Sunday, 29 April 2012

Traction engines at the Three Greyhounds

A wet morning at the Three Greyhounds

This weekend a meeting of traction engines that previously took place at Acton Bridge was held at the Three Greyhounds near Cranage, Cheshire. I couldn't get there yesterday as I was conducting tours on Concorde and Nimrod at the Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park, and today the weather was awful; wet and very windy.

I arrived at lunchtime today to find many engines had already departed for home. Just a handful were left, and they, too, were in the process of preparing to leave.

An engine and living van leaves the pub, headed for home

A stationary engine in the car park

 A roller gets its tank replenished


Thursday, 26 April 2012

I met a WW2 Lancaster flight engineer today

It seems to have been raining for weeks, but we had some breaks in the rain today. Amazingly it stopped for long enough for me and my five guests to enjoy the outside part of the Nimrod tour I was conducting this afternoon for them without us getting wet. One of the guys (John) used to work on Nimrods at Woodford, but it wasn't until we were in the flight deck that his colleagues 'outed' him as a Lancaster flight engineer with 32 ops under his belt!

He was based, he told me, at Ludford Magna. They were one of the few stations with FIDO (Fog Investigations and Dispersal Operation - see and he remembers returning from a raid and noting an orange glow on the horizon. "Birmingham, that? Or Manchester? Someone's getting a pasteing tonight" said the skipper.

As they drew nearer the glow remained on the nose - it was Ludford's FIDO! That night most of Bomber Command landed at Ludford and the airfield was jammed with aeroplanes parked nose to tail and wing to wing on every bit of available hardstanding. Took days to drag them out backwards with tractors and get them back to their bases! A missed opportunity for the Luftwaffe!

Over Germany one night a piece of shrapnel pierced the fuselage near the tail and jammed the elevator control rod. The skipper flew the aeroplane using the trimmer (in reverse sense, due the jammed elevator) until John managed to crawl back there and dislodge the shrapnel with an oxygen bottle.

I've met a few WW2 heros while conducting tours, including a few years back on Concorde the flight engineer of the Catalina that spotted the Bismarck. I'm always amazed how unassuming they are.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Gresley A4 pacific 'Bittern' at Crewe today

I nipped down to Crewe by train today to see A4 pacific 'Bittern'. She is back as herself having been masquerading as 'Dominion of New Zealand' for a while. She was en route from the Severn Valley Railway to pick up fellow LNER loco 'The Great Marquess' (a K4) from Crewe Heritage Centre and proceed to Barrow Hill (presumably for the upcoming gala there).

While awaiting 'Bittern' at Crewe, this Class 86 took my eye. These were once lead passenger locomotives on the West Coast Main line, designated AL6 when introduced in the late 1960s. Now many have been scrapped but some, like this example, survive in the freight haulage role.

 A Virgin 'Pendelino' rushes through the station non stop on the centre roads

 At last 'Bittern' appeared with her support coach, out of the yards south of Crewe and reversed into the station.

She was held in the station for the best part of an hour, before reversing north and onto the Chester line. The cylinder drain cocks are open after her long stand, wreathing her in steam but not obscuring her name.

A few minutes later 'Bittern' headed back to the station off the Chester line
. switched to a platform road
Here she awaited being routed from the station to the Heritage Centre to pick up the K4. By now she was about two hours behind schedule, and I can only assume that she eventually completed her mission. She was still waiting in the station when I left for home on an afternoon train.