Tag Archives: Kettles

What Plandampf Should Be Next?

Arriva class 150 at Blaenau Ffestiniog
How about replacing this with a steam train for a day or three?

After the success of the plandampf on the Settle and Carlisle line using 60103 “Tornado”, what other routes would be good candidates for something similar?

For the uninitiated, plandampf is a German word describing steam locomotives taking over regular scheduled services for a few days or a weekend rather than the more usual one-off special that doesn’t appear in the public timetable. It’s been a popular thing in Germany for many years.

Here are a few suggestions; since steam locomotives are restricted to 75mph on the main lines it rules out inter-city routes, much as we’d love to see a King running from Paddington to Plymouth instead of a High Speed Train.

The Conwy Valley line

This spectacularly scenic line is one of Wales’ best-kept secrets, the one surviving standard-gauge line to run into the mountainous heart of Snowdonia, and also connects with the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog railway. As an operationally self-contained line, it’s ideal, and the current timetable allows a single train to operate the entire service, though a second locomotive might be needed to speed up the turn-round at Llandudno. The passing loop at Llanrwst North would also allow two-train operation for a more intensive service.

The Central Wales line

This is much longer scenic trip from Swansea to Shrewsbury over a meandering route through the hills of mid-Wales that allegedly only survived the Beeching cuts because it ran through so many marginal parliamentary constituencies. It has the advantage that there’s a triangle to turn the locomotive at both ends of the line, so no tender-first running over the most scenic part of the route The one potential problem is the reversal at Llanelli, though top-and-tail working with a diesel for the short section between Swansea and Llanelli might be one solution here.

Par to Newquay

This is another of those scenic Cinderella lines that, like the Conwy Valley, is crying out for some heritage traction. Lack of any run-round facilities at the Newquay end means top-and-tail working will be necessary, but it will likely need two locomotives to keep to time on those grades in any case; back in the steam days holiday trains needed banking on the 1 in 37 up the Luxulyan valley. A train with a Castle or Hall at the front and a 52XX 2-8-0T at the back would something to see slogging up that grade.

The Greenford Loop

For something completely different, how about this short and self-contained shuttle from West Ealing to Greenford in west London? Rather than a day out behind a big main-line locomotive this is ideal for a Great Western auto-train and the recently-restored steam railcar. The line is double track, so there’s the opportunity have two trains running at the same time.

Over to you. What lines would you love to see taken over by heritage traction for a day or three?

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The Swanage Railway

A couple of photos from the Swanage Railway taken in mid-August. Here’s the venerable T9 class 4-4-0 No 30120, dating from 1899 entering Corfe Castle station.

These locomotives were once top-link express locomotives. Unlike many other locomotives from that era they managed to make themselves useful on less glamourous local work long after they were displaced by larger and more powerful types in 20th century. They lasted until the 1960s, where 30120 was the last one running, the only example to survive.

The M7 class 0-4-4T No 30053 is almost as venerable, dating from Edwardian times. Like the T9, 30053 wears the 1950s British Railways livery of the final years of steam, matching the BR Mk1 coaches of the train.

One nice feature of the Swanage Railway is that all the locomotives and rolling stock running carries liveries from the same period; in contrast to the ahistorical mish-mash you tend to get on many other preserved lines. Bar the fact that the locomotives are spotlessly clean, you could be stepping back in time to about 1960.

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Robert Riddles and the BR Standards

The discussion on RMWeb has moved on from Modernisation Plan diesels to the legacy of the first Chief Mechanical Engineer of the newly-nationalised British Railways, Robert Riddles.

Riddles is best known for his BR standard steam locomotives, 999 locomotives of 12 different classes built between 1952 and 1960. With the benefit of hindsight, these new designs should never have been introduced; short-term needs for steam power could have been met with additional builds of “best of breed” big four designs. But Riddles wanted to go down in history alongside Stanier and Gresley, so there had to be a fleet of locomotives associated with his name. Even if they had such short working lives that many saw less than a decade in traffic.

Riddles was an opponent of diesel traction, hence his successful advocacy of large-scale steam construction so late in the day. He reportedly even tried to halt the ultimately very successful early 50s introduction of diesel multiple units in Cumbria, West Yorkshire and East Anglia in favour of a new build of push-pull steam trains.

