Monday, 22 July 2013

Getting to know the Griso

The lovely weather (so far) of this summer has enabled me to get out and about on my new bike to 'get the feel of her'. I've been up in the Peak District, and around Cheshire in the days since I rode her home from Rossendale over a week ago.

Today was perhaps the best ride yet. Hazy cloud kept the temperatures a tad lower than the recent high 20s, but with long standing high pressure the visibility was not so good for my ride today with a haze killing the distant views.

I filled the tank in Wilmslow and set off via Prestbury to ride up through Bollington to 'The Highwayman' at Rainow. I crossed the Macclesfield to Whalley Bridge road and continued to Lamaload, noting the reservoir is down a bit (we've had no rain for weeks). Then up to the Macclesfield to Buxton road which I followed, through its well known twisty bends, past the Cat & Fiddle pub and then turning off that road for the minor road across Axe Edge Moor to join the Buxton to Leek road, which after a few miles I turned off towards Longnor. From Longnor there is a lovely road into the Dove valley through Crowdecote, which took me over the river and up the hairpins on the far side, then past the former Cromford & High Peak Railway (later the former Buxton to Ashbourne line) at Hurdlow, now a cycleway, to emerge at the Buxton to Ashbourne road.

Soon I was in Monyash where I'd intended to stop for a cup of tea at the cafe by the village green, but it was crowded with cars so I turned right and rode on to Hartington, and then Hulme End where there's a cafe in the old engine shed of the Waterhouses to Hulme End narrow gauge railway. The railway closed in the 1930s and the cafe was closed today, so I took to the delightful ridge-top minor road between the valleys of the Manifold to the left, and the Dove to the right, back to Longnor, and on to Earl Sterndale and 'The Quiet Woman' for lunch.

A pint of hoppy ale, the remains of a pork pie, my helmet, and the Griso at Earl Sterndale at lunchtime today

The 'Quiet Woman' (with its inn sign of a headless lady) was open, and I had the traditional pint and pork pie this pub is famous for.

After lunch, a blast up to the Ashbourne road enabled me to cross that and take to one of my favourite roads in the White Peak - the A5270 from here to the A6 at Blackwell, where I did a 180 degree turn - and rode it back again!

The ride home was via Harper Hill, the Cat & Fiddle, Macclesfield, and Prestbury.

What a great ride out!


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Great Gathering; York

The Great Gathering in The Great Hall; five of the six 'streaks'

Steve Davies used to be director of the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry when I joined as volunteer locomotive footplate crew. Steve was a superb director and the MoSI railway blossomed under his leadership. Unfortunately for us he went on to greater things, being appointed director of the National Railway Museum in York. He inherited the poisoned chalice of the money-pit 'Flying Scotsman' restoration disaster. However, he will be remembered not for that, but for his initiative in making 'The Great Gathering' happen this summer.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of A4 Pacific steam locomotive 'Mallard' setting the world speed record for steam in 1938 at126mph (which still stands today) he arranged to have all six extant A4 Pacifics (nicknamed 'Streaks') gather at the York museum. Four were in UK; 'Mallard' herself, 'Union of South Africa', 'Bittern', and 'Sir Nigel Gresley' (named after the locomotive's designer). The other two had to be imported; 'Dwight D. Eisenhower' from the USA, and 'Dominion of Canada' from that country.

Of the four UK locomotives, all but the most famous, 'Mallard', are operational. That the most famous of all steam locomotives, the fastest in the world, is merely a static exhibit does not speak well (in my opinion) for the NRM pre-Steve management in deciding to throw limitless funds at populist 'Scotsman' instead of funding the return to steam of more deserving locomotives in the national collection.

The two locomotives from across the Atlantic were given a cosmetic restoration (and very well done, too) for the 'Gathering' as part of the deal with their home museums.

I'm no fan of Gresley's locomotives as I think they are technically inferior in design compared to the lineage that came from Churchwood and Collett at Swindon on the Great Western Railway, culminating in the superb 'Castles' and 'Kings'. These ideas were further developed by William Stanier, who was headhunted from the Great Western and took Swindon ideas with him to Crewe when he was appointed Cheif Mechanical Engineer of the LMS (London, Midland, and Scottish railway). Stanier went on to produce what is arguably the ultimate passenger express steam locomotive, the 'Coronation' class Pacific.

It's no co-incidence that when Robert Riddles was charged with designing the very last classes of steam locomotives for British Railways in the early 1950s he took the best features of what each company had hitherto produced, they were either developments of Stanier's designs or completely new designs largely incorporating Stanier's design participles.

Nonetheless, the 'Mallard' record stands and 'The Great Gathering' is an event we just had to attend. So this morning  Malcolm, Mike, and me travelled (by train of course!) to the NRM at York.

It's not particularly easy to get all six A4s in one picture. The Great Hall turntable was open to public access for the event.

