The last time I ran 'Lindow' (my Ride-On-Railways Hercules electric locomotive) was at Wrexham track several weeks ago. Today was the first Sunday since then with a favorable weather forecast when I have not been otherwise engaged, so I decided that instead of just visiting my home track, Urmston, I would venture a bit further afield and have a run around Wigan club's track in Haigh Hall Park.
I arrived fairly early to a warm welcome from Wigan club members, and was the first (of only two!) locos to run, and was soon hauling passengers around this delightful track. It winds its way through woodland and it takes a while to work out the shape of the track so many are the curves and glimpses of other parts of the track through the trees.
Here's a video I took of 'Lindow' doing a complete circuit of the track. Apologies for the camera sometimes pointing up into the trees; that's because 'Lindow' requires two hands to drive (one to hold the controller while keeping the 'dead man's button' depressed - if I release that, the engine will stop, and the other to operated the speed control knob). Lacking a third hand, the 'control knob' hand has the primary task of speed control, and the secondary task of holding the camera.
'Lindow' about to couple up to her train. Rigging a coupling first time at a strange track can be challenging. In this case, a length of chain between the pin on the truck and the shackle on 'Lindow' did the trick.
Off into the woods...
A glimpse through the trees of another part of the track
A sunny glade (it rained later!)
Where does the track go now?
Low autumn sun
The track is not without its straight sections....
...But is also delightfully curvy
'Lindow' in the station to pick up passengers. By now a second train is also in service, in front of us.
Is it a 747 or an A380? Lee and another Wigan member acting as station staff doing a bit of 'plane spotting!
I ran the loco all morning before deciding to call in at Urmston club on the way home. Just after I'd stowed 'Lindow' away in the car, it began to rain!
Thank you to all at Wigan club for a lovely morning.
This morning the first section of the extension of the Churnet Valley Railway to Leek was celebrated. A train, topped and tailed by an S160 steam loco and a class 33 diesel ventured onto the newly-laid track north of Leekbrook Junction.
There is a lot of work to do yet, and funds to be raised, but the intention is to restore the line northwards as far as the town of Leek.
Well done to all who have worked hard to achieve this.
The volunteer millers and guides at Nether Alderley Mill have
won a Marsh Award for volunteering, which celebrates the work and achievements of museum volunteers. In our case, the win celebrated our success at gaining certification this year (a process which began as soon as the restored mill re-opened in 2013) to sell to our visitors the flour we produce at the mill.
A group of volunteers and National Trust staff went down to the British Museum on Monday of this week to be presented with the Award as North West Regional winners. Nether Alderley Mill will benefit from the prize of £500, which will be used to improve our facilities and equipment for milling and bagging flour.
This is an amazing achievement for Nether Alderley Mill, and we were told that we had faced considerable tough competition to win the prize.
The group at the British Museum, London, Monday 23rd September 2019. Left to right: Mike (guide), Terry (guide), Vince (guide and miller), Bill (miller), Anne (guide), Darren (National Trust), Sharon (National Trust, with our certificate), Bruce (miller), Jennifer (National Trust), Carolyn (guide).
Great day at High Legh Railway today, including driving this lovely beast. 'Bennu' was an ancient Egyptian deity apparently. This one is a very smokey deity (we were burning house coal!). It's a 7.25" gauge live steam loco big enough to enable one to sit in the tender to drive it.
Great fun, but it'll be better when run on steam coal when there'll be less chance of driver asphyxiation!
Wrexham Model Engineers are holding their 'Diesel Day' this weekend, so on Saturday morning I packed my little diesel-outline electric loco 'Lindow' into the car and Malc and I headed off down the M56 into Welsh Wales.
The Wrexham track isn't the biggest or the most demanding, but is in a delightfully rural location, and on a superb day such as yesterday made for a great day out.
