Followers of this blog will know that I used to be volunteer steam locomotive crew at the steam railway at Manchester's Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI). Since the Museum took a £3M sweetener to drop its objection to the proposed routing of the Network Rail Ordsall Chord adjacent to the Museum site, cutting off the main line connection and curtailing the MoSI railway to couple of hundred metres, many railway volunteers have left, including me.
With not much of the Museum's railway left, running passenger rides of about fifteen minutes as we used to is no longer possible, so MoSI has introduced instead the '1830 Express' and I went along today to sample it.
Please click on any picture for a larger image.
MoSI are using this picture of me on Agecroft No.1 to publicise the 1830 Express, though it was taken back in the days when MoSI had a 'proper' railway
Entertainers on the platform at Liverpool Road station. The target audience are families with small children. A couple of cuddly toy animals are handed out (these children represent farmers), a spade (a navvy), toy vegetables (market gardeners) and various other 'props' including white and purple flags to wave "to make the train go (white) and stop (purple)" .
An entertainer with a radio mike tells the children about the different 'trains' (oh dear!) that took part in the Rainhill Trials
Agecroft sets off from Liverpool Road station..... only to stop shortly afterwards at the buffer stops in the 1830 station
Piled up on the former Pineapple Line are track panels and components lifted from the railway
The train travels slowly so takes about a minute to cover the couple of hundred metres to the 1830 station, which is now the end of the line
Truncated rails at Water Street Bridge with the former MoSI trackbed beyond. The overhead gantries on the electrified main line can be seen to the left of the picture.
From the 1830 station the train sets back to the Liverpool Road station again. The goods waggons on the right are now marooned on a length of track with buffer stops at one end and the trackless Water Street Bridge at the other.
The train setting back to Liverpool Road station, a run of about one minute. During the ride the train does two out and back trips, a total of four minutes running for the £4 fare. But the kids do get to hold up their stuffed animals, toy vegetables, spades, and to wave their flags!
Someone has placed a wreath on the new buffer stops in the 1830 station in memory of the former MoSI steam railway
Water Street Bridge now devoid of railway tracks. MoSI trains used to run past here towards the main line, over the Irwell into Salford, before setting back along the Pineapple Line (by the yellow digger) almost to the Great Western Warehouse, before retracing their route back to Salford and then back to Liverpool Road station giving a total running time for the return trip of around fifteen minutes.
The lack of volunteers to run this 'railway' has meant MoSI has had to advertise for paid staff. On today's visit I didn't see any of the many railway volunteers I worked with, which is hardly surprising. The MoSI Railway has undergone a monumental dumbing down, and one wonders for how much longer the beautifully restored (by former Railway volunteers) Agecroft No1 and the superb replica 1830 'Planet' locomotive (which was built on site) will continue to ply the few metres of track at MoSI. It's almost cruel - like caging wild beasts in a confined space. It wouldn't surprise me to see them removed to somewhere with space for them to run properly.
A visit to the Power Hall revealed that none of the giant mill steam engines were running, and they have not run for many months now because of 'boiler problems'. It seems today's museum management have absolutely no interest in 'things that work', like mill steam engines and a viable steam railway. It is unimaginable when one looks at the Museum today that 'Planet' was built here - in long gone engineering workshops and by engineering-qualified volunteers. That scenario would be anathema to today's MoSI management who seem only to want interactive displays with buttons for the kids to mindlessly push.
Former MoSI Director and Director of the National Railway Museum, Steve Davies, called the Ordsall Chord debacle "public funded cultural vandalism". It would never have happened like this on his watch.
And that steam boiler for the mill engines would have been back in action in days when Steve was in charge, not the best part of a year. I even remember his hiring in a portable boiler to run the mill engines during problems with old boiler. Different times!