Archive for April, 2010


Next A1 Trust loco will be a P2

Wednesday, April 28 2010

The original P2 Mikado Cock of the North. Picture A1 Trust.

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, the group who built Tornado, the first new main line steam locomotive to be constructed in Britain for almost 50 years, announced this week that a feasibility study is under way into the construction of a second new main line steam locomotive, a Gresley class P2 2-8-2.

The first class P2 No. 2001 Cock O’ the North was completed in 1934 by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) at its Doncaster works. It was the most powerful express passenger steam locomotive ever built for a British railway. Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER who also designed the famous class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman and world speed record holder class A4 4468 Mallard, the class, which was eventually to number six, was constructed for use on the arduous Edinburgh to Aberdeen route. The P2’s 2-8-2 ‘Mikado’ wheel arrangement and 6ft 2in driving wheels enabled them to haul 600 ton trains on their own, replacing two older locomotives.

However, the P2s never lived up to their potential. The coming of the second world war and Sir Nigel’s premature death in 1941 meant that the design was never fully developed and all six were rebuilt as 4-6-2s in 1943/44 by Gresley’s successor Edward Thompson.

Mark Allatt, chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust commented:

It has long been the desire of the Trust to build a second locomotive as it would be a great waste to allow the skills and experience that we have developed in the construction of Tornado to go unused. However, we first had to ensure the successful commercial introduction of Tornado into main line service and then work to secure her future financially.

The P2 is the most frequently requested locomotive the Trust is asked to build next. In addition to its striking looks, incredible power and undoubted glamour it also has around 70% commonality with Tornado, including the boiler, tender and many other detailed fittings. However, the design was never fully developed and the locomotives failed to reach their full potential. The Trust is therefore conducting a feasibility study into the construction of a new Gresley P2, to be numbered 2007 as the next in the series. As a part of this study we are examining the commercial, engineering and certifications challenges that we would face in completing that development work to make a new P2 a success. Initial conversations with the regulatory bodies have been very positive but we have a long way to go yet.



‘Live testing’ on ELL started today

Tuesday, April 27 2010

Class 378 units at Hoxton and Haggerston stations on the East London Line, January 05, 2010. YouTube video by Bramleyhousemedia.

‘Live testing’ (test trains carrying fare paying passengers) started today on the East London Line London Overground extension. Test trains without passengers have been running for several months.

The East London line’s re-incarnation as part of the London Overground is but the latest stage in the line’s long and chequered history. The line was opened in 1869 by the East London Railway Company. Trains ran through Marc Isambard Brunel’s Thames Tunnel. At first the line was operated jointly by six railway companies. The line became part of the London Underground network in 1933, though British Railways goods services continued to use the line until 1962, and occasional passenger trains from Liverpool Street ran until 1966. The short length of connecting track between Shoreditch and the ex GER line to Liverpool St was removed in 1966.

For most of its incarnation as part of the London Underground the line was coloured purple on tube maps and shown as part of the Metropolitan line. (After 1990 the line received its own orange colour.) Through services to Hammersmith were withdrawn  in 1941, and the East London Line was depicted on maps as a self contained upside down “Y”. All trains ran from either New Cross or New Cross Gate to Whitechapel with some services continuing to Shoreditch.

The line closed in December 2007 when work started to convert the line to Network Rail standards and extend it as part of the Transport for London’s London Overground system. Trains will initially run from Dalston Junction in the north to New Cross, Crystal Palace and West Croydon in the south. By February 2011, TfL expects to have extended the line to Highbury & Islington. Plans for a second extension from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction are also advanced with certain preparatory civil engineering works completed. The long term vision is to develop the line as London orbital railway.

The East London Railway extension. Map by TfL.

(Click on map to download original as a pdf file from TfL.)



Sir Lamiel on Hatton bank

Sunday, April 25 2010

Southern Railway King Arthur class Sir Lamiel hauling the Cathedrals Express from London to Stratford-upon-Avon up Hatton Bank on 23.04.2010. Video by MG06ZT.

There is to my mind nothing finer in the world than watching an express locomotive working flat out. Yesterday Southern Railway King Arthur class Sir Lamiel did just that up Hatton Bank. With a hat tip to John Savery.