Sale Area Model Engineering Society member Jason was there making a video of the event (for his 'LMS 4767' channel on YouTube), which you can watch by clicking on this link: Wrexham Diesel Day
I had traveled down to London by train (cheap advance 1st class ticket) on Tuesday 23rd July for an overnight stay, to join Inside Track's 'Harz Mountaineer' holiday on the Wednesday morning at St Pancras International station. Clive, our courier, had distributed our Eurostar tickets to Brussels Midi when we noticed that trains to Brussels were showing on the departure boards as 'cancelled'. Clive made enquiries and it transpired that things were unlikely to improve as there was an infrastructure problem on Belgian rail (probably overhead wires down in the extreme heat).
So Clive moved us to the Betjeman Arms pub on the station concourse and opened a tab at the bar while he got busy on his phone. We enjoyed the St Austell 'Proper Job' and a spot of lunch while watching the Eurostar Paris departures and arrivals.
Please click on any picture for a larger image.
After lunch drink and nibbles on the Virgin Pendolino as I whizzed down to London at 125mph
'Proper Job' and a fish finger sandwich at the Betjeman Arms as Clive sorted out our onward travel in view of Eurostar cancelling all trains to Brussels
Watching the Paris departures and arrivals from the Betjeman Arms
We were booked into the Marriot Hotel in Cologne that night and should have been speeding to Brussels to change to a German ICE train to Cologne. That wasn't going to happen now.
But Clive and the Inside Track team came up with a solution. Our group of 22 were ushered into a row of taxis waiting outside St Pancras, to London City Airport (LCY) for a flight to Frankfurt. With temperatures in the 30s, even with the taxi windows open it was a long and sticky trip through the East London traffic. Our flight wasn't until 7pm so we had plenty of time.
I photographed this Embraer 190 of BA Cityflyer at London City airport from the departure lounge as we awaited our flight. We flew on one of these, G-LCYY.
After a slight delay our flight was called. Take off from LCY was 'sporty' as I guess full power is used due the short runway. About an hour later we landed at Frankfurt and took a bus to to the terminal where the railway station is located for a train to Cologne. We arrived at the Marriot Cologne at about one o'clock in the morning (European time; GMT + 2). We were several hours late, but amazingly, we were back on our schedule! Well done Inside Track.
An early start next morning had us (after a nice breakfast) aboard our ICE train to Hannover, where we changed to a local train to Bad Harzburg before joining our waiting coach for the long climb into the Harz to Torfhaus. The Brocken (the highest mountain in the Harz) was used in Cold War times by East Germany as a 'listening post' spying electronically on the West, and the summit is a mass of radio masts. Torfhaus was the Western equivalent, but far less impressive as the West was perhaps less paranoid than the East.
The two could look at each other across the valley, and after we had enjoyed a super lunch of traditional sausage, mash, and sauerkraut we enjoyed our own views of the Brocken.
Bad Harzburg railway station boasts some impressive stained glass windows
Lunch (and very good German beer!) at the Torfhaus restaurant
Cold war aerials atop the Brocken, viewed from Torfhaus
Our coach took us to Drei Annen Hohne for our first HSB (Brocken rail system) train to Wernigerode station, from where our coach took us to our hotel for the holiday, the lovely Weisser Hirsch in the town square, which I have stayed at on two previous holidays.
Our coach took us from Westerntor to the main station in Wernigerode for a train to Halberstadt, and another from there to historic Quedlinburg, the start of the Selketalbahn. Some of our group elected to travel on our coach to photograph the train at various points en route, but for me it had to be a train trip!
Our locomotive at the Quedlinburg terminus, ready for the trip to Alexisbad
Here is a video of a nicely-handled re-start from a small halt on the line. The driver catches the loco with a reduction in regulator every time it is about to slip:
Many of the stations on the line are grand structures. This is Bad Suderode,
From Alexisbad we caught this Triebwagen (railcar) up the branch to Harzegerode where the cafe was closed (as it was last time I was here two years ago!).
