Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Amerton Railway...

Hi guys. Well, here is another first visit: this time to the 2ft gauge Amerton Railway in Staffordshire. Having left Apedale, it took around 30 minutes to drive over to Amerton. The line consists of a mile of track around farmland, with track in place for a continuous circuit. Trains depart Amerton station at regular intervals and make their leisurely way around this picturesque little railway. The jewel in Amerton's crown has always been "Isabel"; their beautiful 0-4-0 Bagnall of 1897. I had asked earlier in the week if she would be out today and they said that the likelihood was yes she would. Upon my arrival at just gone 1:30pm, a loud whistle was heard on the breeze and the little engine appeared...
"Isabel" steamed happily into her home station and was soon screwed down awaiting passengers. This is a lovely engine, perfect for a line like this. The engine was pulling her typical 3-coach train plus a Guard's van and stood shining in the afternoon sun...
Almost 110 years old, "Isabel" carries the unusual Baguley Patent valve gear; an odd set-up whereby a third con rod is fitted on the driving crank so as to provide the throw for the expansion link. I'll let you have a look at it...
I got chatting to Driver Malcolm and Fireman Luke and they seemed quite happy to enthuse about their engine. I mentioned that the reason for my visit was almost solely to see the Bagnall and to my surprise I was invited up onto the footplate for a ride around the field. The chunky 0-4-0 was like an open-top sports car on a day like today!...
"On The Footplate of Bagnall 'Isabel' - Built 1897"
I was very impressed with this pretty little run. "Isabel" made her steady way around curves, across brooks and through creaking point work, passing green fields and frightening away playful lambs in the adjacent pens. Soon enough she was back at the station awaiting more passengers. Loadings seemed steady but sure...
Much to my amazement and enjoyment, I was invited out for a second trip and duly accepted the offer. "Isabel" sat happily at 100psi all the way round, with Luke on the regulator and Malcolm enjoying the scenery on the fireman's side. It was all very pleasant aboard the elderly Bagnall...
Now for a bit of "Isabel" history. She was built at the firm's Stafford works in 1897 and sent new to Cliffe Hill Quarry in Leicestershire. Her name is taken from one of the quarry owner's daughters. In her younger years she hauled trains of granite, day in and day out, on the quarry's mainline, before becoming a shunting engine as she got older. Retired in 1946, the 0-4-0 was laid up but a reprieve came when Bagnall's (still in business!) came looking for a display engine. In 1953 she was restored by the apprentices of Bagnall's and found herself on a plinth outside the works. When English Electric took over Bagnall's in 1961, "Isabel" was removed from the works but by the Stafford Railway Circle, who had the engine put on a plinth just opposite Stafford Railway Station. She was removed from there briefly in 1977 for another cosmetic restoration by former apprentices of Bagnall's, now GEC. The engine was then returned to her display spot at the station. By the early 1980s however the metalwork on the engine had deteriorated badly and she was removed in 1983. After several dealings with the council, the engine arrived at Amerton in 1991 and hauled her first passenger services a year later, in 1992. The locomotive has since become a firm favourite at Amerton and, as they so remarked, is "very special to them".

Malcolm duly showed me around the running shed and workshop. Amerton is home to five locomotives: two of which are operational. The other operational engine, besides "Isabel", is "Jennie": a new-build Wren of 2008. This engine was built brand new at Statfold...
In the workshop, the other Wren ("Lorna Doone" of 1922) is under overhaul...
After a tour of the impressive workshop, it was time for Malcolm to get back on the regulator and take "Isabel" around the circuit with the 2:30pm trip...
Away she goes, off around the fields she calls home...
"The 2:30pm Depature Behind 'Isabel' - 1897 Bagnall"
I had a look in the shop before heading over towards the bridge across the brook, just on the station approach. "Isabel" arrived back a little while later...
"The Bagnall On The Brook"
The little green 0-4-0 steamed gently past me as I took in a final view of "Isabel" of Amerton. This railway has a real rustic kind of charm and is completely entwined with the farm it traverses...
What a lovely little railway and a pleasant little visit. I'm glad to have finally seen "Isabel" and of course to have taken two trips on her footplate. I was quite taken with Amerton. You can tell by talking to the guys there that they have real passion for what they do and that they care very much for their beloved Bagnall. Even the signs on the way in state, "Amerton - Home of Isabel"...and rightly so! My thanks must go to Driver Malcolm and Fireman Luke for being so welcoming and for letting me aboard their engine. It was a very nice visit and if you haven't been to Amerton, you should go along for a ride. Their website is here. Many thanks indeed for reading folks: a nice narrow gauge day out. Cheers, Sam...

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