Sunday, 1 January 2017

Nene Valley Railway - A Soaking Standard...

Hi everyone. A Happy New Year to you all and I hope that you had an enjoyable Christmas eating and drinking until you could no longer speak - I know I did! I was at a loose end during this hideously wet New Years Day and so decided to jump in the motor and head off in search of steam. Most of the local lines would be running but I fancied trying something different. Around 50 miles east of us lies the Nene Valley Railway, a 7.5-mile long standard gauge set-up which I've never managed to get to in the past. Having checked their website to ensure that a steamer would be rostered, I set off into the damp gloom of this horrid day. It took me just over an hour to reach the NVR's saturated base at Wansford and, having parked up, I scurried into the ticket office to escape the downpours. I had hoped that I would drive out of the persistent rain on the way over but as my ever decreasing run of luck would have it I think it was actually worse at Wansford! Anyway, ticket purchased, I walked out onto the wet platform and up onto the footbridge. Photography wasn't going to be easy today but I did manage to get the odd snap. The Wansford footbridge offered a good view across the loco yard towards the running sheds, with a few NVR residents in sight...
The next departure would be the 11:45am off Wansford and this service duly rolled into the platform behind recently restored BR Standard 2 No78018...
"78018 Pulls In From Peterborough With A Mk.1 Set"
The Standard 2 drifted casually through the platform and came to a halt at the top end. Drenched passengers began to board the steam heated Mk1's whilst a handful of us mad enthusiast types attempted to get a picture of the loco. 78018 is usually based at the Great Central Railway at Loughborough and returned to service in October last year after a painstaking overhaul. She last ran under her own steam in 1966 and so I have to take my sopping wet hat off to her owners - the Darlington Railway Preservation Society - and the GCR for such a nice job. She looked a treat in the rain today...
I boarded the train behind 78018 and immediately assumed my usual position when travelling on preserved metals: the window! We left Wansford a few minutes down and steamed out past the sheds and through the tunnel. Wansford Tunnel is 616 yards long, making it the fourth longest tunnel on any heritage railway in the UK. Blasting out the other end of the tunnel the engine shut-off steam to coast towards the small station at Yarwell Junction. The Mogul was duly uncoupled by a drenched cleaner who was no doubt enjoying his first day swinging about amongst the steam heat and vacuum hoses. Yarwell is roughly a mile from Wansford and is the NVR's westerly terminus...
Uncoupled from her train, 78018 hissed steadily forward before the cleaner set the road for running round. The Mogul then ran backwards, with her safety valves feathering. I believe that the Standard 2's are an ideal size for most preserved railway work...
The Mogul disappeared into the distance before heading back towards us on the correct road. The loop at Yarwell Junction is pretty lengthy in order to stable a good sized train. Today however there were only four coaches in the rake and so the engine was well within the platform limits. Soon enough she was coupled back onto the set...
"78018 Readies For Departure From Yarwell Junction"
The NVR started its preservation life with a wealth of international locomotives and coaching stock. International stock often sits outside the typical British loading gauge and so the platform distance from the train at the Nene Valley is greater than you would see on most heritage lines. The Mk1's have been fitted with wider step-boards to compensate for this extra distance between train and platform...
Departing Yarwell in a cloud of smoke & steam, 78018 roared away back towards Wansford. The coaches rocked & rolled along behind her as she stomped into the tunnel. As we rolled into Wansford to pick-up more passengers, I was sitting down with a nice hot cuppa' from the Buffet Car and thinking what a pleasant (if damp!) experience this was turning out to be. Even rainy days with steam can be enjoyable...
Wansford station originally opened in 1845 and was part of the Northampton and Peterborough Railway. This was absorbed into the LNWR prior to the grouping of the 'Big Four', after which the station became LMS territory. The old station building at Wansford isn't currently in use but it provides an attractive piece of railway architecture. The NVR is fairly flat and so the 2-6-0 had hardly any work to do during the run to Peterborough. The Driver was certainly giving her some stick mind - he certainly liked to get away from the stations quickly! Soon enough we arrived at a very wet Peterborough Nene Valley station, nestling in the shadow of the East Coast Main Line...
The Nene Valley built the Peterborough station during their extension project in 1986 and the locomotive once again runs round here before returning to Wansford...
The poor old cleaner once again had to get oily hands whilst uncoupling 78018 before she hissed backwards to take water at the column. The engine then ran round...
With the westerly points set, 78018 backed down onto the waiting stock...
I managed a low quality, rushed shot into the cab of the Standard 2...
