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September 2014

1st, A day at the NRM
With the summer holidays coming to a close we spent a family day at the National Railway Museum at York, enjoying the locomotive heritage of this superb museum which is always a treat to explore. Indeed two visits are rarely the same, thanks to the fact they move the locos around regularly, whilst in the workshops it was interesting to see the tender and boiler of the "Flying Scotsman".

2nd, Wold Garth
Three species of Hawker dragonfly were seen on the site this afternoon, whilst butterfly species were represented by Large & Small Whites, a single and rather faded Holly Blue, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, a couple of Red Admirals, and a few Speckled Woods.

5th, Beverley Parks
A Spotted Flycatcher was seen this morning near the livery along Long Lane, a species which has proven very elusive this year.

12th, NYMR Diesel Gala
On Friday we attended the first day of the ‘Diesel Gala’ up at the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors Railway on what was a largely cloudy but nevertheless bright and warm sort of mid-September day. Unfortunately two of the locos which had been booked to attend this year’s gala had to pull out, with works on the Class 47 having not been completed whilst the Class 50 ‘Valiant’ suffered from Network Rails dreaded ‘gauging issues’. This did mean that this years gala was to be honest a little light as regards locomotive variety but despite this we had a good day, further good news coming from the fact that the cottage at Grosmont should be legally ours by the end of next week.

Of course the star of the show for me was the Class 55 Deltic No. 55002 ‘The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’ (or KOYLI), these former East Coast Mainline beasts being my undisputed favourite class of diesel locomotive. As I have written before the distinctive sound and sheer presence of these fast accelerating locos always makes for an impressive spectacle and I only wish that the NYMR had one as a member of its home fleet.

The two other guest locos were also interesting, with a Pioneer Class 37 D6700 looking superb in British Railways Green livery, while a Class 31 was represented by 31466 in EWS Maroon and Yellow colours. The latter loco had come from the Dean Forest Railway via the East Lancashire Railway whilst D6700 had come from the National Railway Museum at York.

From the NYMR home fleet two locos were also in action, with Class 37 37264 and Class 25 D7628 ‘Sybilla’ providing additional traction, the 37 looking particularly striking in its BR Large Logo livery when it ran as a double-header with the Pioneer Class 37. All in all an enjoyable gala and it was a just a shame that other commitments meant that we could only attend the first day of what I am sure was a successful gala for the NYMR.

14th, Mixed Traffic Gala at the NVR
On Sunday we made the two hour drive down the A1 to the Nene Valley Railway, a small heritage railway which operates from Peterborough in the east to Yarwell in the west. This would be our first visit to this 7 and a half mile long railway in the north of Cambridgeshire and with the promise of some interesting and varied locomotives and rolling stock we were very much looking forward to a good day out. The weather, as has been the case throughout most of September so far, was a mixture of sunny spells and intermittent cloudier periods with temperatures in the mid to high teens.

Soon after our arrival at the railway’s HQ at Wansford we unfortunately learnt that the LNER Class A1 No.60163 ‘Tornado’ had been declared a failure with what was a relatively minor but nevertheless a significant enough problem which could only be fixed once the loco had had time to cool down sufficiently. This was obviously a major disappointment, especially as this may be my last opportunity to see this loco before it goes for its intermediate overhaul after which it will be reverting to a green livery (whether this will be BR green or LNER green I don’t know yet), but at least it was out in the yard at Wansford so that we and the other visitors could see and photograph this beautiful piece of engineering.

Despite the loss of the ‘Tornado’ plenty of motive power was provided by a variety of locos, including a 9F in the form of No.92212, a Standard 5 No.73000, a Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST No.3844 (working as United Steel Company No.22), and a visiting USATC S160 in the shape and form of No.6046. This last locomotive is one which we are quite familiar with, the loco having spent much of last summer up on the NYMR in which it time it performed admirably, and it was nice to see this powerful and well-travelled engine once more. The rolling stock is also worthy of mention here at NVR, especially the dark blue liveried carriages of ‘The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Europeens’, certainly a welcome change from the otherwise generic range of BR carriages found at most heritage railways.

20th-21st, SVR Autumn Gala
Last week we enjoyed a very enjoyable stay down in the beautiful rolling countryside of Shropshire and Worcestershire with our principal reason for visiting being to attend the Severn Valley Railway’s Autumn Gala, which this year was four days long rather than the usual three. However since we only arrived on the Friday afternoon we only managed to attend two days of the Gala, but we did at least get to see the night-time running on Saturday night, a wonderful spectacle which will not be soon forgotten.

The weather was pretty grim on the Saturday of the gala with low cloud and periods of drizzle, hardly brilliant photographic conditions, but thankfully the weather changed dramatically for the better on Sunday with clear blue skies and sunshine for a good part of the day.

Locos on show were primarily of western origin, not really surprising given the SVR’s Great Western Railway heritage, with GWR Class 7800 No.7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’, GWR Class 2800 No.2857, GWR Class 1500 No.1501 (a loco which was up at my home in Grosmont this past weekend for the NYMR autumn gala), GWR Class 1400 No.1450, and GWR Class 4500 No.4566 (all these GWR loco classes are a nightmare to remember!). A bit of extra diversity was provided by a S&DJR 7F, with No.88 looking good in its inaccurate but nevertheless attractive S&DJR dark blue livery, as well as a number of locos from the Southern Region, including LSWR M7 No.30053, re-built West Country/Battle of Britain Class No.34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’, and a few LMS type locos including LMS Ivatt Class 4 No.43106, LMS 4F No.43924 (familiar to anyone whom has visited the K&WVR), and finally BR Standard 5 No.73129.

As an LNER man I was somewhat out of my element with all of these ‘Western’ locos but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about these beautiful pieces of engineering which one can’t deny look very handsome indeed with their dark green livery and copper rimmed chimneys.

With this also being our first ever visit to the SVR it was an additional pleasure to simply explore this beautiful heritage railway, which along the Moors, the West Somerset, and the Bluebell is considered one of the premier railways in the United Kingdom. For the most part the stations were very pretty, especially the ‘rural’ stations such as Arley, Bewdley, Highley and most of all Hampton Loade which looked glorious with an abundance of late summer and early autumn flowers, though Kidderminster and Bridgnorth were somewhat disappointing and dreary in comparison. However the yard at Bridgnorth was interesting to see and the ‘Railwayman’s Arms’ was a good place to enjoy a relaxing drink during any of the quieter periods on the railways schedule.

24th. Welshpool & Llanfair Railway
During our holiday in Shropshire we also crossed the border and visited the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway (WLLR) in Powys, this being my first visit to Wales since my childhood, and despite initial misgivings I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this undoubtedly beautiful country. In fact the recent referendum in Scotland, in which my former fellow countrymen thankfully voted for common sense (though only just!), has in many ways made me appreciate the UK even more than I used too and this of course includes the Welsh just as much as it does the Scots and the English.

25th, Iconic diesels at the SVR
As I am sure I have written previously heritage diesel locomotives are one of my great passions and interests, these massively powerful workhorses being oft overlooked by many railway enthusiasts in favour of the ‘kettles’, and indeed the Severn Valley Railway for the most part reflects this general attitude with diesel running being kept very much to a minimum along the line. Now I fully understand the reasons for this as undoubtedly the vast majority of visitors to the SVR are hoping for steam-hauled services, but when the line currently possesses two of the most iconic diesel classes in British railway history in the shape of a Class 52 (aka ‘Westerns’) and a Class 55 (aka ‘Deltics’) then one feels they could make better use of them. Indeed I am sure there would be other lines out there which would greatly appreciate such high quality locos on their railways.

Though Deltics remain my favourite diesel class, I have to say I was really excited about seeing my first ‘Western’, as these western region locos do have a look and sound all of their own. Only the Class 42 ‘Warships’ have a similar profile, these two classes and the Class 35 ‘Hymeks’ being often referred collectively to as ‘Hydraulics’ thanks to their unique hydraulic transmissions, but it is the ‘Western’ Class 52 which is the peak of this unique motive power experiment which in the end was doomed to failure for reasons not entirely the fault of the locos design.

The other iconic diesel was the Class 55 ‘Deltic’ No. 55019 ‘Royal Highland Fusilier’, a loco I saw back at Barrow Hill earlier in the year, and though it was strange to see one of these East Coast Mainline powerhouses on a small western branch-line deep in former GWR territory it was nevertheless a special treat. The Deltic design was by and large a far more successful design than the ‘Westerns’ and when they were unveiled they were the most powerful diesel locomotives in the world, producing 3,300 b.h.p but weighing ‘only’ 100 tons. Only six of the original 22 have survived into preservation but with a strong following and an enthusiastic fan-base (myself included) the future looks good for the ‘King of the Diesels’.

27th, NYMR Autumn Gala
It was the autumn gala up here along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway today and with plenty of sunshine and fine weather the gala appeared to be a huge success with massive crowds here in Grosmont on Saturday afternoon. The theme for this year’s autumn gala was distinctly ‘Great Western’, with all three guest locos coming from the GWR stables, but the NYMR’s home fleet ensured that a real mixture of locos would be on show for the visiting public with NER, LNER, LMS, and BR classes all being represented. It was an additional relief that all the locos, by and large, performed faultlessly with no significant failures to report (in contrast to the Spring Gala!) and this additionally allowed a number of freight runs between Grosmont & Goathland, for me always one of the highlights of any gala.

The star guest, at least to my eyes, was the beautiful GWR Castle Class No.5029 ‘Nunney Castle’, this iconic class of 4-6-0 steam locomotives from the Great Western Railway stable being one of the most successful designs in the history of all British railways which even I as a LNER fan have to admit is a superb and absolutely beautiful piece of engineering. In fact my recent exposure to GWR locos, both up here and down at the Severn Valley, has made me appreciate them more than I used too and I have to admit they continue to grow on me the more I see of them. Indeed fortunately another two were up here at the Gala this past weekend, with GWR 2800 Class No.2807, a 2-8-0 loco class designed for heavy freight work throughout the former Great Western region, and GWR 1500 Class No.1501, a 0-6-0 pannier tank loco which is the last remaining example of its class.

From the home fleet the star for many visitors was of course the LNER A4 Pacific 4-6-2 No.60007 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’, this iconic class of locomotive always being a crowd favourite what with their distinctive curved and stream-lined appearance which makes them instantly recognisable. Indeed before anyone accuses me of becoming a GWR fan-boy I would happily point out that the only two locos that most members of the public have ever heard of, ie. the Mallard and the Flying Scotsman, were both LNER locos and that is something that no LMS, SR or indeed GWR fan can really realistically argue against! Further LNER or NER traction was provided by my personal favourite the LNER B1 No.61264 (which is still running as No.61034 ‘Chiru’), as well as recently restored NER Q6 No.63395. Other home locos included the two LMS Black Five’s of No.45428 ‘Eric Treacy’ and No.44806, BR Standard 4MT No.75029 ‘The Green Knight’ and the ever popular Lambton Colliery tank of No.29 ‘Peggy’.

30th, Grosmont
A Nuthatch was seen in our yard and in the little riverside garden today. Meanwhile a skein of Pink-footed Geese were seen heading south at Darnholm.