Sunday, 31 August 2014

Diana Clementson 14/12/1941 to 28/08/2014

Farewell Dianna, a lovely lady of many talents and interests including music, and working as steam locomotive crew at the Llangollen Railway and the Churnet Valley Railway. Steam railways were a big part of her life. She will be sadly missed.

Here's a picture I took of her on the Lambton Tank Loco just over a year ago at sunny Consall, on 24th August 2013. Click on the picture to see her delight in being privileged to fire a steam locomotive on such a fabulous day in this amazing valley.

Diana Clementson, 14/12/1941 to 28/08/2014

We lost another Churnet Valley volunteer on Wednesday September 9th when one of the railway's characters, Fred Brindley, passed away. Fred was usually to be found on CVR trains selling raffle tickets, and when I was doing a trainee guard turn only last week, he was proudly telling me how he had raised over £3,000 for the railway in a year.

RIP both.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

To North Wales again; but this time on a vintage paddle steamer

This has been planned for a while, a trip on the Clyde paddle steamer 'Waverley' on one of her rare trips out of Liverpool (just two trips this year, of which yesterday's got cancelled as explained below). Most of the time she operates in home waters in Scotland.

An early start from Wilmslow got us to Crewe on an Arriva Wales Milford Haven service, where we picked up a Virgin Pendolino for Liverpool Lime Street.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

The gang (Ivan, Pete, Malc) outside Lime St. Station in Liverpool at about 08:00 this morning. From here, having plenty of time, we walked to the Cruise Ship Terminal from where 'Waverley' was due to depart at 10:00. 

Waverley makes her way up river before turning 180 degrees and returning down river to dock at the Cruise Ship Terminal. A handsome vessel, she looks like a ship should look, unlike most of today's passenger ships. We had quite a long wait before the crew allowed us to board, but we were at the front of the queue which helped in claiming good seats on the boat. 

I was tempted to grab a seat out on deck, but was persuaded it might get a bit chilly there once at sea so instead we claimed a spot in the forward saloon; Peter, Ivan, Malc. 

The engine room, with its 3-cylinder 2,100hp compound condensing steam engine. It's a simple layout, with the crank shaft across the ship onto each end of which are fitted the paddles which propel the ship through the water. The paddles have a mechanism which turns the blades end-on (feathers them, in propeller parlance) to cut down drag as they enter the water, whereupon they rotate to the normal position (blades parallel to the crank axle) for maximum thrust once in the water. Her two boilers are oil-fired.

Engine room gauges, with the bridge telegraph on the right

Up on deck, the weather was fine.  There was a strong wind but it was a warm south easterly. Yesterday's cruise had been cancelled because the wind was  too strong so we were lucky it relented a bit for our trip today. 

Looking aft over the stern, with the twin wakes of the paddles clearly visible 

 Liverpool Bay is infested by thousands of these - wind turbines

The next three pictures will be clearer if you click on them for a larger image.

We were due to call at the newly-restored ferry pier at Llandudno for some passengers to disembark and some to be picked up. The captain decided the sea state was too rough to attempt mooring, and with winds forecast to get stronger in the afternoon there would be even less chance of stopping here on the way back to let passengers embark and disembark. So we swept past the pier in a great loop, and continued on our way. One of the problems this ship has is it's not easy to bring alongside in rough sea. There is no differential control of the paddles, so enough 'way' has to be kept on the ship to keep the rudder effective. No bow thrusters or anything else fancy like that, either!

Our wake shows the track of our 'low approach and go-around' at Llandudno pier

Disappointed crowds on Llandudno pier 

Waverley seen from Llandudno pier as she passes before turning 180 degrees to approach from the direction of the Great Orme...

.....And having swept past the pier, turns to head west again round the Orme on her way to Anglesey

Pete and Ivan in serious discussion 

The North Wales Coast in the Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechen area 

The Great Orme in the background as we pass abeam Puffin Island. We didn't see any puffins. 

Disappointingly there was no commentary on board so we had to guess where we were passing. Best guess for here is Amlwch on Anglesey.  

The sea was quite rough off Anglesey, and the boat was rolling noticeably with waves crashing onto the deck at times, and coming in through open port holes. Quite a few passengers got a soaking!  