Network Rail rebels take aim at Kong

Tuesday, April 20 2010

Network Rail non-exec board member Janis Kong

The Fact Compiler, the thinking man’s favourite railway blogger, published this delicious post yesterday.

NR board appointment fires up reformers zeal

Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday reported that there is disquiet amongst NR members about the proposed appointment of Janis Kong to the company’s board.

The decision is due to be rubber stamped in July at NR’s Annual General Meeting but with reform to Network Rail governance mentioned in both the Tory and newly resurgent LibDem manifestos this could become a cause celebre.

Kong was a non-Exec at RBS when Fred the Shrek ran the doomed banking group and she was also on the remuneration committee that boosted the failed banker’s pension pot by £20m.

Regular readers who were with us in our Tunnel Vision days may feel a twinge of deja vue. We had Kong in our sights in January when we wrote.

Her main claim to fame is that she was a member of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Remuneration Committee, which approved at £20m pension deal for disgraced RBS ex-chairman Sir Fred Goodwin.

We trust that the rest of 2010 will be an interesting time for the Network Rail board.


GWR 175 ‘unforgetable day’

Tuesday, April 20 2010

GWR Castle class 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and ‘hush-hush’ coach.
Photo White Horse Pilgrim.

(Click image to see original and read an account of The Bristolian’s run on White Horse Pilgrim blog)

The Great Western Railway was – and for tens of thousands of its devotees still is – simply the best railway in the world. The Great Western Railway Company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol in 1833, and the Act of Parliament authorizing the construction of the railway between London and Bristol received Royal Assent on 31st August 1835. It is this later date that is considered to be the ‘birthday’ of the railway and this year, a number of special events are being held this year to celebrate the GWR’s 175th anniversary.

On Saturday 17th April, Vintage Trains Limited, in partnership with First Great Western, organised one of the most memorable of the anniversary events – a recreation of the GWR named express train The Bristolian – with a non-stop train from London Paddington to Bristol and return  – the first such non-stop run since the end of British Railways steam in the 1960s. The locomotive chosen to haul the train – Castle class locomotive, 5043 was completed in March 1936 in the GWR’s Swindon works. Originally named Banbury Castle, the locomotive is nearly half as old as the GWR!

In 1937, the locomotive was renamed Earl of Mount Edgcumbe1 after one of the GWR directors. Based at Old Oak Common shed, she was a reliable and popular engine. In May 1958, in the twilight years of British Railways steam, 5043 was fitted with a double chimney which considerably improved efficiency. On 5th June 1958, the locomotive reached 98 mph on the up Bristolian.

Earl of Mount Edgcumbe received her last heavy overhaul at Swindon in February 1962. She finished her days based at Cardiff East Dock Shed where she was withdrawn from service in December 1963. She was stored until spring 1964. Was she the subject of an abortive preservation attempt like the last Peppercorn Class A1 pacific, 60145, Saint Mungo? Or was her brief reprieve because the Western Region’s locomen simply could not bear to send such a historic locomotive to her grave?

After her brief reprieve, 5043 was sold to Woodham Brothers scrap yard at Barry Island, South Wales. There together with nearly 300 other condemned locos she was slowly stripped of parts and left to rot in the corrosive sea air. In September 1973, 5043 was purchased to be a source of spares for preserved Castle class, 7029 Clun Castle. There was no thought of restoration, 5043 was to be cannibalised as necessary to keep 7029 steaming and what could not be reused would be eventually scrapped.  The loco was moved to Tyseley for safekeeping. Here many parts were removed and the stripped loco stored pending its eventual disposal.

A quarter of a century passed. During this time many seemingly ‘hopeless and impossible’ steam locomotive restorations had been proved to be realistic and achievable. Tyseley Locomotive Works had tackled a number of such projects and had developed the skills necessary to bring back 5043 to life. A feasibility study was undertaken regarding the possibility of restoring 5043 to the condition necessary to be able to run on BR’s mainlines.

In 1997 – 34 years after 5043 had been withdrawn from service by BR – Birmingham Railway Museum Trust officially launched the project to restore Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. The objectives included that the locomotive should be able to run on BR mainlines and should be restored to her late 1950’s condition with a Hawksworth tender and a BR double chimney. On 3rd October 2008, nearly 45 years after 5043 was last steamed, she moved again under her own power!

It is very fitting that 5043 was chosen to haul the non-stop Bristolian re-enactment. White Horse Pilgrim was on the train. He writes in his blog,

Today I made perhaps the most remarkable train journey of my life, one of a fortunate few passengers recreating something that has not happened in nearly half a century – the first opportunity in my lifetime to make this trip.

The event being celebrated is the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Great Western Railway, that creation of our greatest engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

And sums up his trip,

I may never again have the opportunity to make such an amazing journey. So I shall remember today’s trip for the rest of my days.

So why if you are wondering what made this run so extraordinary – and believe me it was extraordinary – click on the image at the head of his article and read the whole of WHP’s account for yourself!


1 Steam locomotives, even if they are named after Earls, are always ‘she’ never ‘he’ ot ‘it’.


Unfortunately current Network Rail regulations do not allow steam locomotives to run faster in Britain than 75 mph. (Though Tornado is reported to have reached 87 mph during one of its test runs!) So there was no attempt on Saturday at beating the 98mph recorded speed that 5043 achieved during on June 3rd 1958. Since the demise of steam, water troughs, which allowed steam locomotives to pick up water while on the move, have all been removed. However 5043 was provided with an additional water tender –  a specially adapted ex motorail  coach – which made possible Saturday’s historic runs between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, the likes of which had not been seen for nearly 50 years!



Crossrail could be axed

Friday, April 16 2010

The central section of Crossrail. Map Crossrail.

(Click image to view a range of maps available on the Crossrail website.)

Speculation on the future of Crossrail was fuelled by a comment by Justine Greening the Conservative shadow minister for London. She said that if a Conservative government was elected the future of the cross-London rail links could not be guaranteed. Subsequent comments yesterday by senior Conservative Party sources indicated that while the Tories were in favour of Crossrail in principle its funding could be cut as pert of a new emergency budget.



World’s most amazing Metro stations

Thursday, April 15 2010

Komsomolskaya Metro station, Moscow. Photo Иван Гриценко.

(Click on image to see original on Wikipedia and details of licensing.)

The Pravda website has a gallery entitled ‘World’s Ten Amazing Subway Stations’. It includes photos of Komsomolskaya, its North Korean clone in Pyongyang and the disused City Hall in New York. More modern designs are included too, the amazing cave station in Stockholm – complete with cave paintings, Norman Foster’s futuristic design in Bilbao, and the sinking railway carriage at Bockenheimer Warte in Berlin.

Sadly my own personal favourites on the London Underground – Earls Court, Sudbury Town and Uxbridge do not get a look in.



Railway to heaven

Monday, April 5 2010

Front dustjacket illustration of Brian Sibley’s biography of the Rev Wilbert Awdry, The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, published by Heinemann in 1995.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph Lucinda Everett has just published her list of The 20 greatest children’s books ever. The list includes many perennial  favourites such as Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows, Edith Nesbitt’s The Railway Children and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Modern works include Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy.

Missing from Ms Everett list are such best sellers as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden or Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events. Sadly, but predictably, the works of the 20th century’s best selling children’s author are never included on such lists. By the time the Reverend Wilbert Awdry died in March 1997, over 50 million books had been published all around the world featuring Thomas the Tank Engine or the other locomotives of the Isle of Sodor. Today the figure must surely be over 60 million.

Three generations of British railway enthusiasts have been weaned on Thomas. Thanks to the spin off TV series by Britt Allcroft children learn to distinguish between its various engine heroes before they learn to read. The Rev W Awdry was a stickler for realism and the mishaps suffered by his engines were gleaned from careful study of The Railway Gazette. If you read in one of his stories that an engine fell down a disused mine, or had a fish in its water tank, you can be sure that somewhere, on some railway, a similar event had really happened.