The Triebwagen took us back down the branch to Alexisbad where we enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Hotel Morada, once more enjoying Clive's bar tab (though not too much - there was still a lot to do that day!).
After lunch we returned to Alexisbad station to continue to explore the remainder of the Selketalbahn. Here our train arrives from Quedlinburg.
Our loco takes on water at Eisfelder Talmuhle. It had brought us via Stiege and its balloon loop to Hasselfelde, where the loco ran-around its train, back to Stiege, and on to Eisfelder, the the end of the Selketalbahn. Here our loco detached from our train and went onto the train for Nordhausen.
The Nordhuasen departure ready to go. In a few days we will travel from Nordhausen to here.
Another view of the loco which brought us from Alexisbad to Eisfelder Talmuhle, ready to depart that station for Nordhausen
Having lost our big 2-10-2 tank engine to the Nordhausen train, we took the loco off the arrival from Nordhausen to power our return to Stiege.
That loco was the unique HSB 2-6-2 tank engine
From Stiege our coach took us back to our Wernigerode hotel.
On Saturday 27th July our itinerary was an optional walk after breakfast to photograph trains from the woods followed by a late morning train to Drei Annan then a gondola ride at Seilbahn Wurmberg, with a free afternoon in Wernigerode.
I decided to forgo all this, and got an early train to Drei Annan then another to Eisfelder Talmuhle. This latter is for me the most scenic line in the Harz and I was keen to 'do' it both ways, even though later in the holiday we would do it from Eisfelder to Drei Annan.
The train I traveled on from Wernegerode Westerntor to Drie Annan, seen at the latter station before continuing on to the Brocken. I will be catching a train from here to Eisfelder Talmuhle.
Before it tackled the Brocken climb, the loco's driver gave the right-hand big end some attention, adjusting the side to side play in this most vital of bearings on any steam locomotive
All done! The big end, coupling rod, connecting rod, and return crank ready for the upcoming hard climb to the Brocken summit
Here's a video of the Brocken train departing Drie Annan Hohne. Note the loud 'clonk' of the Trofimoff valves (the valve pistons are free to move on their shaft) seating themselves as steam is admitted to the steam chest:
I then reversed the morning's route, pausing for an hour at Drei Annan to sample the Bratwurst and beer from the small hut on the platform there, before continuing on to Wernigerode, getting back late afternoon.
The Brocken summit just visible in the haze, seen from my Wernigerode hotel bedroom window (click on the picture to enlarge it)
Sunday 28th started with our coach taking us to Quedlinburg for another ride on the Selketalbahn. Having two bites at this line enabled any of us who had taken the 'photographic' option of following the train on our coach could this time travel by train, and vice versa. However, I once again took the train!
Some of our group on the way to Alexisbad on the Selketalbahn
From Alexisbad our coach took us to Kurort Wippra to ride this classic old railcar to Klostermansfeld
A view out of the rear windscreen of the railcar
Lovely comfy armchair seats and curtains at the windows! BR railcars were never like this!
Klostermansfeld is the home of the Mansfelder Bergwerksbahn. Unfortunately in the summer months they are not allowed to run steam for fear of starting lineside fires, so this steam loco was 'dead'.
Our train on this 750mm line was hauled by an 0-6-0 diesel shunter
The coaches are beautifully maintained with a varnished pine finish inside. We were served gherkins, sandwiches, and beer (soft drinks were also available) and there seemed no limit to how many beers one could ask for.
Ham sandwich and beer for lunch - lovely!
The beer is specially bottled for the railway
Our hosts on this quirky little railway also came round (twice!) with a basket of schnapps and brandy to which we could help ourselves!
The line once served the extensive coal mines that used to proliferate in the Mansfeld area, just like in Mansfield in England. Part of it has been preserved and now runs for several miles through fields of cereal crops and sunflowers. Here our loco takes a rest at the far end of the line....
