Today Sue and I went to visit another heritage railway. That is “another” in the sense of “not the one that we are usually associated with and volunteering for“.
Our “home” railway is Peak Rail, but today we spent a most enjoyable day of playing away at the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley, near Ripley.
We arrived and parked the car just before the 12:30 departure from Butterley station, giving us good time to obtain this year’s first tickets using our Heritage Rail Pass. I have mentioned this wonderful scheme here before, but it’s worth mentioning that one of the most significant perks of being a volunteer on a heritage railway is being able to purchase one of these passes.
The train that arrived in the platform turned out to be a Class 101 diesel multiple unit. These former workhorses of branch and secondary services were a huge part of my childhood railway experience. These were trains in which a few lucky passengers had a window facing forward and could see the driver at work and the track ahead; something which has always been denied to people travelling in locomotive-hauled trains. I have travelled very many miles in those front seats, enjoying the unique view of the track unfolding ahead, or at the very back of the train looking at where we had been. Many of these miles were along lines in Wales and along its borders and around Birmingham. Ever since then, I have had a soft spot of these little trains.
It’s a shame that modern diesel and electric units have done away with this unique forward view, thus depriving the latest generation of children of all ages this experience on the main lines. Even those heritage railways that have DMUs seem to run them very rarely and when they do, most of them almost apologise for the fact that their steam or large diesel locomotives are not in use.
I can’t be alone in liking these old trains, so if our local preserved lines were to do a little more to publicise when they are running their DMUs, more of us would come out to re-live the feeling of those journeys between the 1960s through to the 1990s.
So I was delighted to see a two-car unit pull into Butterley station this morning. I was even more delighted when Sue and I got the coveted seat right at the back of the train. Clearly, the weekend before Easter was not the busiest for the Midland.
The journey itself is not the longest or most picturesque, but the unique view from the back of the train more than made up for both of these minor shortcomings. I was surprised at the number of vintage DMU vehicles that are in evidence alongside the running line between Butterley and Swanwick. Although I didn’t count them, I think that there must have been more than 20 DMU coaches on view.
When we reached the end of the trip which is close to the junction with the main line, we were already at the front for the return trip.
We got off the train at Swanwick Junction, where the majority of the Midland Railway Centre’s stock is kept and where their museum buildings are located. Sue took the opportunity to grab this picture of the train that we had just left. I apologise for getting in the way
As we wandered up into the yard area, it started to rain, but that didn’t stop Sue snapping away with her camera phone and me from grumbling that I was getting wet. However, it was only a very light drizzle and when we stopped to look at the part of the collection of vintage buses and have a brief chat with one of the enthusiast volunteers in that building, the weather was forgotten. So it was on to the large railway museum shed. Little seems to change in here from one visit to another, although the overflow locos and carriages parked outside the shed do seem to get moved around.
On this visit, it was good to see that a Western Diesel Hydraulic loco, D1058 “Western Lady”, was in pride of place with a class 47 next to it. D1058 had come a long way in its restoration since this photo taken in 2006.
A little further along the same path, just beyond that green shunting loco in the picture above, I was delighted to spot the logo of Netherlands Railways on another shunter.
I do rather like Netherlands Railways, or Nederlandse Spoorwegen, to give them their proper title. I would love to have been able to ask one of the locals about this loco, but volunteers seemed to be rather thin on the ground. I’ve had a quick wander around the web, but can’t find anything about this loco except that it seems to have been one of a batch of diesels built for Netherlands Railways at Derby works.
I don’t normally rave about diesels, considering myself to be a steam anorak, but I really enjoyed this visit to the Midland Railway Centre. Perhaps the icing on the cake was that we got back into the train for the round trip back to Butterley and our car and we were able to sit in exactly the same seats that we had used earlier.