Monday 14 July 2008

More to the Great Central Railway

Still moored at Beeston.

My bus pass was going to get a hiding today as I set off for Ruddington on the other side of Nottingham. I left the girls on the boat today so they could do what ever they do on girlie days out. The first leg of my journey was from Beeston to Nottingham where I changed buses to Ruddington Green. I then had about a mile walk, which was very pleasant through part of what had been a village but now more of a city suburb.

After a walk through a park I came to the Nottingham Heritage centre where there are vintage buses, a museum and trains, model, miniature and full sized. The full sized jobs run to Loughborough where they are halted about ¼ mile short of the Loughborough station which is the terminus for the Great Central Railway ( Loughborough). I visited that line quite recently. The only thing keeping these 2 groups apart is the bridge behind the Loughborough engine shed for which they require £6m to rebuild it.

One advantage the Nottingham Heritage group have over the Great Central is that they have a mainline connection as 2 freight trains a day, averaging 1500 ton's, deliver ash from power stations around Britain to British Gypsum who turn it into plaster board. Needless to say the line up to BG is well maintained and there is a passing loop. The Nottingham group's depot is an old munitions factory site which had quite a large siding network. They are at present building a new station platform which will be capable of holding 7 - 8 carriage trains. I suspect that this may not be in service before next year as they have still to complete the platform and lay new track.

While waiting on the temporary platform I inspected the train made up of a class 47 diesel and 4 ex Gatwick Express Mk2 carriages which had been rigged up as a push - pull arrangement. Before boarding I got talking to one of the staff (volunteer) who in his time in the RAF had played a friendly game of rugby against the NZ All Blacks when they stopped off in Nicosia after one of their tours (many decades ago). After this friendly exchange of memories I chanced my arm and asked if there was any possibility of a ride up front in the loco. Well no sooner said than done. I was introduced to George the driver for the day and Steve who owned the loco. This surprised me a little but I was not totally unaware that rolling stock on preserved heritage railways were privately owned but I always thought Loco's, because of the cost would belong to the groups or societies.

The controls of the class 47 diesel loco.

While travelling along Steve told me that he had bought the loco as a wreck from Crewe works. All the windows were broken and various mechanical parts had been scavenged to keep other loco's operational. The only thing missing now is the boiler for heating the carriages but that is of no consequence for the time being. George also enlightened us to the fact that he had driven the self same loco when it was still in mainline service. Steve started on the railways as a boy employed as a cleaner and worked his way up as fireman, driver and then retraining when the diesel era came into being.

And the band played on.

The operation of the train was a bit complicated in that the trip to Loughborough the loco was pushing the carriages so Steve was driving the loco but the brake was being operated by another driver in the driving cab of the end carriage. Returning to the heritage centre Steve had full control as he was now at the head of the train and the other driver came up and joined us in the cab. It was great to hear all 3 of them reminiscing over their driving experiences. Sadly my time in the cab soon came to an end but I did get to walk through the engine bay from one end of the loco to the other.

'O' gauge scale model railway.

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