....While we have a look around a stored steam loco in the shed there
Another look at our cute little loco before we headed back to Klostermansfeld
On the return journey our train did a couple of run-pasts for the photographers at a triangle on the line. With a little diesel shunter I didn't really see the point of these but hey, it was fun!
Back on the coach we drove to Sandersleben for a standard gauge train to Halberstadt. Some rode the tram system here but others, including me, caught a connecting train back to Wernigerode.
Monday 29th July was the day of our literal highlight of the holiday, a trip to the summit of the Brocken, and the journey would complete my traveling of the entire HSB system as I had not managed to ride the Nordhausen branch on previous Harz visits. Having our coach available enabled us to be in Nordhausen to catch the 09:38 bi-mode (diesel and electric) tram from the hospital to Nordhausen station. However, we discovered that roadworks in the town meant the tram was not running. Luckily we discovered this in time for Clive to stop our coach from driving away, and we traveled on that to the station.
We had some time to wait before the only steam train departure of the day (there are other departures, but they are diesel railcars). One of our party pointed out this Russian (I think) big, powerful, and quite old diesel loco in the yard at Nordhausen.
Our train ready to depart Nordhausen
Steaming through the outskirts of the town
At Ilfeld Neanderklinik we passed this Nordhausen bi-mode tram (these were still running to the town, but not through it to the hospital)
At Eisfelder Talmuhle we took the scenic route to Drie Annan Hohne which I had taken on Saturday when I went 'off piste'. A view here from the rear balcony of the last coach.
From Drei Annan Hohne our loco ran around the train as we reversed direction to take the Brocken branch
It's notable in the Harz that at higher altitudes there are many dead trees. These are caused by the Borkum Beetle, which strips the bark from the trees. We wondered what sort of species would destroy its own environment like that (!). So we asked a |Borkum Beetle: "nothing to do with me mate. I'm just eating a bit of bark. No idea why there are loads of dead trees about".
Here is a video taken from the rear balcony of the rear coach as we climb the Brocken:
At the famous 'passing siding' we climbed past a train bound down the mountain and parked there for us to have an uninterrupted run uphill. Already we are running into wispy cloud.
Looking back from the rear balcony of the last coach, at the train waiting to back out of the passing siding once we were clear
Predictably, the cloud thickened as we climbed towards the summit
Brocken summit station. It was obvious that the cloud was orographic (forming continuously as the moist air was forced to rise as it met the hill, causing the water it contained to condense out as visible vapour). Thus, it wasn't likely to clear, there would be no summit views, so some of us stayed on the train and returned down the mountain on it.
The loco runs around at the summit ready for the return trip....
....Almost vanishing from view as it does so
Now it was our turn to enter the passing siding. Here is the next summit-bound train working hard as it pounds up the hill past us. At Schierke there was time for a bratwurst and a beer before returning by train to Wernigerode.
Our final day in the Harz, Tuesday 30th July, was another where I decided to go 'off piste' where the itinerary was concerned, but not before the scheduled tour of Westerntor loco workshops. I have done this tour before but it was too good to miss a second go! I ducked out early to catch the 09:44 Brocken train from the adjacent Westerntor station while the majority of the group enjoyed a visit to the local castle, a witch hunt in the afternoon, followed by free time in Quedlinburg. It seemed a sin to have a five-day HSB pass and not use it on the fifth day! Besides, the Brocken summit looked clear from my hotel bedroom this morning.
In the Westerntor workshops
A pre-war railcar in for maintenance
One of the big 2-10-2 steam locomotives with its motion stripped down
The workshop has plans to expand to take on more work which is currently done at Menningham main line works, and say their biggest problem will be recruiting skilled engineers to operate the machines. I had noticed their wheel lathe was entirely manual requiring a skilled machinist to operate it and asked why they don't invest in modern CNC machines to reduce the need for such skilled manpower. Our guide (through an interpreter) replied that that would just mean the operator would stand there watching the machine do it while he drank a cup of tea!
