Saturday, 22 February 2014

Churnet Valley Railway 2014 Winter Steam Gala

Malc and I fired up the little bikes today (Malc on his Townmate, me on my C90) and headed off to Cheddleton for the first of two days of the Churnet Valley Railway's Winter Steam Gala. We'd timed our arrival to watch the S160 heading for Froghall, the unique Great Western Railmotor (which Pete and I met at Llangollen last year; see here on the blog.) and the star of the show, West Country Bullied Pacific 'Wadebridge' setting off for the climb to Ipstones. The plan then was to ride to Apesford crossing to witness 'Wadebridge' tackling the 1 in 40 gradient up to Ipstones on the Cauldon Lowe branch.

However, when we arrived at Cheddleton we discovered all had not gone well. Problems at Consall signal box had delayed the start of the day, and then Wadebridge failed on the Cauldon Lowe branch with a problem with its fire bars (caused by a slip, we were told). So the timetable was over an hour behind schedule, and 'Sophie', a class 33 diesel locomotive was deputising for 'Wadebridge', which was in the shed yard being 'fettled'.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

Normally a Foxfield Railway resident, this Beyer Peacock saddle tank locomotive no.1827 has been recently restored at Cheddleton and was giving driver experience rides up and down the yard for £5 a time 

This little engine was built at Beyer Peacock's in Gorton in 1879, close by Gorton Monastery which we visited yesterday 

West Country Pacific 'Wadebridge' takes water from a hose in the yard, having had its fire bars put right and the fire re-laid 

The frames and tender of 5197 in the yard, one of the CVR's  two S160 locomotives. I drove this engine on a 'Driver Experience' for my 60th birthday, which led my involvement as a volunteer on the railway and my becoming a signalman at Consall.

 Polish TKH Tank Engine 2944 nears completion of its restoration in the shed at Cheddleton

S160 5197's boiler in the shed 

The GWR Railmotor arrives from Froghall 

Not easy, this job! Firing the Railmotor

'Wadebridge', cylinder drain cocks open, moves out of the yard 

'Wadebridge' runs into the bay platform, ready to re-take her place on the train when it arrives from Ipstones hauled by class 33 diesel 'Sophie'  

The other CVR S160, 6046, headed for the climb up to Ipstones on the Cauldon Lowe Branch 

'Wadebridge' back in charge of her train, ready to leave for Froghall

We'd hoped to see 'Wadebridge' tackling the 1 in 40 climb to Ipstones at Apesford crossing, but we didn't have the time to stay now the timetable was so far behind schedule. We fired up the little bikes and headed up to Apesford anyway as that would enable us to pick up an interesting route home through the Peak District.

We joined the Leek road at Apesford, but soon turned off onto Porters lane and Douse lane steeply up to the ridge road to Morridge. This ancient way offers magnificent views west, east, and north over Staffordshire and Cheshire and in today's clear air they were superb. Dropping off the ridge we crossed the A53 and rode along the north east flank of The Roaches to the Dane at Gradbach. The climb up the side of the Dane Valley at Burntcliff Top, with views across to the forested hill of Lud's Church on the far side led us to the A54 at Allgreave, then on to Bosley crossroads to pick up this morning's route outbound. At a petrol stop at Chelford I phoned Ivan (who had 'enjoyed' a day of DIY) to join us for a pint at the Bird in hand at Knolls Green, where we relaxed and let a crackling wood fire warm our chilled bones as we recalled the many highlights of our day over a glass of Sam Smith's best bitter.

Right. Home now, and prepare for my stint as signalman tomorrow at Consall for the second day of the CVR Winter Steam Gala.

Sunday 23rd February

Today I was rostered signalman in Consall box - the first session in the box for me this year. I'm pleased to say all was well with the box, unlike yesterday when a fault meant Consall box couldn't be brought into use, so the train service was delayed until the fault was fixed.

No such problems this morning - on inserting the keys on the staffs into the instruments, the King Lever could be moved back and the box brought into use. The combined staff was brought from Cheddleton by the S160 no. 6146 coupled to the N7 Tank no. 69621 (these two are working together as the S160's air pump is away being repaired so the N7 was providing air for the loco brakes), and the GWR Railmotor.

S160 and N7 working together

Once the staff was split and the box opened, the S160 / N7 combination continued to Froghall to start services from there, and the Railmotor returned to Cheddleton to commence the service from that station. West Country Pacific 34007 'Wadebridge' had earlier set off from Cheddleton to Ipstones as the first service up the Cauldon Lowe line.

The Railmotor at Consall this morning, ready to depart to Cheddleton, taken from the signal box steps

Later, the Railmotor returned on its way to Froghall. Consall signal box on the right.

'Wadebridge' at Consall on a train for Froghall 

The Railmotor departs for Froghall 

'Wadebridge' with its odd 3-cylinder irregular beat, photographed from the signal box steps, storms up to Consall under London Bridge. After taking this picture I descended the steps to the platform to catch the Froghall Staff held out of the cab by the loco crew as they entered the station. 

I had a great day in the box today; interesting trains, no technical problems, and everything ran well, albeit about 20 minutes down on time by the end of the day, mostly caused by watering time for locos at Froghall, especially the S160 / N7 combination with both engines requiring water, only one water crane available, and the limited capacity of the supply tank.

The last movement of the day as far as Consall signalling was concerned was Wadebridge coming up from Froghall, while the Beyer Peacock no.1827 arrived at my home signal from Cheddleton bringing the staff back from there, and the driver rang in from the signal telephone. I advised him that when I pulled the signal off he was to advance with caution as Wadebridge and train were in the platform and he was to position onto the front of that loco. When I walked down to the platform end to collect the Cheddleton staff from the little tank engine, Wadebridge's crew were gathering wood and old pallets from the line side. They had run out of coal! They only had to get back to Cheddleton and had the mighty saddle tank engine to pull them, but nonetheless the entire wood supply for the Consall waiting room fire went into the West Country's firebox! Les, Margaret, and Howard (the Consall station staff) were not amused!

The Beyer Peacock pilots Wadebridge over the Caldon Canal at Consall this afternoon 

Wadebridge heading up the valley

 The Railmotor between Consall and Cheddleton

A couple of videos:

The S160 and N7 arrive at Cheddleton on Saturday

'Wadebridge' departs Consall for Froghall


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