Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year: The Goodbye 2015 Review...

Well everyone, its "hi" from me for the last time in 2015. The last day of the year is upon us and so begins my review of the last 12 months. As usual, ,there's too much to say in one post so I'll try to condense it as much as I can. There have been a lot of highs and lows this year, spread over 109 posts which all feature on this blog. To begin the review I suppose we'd better start with my railway of eight years: Shackerstone, otherwise known as The Battlefield Line. 2015 began with a New Years Day driving turn on 2884 Class 2-8-0 No3803...
During the early part of the year, a small team based at Shackerstone undertook the repaint of No3803 into BR Plain Black livery. The transformation is featured in detail on this blog - click here to read the story. Steam trains returned to the fields of Bosworth in March, hauled by visiting 5101 Class 2-6-2 No4141. I crewed 41' twice during its stay on the old ANJR metals and am seen below on a driving turn during the Steam Up weekend...
"Driving 5101 Class No4141" (Pic - D.Hanks)
Despite my upsets with certain individuals, I continued to volunteer on the railway and had some very enjoyable days driving No3803. My final day with late coming companion 'Eddie the Late' took place in May: the end of an era...
My final driving turn at Shackerstone came in September: the second of a pair of outings with visiting Austerity 0-6-0 "Cumbria" - hired in to deputise in the aftermath of the demise of 3803. The last day on "Cumbria" was enjoyed in the company of my good friends Mick & Julia and we had a very pleasant day aboard the red industrial...
"Last Day with Cumbria Selfie" (Pic - J.Ross)
Those that know me will know what a hard decision it was to give up on Shackerstone. It wasn't the railway (I wish it every success), it was just certain individuals which seemed determined to cause upset to others. A lot of my fellow driver mates had left too for very similar reasons, further reducing my enthusiasm. It was a real shame and, in truth, I'm still gutted (but what can you do?). Moving swiftly on, 2015 saw some more very pleasant outings crewing at the wonderful Statfold Barn Railway...
In March we had the wonderful Bagnall "Isibutu" whilst in June I had a faultless day driving the Peckett 0-6-0 "Harrogate" - memories of both are greatly treasured...
"Driving the SBR Peckett" (Pic - G.Cryer)
Statfold continues to be great fun for us lucky enginemen who are kindly invited to drive & fire for them at their open days. If you haven't visited yet, I can highly recommend it. We'll (hopefully) have three more open days to help with in 2016 and of course the new improved MTEW event has now moved venue to the SBR. The SBR's brand new 'Miniature Steam Rally' will take place over April 23rd/24th. Going further down the gauges, I am led to talk about my Miniature Locomotives...
Both "Maisie" and "Achilles" have had occasional outings this year, being juggled around between work commitments and railway commitments. The C1 is now awaiting a steam test whilst "Achilles" should be out and about tomorrow on New Years Day. The latter has had a lot more repair work carried out during the year, holding back running until recently. A newcomer on the scene for me in 2015 was the Evesham Vale Light Railway...
Naturally, as seen on this blog, I've visited the EVLR many times in the past but the driving/firing side was pretty new to me. I had my first turn in April aboard Exmoor No312 "St Egwin" and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then I think I've done six turns in total. Its a lovely little railway, nestling in the pretty setting of Evesham Country Park. Another newcomer for me in 2015 was Tyseley Locomotive Works...
Due to the demise of my commitment to Shackerstone, a friend of mine suggested that Tyseley were looking for volunteers to help with their main line stud of ex-Great Western locomotives. Naturally I was very interested and went along in early October for a day in the shed. Since then I've had the chance to fire and drive Pannier L94 and been out on main line trips behind 4965 and 5043 respectively. Thus far, Tyseley has provided a very rewarding and encouraging experience...
Seeing these mighty engines in action on Network Rail metals is now the only true way to capture the magic of the bygone age of steam. Preserved railways have the unrivalled ability to recreate the atmosphere of the past but, allas, all are limited to 25mph running when the public are involved. Experiencing a well looked after engine like "Rood Ashton Hall" tearing along in between modern day commuter services is really something to treasure. Finally, just for fun, lets mention just some of the Days Out...
In January I paid my annual freezing visit to the Great Central's Winter Gala whilst in February we were at Chasewater to wave off RSH 0-6-0 'Nechells No4'...
MTEW returned to Market Bosworth in April (and was a great success despite diesel haulage on the railway) before my 'wind down' holiday in Devon a month later. In glorious May sunshine, Heavy Tank No4277 "Hercules" stands at Kingswear during a lunch break alongside the River Dart...
June's big day out was the much blogged about 'Great Manx Adventure'. We did ALL FIVE of the Isle of Man's main railways in a day, flying out from Liverpool. It was a great experience and a real pleasure, having learnt to deal with the local cuisine and mastered the phrase book. Ed even squeezed in a 'Three Course Challenge'. Again, you can read all about it on this blog...
July saw a rare summer visit (we normally only do Winter diners!) to the Severn Valley Railway. Two Bullied Pacific's were in action, including 34027 "Taw Valley"...
August soon came around and we had an impromptu return to Bala. 'Eddie the Late' accompanied me on this grand day as part of "Jack Lane"s Welsh holiday...
"Eddie The Late Loves A McDonalds"
We had been sent to Wales to 'Engine Rep' for "Jack Lane" (an SBR resident). For us, it was an easy day and like 'coming home', having driven and fired the Bala Lake a few times in recent years. It was a lovely day...
I had a few more little outings later in the year, ending on Boxing Day with a brief visit to the GCR for a ride behind the huge 9F class No92214...
Well, I suppose I should end it there folks. Its been another mad year with steam, but another very enjoyable one. I'm enjoying volunteering at places like Tyseley, Statfold and Evesham and am managing to vary my interest with days out to other railways and preservation centres. I must thank the many friends I've amassed through the heritage sector, and of course thank recurring blog characters such as JB, Gay Dave and master of the 'Three Course Challenge' and everyone's favourite late arrival Eddie the Late. I must also thank the photographers who kindly send me in photographs for use on the blog when I haven't had chance to taken any on a given day - thank you. Finally, I must thank YOU, the readers, for continuing to read this complete and utter tosh - I really appreciate it. So, without further ado, its a Happy New Year from me and here's to another fine year with steam - Happy 2016 Everyone. Here's wishing you good coal, strong oils and plentiful quantities of steam. All the best, Sam...

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