Saturday, 6 June 2009

A Soggy Day At The Statfold Barn Railway...

Today, Saturday June 6th 2009, can only be described with the following three words:- wet, wet & wet! However, this did not stop us visiting the fantastic Statfold Barn Railway near Tamworth. This private multi-gauge railway offers almost everthing to the steam enthusiast, with gauges ranging from 7.25" to standard! I make no apologies for the length of this post as there is just so much to say! Firstly, the railway is owned by Mr Graham Lee, who bought the Hunslet Engine Company a few years ago. Statfold Barn Farm, his home, then became the early beginnings of what we see today. Today was the railway's "Summer Open Day", one of three such day's held each year but it seemed the complete opposite to summer! The continous pouring rain didn't allow for many good pictures but I got what I could and you'll see a good few below. Though split into different sections, the current SBR features the following gauges:-7.25", 10.25", 2ft, 2ft 6" & standard gauge. First however, I will explain the layout of "Statfold Station" & yard.
Statfold Yard begins outside the multi-gauge locomotive running shed. There are three roads in this particular shed, one of which continues straight through and out of a rear door. The left hand road is 2ft gauge only, the centre road is 2ft, 2ft 6" & standard gauge whilst the right hand road is dual 2ft & 2ft 6". This allows for a great variety of locomotives to be both stored & steamed in or around this shed. There is also a water tower and overhead gantry crane here.The centre road leads through the running shed and back outside onto a compact turntable which has the ability to turn engine's of up to 50 tons in weight. From the turntable, the locomotive's can run onto a mutli-gauge traverser which allows the road to be set to another 3-road shed, a storage shed. This is used for overall storage of engine's when they are not in steam. For example, inside today was the "bottom-end" of a standard gauge 0-6-0 Austerity Saddle Tank which is under restoration at Statfold. On the traverser today was a standard gauge 0-6-0 locomotive chassis awaiting overhaul. Next door to this storage shed is the "boiler shop". I took a look inside and work on the Austerity's boiler is well under way, as is work on the boiler from the 0-6-0 which stood on the traverser. On the other side of the storage shed is the "Hunslet Museum". This is filled with many gems including nameplates, lamps, signs and, the best bit, a 10.25" Royal Scott 4-6-0 locomotive in LMS Crimson livery.
Opposite the side-door entrance to the "Hunslet Museum" are the main machine shops. These have no rail access but are filled with massive machinery which has the ability to overhaul even the largest locomotive's. The size of the machines is almost intimidating(!) but they are very useful pieces of kit for their purposes. Even standard gauge locomotive wheels can be "turned" on the lathes inside the machine shops. Down the yard from the machine shops is a final storage shed which is filled with road vehicles. Inside today was the quaint Simplicity Steam Roller "Emily" & massive Marshall Traction Engine "Mary" to name just a few. There is also a collection of vintage tractors and another massive collection of name/works plates. Statfold Yard seemingly has it all! Now for the track layout outside the running shed. Coming "off shed", the narrow gauge locomotive's work down the hill and their 3 roads diverge into 1. They then go through "Statfold Jnc" from which they can access the 2-platform "Statfold Station" by reversal. The standard gauge line however continues across the path of the narrow gauge tracks and then turns sharply left before descending the hill. This is the end of the standard gauge line at present although their are, as I hear, big plans for it still to come. So, lets talk about the "Field Railway", Statfold's main running line which begins at "Statfold Station". The "Field Railway" features dual 2ft & 2ft 6" gauge track throughout. Beginning at Statfold Station, the line leaves Statfold passing the hedged "Garden Railway" enclosure on the right. Trains take a casual pace here as there is a 'blind' curve just before entering the fields. Once around this sharp curve, the trains accelerate downgrade before coasting towards Oak Tree Halt. Here there is a small platform, water point and passing loop. The train is now in the open fields where the SBR's other concern, Statfold Seed Oils, takes its produce from! The trains do occasionally carry the produce too! How useful! From Oak Tree Halt, the trains carefully descend a very sharp downward gradient before curving tightly to the left. They then accelerate along a partially level section of track before arriving at the 'Baloon Loop' which heralds the end of the "Field Railway". The loop is around 1.5 miles from Statfold, though any other trains can be seen in the distance. Trains traverse the loop fully before, in today's case, awaiting the arrival of another train from Statfold to crossover with. Once the other train arrives, the locomotive is off again. Quick acceleration is needed before climbing the steep section of the line to Oak Tree Halt, usually with a quite a loud bark! At Oak Tree, the train's cross again before continuing back to Statfold, arriving in either of the platforms, depending on which is free. On the field railway, passengers travel in mainly enclosed carriages. (The two seen in the above picture are very very comfortable and warm inside with a lovely interior finish and offering great riding qualities). Now for the equally fantastic "Garden Railway". Originally built as an oval around the lake in the beautifully manicured gardens, the line first featured 2ft gauge only. Then, in more recent times, it has been edited to also feature 7.25" & 10.25" gauges as well. However, the two smaller gauges do not link fully, with a 4ft or so gap being left incomplete due to the line not being able to cross a set of the 2ft gauge points. This set of points links the Garden Railway to the Field Railway so cannot be altered as yet. Usually, the Garden Railway feautres 2ft gauge 1-coach running with a small steam loco. However, today there was something a little different. Graham Lee's 0-4-0 7.25" GWR 'Midge' tank and a Kerr Stuart 'Wren' of the same gauge, were out & about top and tailing a 2-coach train around the line! It was lovely to see the pair trundling around the lake and past the impressive Statfold House. The above image shows the 'Midge' hauling one of the trains anti-clockwise around the circuit. The 'Garden Railway' was the first railway at Statfold, with the 'Field Railway' being built afterwards due to Mr Lee not being able to find a steam locomotive suitable for its very tight curves. However, the Garden line is very beautiful, scenic and atmospheric. It also features a small locomotive shed and fully working signalbox.
OK, so thats a general overview of the fantastic (you can't say it isn't!) Statfold Barn Railway. So here is the list of locomotive's that ran today:-
*0-4-0 O & K Shunter WTT "Pakis Baru No1" (Built 1900, 2ft 6")
*0-4-4-0 O & K Mallet "Pakis Baru No5" (2ft 6")
*0-4-2 Krauss "Sragi No1" (Built 1899, Restored Last Year, 2ft)
*0-4-0 Cabless Quarry Hunslet "Jack Lane" (Built at Statfold in 2006,2ft)
*0-4-2 Hunslet "Trangkil No4" (Built 1971, Repatriated from Java, 2ft)
*0-6-0 Peckett Saddle Tank "Harrogate" (No2050 of 1944, 2ft)
*0-6-0 O & K Tendered Shunter "Max" (Restored This Year)
*0-4-0 La Meuse Side Tank (Built 1926, Failed)
*Fowler Steam Roller (Ticking Over In The Car Park Happily)

