News archive - April 2004
I'm just back from a week in sunny Shropshire, where we went on holiday over Easter. An almost completely steam-free week, apart from the first day when we went to the Severn Valley Railway. We journied down from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster behind GWR tank 1501, looked round their super little museum at that end and had lunch before coming back up behind a Warship (I think - bit hazy on these modern forms of locomotion) breaking our journey at a country park on the way up to allow the boys to run off some excess energy. The park is a request stop, so one rather grandly flags down a train to resume the journey - in our case Hinton Manor.
There were a couple of other engines in steam on the day: the
magnificent West Country Pacific "Taw Valley" (currently running in
the guise of classmate "Ottery St Mary") and something else, possibly
a Black 5, which I only saw from afar from the country park. A highly
recommended railway, it would be absolutely perfect if one could only get in the
sheds and workshop! The Severn Valley have extensive engineering facilities,
taking on much heavy overhaul work for other preserved lines in the country
(and, indeed, were reponsible for the major overhaul on my Aveling roller in
Welcome news on returning from holiday was that all the legal doings had been signed for the new house in our absence, so we are now full steam ahead getting rid of excess baggage ready for a move later in the summer. All the big workshop machinery is moving this Saturday and will be stored until building work is completed on the new workshop. This will be three times the size of my current place, purpose-built with running water, a loo and central heating no less - yes, I know, I'm getting soft in my old age! It will certainly encourage me to get more work done in the long, dark, winter months.
I visited a private five inch gauge railway in Kent recently, built up and run by a group of friends over many years. One of the best set up places I've been to, engines stored in purpose built racks with a specially adapted forktruck to get them to and from the track and workshop - no lifting required at any stage. The gentleman who owned the track had got to an age and stage where a little thinning out was required - a case of too many engines and not enough hours in the day (I know the story…). Having spent years buying very selectively and acquiring some nice engines, time had come to move one or two on. So far, so good but, as always, there is always a catch. After showing me lots of rather good engines, at the end of the tour he unsheeted the jewel of the collection - a professionally-built Black 5, an absolute stunner, highly detailed and never steamed in its life.
At this point, all objective reasoning went out of the window (which is an unfortunate failing I have when confronted with beautiful bits of engineering!). Would he consider parting with the engine? Well, possibly, but he'd intended it would be one of the last engines he'd let go. Which is how, after much talking, I ended up buying just about everything else in front of it just to get this one engine - a few days later, with the car and my big plant trailer completely full, I was crawling home very gingerly round the M25. It was filthy weather all the way until, late that afternoon, the sun finally re-appeared and I could unsheet the trailer and get unloaded. A long, hard day's work but with the engine in front of me as I sit writing this, worth it!
As soon as the last of my big machinery is moved out of the workshop this Saturday, Bob and I will be heads down testing and servicing the rest of the engines in the collection - I hope to get pictures up over the next couple of weeks.
click to enlarge
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Sad to say, the engine will remain unsteamed - there's already a display case ordered for it and a place allocated in the new house!
Finally, the great news this month that "Flying Scotsman" has, at last, been bought for the national collection. It's had an at times precarious existence over the last thirty years, it's good to know that it's got a secure future. I expect many of you will be visiting Railfest 2004 next month - I'm certainly hoping to get up there - and the National Railway Museum's latest acquisition will be there.
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