Anyway, this lengthy preamble is a build up to one of the best presents that an overgrown child could have dreamed about, the opportunity to go and play with some machinery – some very BIG machinery, for Sue’s present to me was a Steam Experience Day at Papplewick Pumping Station.
At some point, I will post something on this blog about the remarkable story of this building and its survival into preservation, but this present scribbling is about my day there. It was certainly not the first time that we had visited the place, for it is less than half an hour’s drive from home and over the years we have been there with my sons as well as as a couple for a day out.
Although the experience itself was all mine, Sue came along as my official photographer.
We arrived promptly at 9:00am to be greeted in the cafe with a cup of tea and where we met the other people who were on the day. There were six of us there for the experience and at least as many of Papplewick’s volunteer team. The “locals” were led by their knowledgeable, interesting and enthusiastic chief engineer, Tim Simons, who started the day with warm welcome and a safety briefing that simply emphasised that there is a lot of very heavy machinery that is perfectly capable of doing a great deal of harm. The two rules were to exercise common sense and not to touch anything unless we were told to. With this message firmly on board, Tim led us on a tour around the site.
After the tour we were divided into two groups for the first of our hands on sessions. I went with the group who were stoking the Lancashire boilers. After a brief introduction, I was allowed to shovel coal into the furnace.
Several years ago, I started to train as a fireman at Peak Rail, and found it very difficult to get the coal spread evenly across the firebox. In contrast, I found it much easier to control where the coal ended up in the Lancashire boiler and enjoyed the firing experience much more than I had aboard a railway locomotive. I also raked the fire to even out the inevitable pile of coal that I, as a beginner, had stacked up a couple of feet inside the door. Those gloves are an essential part of the kit because that rake can get quite hot.
I also went and fetched a couple of barrows of coal from the outside coal stack in one the wheelbarrows that they use.
Another difference between the boiler house at Papplewick and a railway locomotive is that everything was kept very clean and tidy. Although I was wearing a boiler suit, I didn’t end the day completely filthy like I did at the railway.
I really enjoyed firing this boiler and felt a little sad when it was time to move on.
After a coffee break, it was time for my group to move into the beautifully decorated engine house itself to drive one of two beam engines that have been restored and are lovingly maintained by the volunteers.
OK, this picture records my moment, but doesn’t start to do justice to the building or the machinery. In fact, nothing short of a visit to the place can do that.
I would add that my starting and stopping the massive engine was described by the volunteers who were supervising us as “textbook”, but I am modest enough to recognise a certain degree of luck and a lot of help and support from the experts.
After an excellent lunch back at the cafe, with a jacket potato, salad, sandwiches and a delicious, home-made blackberry pie, it was time to go and see the other engine on show at Papplewick, one of the winding engines that used to be at Linby Colliery. Again, we were given expert instruction before being let loose to drive the engine for ourselves.
The lighting in the building that now houses this remarkable machine was not conducive to great photographs, so I have “borrowed” this picture from here
Finally, we boarded Papplewick’s own bus and set off, after some effort by the volunteers to get the things started, up the hill to the one part of Papplewick that Sue and I had not visited before, the Victorian reservoir that used to hold the water that the station used to pump from the ground. We descended a set of stone stairs into a huge chamber with a most amazing brick built fan vaulted roof. Again, our camera was not up to coping with the very low light here, so thanks to photographer Tony Bacon for posting this image.
After returning to the main site, we were presented with our certificates and a year’s membership of the Papplewick Association before ending a most enjoyable day. Sue also became a member while we were there and we are considering becoming volunteers there ourselves.