About halfway around the isle of Anglesey it was time to turn back. The boat turned right 180 degrees and set off direct for the Mersey, since there would not be a Llandudno stop on the return journey.  

The original Waverley was lost at Dunkirk, and this vessel was built in 1946 to replace that one. It was bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, a charitable trust, in 1973 and they have lovingly restored it to 1946 condition. It is the only remaining sea-going paddle steamer operating in the world today .

Heading for home - the view over the stern 

Our outward track had closely followed the coast, but the return was much further out to sea and as a result was considerably smoother. Waverley was able to demonstrate her speed in these ideal conditions, but estimated time of arrival back in Liverpool (announced as 19:00, one hour early due to the omission of the Llanduno stops) wasn't achieved because of headwinds. We actually got back to Liverpool at about 19:45.

What is it about steam? I met a few people from the Churnet Valley Railway on board, and this crew are from the Museum of Science & Industry Railway in Manchester; former Railway Officer (now working for Northern Rail) Matt second from left with his wife next to him hidden by the chap in the foreground (don't know who he is). Left and right on the picture are MoSI volunteers Dave and Dave.

A gas platform, one of many in the Morecambe Bay field, with a supply ship 

The Liverpool skyline on the bow 

This evening, moored back at the Cruise Ship Terminal in Liverpool 

The gang, at Liverpool James Street station on the way home. We arrived at Lime Street just in time for a London Midland Birmingham departure which took us to Crewe, arriving there minutes before a Pendolino whisked us home to Wilmslow in time for a pint or two in the Bollin Fee, just to round of a most interesting and enjoyable day.

Here are a couple of videos I took:

It later transpired that we had been lucky to experience this cruise by steam along the North Wales coast, not knowing how weather-dependent is this vintage paddle steamer. Because of adverse weather, Waverley didn't leave her home on the Clyde until the afternoon before our cruise, sailing overnight to Liverpool. Following our cruise she should have set sail for Bristol, but instead spent two days off Rhos on Sea at anchor, awaiting suitable weather to make the journey south.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Nice Stepper day round N.E. Cheshire

We're off early on a boat trip tomorrow from Liverpool (Waverley paddle steamer to Anglesey), so me and Malc went to Wilmslow station this morning to get our train tickets to Liverpool (Ivan couldn't join us today). Malc had to MOT his Yamaha Townmate in Adlington, and I had some shopping in Cheadle to do, so as we left the station we agreed to meet at the Adlington MOT garage later. Malc set off for Adlington on the Townmate, me for Cheadle on my Honda C90.

Why 'steppers'? These little bikes are 'step-throughs', or 'steppers' to us.

Malc has never been up to White Nancy, a monument on Kerridge Ridge above Bollington, commemorating the victory at Waterloo. It's a distinctive bright-white circular construction shaped like a sugar loaf, visible for miles, and that's where we went from Adlington.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

The little bikes parked on Kerridge Ridge for our ascent up to White Nancy 

Looking back to the bikes from about half way up the hill 

Climbing the stone track up the hill, the monument doesn't seem to get any nearer. Then suddenly, you're there! Malc by White Nancy. The '50' commemorates 50 years of the Bollington Festival.

White Nancy before it was white! Built of sandstone rubble it used to have a door and stone benches and circular table inside. Today the door is filled in and the monument is usually painted brilliant white, though it has been painted in schemes to commemorate specific occasions over the years.

It wasn't the best of days, but the views were still good. Here's the now-closed Woodford Airfield in the distance, birthplace of many famous Avro aeroplanes, including all of the Vulcans. 

An enlargement of the above picture shows the white Vulcan just visible by the former flight sheds

The distinctive escarpment ridge of Alderley Edge over to the West 

From White Nancy we rode through Hurdsfield, Macclesfield, and Gawesworth to Congleton, for a look at Congleton Museum. It's quite small, tucked behind the Town Hall, but full of interesting artifacts relating to the establishment, development, and history of this characterful market town where Chris and I lived after we first married. Above, the author outside the museum this afternoon. 

Next stop was to visit Peter, an old friend now suffering Alzheimer's Disease and living in a care home in Holmes Chapel. He remembers things from the distant past (though can't put names to faces) but the events of even a few minutes previously are immediately forgotten. Here he is with Pauline, his wife, also visiting him in the care home today as she does every day.

