Category Archives: Trains

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

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 39 – Playing Away

No, this has nothing to do with football nor indeed with any other team sport. People who know me will vouch for the fact that I have almost zero interest in such things.

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

Class 101 DMU at Swanwick Junction

Class 101 DMU at Swanwick Junction

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.

Locos and Rolling Stock outside the Midland Railway Museum Shed

Locos and Rolling Stock outside the Midland Railway Museum Shed

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.

Dutch Shunting Loco outside the Midland Railway Museum Shed

Dutch Shunting Loco outside the Midland Railway Museum Shed

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.

Ride Safe

Playing Trains or Bringing Home The Bacon?

I would surmise that voluntary organisations and charities have always been much better at spending money than obtaining it.  The charity of which Sue and I are trustees, the Derwent & Wye Valley Railway Trust, is no exception. We would love to be able to spend large sums of money on all sorts of projects relating to our charitable aim:

“To obtain, restore, preserve and operate a representative collection of heritage railway buildings, structures, rolling stock and artefacts for use by, exhibition to and for the education of the public in the infrastructure, management and the operation of railways between Ambergate and Buxton in the County of Derbyshire.”

So important is the inward flow of cash to organisations that fundraising is seen in many of them as a valuable skill. Indeed many larger voluntary organisations and charities have entire departments of paid fundraising staff. There is even a trade body for fundraisers, the Institute of Fundraising .

So as a trustee, I share the responsibility for bringing in the cash as well as spending it. I am also the only trustee who works in the voluntary sector and therefore is daily immersed in the comings and goings of funding news. So it was almost inevitable that my skills in this area, such as they are, are likely to provide the best outcomes for the trust.

So I have just had two days off from my paid job to volunteer intensively to write funding applications for an exciting project that will greatly enhance our visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the heritage of  the “infrastructure, management and the operation of railways between Ambergate and Buxton in the County of Derbyshire.”

I am not going into too much more detail at this stage of this project, but I would like to observe that this work involves:

  • Filling in details on application forms.
    Very straightforward and taking just a few minutes.
  • Finding or writing the supporting paperwork to go with the application.
    This is information about the trust, my fellow trustees and some financial information. Almost all of this can be delegated to the treasurer or secretary.
  • Writing up information about the costs involved. After all, this is the point of the whole exercise.
    This takes another couple of hours or so to get the information into the format requested on the application form.
  • Writing a description of the project.
    This is where it starts to get interesting and can take a couple of hours of writing and re-writing.

However, the biggest part of the whole process has been

  • Researching the project costs.
    The internet has made this a lot easier, but this is still the most time-consuming part of the process. I have spent about four days over the past fortnight doing little else.

If you are a fundraising professional who has happened to stumble across this, You will probably have gasped at the inordinate length of time that this research phase takes me. However, I make no apology. I really want to be sure that I am applying to the right funder.

Therefore I need to read the criteria of each potential fund in detail.  This is probably the starting point for me and will take ages and will cause severe wear and tear on Google’s servers and my keyboard. This is where the professional fundraiser will save time over me by having more knowledge of the bewildering array of funding that is available “out there”. I also know that there are lots of funds that have no presence on the internet, and for our current project, these are not even in my sights.

Then I want to make sure that I am asking for money for the right resources and equipment and that I have a realistic and up-to-date picture of its cost. THe latest internet special offer is all very well and would certainly give me, and the funder, the best value for money, but will it still be available at the never-to-be-repeated price by the time the bid has gone in, been approved and the money released to us?

However, like everyone else, I have a limited amount of time to give to my volunteering. As this blog recounted a year or so ago, I have reduced the amount of volunteering that I used to do and nowadays concentrate on my railway volunteering. When I go to the railway to be the guard, ticket inspector, buffet server or any other active role, I am aboard or among the trains. This is visibly volunteering for the railway and is the bit that I originally signed up to do. Although I have still been volunteering for the railway while sitting in front of this computer, I am sure that other railway volunteers think of me as not currently doing anything for the railway (if they think me at all.)

And when the funding comes in and the practical part of the project starts, those hands-on volunteers will have no idea of the time or work that has already been expended by volunteers on this project.