The concept of more efficient use of labour (instead of drinking tea and watching the machine the operator could go and do some other job) and the reduced need to find so many highly skilled machinists by use of modern CNC machines seemed not to be something they wish to pursue.
The weather being clear and sunny the 09:44 was pretty full, especially after Drie Annen, but I managed to get a seat. In fact every train up the mountain was filled to overflowing, as were the descending trains after lunch.
Brocken summit station - that's better, what a difference a day makes!
Eastern Bloc 'listening' paraphernalia on the summit. The building on the right is now a museum.
Views denied to us yesterday by the cloud
Brocken summit 'cairn'
Having been up here a few times previously I didn't hang around, and managed to catch the same train down as I'd come up on, where I bumped into a few more 'escapees' from our itinerary who had skipped the workshop tour and come up on the first train of the day. Here is a view seen soon after leaving the summit station.
The Seilbahn Wurmberg ski jump from the train, which was on the itinerary for a visit by gondola on a day I went 'off piste'
On the opposite side of the valley to the Brocken are the western bloc 'listening' aerials at Torfhaus which we visited on our first day in the Harz
On the way down we of course were put into the passing siding, where I took this video of a packed train working up to the summit. This big 2-10-2 engine is really working hard!
The beer and the Bratwurst from the hut at Schierke really are excellent, so that's where I stopped for a late lunch while watching crowded rain after crowded train head up the Brocken. Quite a contrast to the trains yesterday when the weather wasn't so good.
Passengers for the Brocken trying to board an already packed train at Schierke
My train down from Schierke to Wernegerode, and the last HSB train for me of this holiday, enters the station having descended from the Brocken. This was also very busy as by now people were descending as well as still ascending the mountain!
Our last night of the holiday was celebrated by a meal, hosted by Clive, at our hotel, including drinks of course.
The next morning our coach took us to Goslar station for a train to Hannover, where we would join an ICE train for Cologne, changing there for another ICE to Brussels. However, shortly after leaving Cologne it was announced that our train had a fault and could not operate into Belgium (presumably it could not operate on the Belgian overhead line voltage). Some smart moves by DB got our train stopped at Duren, where shortly afterwards the opposite direction (Brussels to Cologne) service was also stopped on the opposite side of our platform, and all the passengers swapped trains. Our defective unit returned to Cologne with the passengers from Brussels, and we boarded the set that had come from Brussels to continue our journey. The trains being identical, reserved seating was maintained!
We wait at Duren by our defective ICE train for the opposite direction train, with which we will swap
Having swapped trains I took this view of our defective set at Duran before we left for Brussels and it left for Cologne
Aboard the ICE train, enjoying a beer
The journey back through the Channel Tunnel by Eurostar was uneventful. However, the new Eurostar trains are not as comfortable as the old ones they have replaced. And in the tiny on-board bar when I asked for a beer the only thing on offer was a tin of Heineken! In Belgium FFS, the home of excellent beer! I think what Eurostar needs is a bit of competition.
But the wine (which I had instead) was good!
I stayed overnight in London at Premier Inn Kings Cross which led to an interesting finish to my Harz holiday, but something I could have done without. At 4:00am the hotel fire alarm went off. It was so loud I couldn't have stayed in my room if I'd wanted to.
Quick throw-on of some clothes was followed by half an hour standing in the street with several hundred others. The police turned up almost immediately, then more.... then some more. Twenty minutes later the fire brigade rolled up. Good job there wasn't actually a fire!
Got to bed again about quarter to five!
I later made a claim against Premier Inn under the terms of their 'undisturbed night' guarantee. I am pleased to say they honoured it and refunded my room charge in full.
Next morning I made use of the Virgin 1st class lounge at Euston before a lovely Pendolino ride home with a nice brunch and a couple of stiff G&Ts all included.
'My' Pendolino pulls out of Stockport for Manchester having brought me from Euston. MLS clubrooms above the station canopy on platform 2.
The last train of the holiday. One of those awful 319s, but at least it got me home to Wilmslow.