As for the locomotives themselves, there’s little dispute that the best of them were fine locomotives. The Britannia pacifics, the 9F 2-10-0, the “Standard Five” 4-6-0 and the “Standard Four Tank” 2-6-4T all acquitted themselves well in service, though the last two were merely updated versions of tried-and-tested LMS designs. But some others were only built in penny numbers, just thirty class 3 2-6-0s and a mere ten “Clan” light pacifics, and it raises questions over whether so many different types should have been built at all. Was there really a need for three different sizes of 2-6-0? Or so many of the smaller locomotives at all?

I do like the suggestion by one commenter that Riddles should have designed a “one size fits all” heavy mixed-traffic 2-8-2 and built them in quantity in place of the Standard Fives and the 9Fs. That would have been an impressive locomotive and makes a very interesting might-have-been.

Thanks to Dai Woodham, the Welsh scrap dealer who bought hundreds of redundant steam locomotives for scrap only to store them for years rather than break them up, many of the actual locomotives have survived. They’ve become workhorses on the steam tourist railways up and down the country, and some of the bigger ones get taken out for the occasional spin on the main line. Most of them spent two or three times as long rusting away in that Welsh scrapyard as they did in main line service, so in terms or wear-and-tear they are almost new.

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The Isle of Man Railway

Douglas sheds

A few photos from my recent visit to the Isle of Man Railway, which runs from Douglas to Port Erin. Here No 4 “Loch” leaves the shed at Douglas to work the mid-morning train to Port Erin. Douglas station is much reduced from its heyday as the hub of a network covering the entire island.

No 12 and No 4 at Douglas

No 12 “Hutchinson” arrives at Douglas with the morning train from Port Erin, while No 4 waits to take the return working. All but one of the line’s operational steam locomotives are these 2-4-0Ts built by Beyer-Peacock on Manchester.

IoMR No "Loch" at Castletown

No 4 again, two days later at Castletown. There are several crossing loops on the line, a legacy of the days when the railway ran a far more intensive service, but for the 2015 timetable all trains cross at Castletown.

IoMR No 5

No 5 “Mona” leaves Castletown bound for Douglas. This locomotive carries the older green livery rather than the Indian red of the majority of the operational fleet.

IoMR Arrival at Castletown

No 13 “Kissack” arrives at Castletown from Douglas. The three-foot gauge gives the line a very different flavour compared with the two-foot lines of Wales. The well-maintained permanent way is reminiscent of the meter-gauge lines of Switzerland, and the locomotives seem more like scaled-down late Victorian standard gauge machines.

Leaving  for Port ErinKissack departs for Port Erin. If the locomotives have a standard-gauge feel, the coaching stock reminds me a lot of the bogie coaches of the Talyllyn railway.

IoMR No 12

Journey’s end. No 12 “Hutchinson” at the southern terminus of Port Erin. The railway has a complicated history. Initially built to serve the tourist industry, it had a lot in common with the standard-gauge railways of the Isle of Wight, which also ran with vintage equipment into the 1960s. The entire network closed in 1965 after making heavy losses, reopening two years later. Now state-owned, only the Douglas to Port Erin section survives.

What remains of Peel station

The lines to Peel and Ramsey closed in 1968, when it became clear that operating the entire network as a vintage steam railway wasn’t viable. Here’s the site of the station throat at Peel. The station building also survives as a coffee shop, though much of the station site has sadly been built over.

No 8 on a demonstration freight train at Douglas

And finally, No 8 “Fenella” with a demonstration freight train at Douglas. The IOMR was always primarily a passenger carrier, and never carried volumes of mineral traffic like the lines in Wales. General merchandise traffic tended to be tail loads on passenger trains.

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Big Kettles


While my model railway interests centre firmly in the diesel era, there is still room for the occasional kettle on the layout. The first one, A1 Pacific “Tornado” actually belongs to the post-privatisation era fleet. The prototype was only built in 2009, used for charter trains all over the country. Though I’m not certain it ever visited Cornwall, it was a performer on the Torbay Express at one point, and I think LNER-style apple green goes well with the WR chocolate and cream coaches used on that train.

Dapol 9F 92226

9F 2-10-0 No 92226 belongs firmly to the transition era fleet. Built in Swindon in 1960, it was part of the final batch for the Western Region that also included “Evening Star”, the last steam locomotive built for British Railways. It had an extremely short life, withdrawn after just five years with the end of steam on the WR. In the early 1960s, Plymouth Laira had a small allocation of these locomotives. As far as I can tell they were all used on the main line east of Plymouth and didn’t run into Cornwall, but modeller’s licence applies. They were (or are, since several are preserved) magnificent locomotives, and that’s enough of an excuse for running one.

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A few photos from my recent trip to North Wales.

Arriva Train 150 at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

We start with the Conwy Valley line, which is possibly the most scenic of the standard gauge line in Wales, the only part of the National Rail network to run into the mountainous heart of Snowdonia. I’m not convinced that the a commuter DMU is really the ideal stock for this route, and I think there’s a good case for running heritage stock, at least during high summer. Doesn’t have to be steam; something like a class 37 and four or five Mk1 coaches would be idea.

Ffestiniog Railway double Fairlie

At Blaenau Ffestiniog we change to the 2′ gauge Ffestiniog Railway, one of the longest established of Britain’s steam tourist lines, for the run down to Porthmadog. Motive power is the 1879-built double Fairlie “Merddin Emrys”, dating from the days when the railway was primarily a slate carrier.

Ffestiniog Railway single Fairle

The Ffestiniog Railway doesn’t consider itself a preserved railway, but a working railway operated to suit today’s needs. While there are several historic locomotives in the fleet, they’ve also got a number of recently built replicas of long-scrapped designs. The single Fairlie “Taliesin” is such a locomotive, built in 1999 using the design of an original locomotive scrapped in 1932.

Replica Lynton & Barnstable

“Lyd”, the newest addition to the fleet is another example, based on the locomotive “Lew” of the Lynton and Barnstable Railway in Devon. The original “Lew” was shipped to Brazil on closure of the L&B in 1937, and its ultimate fate remains unknown.

The Welsh Highland Railway on the climb to Rydd Dhu

The Welsh Highland Railway is the longest narrow gauge line in Britain. The original line opened as a through route from Dinas Junction to Porthmadog in 1922, and closed after just 15 years. The recent reconstruction as a modern tourist railway has been controversial, with big South African Beyer-Garratts brought in to work long corridor trains, a far cry from the small tank engines of the original line. The coaching stock on this train includes a surviving coach from the original WHR, right behind the loco.

Aberglaslyn Pass

The high-season timetable has three services a day, so it’s possible to break the journey for a couple of hours it you start out on the first train and come back on the last. I got off at Beddgelert and walked down the valley to the bridge over Afon Glaslyn to photograph the train I’d been on heading back to Caernarfon.

Aberglaslyn Pass

90 minutes later I’m back at the same spot, on the last southbound train of the day, which crossed the northbound train at Rhyd Ddu, now heading back to Porthmadog through the spectacular Aberglaslyn pass.

Arriva Trains 158 at Porthmadog

And finally, it’s five hours on board an Arriva Trains 158 with non-functional air-conditioning to see the wonderful Panic Room at Bilston. But that’s the subject of another blog post. The Cambrian Coast line is another very scenic route, hugging the coast through Harlech, Barmouth and Aberdovey before heading inland though the Dovey and upper Severn valleys.

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GWR No 6024

A photo from a couple of years ago. GWR No 6024 “King Edward 1″ with a full rake of chocolate and cream coaches passing Coryton Cove, Dawlish with the return “Torbay Express”. Only the solitary Mk2 coach in the formation gives away the fact it’s not a genuine 1960s train.

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What I Did On My Holidays

I know it was months ago, but I’ve finally got round to sorting out the hundreds of photos I took during my spring holiday in the west country.

King Edward I at Coryton Cove, Dawlish

Just after I arrived at Dawlish on Sunday afternoon, what should I see but a kettle! King Edward I on a return excursion from Paignton, with a full rake of chocolate and cream coaches, only slightly spoiled by one of them being an anachronistic Mk2

EWS 67s top-and-tailing at Dawlish

The following morning saw another “real train”, top-and-tailed 67s on the daily Cardiff to Paignton, locomotive hauled because of a shortage of DMUs. I wasn’t 100% certain that it had survived the May timetable change, but the appearance of noted railway photographer Colin Marsden just before it was due was a sure sign it was still running. The rear loco is newly repainted in DB “Traffic Red”.

Rusting winch at Dawlish

This winch has seen better days, but makes a good still life.

