Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Cauldon Lowe branch - in sunshine!

While I've been beavering away becoming first a crossing keeper and hopefully soon a signalman on the Churnet Valley Railway, I've had a few train trips up and down the valley but only been able to watch the monthly trains that go beyond Leekbrook into Moorland & City Railway territory up to Cauldon Lowe. That's because when Cauldon trains are running there's also a service up and down the valley, so two trains, so we have Consall signalbox in operation for the trains to pass at Consall, and Leekbrook has to be manned to manage trains there. Today however was unique so far during my time as a CVR volunteer; the only train running today was doing two return trips from Froghall all the way to Cauldon Lowe. Only one train, so no signallers needed - so I could travel as a passenger!

I've been up the branch once before, in the first week following its re-opening by M&CR on 19th November 2010. That's covered early in this blog ( ), and if you go and take a look you'll see it was a foggy day. This morning was a bit misty, but that soon burned off to give a gloriously sunny autumnal day. Even earlier on the blog is a post about the reopening of the M&CR Cauldon branch. It can be seen, with a schematic drawing of the geography, at:

Here's that geographic schematic:

Stoke-----------Endon-------------Leekbrook------------------------Cauldon Lowe

Schematic of the geography of today's journeys were Froghall to Leekbrook (CVR) and on to Cauldon Lowe (M&CR) branch.  The Churnet Valley Line runs from Oakamoor to Leekbrook. The proposed Leek extension extends north from there, the M&CR link to Stoke to the west, and the M&CR Cauldon branch to the east.

As ever, click on any picture to enlarge it.

 Slightly misty Froghall station this morning

Lovely Consall, looking a bit 'Close Encounter'

We had the N7 tank engine on the front of the train, Class 33 Diesel 'Captain Charles' on the back. The N7's tanks need frequent refilling so we stopped at the water tower just outside Cheddleton. Here, our driver tops up his charge.

Sunny Leekbrook! The spring point was locked over for the loop line and the gate through to the M&CR from the CVR was opened. On our return from the M&CR branch to the CVR on the second (last) trip of the day the train crew unlocked the point and closed and locked the gate.

This is the northern end of the Churnet Valley railway. The line ahead used to run to Leek (and might again before too long) then on to Rudyard, Bosley, North Rode, and Macclesfield. But we branch off the CVR to the right onto the 1 in 50 climb of the Moorland & City branch to Cauldon Lowe.

Crossing over the A520 Leek to Stone road, looking north towards Leek

Apesford crossing, which I've manned a couple of times myself (don't mention bleedin caravans!). It's John's turn today.

Up onto the high moors

Near Ipstones we encountered cows on the line. They set off towards Cauldon but soon went back up the embankment and didn't delay us long.

Arriving at Cauldon Lowe where there is now a run-round loop. We won't be using today as we are topped and tailed (we have a loco at each end of the train so can simply reverse back the way we came).

The end of the Cauldon Lowe branch. The line here used to go on to the stone quarries, and a little further back there was a branch to the left to Waterhouses from where a narrow gauge line continued up the Manifold Valley to Hulme End in the White Peak. That line closed in the 1930s but was built at the same time as the Stoke - Leekbrook - Waterhouses / Cauldon line under the same light railway order.

Before we return, the token (giving authority to run on the line),  has to be transferred to the Class 33 as that will be the leading locomotive for the return to Froghall

Our N7 loco, back at Froghall. I decided to stay on the train for its second trip up to Cauldon Lowe and back.

Crossing the A520 again, looking south towards Cheddleton this time on the train's second and final traverse of the Cauldon Lowe branch today

Pelicans at Blackbrook zoo near Ipstones

Ipstones road bridge on the return run from Cauldon Lowe. Ipstones summit is well over 1,000 feet above sea level.

John and a pair of train-watching bikers at Apesford crossing

Inside our comfortable 1st class BR Mk 1 coach

Back onto the CVR on our way down to Froghall, with the M&CR line to Endon and Stoke-on-Trent branching off to the right. This line has been re-opened as far as Endon but no passenger trains run down it yet.

Heres a short video of the N7 struggling on damp rails this morning to get the train re-started from the stop at a road crossing near Ipstones. The gradient is about 1 in 40, and the rail is wet. But eventually a hefty push from our Captain Charles at the back of the train gets us going!

So, a great day on the Churnet Valley and M&CR. And a lovely drive back though the peak district in the top-down MX5 via Onecote, Warslow, Longnor, Axe Edge and the Cat & Fiddle capped it off nicely.

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