Monthly Archives: April 2010

Great Central Railway Nottingham

There used to be a main line railway that ran from Nottingham to London via Leicester and Rugby, arriving at Marylebone station. It was closed during the infamous Beeching cuts of the late 1960s and its former glory has disappeared into the memories of old railway men.

However, there is enough of the former Great Central Railway still around that the wisdom or otherwise of its closure is still a hot topic for debate more than 40 years on.

Some of the former Great Central has been preserved and re-opened. The most famous section is between Loughborough and Leicester North.

However, there is another section of that line, a few hundred yards north of Loughborough Central station, that still has rails and still sees trains. This is the route between Loughborough and Ruddington, just south of Nottingham. This is the home of the Great Central Railway Nottingham.

This preservation group started their operation in sidings just south of the former Ruddington station, serving a former MOD depot, so from the outset they have had buildings on their site that they have put to good use. The Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre, as the site is known, is not only home to the preserved standard gauge railway, but has an extensive large-scale outdoor model railway operated by the The Nottingham Society of Model and Experimental Engineers as well as a museum of buses and other vintage vehicles, an excellent model railway group as well as a restoration shed that is open to visitors, a Visitor Centre and the cafe and fundraising shops.

On Sunday, Sue and I went to the centre in the company of my mum. In fact we went thanks to my mum generously paying for us to go in. Although this is the nearest preserved railway to where we live, just across the city of Nottingham, we have not been regular visitors, so it had been several years since our last visit to Ruddington and we were very pleasantly surprised at the amount of work that had been completed there and that this is obviously ongoing. Their plans for the track layout and for station buildings are very impressive.

Obviously we wanted to travel on the train, so just before its advertised departure time we were a little dismayed that there was no sign of the train in the platform. In common with many preservation sites, Ruddington has rows and rows of rolling stock parked up in varying stages of dilapidation. It was clear that the coaches that we could see from the platform were most unlikely to be the ones that we would be travelling in. Our fears were unfounded as a diesel locomotive horn and steam whistle preceded the appearance of the nose end of a Class 20 diesel, evoking memories of  from a few Summer Saturday Specials to the East Coast back in the 1970s and, of course those ubiquitous double-headed coal trains in and out of Toton.

The Whistling Wardrobe was followed out of siding by a short rake of maroon mark 1 and 2 stock and a Robert Stevenson & Hawthorn Saddle Tank steam loco. After a shunt, it arrived in the platform where we quickly found our seats. I had already been busy with the video camera and continued to film as we journeyed down the track.

On our last trip to this railway the journey was a brief shuttle to 50 steps footbridge and back, but since then, the group has been given access to the main line southwards as far as Loughborough Junction.

So this was a new stretch of line to us. I never travelled over the Great Central route in BR days, so I know that I was breaking new ground.

The ride quality was outstanding. I  fact, it was Sue who commented how smooth the journey had been.

All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our day there and I thoroughly recommend a visit to Ruddington to anyone with an interest in railways.

Ride Safe


A Visit To The Battlefield Line

Saturday had been gloriously warm and we had spent quite a lot of the day in the garden. Today wasn’t quite so good, but it was fine and dry, if a little breezy and chilly at times. So we decided that we deserved some time off from the daily grind and decided to pay another visit to the Battlefield line at Shackerstone.

Last time we went was almost exactly a year ago, on 6th April 2009. On that occasion, they were running a diesel, Class 31, 31101. Although their website tells us that they have a fairly substantial steam fleet, today’s services were also diesel-hauled, being run by Class 25, D5217 in early 1960s green livery.

D5217 and Chuffing Hog at Shackerstone

D5217 and Chuffing Hog at Shackerstone

As ever, Sue captured some great photos of the day, but I also had a creative moment or two and produced this video of D5217 running round its train at Shackerstone station.

Class 25 diesels are one of a group of diesel locomotives that were christened “Rats” by enthusiasts. There a number of theories online about origin of this less than flattering nickname, but my own memory was that they were introduced towards the end of steam and diehard steam enthusiasts simply coined an insulting name for these new-fangled machines.

We have a had our video camera for a little while now, but this is the first successful edit I have managed to complete. I recounted my first unsuccessful attempt just after Christmas 2009 in this blog post. Now that I seem to have a slightly better grasp of what I am doing, there could well be no holding me back.