Peter in happier times, on the right on a day out at Bletchley Park (see entry for 15th March 2011 in the blog). His Alzheimer's was apparent back then, but far less severe than it is now.

On leaving Holmes Chapel we headed the little bikes homeward, but not straight home - this interesting day called for a pint at the Bird in Hand at Knolls Green first. Here are the little bikes parked at the pub. 

Malc about to enjoy his pint of Sam Smiths excellent bitter at £1.80 a pint. If Smiths can produce such good ale at this price, why do most other breweries charge so much more, sometimes for beer that's a tad indifferent?

Must get an early night tonight - we've a train to catch to Liverpool tomorrow at some ungodly hour!


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Consall box's 10th birthday, and a Peppa Pig event

Consall box was first brought into use on 13th August 2004, ten years ago today. It was my privilege to be duty signalman in the box for that anniversary, today's 'Peppa Pig' event on the Churnet Valley Railway.

There didn't used to be a signal box at Consall back when this was a working railway, the North Rode (south of Maccclesfield) to Uttoxeter line, as it was a two-track railway with no crossovers at Consall, the points for the station sidings being operated from ground frames. When the Churnet Valley Railway re-opened the line as a heritage railway it was single track except at Froghall and Leekbrook (the termini) where run-round loops were provided, and at Consall where a passing loop was put in to enable up and down trains to pass each other. It was to operate this bidirectionally signalled passing loop that a fully mechanically and electrically interlocked signal box was installed, first coming into service ten years ago today.

A new brick base was laid for the box, but the superstructure (the main part of the box) came from Clifton on the Ashbourne to Uttoxeter line. Clifton box also controlled a level crossing, so the box has a bay window in one end so the signalman could see any road traffic before he 'swung the gates'.

Please click on any picture for a bigger image.

Consall signal box (picture not taken today), showing the bay window which allowed the signalman to observe road traffic approaching the level crossing this box used to control at its original location (Clifton)

This document confirms (near the top) the box to be ten years old today!

I arrived at a rather damp Cheddleton about 08:15 this morning. The TKH tank was being prepared to attach to the rear of the DMU for the run to Consall for 'splitting the staff' (see earlier in the blog for an explanation of that).

Another view of the TKH tank this morning at Cheddleton

We gave a lift to a PW (Permanent Way) gang who had some work to do between Cheddleton and Consall. Here they are getting themselves and their equipment out of the DMU.

After the staffs had been split, the THK tank returned to Cheddleton to pick up its stock and start services from there, while the DMU proceeded to Froghall to commence the service from that end of the line. When the trains came back to cross each other in Consall  loop, the TKH tank had suffered a vacuum brake probelm so class 33 diesel 'Sophie' was deputising for it. Later, the other 33, 'Captain Charles', took over as 'Sophie' was running short of fuel.

The weather wasn't kind to our Peppa Pig event; children, parents, and grandparents queue in the rain to meet Peppa and George, who, sensibly, stayed in their tent

A moody shot out of Consall box in the rain this morning. Note my 'wet weather' jacket hanging on the door so I can grab it on the way out to get the staff from trains.

Peppa and George meet their public as the rain relented later in the day. By evening it was lovely, and I drove home from Cheddleton with the MX5's roof down (as it almost always is if it's not raining!).

The power of corporate marketing; kids cuddling a Peppa suit, overseen by the black-shirted 'Peppa minder'. I'm not quite sure what he was there for. 

Later in the day, the TKH tank, having been repaired, was back in service

Take a look at these two videos I took from the steps of the signal box today. Just click on the text:

Later, the TKH tank loco is back in service, here seen leaving Consall for Froghall

That's the last turn in Consall 'box for me this year. The only 2-train service remaining on the railway in 2014 is an evening Ghost Train on Halloween. Howard will be manning the 'box for that one.

In order to get more time volunteering on the railway, I'm currently undergoing training as a guard. Not as satisfying (or demanding!) as working the signal box, but at least you get to travel up and down the line and meet a few folk. I'll be down next Sunday on the Freewind motorbike for a guard training session and also to renew my PTS (Personal Track Safety) qualification.