Tag Archives: Heritage Railway

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 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

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.

From: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_bosworth.htm

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

Mother’s Day on the Churnet Valley Railway


Sunday was Mothers Day, although I do manage to spend rather more than one day a year with my mum, it was good that she chose to spend this special day with Sue and I.

The day began with a search around the interweb and a certain amount of disappointment that several of our possible alternative venues, including the Battlefield Line and the Foxfield Railway were, according to their websites, not running a service of any sort. Don’t any of their members or volunteers have mothers who would have enjoyed a train ride on Mothers Day?

Anyway, we arrived to collect my mum from home and I was very pleased to meet one of my brothers and his  wife just as they were leaving from their parental visit.  For reasons that are too complicated to go into here, Sue and I see very little of my three brothers and their families.

After a brief conversation, Mum, Sue and I  climbed into our car (the bike would never take three of us – despite occasional suggestions that we should have a sidecar).  However, this was not before mum had had a bit of a worry about whether she was dressed for whatever we were going to be doing.

We had deliberately not told her what that would be, partly to contribute to the surprise, but also because we weren’t sure exactly what that would be until that very morning when my interweb adventure showed me that the Churnet Valley Railway was not only operating, but was  running at times that would fit in well with our (very) rough plan.

Our first stop was in Swadlincote to show mum where I now work. Whilst it was an interesting diversion to stand outside a closed and locked building with all the blinds closed, it occurred to me a moment after we arrived there that it would have been a more rewarding experience for all of us of I had thought to take my keys and show mum the inside of our compact office.

With this thought still bouncing around the space where a my brain should have been, I reset the Satnav and we set off into the comparatively unexplored (by Sue and I) wilderness of Staffordshire.

We are trying to come up with an acceptable name for the female voice of our Satnav. Sue has contributed a few possibilities, but none of these names really fit her personality, especially when she’s getting frustrated that I’ve deviated from her route yet again. Let’s face it, she’s the only woman in my life whose instructions I have the courage to ignore.

 Eventually, with the help of our still unnamed guide, we arrived at Cheddleton station with about ten minutes to spare before the departure of the train. This gave us good time to take Sue’s picnic from the car and get down to the station in time to get to the booking office, obtain our tickets and board the train which pulled into the beautifully restored station a few moments later. Sue and I were delighted to be able to make the first use this year of our Heritage Railway pass.

The journey along the Churnet Valley, following the course of the river as well as the Caldon canal, was great. the on-train volunteer ticket collector was a great ambassador for the railway and we enjoyed the ride. We soon opened up the picnic of some very good ham sandwiches and a huge plastic box of crisps. Mum and I were soon stuck into the food, with Sue not far behind us.

The train journey includes a brief stop at Consall before a longer layover for water and a loco run round at Kingsley and Froghall. Sue took advantage of this time to pop off the train for three hot drinks from the station buffet.

Sue and Mum at the Churnet Valley Railway

Sue and Mum at the Churnet Valley Railway

The return trip took us, via another stop at Consall, straight through Cheddleton, passing through the 531 yard Leek Brook Tunnel (although the lineside sign says it is “Cheddleton Tunnel”) to Leek Brook junction where there is no platform, but the train crew effected a very efficient run round of the loco before returning to Cheddleton.

We were being hauled by GWR pannier tank 5199, the only loco in steam from their impressive roster. We saw two other steam locos as well as a couple of diesels at Cheddleton, the operating base of the railway. 


The three of us were in no hurry to leave the train, so took advantage of the fact that we had “All Day” tickets and enjoyed a second round trip.

By the time we got back to Cheddleton for the second time, we were ready for a quick trip around the shop where I found a great little book of Derbyshire Railway stations from old postcards.

Our trip back to mums was uneventful, possibly because I stuck strictly to the route given by the Satnav woman. After a cup of tea and a natter, it was back home to end a really enjoyable day out.

This was the second or maybe the third visit that Sue and I have paid to this great railway, but I know it won’t be our last.

Ride Safe

Halloween And The Ghost Train

I am quite willling to deplore most of the dreadful customs that we British import from our colonial cousins in the United States of America. That is not to say that I am anti-american for almost all of my favourite music comes from those shores. However, the way that Halloween is celebrated these days has much to do with what I have seen on TV, film and in print as more part of American culture than British.

In particular, i find the growth of “trick or treat” over the past few years to be a very worrying trend. As parents, we tell our children all year about the potential dangers of approaching strangers, yet at the end of October each year far too many parents encourage their offspring to knock on the doors of houses and demand sweets with menaces. This then lasts into the following week as “Penny For The Guy” replaces “Trick or treat” before “Carol Singing” becomes the year’s final excuse to harass the neighbours.

Partly to avoid the irritation of the Halloween door knockers, but mostly because we have a huge amount of fun, Sue and I have spent the past couple of Halloween nights at Peak Rail.