The Globe Inn, Lostwithiel

The Globe Inn in Lostwithiel, looking across the 700-year old bridge across the river Fowey. Lostwithiel has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, but last spring the weather was glorious.

The Night Riviera at Lostwithiel

Your choice of entertainment in Lostwithiel on a Wednesday night: Karaoke night at The Globe, or go to the station to watch the Night Riviera pass through at 11pm. For anyone who might be interested, I took this at 125th of a second at f1.4, and at 3200ASA. The train was doing something like 50mph.

Olivia Sparnenn at The Acorn, Penzance

The very lovely Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at The Acorn Theatre in Penzance. A clue as to why I holidayed in Devon and Cornwall rather than Benedorm or Barnetby!

Bridport Town at the Exeter show

Saturday was the Exeter model railway exhibition. This layout, Bridport Town, was built and operated by a Mostly Autumn fan who’d been at the gig in Penzance two days earlier. One thing I like about this layout is it gives me an excuse to use the word “verisimilitude”.

Traction Engine at Exmouth

Late afternoon in Exmouth, and what should I see but another kettle!.

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What I did on my holidays, Part 2 – It’s all gone Kettle-shaped

The second part of my holiday took me to from South Wales to the north of the country.

The first day was spent on the Welsh Highland Railway. I’d ridden the line three years ago, when it was open as far as Rhyd-Ddu, just short of the summit of the line.  It’s now extended beyond Beddgelert through the famous Aberglaslyn pass to Hafod-y-Llyn, just a few miles short of the ultimate destination of Porthmadog.


The climb from Waunfawr up to Rhyd-Dhu is spectacular enough, but the descent down to Beddgelert is even more spectacular, as the line twists and turns Swiss-fashion to lose height. The final section is the most spectacular of all, as the line heads through the steep-sided valley of Aberglaslyn pass, with it’s unlined rock tunnels.  Decades ago, on a wet family holiday, we walked along this route, though the long-abandoned tunnels. Amazing to ride through them on a train.

The WHR has come in for some criticism for not making any attempt to recreate this spirit of the original undercapitalised Colonel Stevens line, instead building a modern tourist railway suitable for the needs of the 21st century, using powerful ex-South African Garrett locomotives rather than the underpowed tank engines of the original line. But I think what they’ve built is a magnificent achievement.

There’s no forward connection from Hafod-y-Llyn, which is a temporary terminus in the middle of nowhere. So you have to ride the train back through Aberglaslyn pass to Beddgelert, where there’s quite a long wait for the bus for Porthmadog. Still, there are far worse places to spend a couple of hours, in the midst of some spectacular scenery.

Next morning, after a hearty breakfast at the Queen’s Hotel, I headed off for Harbour Station for a ride on the famous Ffestiniog railway.  This is one of the longest established preserved railways, celebrating more than 50 years in this form. The locomotive for the day was double Fairlie David Lloyd George, not technically a preserved locomotive at all, since it was built as recently as 1979, albeit to a 19th century design.

FR Fairlie "David Lloyd George"

Then it was the scenic Conwy Valley line to Llandudno Junction. This is one of the most scenic routes on the National Rail network, and really deserves to promoted better as such. I’d love to see a timetable that makes sensible connections with the Ffestiniog at Blaunau, using heritage rolling stock with windows that open. Not neccessily using steam; I think some first generation diesels would do just as well.

Breaking the journey at Bettws-y-Coed was probably a mistake. It’s a beautiful setting, but the place is an appalling tourist trap, full of tacky gift shops selling nothing but tat, and restaurants serving chips with everything.  It’s the sort of tasteless commercialism of which I’m sure that Ayn Rand would have approved.

If you’re based in the north-west, this makes an excellent two-day trip – although it I was doing it again I’d probably stay overnight in Beddgelert and get the bus to Porthmadog in the morning, then take a later train on the Ffestiniog.

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Kettle at Cheadle Hulme

On Friday morning I got up a few minutes early to photograph the steam-hauled Scarborough Flyer on it’s way from Crewe.

I was expecting the advertised loco, A4 pacific 60009 “Union of South Africa”. But what turned up was LMS No 6201 “Princess Elizabeth”.

There were a lot of people on the station with cameras.  I think I was probably the only one under the age of 65. I was certainly the only person wearing a DEMU “No Kettles” t-shirt.

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