Now for some history on 78018. She was built in 1953 at Darlington as one of BR's 65-strong class of Standard 2 Mogul's. Derived from Ivatt's class 2 types which had appeared in 1946, the 2's were small but punchy performers. Carrying a 200psi boiler feeding 16.5" cylinders with pistons connected to 5ft wheels, the class offered 18,515 lb's of tractive effort but a maximum axle loading of less than 14 tons. Their low axle weight gave them wide route availability and they were popular engines. Four have survived into preservation. 78018 is known to me as "the lost engine of Shackerstone" as she did spend her early preservation life there, minus tender. The rusting hulk languished at Shack for a few years before her current owners bought her in 1981. The restoration has taken many years but it is lovely to see 78018 back in action. The engine achieved a little fame in the harsh February of 1955 when she got stuck in a snow drift at Bleath Gill. A film was made about the rescue of the engine and the remaining wagons of her stricken train and you can see it here. The engine was luckily rescued and returned to work, being withdrawn in 1966. She is currently on loan to the Nene Valley Railway and has helped out over the Santa season. She will soon be returning to her Loughborough base...
Chatting to the crew aboard the Standard 2 they seemed happy with their plucky little engine. The Fireman remarked how well she steamed but that he had been suffering with an injector playing up. The Driver said it was a strong little engine but sometimes lacked the adhesive weight - a fact that surprised me with such a light train but I suppose the weather was pretty rough. She certainly didn't sound like she was doing much slipping on the run! Soon enough we were ready for departure...
"The Wet Road Ahead"
The soaking wet flat-lands around the NVR were desolate today...
78018 was in good voice as she strode towards Wansford...
It was a pleasure to listen to the Riddles 2-6-0 as she marched away from Peterborough - she sounds a treat. You can see the advancements made with the BR Standard range. The injectors are both on the fireman's side, there are grease points instead of wick-feeds or oil pots, the driving controls are under the drivers hand and most items have been designed with ease of maintenance in mind. They turned out to be very workable, useful engines; just as Riddles had intended them. We soon arrived back at Wansford after a pleasant run with the former Bleath Gill Mogul...
It was now time for the lunch break, according to the NVR's Blue Timetable, and so I left 78018 simmering in the platform to see what other machines lay dormant in the yard. Across the way was another BR Standard, this time a larger Class 5 4-6-0. Built in 1954, No73050 "City of Peterborough" was withdrawn from service in 2014 following expiry of her boiler ticket. She now awaits a 10-year overhaul but funding is apparently in the pot to begin this when a space in the shed comes up...
"BR Standard Class 5 No 73050"
The no doubt favourite NVR resident (for the younger visitors anyway) lay cold and damp at the bottom of the yard. The Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 "Thomas" returned to service last year after a 10-year overhaul. Built in 1947, the NVR's "Thomas" was officially named by Rev.W.Awdry and so lays claim to being the only 'real' Thomas replica if you like. The Hudswell now enjoys regular use at Thomas events, operating shuttles between Wansford and Yarwell. I believe she enjoys an annual adventure to Peterborough but this is only for special occasions. It was nice to see "Thomas"...
"Thomas The Tank Engine" - HC 0-6-0 No 1800 of 1947
The NVR has quite a few sheds dotted around its Wansford base but the main restoration shed includes a variety of machinery and has the luxury of a viewing gallery. Inside the shed stood the recently re-steamed Bulleid Battle of Britain Class pacific "92 Squadron". 34081 was built in 1948 and isn't far away from being relaunched into traffic at Nene Valley. She has moved under her own steam but I believe she is currently receiving final fitting out prior to loaded runs. She will probably be out and about on passenger trains by the summer. I must say, from the gallery at least, the job looks a lovely one and the livery is most impressive on the 'spam can' casing...
I was glad to have seen "92 Squadron" and it would be nice to return one day and have a ride behind her. Over the way there was a visiting Austerity 0-6-0 named "Swiftsure" which has also been a mainstay of NVR steam services in recent months, running alongside 78018. At around 2pm I jumped back into the car and prepared for my hour-long journey home. I was soaking wet but it had been a very pleasant little visit to the Nene Valley. I would like to go again one day, but not in torrential rain! The website for the railway is here. My thanks all for reading and once again...Happy New Year. Cheers, Sam...

3 comments:

David Chandler said...

I'm looking to go to their Gala on 25/6th of Feb, when 92 Squadron will be running. It's also down to come over this way for the SVR Spring Gala. Lovely engine, I remember seeing at the NVR as a kid probably some time in the early 2000's - they had a blue Swedish 4-6-0 running as well.

Sam Brandist said...

I enjoyed the NVR, having never been before. I would like to go again and see 92 Squadron running. The Bulleid bash down at Swanage is looking good but a long way to travel! All the best, Sam

James Peter Brett said...

Thomas was painted blue when working for the Peterborough Sugar Beat factory (but at that time had red wheels). It was around this time that the first of the late Rev Audrey's books had been published, and the drivers started to nickname the loco Thomas.

When the Peterborough Railway Society was formed, and Thomas ended up in their ownership, the Rev Audrey Officially named Thomas after the engine in his story book. Hence the NVR is the only "official" Thomas, and is except from having to pay the extortionate royalties that Hit Entertainment demand, as the agreement predated their existence.

In July Sybil will be making her first ever visit to the Nene Valley railway for their vintage rally to be held at Wansford.