Now this is not a moan, but a plea to anyone in a voluntary organisation, or who uses the services of a voluntary organisation, to remember that almost every front-line service has to be paid for in some way and that a fundraiser has been involved in making it happen.

Ride Safe

Ride To Shackerstone

Sunday afternoon saw Sue and I partaking of two of our favourite pleasures. (Steady on, this is a respectable blog. Anyway, at our age, we don’t do THAT sort of thing.)

We took a trip out on the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail that just happened to take us to a heritage railway that isn’t too far away from us in Leicestershire.

The Shackerstone Railwayis also known as the Battlefield Line because its southern terminus at Shenton is adjacent to the Bosworth Battlefield.

The Battle of Bosworth was fought on August 22nd1485. Henry Tudor had marched with his force from Milford Haven in Wales where he had landed with about 2000 men. The Battle of Bosworth is one of England’s defining battles as it ended the reign of Richard III and led to Henry Tudor becoming Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs, a dynasty that lasted to 1603 and included the reign of two of England’s most famous monarchs – Henry VIII andhis daughter Elizabeth I.


Our route took in some familiar roads as we headed south on the M1 and west on the A42. After a stop at McDonalds at Ashby for a coffee and Deli of the Day, which was bacon & chicken, we continued along the A42 and then dived south into the wilds of darkest Leicestershire. After some winding and narrow lanes, we finally arrived at the very sharp turn onto the old railway trackbed which was very reminiscent of the approach to Peak Rail‘s Rowsley South station.

However, this junction was littered withloose stones that made negotiating the turn on two wheels a somewhat hairy experience. Somehow we got roundwithout ending up on our sides with a bike on top of us and as we went down the roadway, it occurred to me that the surface itself was in much better condition than the deeply potholed track at Rowsley.

Shackerstone station is in a strange location. I couldn’t work out how it could ever have had any access in the days when the railway would have been using the existing access road because the old Station House occupies the area where I would have expected a road to come in and the Ashby Canal is also just a few feet away from the station’s main entrance. Our arrival was perfectly timed to see the tail lamp of the train disappear under the station footbridge and off towards Shenton. This gave us plenty of time to look around before the next departure.

The station building itself has been beautifully preserved and restored by the Shackerstone Railway Society and we recieved a warm welcome from the volunteer in the ticket office who had to go and ask what to do with our Heritage Rail pass.

The beautifully restored building at Shackerstone Station

The beautifully restored building at Shackerstone Station

With this dilemma resolved, we wandered into the museum.

Chuffing Hog in the museum at Shackerstone Station. Sue was amazed that they let the this bit of living history out again.

Chuffing Hog in the museum at Shackerstone Station. Sue was amazed that they let the this bit of living history out again.

This was an experience in itself. Two rooms of the station building contain what must be thousands of railway artifacts that range from signalling equipment to cigarette cards. These have all been collected over many years by John Jacques who used to work at Shackerstone Station in BR days as signalman. The man himself was in attendance at the museum, although I didn’t realise who I was talking to until I returned home and looked at the railway’s website.

The museum alone was almost worth the trip for me, although Sue was keen to capture some photographs of the station itself, and we were both in need of a cup of tea.

The station is also host to the Victorian Tea Room where we obtained proper cup of teas – from a proper tea pot on a tray with china cups. These were accompanied by enormous slices of the most delicious carrot cake.

Eventually, the train returned – on the far platform from where we were all standing. This was an astute move because it forced us to use the footbridge across to platform 2 where the railway has built a new building that is in use as a shop, but is very much in harmony with the whole “feel” of the place.

31101 arriving at Shackerstone Station on Sunday 5th April 2009

31101 arriving at Shackerstone Station on Sunday 5th April 2009

One of the down sides to our visit was that this shop sold whistles. Of course, a couple of children had been bought them and blew them continually for the whole time that the train stood in the platform. Fortunately, this particular family got into a carriage further down the train from us and we didn’t hear them again until the train arrived at Shenton, where the symphony continued. We were also left in (comparative) peace by a family with an excitable young son whose idea of expressing excitement was directly related to his volume. Even he didn’t stop Sue having a few moments shut-eye (if not actual sleep).

Was she pretending, or actually asleep?

Was she pretending, or actually asleep?

