Me on Planet (on the left)
I've always been a railway enthusiast. Not a train spotter; I've never written down a locomotive number in my life. Train spotting is about collecting stuff. As a railway enthusiast I don't do that. Railways interest me on all sorts of levels; engineering, social aspects including their part in historic and future social development, and their sheer efficiency at moving large numbers of people or freight economically at high speeds. They are the most civilised way of travelling. A couple of years ago I travelled London to the South of France by Eurostar and TGV - 200mph at ground level and in superb comfort; it was fantastic. And in 2013 my wife and I did a 'Great Rail Journeys' holiday by first class high speed train from London to France, Germany, and Italy. So different to the 'get there at least a couple of hours early, security checks cattle herding' of today's airline flying. They are carbon friendly as well, and most of all - they are fun!

I have been a footplate volunteer (fireman - though I do drive as well and look forward to checking out in that role) on the replica 'Planet' locomotive at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI) since February 2010. 'Planet', with her two replica Liverpool & Manchester (L&M) coaches are seen above at Loughborough in May 2010 during a visit to the Great Central Railway. The original 'Planets' were built in 1830 for the L&M by Robert Stephenson. They were a direct development of the 1829 'Rocket', incorporating many improvements, such as inside cylinders.

Our replica 'Planet' was built in 1992 by the Friends of MoSI, and normally gives rides to the public on the museum site. She incorporates a few unobtrusive improvements over the original to meet modern safety standards, such as continuous air brakes, a welded steel boiler instead of the riveted wrought iron of the original, and a live steam injector as well as a boiler feed pump.

 'Planet' in the station at MoSI

Me firing 'Agecroft No.1' at MoSI

Now that the 0-4-0 saddle tank 'Agecroft No.1' has been restored by the volunteers at MoSI, I am firing that locomotive as well. She's part of the North West's railway heritage, built in 1948 at Robert Stephenson Hawthorne'sworks in Newcastle she hauled coal trains from Agecroft pit to the power station.

 This S160 2-8-0 on the Churnet valley railway was the first steam
loco I drove - on a driver experience day as a 60th birthday present.

 In May 2010 I attended the 'Golden Oldies Gala' at the Great Central Railway, principally to see our 'Planet' run on a railway which is much longer than our confined site at MoSI allows ours to be. While there, I was invited for a footplate ride on the National Railway Museum's 1912 Robinson 2-8-0 number 63601 pictured above. But the real highlight was to be invited to drive the locomotive between Rothley and Leicester North! Wow! What an experience that was!

Here's a view I took from the footplate of 63601 as the driver 'notches up' over 
Swithland reservoir between Quorn and Rothley.

On the footplate of BR Standard Class 4 Tank 80002 at Oxenhope, 8th October 2010

Since June 2012 I have been a volunteer on the Churnet Valley Railway, qualifying as Crossing Keeper and passing my track safety and rules exams by August. The way was then clear to start as trainee signalman in Consall signal box. The relevant blog entries show that I qualified as signalman in Consall box in April 2013 and have thoroughly enjoyed working the box since!

'My' signal box at lovely Consall, on the Churnet Valley Railway

Towards the end of 2014, I felt the need to find a new railway interest. Signalling turns on the Churnet Valley Railway were becoming scarce due to the railway operating mostly single-train days until early 2015, and MoSI railway has lost a lot of its impetus since the resignation of the Railway Officer (who has not been replaced) and the threat posed by  the Ordsall Chord of cutting the railway back to an impractical length. If you've been reading the blog you'll know I started volunteering at the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway in the autumn of 2014.
Me driving Exmoor engine 'King Arthur' at Rudyard Lake Steam Railway

This is the footplate of 'Alfred', a 3.5" gauge live steam Quarry Hunslet, my latest escapade into steam! Plenty about him on the blog, and many other 5" gauge locos and the club at Urmston where we run them..