Also hiding behind the scenes, which I expected to be out, was 1945-built 2-4-0 Bagnall Side Tank "Isibutu". On top of the engine's that were in steam were many hiding at differing locations around the site. One place which seemed to attract everyone's attention was the "Overflow Shed", located at Oak Tree Halt, which was open between 1pm & 2pm only. Inside this shed were even more gems from chassis', boilers & living vans up to Steam Roller's and carriages. One engine that I saw hidden away was 0-6-0 ex-Metheran (India) No740 which I rode behind at Leighton Buzzard back in 2004. Also, two big surprises that I found in the shed were two massive and newly restored American Heavy Haulage Lorries ('Rig's)! They looked beautiful with their black & red liveries shining. On the standard gauge storage line at Statfold was the ex-Falmouth Docks Hawthawn Leslie 0-4-0 which I fired at Shackerstone when it visited last year. She stood silent along with two industrial diesel loco's. I also enjoyed a footplate ride, thanks to one of my Shackerstone collegue's who was crewing, aboard the lovely "Pakis Baru No1". We were hauling the "Seed Oil" train which was made up of 4 seed wagons and a brake van. I was surprised to see that the engine didn't have any self braking apart from her hand brake. How unusual! This did seem to make things a little bit scary when we descended the steep Oak Tree Bank in the pouring rain! Wet brake blocks equal hardly any braking! But it was a very enjoyable trip and my thanks go to my collegue for his hospitality on the footplate. The best place from which to see any railway is of course the footplate of a steam locomotive! I was surprised at the small amount of coal needed for the journey's in each directon but the locomotive wasn't working very hard. I was also surprised at how smoothly the locomotive rode the track considering she is only an 0-4-0 locomotive which usually tend to 'rock' around on the rails due to their small wheelbases. But, all in all, a very nice run and my appreciation is endless! Well done to all Statfold staff and of course Mr Lee for another sucessful, if very very wet(!), Statfold event which, as always, definately impressed the crowds. (The above view is the line between Oak Tree Halt & Statfold from the footplate of No1, built in 1900). I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and having become "too" bored! I hope it has been of interest to you all in some way. If you want to visit the Statfold Barn Railway the main thing to remember is that it is "Private"! You have to book in advance and the tickets are then posted to you. Tickets are not sold for any of the events 'on the day'. However, if you get the chance, it is an amazing place to visit, especially when the weather is nice! I would recommend it to anybody and it is probably a "must visit" place for any steam enthusiast because there is just so many pieces of interest there! There is one more SBR event this year, to be held in September, with the next one being in March 2010. I would advise you to book early to avoid dissapointment as these events are usually sold out! Thanks for reading! More Posts Coming Soon!

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