We had a bit of snow at Urmston today, but it soon turned to intermittent rain. I'd decided to take 'Alfred' for a run, and apart from the cold temperatures causing visibility problems with steam as described in 19th December post, we had a great day!
Superb pictures by Jason Lau as usual. Please click on any picture for a larger image.
'Alfred' with Keith's 'Polly' tank on the arrivals track this morning
Malc and me with 'Alfred on the prep bay
First job I had to do was refit the steam pressure gauge, It goes next to the oiler sight glasses where that clean patch is on the cab front wall, and its steam pipe can be seen curving round the top of where the gauge fits, with the connecting union pointing upwards ready to be attached to the gauge. Pressure gauges are irreparably damaged by frost, so I removed it to store it in the house where it will be snug and warm. It will be removed again after today's running.
This Stanier 2-6-4 tank was purchased at Poynton rail memorabilia auction last year by a new member of the club. Its condition for running is uncertain, and it has no boiler certificate, but I understand he got it for a good price.
Billowing smoke as the 'lighting up' fire of paraffin soaked charcoal gets going before coal is added
Note the compressed air blower in the chimney to draw the fire until we have steam pressure and can use the loco's internal steam blower instead. The copper pipe is curved round 180 degrees at the end so it sends a jet of air up the chimney.
Having, in recent times, used rail in many European
countries I am amazed how our railways cope so well with much higher numbers of
passengers per train and many more trains per network mile. I was particularly
unimpressed with German Railways last summer with some trains cancelled and
even the top-of-the-range ICE trains running with faults such as non-working
aircon (hell on a hot day with no opening windows). We used to get that in BR
days on the MK3 coaches to London, but not with the Pendolinos.
Privatisation was far and away the best thing that ever happened to our
railways. Those of us who don't wear rose tinted specs, didn't work for BR, and
were the unfortunate pax back in BR days know this only too well. Trains were
far fewer back then, they were unreliable (if I had to be in London for a vital
meeting I flew - the train just wasn't reliable enough. Now no-one flies MAN -
LON). Staff were surly and the whole operation was inward-looking. One got the
impression the railway was there for the staff, not the pax.
BR were also responsible for destroying much rail infrastructure, far
more damaging than Beeching's 'branch line cuts'. BR took out lines like
Woodhead (an electrified line between two major cities!), Buxton - Derby, and
almost the Settle - Carlisle until an enterprising civil engineer called their
bluff over the cost of repairing Ribblehead Viaduct and the line was saved.
They 'simplified' junctions, single-lined many busy routes, and removed
signalling making 'blocks' much longer so reducing line capacity. In
privatisation we have seen much of that restored, and even improved on such as
Trent Valley 4-tracking (even the LMS managed with only 3 tracks, which BR
reduced to 2).
Rail is also much safer now, and safer than continental rail. One doesn't
want to tempt fate, but it's 8 years since a passenger died as a result of a
rail accident in UK. All this despite an almost threefold increase in traffic
The only area we lag behind in is high speed rail. We haven't got any
(HS1 is really a branch of the French network). One thing my continental rail
travels have revealed is the vast mileage of HS rail all over Europe, and the
rate at which it is still being built. We have a smaller more crowded land mass
of course, but even taking that into account it is ludicrous that we are still
arguing about HS2 'in maybe 20 years from now'. We are well behind the curve on
HS rail and should be cracking on with it.
That our railways deliver a (largely) on-time service with few
cancellations over a Victorian infrastructure is something that I find amazing.
The unions don't like the success of privatisation even though the growth due
improved services has outstripped reduction in jobs due to removal of many
over-manning situations (second men in cabs was one such - very similar
argument to the non-safety issue of DOO).
RMT has a mission to bring UK rail to a halt to impose their demands...
or worse. One of their officials on TV even said the real aim of these strikes
is to bring down the government as my link below illustrates. There is NO safety issue with DOO
as the rail safety authority and 30 years experience worldwide shows, and the
RMT should be put firmly back into its box.
And fares? Yes, because the government has a policy to move rail costs
away from the taxpayer and onto the fare payer we do have some of the highest
fares in Europe, particularly 'walk up' fares. We do also, because of our
'complex' ticketing systems, have some of the cheapest advance fares as well!
Of course the Daily Mail (spit!) will compare a walk-up peak time Glasgow -
London rail fare with a locost advance-booked airline seat to Majorca, but
that's because the press like to pander to our beliefs not present facts. It
sells more papers.
I think our railways are great. I think those who call for
renationalisation are either union bigots or a certain cadre of ex-BR staff who
have a great sense of 'entitlement' and want 'their' railway back!
And those strikes?
Time we called ‘time’ on these ludicrous rail strikes. As
the rail safety authority and 30 years of experience here and abroad has shown,
there is NO safety issue. Rather, this is what it’s about: