Tag Archives: 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


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

The Bulwell Navvy Cottage And Mission

Although the Great Central Main line was one of the most controversial victims of the infamous “Beeching axe” wielded on the railways in the late 1960s, it’s physical existence in preservation at Loughborough and Ruddington has, I’m sure, helped to keep its memory alive.

The Great Central was the last main line to be built in Britain and was engineered to a very high standard. However, it is easy to overlook that the engineers and designers had very little to do with the physical work that went in to construct it.

Sue, to whom regular visitors to these musings will already have been introduced, is my wife. Some weeks ago she was wandering around some of the dusty corners of the interwebs and came across the existence of a building that had a direct connection with these navvies and was standing no more than a mile or so from where we now live until the 1980s.

This was the Bulwell Navvy Hut, more properly known as the Bulwell Navvy Mission. There is a picture of its interior at


Next door to the mission church stood a small white cottage.

Bulwell Navvy Cottage

Bulwell Navvy Cottage

I believe that this picture dates from the turn of the last century and was used as navvy lodgings.  The sign on the wall says”

‘The Navvy Mission Good Samaritan Home. One Night’s Free Lodgings – Given Only To Navvies In Tramp

It is surprising that there were still navvies living a nomadic existence within the lifetime of my own grandfather and that there must have been enough work to keep them employed. It really brings home the hard life that these pioneers must have had, away from work as well as on the job.

I am featuring the Bulwell mission and navvy lodging because they were close to where I now live, but during the construction of the railways, there must have been many such buildings around the country – many of them, I’m sure, offering far worse quality accommodation.  

There is another railway connection very close to where I live that will have to be the topic of another post here sometime soon.

Ride Safe

BBC 4 – Bombay Railway – Part 2

It’s been a while since this excellent programme was broadcast on BBC4 TV, but I promised to post my comments here, and I am (eventually) a hog of my word.

In my comments about Part 1, back at the end of October, I indicated that there was an undercurrent running through that programme of tragedy and sadness. Part 2 was a much more joyous programme focusing on the lives of several people who were intricately linked to the railway. This was also a theme of the first programme, but this second one seemed to take a far more positive view.

Indeed, the title of the second programme was “Dreams”. I was particularly engaged by the story of Mumtaz Kaz, who was not only India’s first female train driver, but during the filming of the programme was landed with the responsibility of arranging her brother’s marriage. Of course, she succeeded and everything went off smoothly despite her having to continue to work in such a demanding full-time job throughout the whole of the run-up to the wedding.

I was also struck by the paternalism of the Indian Railways in providing housing fir its workers and was reminded very much of the Great Western Railway’s workers’ housing in Swindon.

The second part of the programme lifted the gloom that the first part had instilled and left me feeling much more positive about the achievements of the Bombay Railway and some of the people intricately linked to it.

Ride Safe

BBC 4 – Bombay Railway

The wonderfully railway-friendly TV Channel, BBC 4, brought us part 1 of this documentary about the incredible suburban railway system serving the Indain city that is known nowadays as Mumbai, but used to be called Bombay.

This railway network moves many millions of commuters every day in a feat that at least rivals and probably exceeds that of any other railway serving any major city of the world.  Mumbai is truly a city that never sleeps and the railway is pretty well a 24 hour operation, with well over a thousand trains each day. It grew from the British Raj, but in some respects seems to have kept up or even overtaken our own railway network with what seemed to be 100% coverage of electrification and some very modern control technology keeping the highly intensive service flowing.

However, the safety record of the railway, with an average of 10 deaths a day is appalling. The reason for this dreadful record became clear during the programme with people crossing the tracks in front of trains and using the permanent way as a walking route and even living within inches of the running lines in the shanty towns that have grown up around the metropolis.

The complete lack of doors on the carriages, the people jumping on and off moving trains and the super density crush loading that is accepted in peak hours must also be factors that contribute to the dire safety record.

Although the programme tackled this issue head on, a TV programme can never change the culture of a society. The programme makers featured a number of people who worked on or were inextricably linked to the railway. The General Manager of one of the lines was included, bbut a more interesting railwayman was the driver with 30 years experience who talked about the reality of working in these conditions. I found his matter of fact description of stopping the train, his guard and himself moving a body off the track and continuing to the next station to report the incident to be harrowing.

It was also very interesting to see and hear from the young child making a kind of living on the edge of the law working on a station as a shoeshine boy. It was also interesting to hear of a former shoeshine boy who has become an entrepreneur with fingers in all the business interests on the railway station, but who is also involved as a volunteer ambulance driver, often transporting the people killed or injured.

Perhaps the most moving story was that of a young woman hawker who travelled on the railway’s “Ladies Only” trains selling Saris and other clothing to the passengers. This is completely illegal, but when she was arrested by the railway police, she paid the fine and went straight back to her only work. At the end of the programme, however, she went with her family to visit the flat that her sales had enabled her to buy.

The young shoeshine boy also left the station that had been his home as well as his workplace and was seen at a centre for runaway children starting to learn the skills that will give him a better chance of improving his life than he would have found on the railway station.

Although British viewers could recognise the railway which was the central character of this documentary, the living and working conditions, the culture, the society and the attitudes that were revealed by the programme were a world away from our own urban railway networks. I am looking forward to seeing the second part of this revealing look at something that is simultaneously so familiar and so alien.

Ride Safe