The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

Last Update

Visit Report

14 Februuary 2008

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Summer Outing
22nd to 24th June 2007

Our party of 16 members assembled at 18:30 at the NRM on 22nd June for the 30th anniversary dinner. Before the formal events began, there was a chance to ride the Norwich Union wheel. While around a third the size of the London Eye, the wheel at the NRM gives stunning views over York and the surrounding countryside. It travels somewhat faster than its big brother in the capital, but to compensate for this, you go round three times. Normally after ending the journey, riders are encouraged to visit the museum. We, of course, needed no such encouragement - especially as there was a welcoming glass of wine as an aperitif before the dinner. The start of the post-dinner events was a presentation of honorary membership for Donald Wilson, station master at Marylebone, to recognise his support to our South of England Group over the last 8 years. Donald retires from his post shortly. He attended the dinner as our guest and was a little surprised to be called up to receive his award. The speaker was also associated with Chiltern Railways - its chairman Adrian Shooter. Adrian gave a stimulating talk about his involvement in preservation, and particularly his involvement with the Darjeeling and Himalayas Railway. The evening closed around 23:00 and we made our way back to the hotel along the backs of the River Ouse which was happily flowing within its banks, despite all the rain over the past two weeks.
Saturday dawned with a weather forecast of thundery downpours between 10:30 and 15:00 - and they were right. Luckily, we were safely undercover in the Museum as the heavens opened. Despite this, the Museum seemed well patronised. We found out from Andrew Scott in his address at the end of the AGM, that attendance last year was around 906,000 with a further 140,000 at Shildon. The AGM was held in the Walker Suite rather than the usual Lecture Theatre, because the latter had been temporarily gutted as part of the building of the Search Engine. A full report on the AGM will appear in due course in The Review. Your Chairman, Ian Harrison, gave a summary of the work of our Group, and it was pleasing to hear the strong message of support from all speakers, especially from Andrew who was most grateful for us flying the NRM flag in the South. Andrew also gave an insight into what will be happening in the future. With the Museum attendances at these high and stable levels, attention is being given to refreshing the displays to make sure there is something new for visitors to see. Even small professionally-built displays are expensive (the Flying Scotsman display cost £750,000), so you will understand that locating sources of money is essential if this work is to proceed. The Norwich Wheel is contributing to the cash flow, having attracted some 400,000 paying riders. The Great Hall will be the focus for attention - the Search Engine being the first of the innovations. However, Andrew pointed out that there is no threat to the turntable display, which is recognised as being the main attraction of the site. As for the engines, Green Arrow is nearing the end of her boiler ticket, so after some time on preserved lines, she will have to take her place as a static exhibit. Flying Scotsman's firebox needs more attention than expected, so is unlikely to be back together until early 2009. Meanwhile, Oliver Cromwell's rebuild is moving ahead fast, and it is likely to be out in Spring 2008, the target is the May Bank Holiday commemoration of the 40th anniversary of end of BR Steam. The Rocket replica is being rebuilt with a brand new boiler, its original being time-expired. The opportunity is being taken to make its outline more authentic, using the results of the "Archaeological Survey" by Michael Bailey and John Glithero. It will raise a few eyebrows, but we'll have our three chronological models on our stand to explain it!. Finally, the "York Central" property development of the redundant part of the York site finally looks like it is about to begin. Keep an eye out for press reports over the next six months for the point when the land owners, the NRM being one, appoint the developers.
Following the AGM, we descended on a York restaurant for an evening meal before some free time in York.
Sunday involved an early start, to arrive at York station for the 09:00 departure to Manchester Airport stopping at Leeds. This was the start of our exploration of West Riding. The main line to Leeds was under a possession, so local services were replaced by buses. However our Transpennine service was routed round the problem areas. Some of our party were not aware of this and announced at Church Fenton, to the consternation of the non-Group passengers who were sharing our coach, that the driver had lost his way! Female commonsense prevailed - one of our party asked the ticket inspector, and your editor was able to confirm the answer by pulling out the latest edition of Baker's purchased the previous day at the NRM. However, he added further concern to the other passengers, by pointing out that we were then travelling on a goods-only route. Travelling via Castleford and Methley Junction we arrived at Leeds in the opposite direction to the one we expected. We were not alone in being confused at this point. Our train had a spare 3-car set at the front but the signalman at Leeds was unaware of this and we were routed into platform 16a which unfortunately was only 3 and a half coaches long. Full marks to the ticket inspector however, by announcing to all the passengers who were trying to get out that there was an "amusing incident" taking place and she then informed us of the problem. She suggested we all re-take our seats while she locked out the doors on the last two coaches, so that she could open the doors on the one remaining coach in the platform. We still had plenty of time to make the connection onto the 10.08 to Skipton, which deposited us on time at Keighley at 10:35. The stock comprised a new class 333 and was well patronised throughout.