This year, Sue went to town and made us each a brilliant fancy dress cloak in black with gold braid trim. It’s not too clear in this picture, but I also had a staff with skulls on the top and there were spiders and centipedes (plastic ones covered in glitter) on the gold coloured streamers hanging from the staff. I was also wearing a black woolly hat under the hood of my cloak which was rather more visible than I would have liked when this photo was taken.

Halloween 2008 Dave and Sue in Fancy Dress At Peak Rail

Halloween 2008 Dave and Sue in Fancy Dress At Peak Rail

Pretty well as soon as we arrived at Rowsley South station we were christened “The Druids” by one of other Peak Rail volunteers, although the children who came to join us on the train later in the evening immediately started calling me Dumbeldore; the Head Teacher wizard in the Harry Potter series.

After tucking into our tea of bacon cob and chips from Rowsley Buffet, Sue and I went to greet the children as they arrived with their families to join the train. Many of the children and a lot of the adults had made as much effort as Sue and I to dress up and the station platform soon became crowded with witches, zombies and other monsters. The journey to Darley Dale and Matlock was fun because we switched all the lights out in the train, to the great delight of the children and the consternation of some of the parents.

At Darley Dale, Sue and I left the train and joined a couple of professional actors on the platform and we all went up and down the train, peering in a windows and generally scaring the people sat beside them. My skulls had flashing red “eyes” which were particularly effective in the dark. Once we left Darley Dale station, I encouraged the children in the two carriages that Sue and I were travelling in to scream and shout and the atmosphere became even more fun in the darkened train. During our pause at Matlock, we put the carriage lights on while the steam locomotive ran round the train and again ventured onto the platform. I really enjoyed this, especially when one little girl poked her tongue out at me so I opened the carriage door and went inside the train to talk to her face to face; a face that became a real picture as I approached.

It was then that I developed my ultimate Halloween “chat-up” line that worked with children of all ages for the rest of the evening. I told the children that I was looking for a small, but chewy, snack to eat either with chips or chocolate sauce, clearly indicating that the child could well be that snack. I tempered the potential for frightening them by asking such questions as “were they wearing a stripy jumper” because stripes get stuck in my teeth and when I asked their names, I would say things like, “The last Kelly that I ate tasted horrible and I’m not eating another one”.

By the time the train left Matlock, many of the older, more confident children were going up and down the train using their own costumes to add to the overall atmosphere of friendly fun that permeated the whole night.

Once back at Rowsley South station, the first trainload left us, but the fun was not over because the firework display takes place between the two train journeys. This year’s display was as spectacular as ever, with Peak Rail staff member Rob Sanders and his team putting on a great display.

The second train journey was similar in format to the first, although some of the children did get a little over-excited. At one point Sue had to rescue one of the actors who was dressed as a ghost who was in danger of having her white wrappings pulled off. Sue threat’s to get Dumbledore to sort them out seemed to do the trick.

I must mention the decoration of the station and of the train itself. This was really spectacular. Jackie Statham, the railway’s joint Managing Director, and her small team of helpers do a fantastic job of staging all the railway’s special events, but Halloween night was a real triumph. The ramp to the platform is turned into a tunnel with spiders webs, skeletons, ghosts and an amaing avenue of pumpkins. It’s a great welcome and a fantastic scene setter for a wonderful evening.

Beautifully carved and illuminated pumpkins welcome visitors to Peak Rail's Halloween night
Beautifully carved and illuminated pumpkins welcome visitors to Peak Rail

I lost count of the number of compliments and thanks we received from families as they left the platform at Rowsley. I was also delighted that many of them said that they will be back for the Santa Specials in a few week’s time.

To my mind, there is no doubt that the children who came on the Halloween Special Trains at Peak Rail will have had a far more enjoyable and a far more memorable evening than they ever would had they been traipsing around the streets demanding “trick or treat”.
Ride Safe

Three Legends of Steam

Today, freed from the domestic pressures that have plagued our summer along with the appalling British weather, we threw caution to the winds. We were also helped by the clocks going back to Britsh Winter Time, or as it is more generally known, Greenwich Mean Time.

Our revolutionary activity was to abandon the million or so things that we “should” have been doing at home, jump into the car and drive down the A60 to Loughborough to visit the Great Central Railway.

The Great Central Railway - Loughborough Central Station

The Great Central Railway - Loughborough Central Station

We arrived a few minutes after the start of the steam service, having missed the train hauled by “Lord Nelson”, but in time to see the Heritage DMU that always starts the GCR timetable move out of the platform to its siding. This gave us plenty of time to walk along the beautifully restored station, to visit the gift shop and the Emporium, the very well-stocked second hand shop as well as popping into the station buffet for a cup of tea.

However, I had already taken a walk as far as I could along the platform to see the locomotive that was on the front of our train. It was the Great Western Railway’s legendary “City of Truro”.  Although I had lived in Swindon as a child, and have read countless words about this engine, I don’t think I had ever seen it myself. I was not disappointed with the beautifully turned out machine that was to pull our train and was providing steam to heat the train to slightly warmer than comfortable for us.

