Saturday, 28 February 2015

An Industrial's Home: Chasewater Railway...

Hello everyone. Today we had planned a day out to the Chasewater Railway. I hadn't been for 10 years or so and as they had 5 engines in steam for their Winter Gala we felt a visit was worthwhile. 'Eddie the Late' picked me up just after half 9 and we continued via Nuneaton to pick up John. We arrived at Chasewater at around 10:45am and bought a ticket before grabbing a cuppa'. We then caught the 11:20am Brownhills West to Chasetown service behind Hunslet "Holly Bank No3". This 0-6-0 saddle tank is actually "Darfield No1", No3783 of 1953. Three similar engines lived locally at Holly Bank, hence the identity change...
Departing Brownhills West slightly late, bright blue "Holly Bank" steamed around and across the Causeway before arriving at Chasewater Heaths station. After a brief passenger stop, she continued along the final section to the terminus at Chasetown (Church Street) station. The railway is 2 miles long in total and winds its way along the edge of Chasewater. On this chilly Winter day, the wind was cutting! At Chasetown the passenger train pulled into the platform whilst a coal train waited to depart for Brownhills in the run round loop. At the head of the train stood a long term Chasewater visitor; Bagnall 0-4-0ST "Kent No2" (2842 of 1946)...
With a loud blast on her Stanier-type hooter, "Kent No2" got away with the coal wagons rumbling along behind her. Standing alongside "Holly Bank" at the head of the station was the main reason for my visit: "Nechells No4". Built by RSH as No7684 of 1951, "Nechells" is a large 0-6-0 side tank capable of moving well over 1000 tons. Industrials such as this were some of the biggest made and worked their hearts out in power stations. No4 actually worked with our "Richard III" and was based at Shackerstone in her early preservation days. Having been partially restored at Shack, she spent a long time working on the Foxfield railway before moving to Chasewater a couple of years ago. However, this would be her last gala appearance with time ticking away on her boiler certificate, which ends pretty soon. It was nice to see the big RSH in action and looking so well...
Having admired "Holly Bank" & "Nechells", the latter steamed away to take up her place at the head of our service back to Brownhills. Departing Chasetown slightly late, the RSH got the 2-coach train moving without even a breath. Then came the traditional 'Industrial Waddle': the to and fro, the fore and aft. Big outside cylinders and little unbalanced wheels always come together to make industrials bumpy for passenger work. However, one must remember that they were never designed for this purpose. Having alighted from the train at Chasewater Heaths after a very short run from Chasetown, we spotted the gala visitor.

The visitor is an ex-Teddy Boston engine: "Teddy". This 0-4-0 Peckett 'Yorktown' class is a diminutive saddle tank of only 11-tons in weight. One of the smallest standard gauge loco's ever made, the locomotive made a preservation debut at Shackerstone under the care of Teddy Boston: click here for a video of Teddy driving it: dog collar and all. When her boiler ticket expired she was moved to Teddy's Cadeby Light Railway and plinthed on the front garden. When the CLR closed in 2005, the engine was purchased and restored and, following another ownership change, is now owned by former Steam Railway Magazine editor Gary Boyd-Hope. The 1941-built baby Peckett is seen here at Chasewater Heaths...
A stark contrast in size compared to "Teddy", the huge bulk of No4 prepares to depart...
Up in the loft of Chasewater Heaths station is a rather impressive G-Gauge model railway which is well worth a look. A work in progress, the guys were busying themselves with various improvement tasks whilst the trains continued to run...
Walking down from the loft we caught the 'Bay Train' (a brakevan and riding van combination) back to Brownhills. The Bay set was being top & tailed by "Teddy" and Andrew Barclay "Colin McAndrew". We rode in the Shark-type brakevan back to Brownhills and thankfully remained inside the guards covered section as the front veranda was dead level with the Barclay's chimney. I said to the lads that the people there would get covered and my, my did they?! There were quite a few ruined coats and oily faces I can tell you! The Bay train took us back into the goods platform at Brownhills before pulling forward again...
We walked back up onto the platform in the hope of getting some lunch as it was now just before 1pm. The café at Brownhills is pleasant and warm, though the service is tremendously slow. We spotted one lady working away doing food, drinks and delivering them to the table; it was just too much for her and it wasn't her fault. With a massive queue that clearly was not moving and wasn't likely to, we decided to rejoin the Yorktown and the Barclay for a run back to Chasewater Heaths. 1911-built "Colin McAndrew" certainly did some hard work shoving the train and "Teddy" on the way: she sounded great. At Chasewater Heaths, thankfully, the service was much faster and we enjoyed a Full English in the station café. Now folks, prepare yourselves, for the following contains a photo of 'Eddie the Late' about to eat! Here is 'Eddie the Late' about to undertake one of the biggest meals he has ever eaten in his life, being normally used to bringing others to their knees with his hideous 'Three Course Challenge's for which he is notorious in Wales!...
Having eaten our fry up (it was very nice) we returned to the platform to catch another Brownhills train. "Colin McAndrew" was ready and waiting...
We departed Chasewater Heaths at 1:45pm and returned to Brownhills West before detraining. The next stop was the Heritage Centre and the Museum. When Chasewater began its preservation life it was not in the exact location it is now. The M6 Toll decided that its original station would need to move in order to make way for the motorway so one can only assume that a substantial compensation pay-out followed. This money has been well spent on a fantastic heritage centre-style shed which includes a lovely little Museum. Inside the centre stood Chasewater's flagship loco: "Asbestos". A Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0, "Asbestos" has been out of ticket for a couple of years and is the subject of a £30,000 overhaul appeal. Luckily, to date, over 60% of the money has been raised and so maybe this attractive little engine will move again one day...
Across from "Asbestos" stands Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 "S100". S100 is a much larger loco and is owned by the same people who own "Nechells No4". The Hudswell is coming along nicely and the chassis looks smart: she just needs a boiler next! Today she was spotted looking outside at her future stamping ground...
Having wandered around the Heritage Centre and the Museum, we came back outside just in time to see "Teddy" and "Colin" departing again. For two little engines they can certainly create some smoke!...
The temperature was now dropping and so we decided to head off after a very pleasant visit. The Chasewater Railway has a surprising collection of industrial stock and offers a steady journey through watery scenery. Why not give it a try? It is so refreshing to see that places like this and Foxfield are upholding the good name of the hard working industrial engine. They may not be perfect for bigger lines and for constant passenger work but on a quiet little heritage railway like this they are perfect. Its so good to see that industrials still have a home. All the best guys, Sam...

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