The journey itself was behind the immaculately turned out Class 31 Brush diesel loco 31101 in Large Logo rail blue. It was different to have a diesel in use on a weekend that had not been promoted as a diesel weekend, but the lack of steam traction didn’t seem to put any kind of cloud over the enjoyment of the railway’s visitors.

I was a little sad to see Market Bosworth station looking somewhat forlorn and out of use as we ran straight through it. It is obviously getting a periodic coat of paint, but I hope that the railway is working towards bringing this station back into use one day.

As we only had time for one round trip aboard the last service of the day, on our return to Shackerstone, we took our leave and headed home using the back lanes through to Coalville before picking up the main roads to Nottingham .

After some wrestling with a very important Word file for a couple of hours, we popped over (in the car) to see my mum late in the evening because Sunday was also her birthday. It was great to be able to see mum and a pleasant surprise when one of my brothers and his wife turned up as well.

Overall, a good day, with a good ride and a most enjoyable visit to a great railway.

Ride Safe

Darley Dale Station

 On Sunday I did one of my regular volunteering shifts at Peak Rail as the guard on the train. This was my first experience of the 2009 timetable and my first experience of stopping at the down platform at Darley Dale station.

Until the beginning  of March 2009, no passenger trains had stopped at Darley Dale’s down platform since 1968 when British Railways closed the former Midland line through the peak district. In the past, Peak Rail used the same (up) platform for stopping trains in both directions, but a couple of years ago, our two-train running project meant that trains from Matlock to Rowsley South had to run non-stop through Darley Dale on the down platform line.

In fact, Peak Rail  has come in for some criticism from some people on an internet discussion forum because the re-opening of the down platform was a very low-key affair, with no brass band or speeches.

On Sunday, I understood why. The platform is now in in use, but still needs a lot more restoration work. So far, the platform wall, coping stones and platform surface all needed work doing before it was safe to allow any passengers to use the platform.

This is where the Derwent and Wye Valley Railway Trust was able to help. As the platform is part of the heritage of the route, this was completely within their remit and the trustees had no hesitation in putting up the funding for this work.

However, the surface was always going to have to be a temporary one because the platform will have to be dug up again in order to continue the long process of restoration. Members and supporters of Peak Rail will have seen an article in issue 21 of  Peak Express (which is available from the railway at £2.75 plus p&p), setting out one man’s personal quest to collect and bring back lamp posts, seats, signs and other railway fittings that had been lost since closure. Again, the trust has played a part in this by putting up the money for the platform fittings for Darley Dale’s down platform.

Then there is the problem of the building on that platform.

This is a priority for the trust, but is going to cost a king’s ransom to save from falling down, let alone to refurbish it so that it can be used. Yet we are determined to do just this.

We have already attracted some funding towards this project, although there  is a very long way to go. Astute observers may even have spotted the small yellow envelopes on the train.

Darley Dale Down Building Donation Envelope

Darley Dale Down Building Donation Envelope

These invite our passengers and visitors to drop in a donation, much in the same way that the Peak Railway Association did as part of their contribution to the building of the new engine shed.

The great news about the current public appeal is that the majority of these, and other donations to the trust, are being accompanied by a gift aid declaration. This means that for every £1 donated, we get another 25p from HM Customs and Revenue.

Last week, a new discussion started on the internet discussion group. It seems that the present owners of the original footbridge that stood at Darley Dale station want to dispose of it. As a trustee of the Derwent and Wye Valley Railway Trust, I decided that this was worth looking into, although I remain very sceptical following Peak rail’s past experience of a second-hand footbridge.

However, when several posts appeared from people offering money to support a fund to restore a footbridge at Darley Dale, I posted a promise that I would put the issue of a footbridge onto the agenda for the trustees meeting later this month.

We will have to wait and see whether I get shot down in flames, or whether we agree to take on another major heritage project.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s operations went really well. I love the new timetable because it gives us time to catch up on delays, I like the convenience for our passengers of stopping at Darley Dale station in both directions. I also like that the railway has, at last, made the recruitment and training of new station masters a priority and Sunday was the first day that I have ever seen a stationmaster at Darley Dale.

The timetable does make it harder for me to find time to eat my sandwiches, but an interrupted lunch is a small price to pay for the improvement in our service.

Ride Safe