could stand and watch the trains go by, and was enthralled – just how much so we realised when it was time to move on, his vociferous objections could probably be heard in Ferry Meadows.

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From Wansford we headed on to meet up with an old friend and regular reader, Roger W and his wife, for an hour or so's natter before it was time to pass grandson over to his Mum for another couple of weeks. The house is much quieter now.

Anyway, the weather was good today and we have spent some time at the open-air workshops. Terry had been by last night and dropped off some clean 45 gallon drums, and Andrew was giving me a hand on some of those “other jobs” that keep everything going. Peak Rail trains passed by from time-to-time (though not, to our eyes, as busy as the NVR trains had been yesterday).

Andrew is off work this week and we have quite a lot planned, culminating, as I have said, with a trip over to Scunthorpe to progress work on the 03, its vac system, that undiagnosed screech and its electrics.  Drop by next week and see how we've done.

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