Its good to see that the sectioned Merchant Navy pacific 'Ellerman Lines' is still on display

Here's another National Collection locomotive that should arguably be in the restoration queue ahead of 'Scotsman'; the last steam locomotive built for British Railways, class 9F 2-10-0 'Evening Star'

'Dominion of Canada' carries a steam-operated bell and US-style whistle

'Mallard' carries a plaque commemorating the speed record, but here's the lesser-known one carried by 'Sir Nigel Gresley'

The exposed wheels and motion of 60009. I think Streaks look better with the side valences fitted....

....As here on 'Mallard and 'Dominion of Canada'

The ultimate in Great Western power, Collett's magnificent 'King' class. The GWR achieved this level of steam locomotive design advance by 1927; why did they stop there? 

A visitor from North Wales. a double Fairlie from the Ffestiniog Railway

Skulking in the back of the workshop, trying to hide, is the 'money pit'. If locos could wear a dunce's cap, this one would be.

More 'Streak Action' in the Great Hall; blue ones with valences....

.....And green ones without

There were long queues to gain access to the footplates of the Streaks

Outside in the yard Mike and Malc admire another example of Sir William Stanier's work - the highly successful 8F freight locomotive which I remember as plentiful in the North West of England at the end of steam on BR

I've driven this! The replica 'Rocket' owned by the NRM

To round off a great day, once we'd returned to Wilmslow Chris joined us at 'The Bollin Fee' where we took advantage of their book of vouchers delivered to Wilmslow households promoting food and drink. Very good it was too! Mike being silly, Malc tucking into his steak, Chris wondering what Mike's up to!

The sun shone in this July 2013 heatwave, the trains were on time, and the exhibits at NRM well presented (though it would have been nice to have seen a 'Duchess' there to show up the 'Streaks'!).

And so ended another excellent day out. Where to next?


Saturday, 13 July 2013

So what has replaced the Bonnie?

This has! A 2009 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V; a big V-twin of 1,200cc capacity and with 4 valves per cylinder. Although it's four years old it's in showroom condition, having only done just over 1,000 miles from new. It's fitted with a Moto Guzzi approved Termignoni high performance exhaust system in place of the standard system. And it sounds just gorgeous!

Moto Guzzi motorcycles are conceived and built in Mandello del Lario on Lake Como (Lecco arm, if you know the lake), in Italy. So they have a bit of style.

(As ever, click on any picture for a larger image)

The Termignoni exhaust, a Moto Guzzi option

I bought the bike from a charming chap up in Rossendale, who as well as his day job keeps bantams and makes cheese for sale, and lives in an ancient farm house above Rawtenstall. Malcolm and I rode the Freewinds up to see the bike on Wednesday, and I did the deal there and then. On Friday (yesterday), I went up to Whitefield by train and Metrolink tram where the owner picked me up (avoiding the military funeral which was taking place in Bury) and drove me to his house, from where I rode the bike home.

It is just brilliant to ride. A bottomless pit of power and torque, lots of character as you'd expect from a big low-stressed V-twin. And then there's that fabulous exhaust note. I took a ride on her yesterday afternoon despite the summer heat, and I'm still picking the flies out of my teeth!

Here's some pictures of the current fleet....

Moto Guzzi Griso, Suzuki Freewind, Honda C90



Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bye bye Bonnie

I've owned her for about four years, and today she left Wilmslow for her new home in Cornwall. JLF 435V is a 1979 Triumph Bonneville T140D, a Meriden built machine from the later days of the workers' co-operative. By 1979, they'd got the quality right (it had gone downhill since about ten years before). That was evident in the fault-free ownership I have enjoyed - unusual in British classic bikes.

The Bonnie enjoys her last evening in the Wilmslow garage. In the box on the seat are the original indicators, and some spares. In the envelope is the documentation.

So why is she going? I have some arthritis in my right knee so kicking a big bike into life is not recommended. These are kick-start bikes, with no electric start facility.

High summer, as the Bonnie awaits the arrival of the courier

The van arrives

She's tied down ready for the long journey south

 A final farewell. I hope she's going to a good home.

 With these old classics, one isn't so much an 'owner', more a 'custodian'. I am satisfied that JLF 435V is a better bike now than she was when she came into my care. Then, the fork seals leaked oil, and the speedometer and rev counter were transposed, the speedo being on the left when it should be on the right. This resulted in the mileage trip being inoperable as only the right hand instrument mounting had the facility for that. And there was an unexplained 'odd noise' on the over-run when warm. That turned out to be the plastic balance tube between the carburetters collapsing under suction when hot and the air going through it making a 'squeaky' noise! I cured that with a much tougher bit of tube!

I stripped and rebuilt the forks, adding gaiters which both improved the looks and give protection to the lovely chrome fork stanchions. Then I re-installed the instruments in their correct mountings, which involved replacing the non-original too-short speedometer drive cable, and the speedometer drive unit from the rear wheel. I also fitted the correct rear rack. These are minor changes, but they are in the right direction.

So now there's a space in the garage - and a vacancy in the fleet. But not for long! All being well, both will be filled tomorrow. Watch this space!