Chuffing Hog goes all Cecil B De Mille

Chuffing Hog goes all Cecil B De Mille

We went on the train to Shenton, the site of the Bosworth Battlefield, but as it was windy and cold, we wimped out and stayed in the train and came back to Shackerstone.
Sue has a real talent for spotting unusual photo opportunities and I really like this one that she captured of a brilliant volunteer recruitment notice just outside the station.

Noticeboard at Shackerstone Station for their "Adult Creche"

Noticeboard at Shackerstone Station for their "Adult Creche"

This sign says:

New for 2010 at the Battlefield Line

Adult Creche

Drop the man in your life here at Shackerstone Station
You can then enjoy some well deserved retail therapy at a nearby shopping mall

Ask for a leaflet today

We had a great day out at the Battlefield Line, but next time we go, I really must make sure that they are running one of their steam locos.

Ride Safe

Updating Websites

Following on from the re-launched and refreshed fundraising campaign by the Derwent and Wye Valley Railway Trust, I have now refreshed the trust’s website at

In addition I have spent quite a lot of time refreshing our work website to improve the navigation for its users and I had planned to work with our lovely admin team to upload it today. Unfortunately, they very quickly found a problem with the coding that took me most of the afternoon to fix, so the new work website won’t go live until tomorrow morning.

Please take a look at when it’s up.

Whilst neither of these websites have had a full redesign, it’s great to be able to contribute to information on the web being right up to date.

I’d appreciate your comments about both of these sites – especially if you’re going to say something nice.

Ride safe

Happy Birthday Mum

How did you spend the evening of Easter Monday? I bet you weren’t singing songs from the 1920s through to the 1950s, but that’s exactly what we did this evening in the company of my mum and my mother in law.

Today is my mum’s birthday, so we invited both the mothers round for a meal of Homity Pie followed by Pavlova.

After dinner we sat round and somehow the conversation came round to the words of Stanley Holloway’s famous “Lion and Albert”.  I remembered that I had this on CD, so went to find it and played it, followed by other tracks from the compilation CD of other comic songs of a similar vintage.

We the moved on to songs that I remember from my own childhood, things I used to hear on Children’s Favourites on the wireless – long before the days of radio.

Although I really enjoyed this evening, it was a timely reminder that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Ride Safe

Day 46 – Easter Sunday – It’s over, or is it?

When I joined in with giving up at the start of Lent, I’m not sure that I believed that I could see it through. The idea of giving up biscuits, cake, chocolates and sweets seemed unattainable 46 days ago.

But I’ve done it!

I celebrated today, not with a blow-out, but with a single slice of birthday cake from last night’s disco. The party was for the ladies who make these cakes at and here I am tucking into a slice of their fruit cake.

After 46 days, Chuffing Hog enjoys a slice of fruit cake

After 46 days, Chuffing Hog enjoys a slice of fruit cake

I fully intend to continue to exercise some restraint in my future consumption of things that are not good for me, but I am looking forward to the occasional treat.

I’m also going to spare you the count of each passing day in my next blog posts.

Ride Safe

Day 45 – Darley Dale Down Building

Today we carried out a key action in our involvement as trustees of the Derwent and Wye Valley Railway Trust. 

The story of our day isn’t being told to criticise anyone at Peak Rail, but to highlight that any campaign needs to have all the elements in place if it is going to be effective. 

For some time now, we have been raising a reasonable amount of money by having donation envelopes on the train and around the railway to raise funds towards our planned rescue and restoration of the derelict building on the down platform at Darley Dale Station. This has been successful in bringing in not only the donations themselves, but quite a lot of gift aid from people who had completed the declaration on the envelope. 

I had produced a poster to raise the profile of these envelopes among visitors to Peak Rail. The trustees decided that we would launch our new posters to coincide with the busy Easter weekend at Peak Rail.  Sue had arranged for the printing and laminating of the posters during the last week and today, we got up early and travelled up to Darley Dale armed with a staple gun and the posters themselves. 

Darley Dale Down Building April 2010

Darley Dale Down Building April 2010. You can see the new poster in the sixth window from this end of the building.

As we arrived there, the stationmaster, Ian, was on hand and popped out to see what we were up to. Our comings and goings also stirred up the curiosity of the signalman and as we spent the rest of the morning at the railway, of a number of other volunteers as well. The idea of the posters was really well received by everyone and we had a number of conversations about our progress on the behind the scenes work that we have been doing for a while now towards the bigger down building project.

We fairly quickly found suitable places to put up the huge A1 sized posters on both platforms and on the building itself.