In the books these accidents were brought about by the arrogance, stubbornness, jealousy or ambition of the engine involved. The message is clear: misbehaviour leads to suffering or punishment – such as being relegated to shunting – repentance leads to forgiveness. Writing Awdry’s obituary in The Independent Brian Sibley commented, the analogies between the Christian faith and the ways of the railway are obvious: the engines are meant to follow the straight and narrow way and pay the price if they go off the rails. No wonder Awdry enjoyed drawing the parallels between railways and the Church: “Both had their heyday in the mid-19th century; both own a great deal of Gothic-style architecture which is expensive to maintain; both are regularly assailed by critics; and both are firmly convinced that they are the best means of getting man to his ultimate destination.”


Who killed the ‘Strategic Steam Reserve’?

Thursday, April 1 2010

The eastern entrance to Box Tunnel. Photo ©Derek Hawkins.

(Click on image to see original on Geograph and for details of licensing.)

Thanks to Bourne’s lithographs, the western portal of Brunel’s Box Tunnel is well known, but the eastern portal is less so. The latter is decidedly less ornate. Brunel had gone over budget during the construction of the Great Western Railway and the directors were demanding economies. So not many people are familiar with the eastern portal or know that it also has a small side tunnel to the north which led into a underground quarry used by the railway contractor as a source of the fine Bath stone used to embellish many of the buildings and civil engineering structures along the line.

The area had been quarried for many centuries, leaving behind an enormous complex of galleries and tunnels where the stone had been removed. In both the first and second World Wars, the quarries were used to store ammunition. The complex was named the Central Ammunition Depot, Corsham. It encompassed the underground quarries at Ridge, Monkton Farleigh, Eastlays, Browns, as well as the Tunnel Quarry at Corsham. During WWII, the adjoining Spring Quarry was converted at enormous cost into a Ministry of Aircraft Production factory. While Ridge Quarry was used almost ‘as is’, the quarries at Tunnel, Monkton and Eastlays were comprehensively re-engineered. A major underpinning exercise allowed adits to be straightened and rectangular storage bays to be constructed. Air conditioning, electricity generation and sewerage systems were installed.

After de-commissioning in the 1960s, the complex was broken up, Eastlays was used as a bonded warehouse, Monkton became a museum, was then closed and trashed by scrap thieves, parts of Monkton Farleigh were leased to a security company. Part of and in later years a store for the Royal Navy was developed as one of the Hawthorn Central Government (War) Headquarters sites. Tunnel Quarry remained in MoD hands. Part became the Corsham Computer Centre and part is used by RAF Rudloe Manor.  The portion with the rail link to the ex GWR main line was used to store the strategic steam reserve – a means of hauling MOD trains in the period immediately after a nuclear attack.

Carefully selected BR standard and ex GWR locomotives locomotives were subject to heavy overhaul and were withdrawn shortly after running in their bearings. They were taken at night to Farleigh Down sidings by a special crew – half dozen BR drivers and firemen who had undergone security vetting and had signed the Official Secrets Act. From Farleigh Down they would be taken on to the underground storage sidings at Tunnel Quarry by Ministry of Defence (MOD) crews. Here the engines would be mothballed according a special process developed by MOD scientists. Boilers would be drained, then flushed with dry air and then filled with nitrogen to inhibit corrosion. All bright metal surfaces were smeared with a special lithium-based grease to inhibit corrosion. The humidity in the tunnel was carefully controlled by means of special air dryers fitted into the air conditioning systems.

The strategic steam reserve would probably have continued into the 21st century had it not been for the problem of training the next generation of MOD locomotive crews. With the closure of the Longmoor Military Railway in 1969 the MOD had lost its own in-house training facility. The MOD drew up a specification for a steam locomotive simulator similar to those used to train aircraft pilots. The project was originally budgeted at £15 million, but the USA DoD demanded that as this was a part of a strategic defence system it should be programmed in ADA. The new specification was put out to tender which was won by Praxis Systems of Bath with a bid of £25 million. The system was ready for delivery when the MOD discovered that whereas they had specified a driving simulator, they had forgotten about the work of the fireman. Praxis were asked to submit a supplementary estimate for the additional work required. At this stage the paper trail gets decidedly cold and after receiving a few midnight phone calls from the “If you know what’s good for yer mate… ” brigade we discretely dropped our enquiries.

The steam locomotives of the strategic steam reserve were very quietly cut up and with the evidenced disposed of and the remaining witnesses sworn to secrecy the MOD put about the story that the SSR is just an urban myth.