Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Teak and trackbeds

6th February 2011

I used to try Google-ing myself out of curiousity and up until a couple of years ago you’d be hard-pressed to find anything of me. About the only reference on the ‘net was Andrew and me appearing on “Scrapheap Challenge” in 2004, but Channel 4 took that page down a year or two ago. Now though, you get all sorts of hits, with this Railnuts blog high amongst them.

This has resulted in some of the readers over the last few weeks including some of my fellow schoolchildren from primary school days, and a friend whom I’d lost touch with, who works for a European rail equipment manufacturer – an A4-freak and coming to England to ride the “Great Britain IV” in April. But you will also find on the ‘net a Pete Briddon who, on a Labour Party website, sings the praises of one G.Brown Esq. He, I hasten to say, is not me. But I wonder if he ever Googles himself and is embarassed to find his name associated with all these railway engines?… One reader on here questions whether “I have a life” outside of railways. May I assure you that Railways do not monopolise 100% of my existence, though obviously such other activities are scarcely relevant to “Railnuts”!

So anyway, Andrew was off back to the girlfriend’s place on Friday, and taking advantage of the ‘free’ Saturday, I planned a bit of commercial work (a repair inspection) up north and Steph came along for the ride. That I was headed in that direction unfortunately suited Andrew, who had a deal set up with Dave Shell of the Aln Valley Railway, so had me head further north to complete said swap. On the way up I took a look at the Stephenson Railway Museum in Newcastle. A mile or so north of the Tyne Tunnel, this rather uninspiring set-up (from the outside) looks like a spare factory unit (all around is an industrial estate) with a half-mile of track attached. The Museum itself wasn’t open, but outside was a selection of BR-vintage carriages (for visitor rides), and bit farther up, an all-too-obvious Gresley Teak carriage, partly in BR blue, partly still varnished teak but mostly unprotected, decaying wood. It seems this belongs to the Council, who refuse to dispose of it to somewhere like the NYMR (who I’m told have been after it) but are doing nothing to conserve it. Carriages are not my thing, but it seems a bit of a shame to me.

One Gresley carriage in need of TLC

The gaudy livery of the Alco comes from its time at McLarens Antiques, Oswestry

Anyway, we ended up at Alnmouth station to meet Dave Shell, who then piloted us up to Longhoughton, alongside the ECML, where the AVR has had a “base of operations” for the last few years. Amongst the collection of not inconsiderable trifles is this Alco BoBo, built in the USA and imported just after the war as part of getting the South Wales steelworks modernised, so it’s a big so-and-so, but from the sublime to the ridiculous sat next to it are two “Kof” 4wDMs. These tichy locos, about 15tonners, were once widespread on the German rail network – no Bahnhof complete without one – but are now getting so long in the tooth that spares are something of a problem.

The Kofs

The deal completed, Dave took us back to the trackbed. The AVR recently got the go-ahead and first working parties are concentrating on clearing the alignment and rectifying drainage issues which have over the last 40 years, allowed the trackbed to be scoured. It reminded me rather of the South Tynedale, though the AVR will be a single track s.g. line with a footpath alongside. Phase 1 (they hope to lay the first rails next month) will take them from a new terminus by the A1 (the old Alnwick station is now a Antiques emporium – it was on ‘Antiques Roadtrip’ a few weeks ago) down to the bridge below. Such is the oddity of legislation that apparently to build a railway under the bridge and on round to Alnmouth station will require a T&WO. Still I suppose they could offer a “Walk-and-Ride” service in the meantime…

Alnmouth ahead, Alnwick behind, somewhere round t'back of Hipsburn

Sunday: Steph and I headed back over to Rowsley. I had popped in during the week and found that 14 901 and the Brush 0-6-0DE had been moved from outside the loco shed to a siding, which was largely occupied by some HNRC locos from the HST collection that are due to depart. So arriving on Sunday I could see the Brush, but no 14, so had a slight flutter lest it had been loaded on to a low-loader by mistake! But no, 14 901 had been called on to move D8 ‘PenyGhent’ and a rail test vehicle out the shed, since an air-brake supply was needed. Steph and I were there to tweak yet more bits of ply to make them fit round the windows, and when Andrew arrived, he went off to continue parts recovery from D9500. About half-twelve Paul Wainwright arrived, as I’d promised him some tuition on Andrew’s Vanguard “Charlie”. On the way I picked up Peak Rail’s joint MD Roger Hallatt, and spent an hour or so taking them through daily checks and controls, and shuffled the loco up and down a siding. Away south, part of the line from Darley to Matlock had become a causeway, with water on either side, and a tree had come down foul of the load gauge, such has been the weather over the last few days. A party dashed off with bushsaws to deal with the tree, but not before some of the carriges had a slight scratch. Returning to 14 901, I completed re-terminating parts of the control box, before firing the loco up and returning D8 and the test vehicle to the shed.

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