“City of Truro” was not positioned to allow me to get a photograph at Loughborough, especially as the railway’s own operating volunteers were crowded around the end of the platform, leaving little room for a passing anorak. But it didn’t matter, I knew that I would be able to get a picture later in the day.

Right on time, at 11:15, with us safely in our seats, a high pitched whistle sounded and the train started to move smoothly. We were sitting well towards the rear of the 6 or seven coach train that was predominantly reserved for diners so heard little of the locomotive working.  Although this train, and every train that we travelled on or saw during our visit was very well patronised, we never had any difficulty finding seats that were clean and comfortable in carriages that obviously have as much care lavished on them by the GCR staff and volunteers as the steam locomotives.

The journey to Leicester North, with brief stops at Quorn and Woodhouse and Rothley stations was smooth and uneventful. At one point, Sue commented on the brevity of the GCR’s intermendiate station stops saying that she really liked the way that the trains stopped for just a couple of minutes and that at each station, quite a lot of people got on and off the train. When she added, “It isjust like being on a ‘real’ train”, I knew just what she meant.

On arrival at Leicester North, I leaped from the train and made my way down the platform to get my first proper look at at a legend. City of Truro did not disappoint in any way. I also appreciated the way that the couple of dozen photographers gathered around to picture the loco moved back to allow each of us to get clear shots. This was something of a theme throughout the day, although the really serious railway photographers, the ones that bring serious tripods, cameras with six inch long lenses and some professional looking video cameras, don’t tend to join the scrums on the stations, but avail themselves of the GCR’s brilliant lineside pass scheme.

City Of Truro at Leicester North Station on The Great Central Railway

City Of Truro at Leicester North Station on The Great Central Railway

The railway operates a permit system that allows photographers to be on the lineside with a photocard permit and a specially branded high visibility jacket. From the numbers of photographers on the lineside, this great idea must bring in some much-needed revenue for the GCR.

Having grabbed some photographs and made my way back to Sue on the train, it wasn’t long before we set off back towards Loughborough. This time we were much closer to the locomotive and could hear the characteristic chuff as it hauled us up the slopes along the route. Our speed, of course, was far more sedate that “City Of Truro’s” record breaking run when she became the first man-made machine ever to travel at 100 miles per hour.

We had decided to change trains at Quorn and Woodhouse to join the southbound train that would be pulled by LMS liveried locomotive, Leander. We were, by no means the only ones to make this change. It was clear from overheard conversations that many people had already done the same change from the first train pulled by “Lord Nelson” onto “City of Truro’s” train and again to “Leander’s”. We were more than satisfied with our two different locomotives, although we could have stayed until “Lord Nelson” was again rostered for a train later in the day, we were happy to see it running light on Driver Experience duties.

We were also looking forward to having something to eat on the Great Central’s famous griddle car train, which we had just joined. Sue quickly joined the queue at the counter and put in our orders for the Great Central All Day Breakfast. We were told that we would half-an-hour’s wait for our meals, although I am sure that they arrived more quickly that this. The generous breakfasts were pretty good, although our eggs were somewhat overcooked. Well they were cremated really!  However, this was a minor irritation on an otherwise brilliant day out and in any case, I am no food critic, I just eat what I am given.

I did have time to leave the train again when we reached Leicester North to get a few photographs of “Leander”.

Leander at Leicester North Station on 26th September 2008

Leander at Leicester North Station on 26th September 2008

I also came close to making a big mistake, forgetting that station stops on the GCR are very brief, and also that it is a double track railway and that trains do not always pass in stations. I hopped out at Rothley station to grab a picture of “Lord Nelson”, only to be told that it had already gone through the station and that we had passed it. I dived back onto the train just as the stationmaster was shutting the doors for our departure.

On our return journey, “Lord Nelson”, in its Full Southern Railway livery was in Rothley station as we pulled on and I was able to grab my long-awaited photograph.

Lord Nelson at Rothley Station on the Great Central Railway

Lord Nelson at Rothley Station on the Great Central Railway

I wonder how often it is possible to see three steam locomotives in the colourful pre-nationalisation liveries of three different companies working together to provide a single railway service. It must be fairly rare.

On arrival back at Loughborough, we decided to end our most enjoyable visit to the Great Central and make our way back to Nottingham via the Nottingham Heritage Centre at Ruddington.  We had spotted their sign on the main road advertising train services every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday on the way down to Loughborough. So with it being early afternoon, were looking forward to another journey on a line that we have not visited for several years. Imagine, our disappointment to discover that they were not running, but had been running during that morning. We seem to be ill-fated with this railway as the last time we intended to visit Ruddington, we discovered that they were running a Diesel Gala and that the admission price was, frankly over the top.

Talking of fares, I must give enormous credit to the Great Central Railway for running what was effectively a major steam gala, but charging no more than their normal ticket prices, which for Sue and I as working volunteers at Peak Rail and holders of a Heritage Railway Association Inter-Rail pass, was completely free.  No wonder the GCR remains one of my favourite railway experiences.

Ride Safe