Darley Dale Poster Board

Darley Dale Poster Board

We then went to Rowsley South station where the train was being prepared for its first run of the day. While I hopped aboard and put up some smaller A4 posters in each carriage of the train, Sue went to the station buffet for a couple of bacon cobs and cups of tea.We were surprised that she was initially overcharged for these, but no-one ever gets away with charging Sue too much for anything , so after the refund had been sorted out we got stuck in to breakfast. 

Sue quickly spotted that there were none of the envelopes that we were promoting on the tables in the train and after a few enquiries, she discovered that there were some in the booking office on the platform. She brought out a handful and as the train made its way southwards.

I hopped off the train briefly at Darley Dale and handed a small pile of the envelopes to stationmaster Ian, so that he would also have a supply.

As Sue came back down the train from distributing the envelopes, she was handed a couple of them already filled and with the gift aid declarations completed. So it was well worth us making sure that they were handed out.

When we got back to Rowsley South, I popped into the booking office where Malcolm showed me that there were several boxes of envelopes in a cupboard. I took one of them onto the train where I left them with the Ticket Collector.

I remain hopeful that if the envelopes are actually on the train, there is more chance of them bringing in some donations than if they are sitting in a cupboard on the platform. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that ticket collectors know that they are a vital link in this fundraising campaign for the down building.

We had one of the large posters left over and intended to find a suitable location at Rowsley South station for it, but there didn’t seem to be a suitable location, so the spare poster is yet to be displayed. I am extremely keen to ensure that it is displayed. I have experience of an organisation having posters printed, but the event that they were promoting was a disaster because no-one got round to putting them up.

As these large posters cost a small fortune, it’s vital that they raise awareness of the down building project and bring in lots of money. However, I am convinced that this was money well spent. With goodwill from everyone involved in the process, these envelopes should start to bring in even more money in during the coming summer.

Then all we need to do is to raise the rest of the king’s ransom that it will cost us to bring the building back to life.

If you would like a copy of the Down Building Poster to support the campaign, click the link to download the PDF file (A4 size).

Ride Safe

Day 44 – Lakeside FM

Last night’s disco at Lakeside was a strange one.

It was a wedding for a couple who, I think, were on their second marriage, so were a little older than most first-times couples. So their friends and families were also a bit older than most wedding parties.

I should have realised at the beginning of the night that it could be a difficult gig when the bride told me that she and her husband had never danced together in the two years that they had been together. I told her not to worry and that I would encourage others to get up and join them during the first dance song.  Anyway, we sorted out what the first dance song was to be and I went back to my DJ lair up in the rafters.

I started the night, as usual, by playing some fairly laid back background music while the guests came upstairs into the room. Almost no-one ever dances from the word “go”, so even though I dropped in songs from the current chart back to the 60s, and pretty well every time period between, I wasn’t too concerned when no-one got up to trip the light fantastic. Even when the laid back bit stretched through to the buffet, I wasn’t that bothered.

Just before the buffet was ready, word came that they would like to do the first dance. I swiftly pulled out the CD with Michael Jackson’s “I can’t stop loving you”, cued up the longish intro and did my normal big build up. As usual, we got the round of applause for the happy couple’s first dance and as the music got under way, the camera flashes signalled that the moment was being captured for posterity.

A minute or so into the song, I invited the rest of the party to join the bride and groom and for a stunned moment, nobody moved and the bride and groom started to leave the floor. Grabbing my microphone, I stopped them from sitting down again and eventually two or three other couples joined them on the dance floor.

As soon as Micheal Jackson faded away and I did my back announcement, the dance floor cleared and stayed that way for the rest of the night. I don’t count the young children who spent time dodging the moving lights or the one woman who went up to try to get a two-year old to dance.

So the whole gig was conducted at lower sound level than normal. Although I was effectively background Muzak, it was very liberating not to have to sustain a packed dance floor, but to dig out lots of good songs that I hadn’t played in a while. My whole style of presentation was more like a radio show than a disco and I did, at one point, actually say, “Lakeside FM”.

We have another gig tomorrow night in Huthwaite which is a 40th Wedding Anniversary and 60th Birthday party. Even though our key instruction is for no flashing lights, I am looking forward to this one. By my reckoning it could be a bit of a sixties / seventies night, but I’ll let you know how we get on.

I guess we’re now into the Easter weekend, please accept my best wishes for a great holiday.

Ride Safe