Penlowry

Chronicling the development of my 5-gauge 4mm scale model railway with a few off-topic insights thrown in for free


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Why railways?

Someone recently asked me on Facebook why I liked railways. It’s an interesting question. Look on the bright side. It’s a harmless hobby…

The Elder Statesman introduced me to railways. He grew up in Gloucester and went on family holidays back to the ancestral home in Bude so if you snap him in half he has “GWR” written through him like a stick of rock, and his second favourite is the Southern.

His Uncle was signalman at Yeovil Junction and the Elder Statesman used to go there in holidays to work the ‘box under tuition. My Great Grandfather was a Stationmaster on the LSWR. Started way down in the Lizard as a lad porter and moved east as he got promoted, ending up living in Bude.

Bude station in 1907

For me, I like odd things, experiments, and performance. I like narrow gauge, LNER and GWR. I don’t mind LMS or SR but it gets a bit particular with them: – Hughes Crab, Stanier developments, Q1, Leader, and USA tanks. I like mechanical signalling, industrial railways (particularly brewery railways), and the study of railway accidents.

The one thing that is common in that list is that I am interested in clever mechanics, and providing the best solution to solve the problem at hand.

The history of the engineering experimentation and development over the course of the industrial revolution is fascinating and the only acceleration of development of similar proportions has occurred in the last 30 odd years with the development of computing power to enable CAD / CAM, 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and the like.

If you find me on a locomotive footplate I’ll probably tell you about the performance; if you find me under a locomotive, the ingenious design; in a signalbox, the sheer complexity of mechanical interlocking; at the Railway Technical Centre, the history of the fantastic creations born there; at a disused railway site, what made the railway important; the railway museum, the designs that changed the world; and if you want to know what I think of the current railways I’ll remind you of the unbelievable growth in the last 20 years.  I’ll probably do all that with an enthusiasm which marks me out as slightly bonkers. But then I’m an enthusiastic railwayman. It’s in the blood.

Stockport No.2 Signalbox - mechanical interlocking

Stockport No.2 ‘box interlocking © Peter Whatley

I’m going to start sounding like a stuck record in a minute. The Elder Statesman likes the elegance and class of railways, particularly locomotives. He loves pointing out that it is likely there are more books written about the GWR than any other single subject on the planet. Not sure about that one, but it is an interesting theory.

For that reason he hates Hawksworth while I’m fascinated by him, His style wasn’t Churchward or Collett, but to my mind his style was GWR. Experimenting, improving, trying to win back the years lost when Collett was past it and didn’t step down. He was too late of course. But what might have been? His 15xx was a leap in the right direction. His Modified Hall should never have been called a Hall it was so different from the original. His County took 2 cylinder locomotives beyond the classic 4 cylinder Castle. And his Pacific would have been the most powerful locomotive in the UK.

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That’s what I love. The investigation of what was and what might have been. Pioneers at the top of their game. Which means come Christmas time, at some point, over a Purple Moose or two, the Elder Statesman and I will have our usual conversation where he waxes lyrical about the GWR and I tell him I’d be more impressed if they’d sorted grease and mechanical lubrication, roller bearings, accessibility, crew comforts, left hand drive. All the things that made the GWR, great though it was, flawed. And then we’ll argue whether the GWR or the Ffestiniog was the real pioneer (they both were).

I’ll probably also get a chance to get my usual little jest about my favourite Southern locomotive. It’s called Ellerman Lines….

Happy Christmas everyone. Cheers!


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Fifty years volunteering

My uncle reached the milestone of having volunteered on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for 50 years. This is something to celebrate. So we did. On a train. With real ale. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

My parents hired a cottage for the weekend near Cullingworth and so on the Saturday we drank beer and on the Sunday we went walking on the Great Northern Railway Trail, a disused part of the Great Northern Railway. Possibly a theme to this weekend. Subtle, but you may notice it.

Anyway, here are a few pics from the weekend.

 

Our steed for the day, the SD160. Its whistle reminds me of a much missed American lco on the Ffestiniog...

Our steed for the day, the SD160. Its whistle reminds me of a much missed American lco on the Ffestiniog…

The prototype diesel -electric shunter Vulcan. BR missed its potential, the Worth Valley did not.

The prototype diesel -electric shunter Vulcan. BR missed its potential, the Worth Valley did not.

The Volcano is back! Celebrating the original name, the newly outshopped SpamCan will carry the name Wells for 9 months until being renamed "City of Wells"

The Volcano is back! Celebrating the original name, the newly outshopped SpamCan will carry the name Wells for 9 months until being renamed “City of Wells”

"A great railway," says a friend of mine, "about one pint long!"

“A great railway,” says a friend of mine, “about one pint long!”

Mini-me watching the coal tank and GNR coach at the Vintage Carriages Trust at Ingrow.

Mini-me watching the coal tank and GNR coach at the Vintage Carriages Trust at Ingrow.

No 72. I do like the USA tanks. Ugly but they mean business.

No 72. I do like the USA tanks. Ugly but they mean business.

A walk along the Great Northern Trail is possible for most people

A walk along the Great Northern Trail is possible for most people

The two viaducts at Cullingworth are spectacular

The two viaducts at Cullingworth are spectacular

Members of my family posing for the travel guide (no, not really)

Members of my family posing for the travel guide (no, not really)

This is a great piece of Victorian engineering

This is a great piece of Victorian engineering

Trying a bit of filtering on my phone

Imagine if the KWVR extended from Haworth…

Until next time...

Until next time…