At Keighley we were met by our guide, David Pearson. David is a long-serving volunteer on the KWVR and the Financial Director of FNRM Enterprises. We started our tour at the south end of Keighley station where David provided us with a short history of the origins of the line, the chronology of Keighley station and its relationship with the Midland and Great Northern Railways. We then boarded our train for the trip along the line. We had a reserved compartment in the trailing vehicle of a twin-unit DMU. This gave us good views of the line as it made its way up the steeply graded and curving route. Although David had doubts about the long-term reliability of the unit, it made good progress and soon deposited us at Oxenhope, the end of the line. This we learnt was named after a manor house about half a mile away, and was only identified as the terminal when two local mill owners split the difference between the locations of their two mills. The KWVR took over a fairly derelict site in 1964, but with the injection of millions of pounds and much volunteer work, it stands as a testimony to what can be achieved. The original station buildings have been restored, the platforms and run-round extended, and the approach roads laid with authentic stone setts. The additions to the original layout are very impressive comprising: a shed holding a reserve collection of locos, rolling stock and small exhibits (which is open to the public); a carriage shed, capable of holding all the line's running passenger-stock; and a carriage restoration workshop. David took us on a tour of all of these to provide a full, behind the scenes insight into the working and maintenance of this operating department. Inside the workshop we were able to board the GNR inspection saloon which is known as the "old gentleman's carriage" from its starring role in the 1970 film The Railway Children.
At the end of the platform we photographed our train arriving, double-headed by L&Y Aspinall "A" class No 957 (BR No 52044) and LMS 2MT No 41241. After running round, the L&Y locomotive detached and moved to the carriage sheds to couple up to its (later) train. We boarded our train, hauled by the BR standard, for the short trip to Haworth, arriving at 12:51.
Here our party divided, some making their way up the hill to Haworth village for lunch, the rest following David in a tour round the running shed and workshops. One of the roads of the running shed was taken up with No 34092 City of Wells and WD 2-8-0 No 90733, the latter having just finished its overhaul, and the former still having some way to go. In the old goods shed, which now provides the main workshop, LMS Jinty No 47279 was nearing "running chassis" stage, its boiler away for repairs. David explained that, although the KWVR workshops can undertake most mechanical work on their engines, they do not have boiler repair facilities. This is because their relatively small fleet cannot justify the investment, so they rely on contractors for this work.
Just half an hour for a quick lunch in the fish & chip shop (Dutch-owned) a few steps outside the station, before we returned to photograph the BR standard pulling up the gradient into the station. A quick look round the well-stocked shop in the station building gave the train time to go along to Oxenhope, turn round and return to Haworth to pick up our party at 14:21 for the trip to Ingrow. It was at this point that several of our team learnt that the buffer not only served real ale, but gave a discount to CAMRA members. Suitably lubricated, we detrained at Ingrow. Despite its period feel, with stone buildings, oil lamps, stone-sett approach road and enamel advertising, David explained that this station is the newest on the line, having been relocated, stone by stone, from Foulridge on the Skipton to Colne line, in 1989. Needless to say it has won several awards. Just to the Keighley side of the station building is the old goods building, now used by the Bahamas Locomotive Society. It contains a well presented exhibition telling the history of railways but its main purpose is to provide locomotive repair facilities for this society. Some of you may know that they were originally based at Dinting in Derbyshire, and moved to Ingrow when the lease on their site expired. We had earlier seen No 45596 Bahamas, itself, in the reserve collection shed at Oxenhope, awaiting its turn for an overhaul. The loco that is currently the focus of attention is LNWR "Coal Tank" No 1054, which is undergoing some extensive firebox repairs. Although owned by the National Trust, the engine is in the care of the society and is expected to take its place shortly as part of the running fleet on the KWVR. Bahamas will then come down for its turn in the workshop.
A little further towards Keighley in the station yard is the Vintage Carriage Trust museum. Until now, David was at pains to point out that none of the sites we had visited were museums, but the VCT site is registered as a museum and regarded by many as the best collection of passenger rolling stock outside the NRM. Once we were inside it wasn't difficult to see why. The collection of wooden-bodied 6 wheel and bogie stock was impressively presented, accessible both at ground and platform level. The standard of finish was impeccable. We had the opportunity to tour the adjoining workshop to inspect a Bulleid TSO and Metropolitan bogie compartment undergoing restoration. The chairman of the VCT explained the painstaking effort they make to ensure that the work is done to the highest possible standard, inviting us to stroke the carriage side to feel the standard of preparation - several of our party couldn't resist the opportunity to go carriage-groping! Inevitably all this attention to detail can only be devoted to the special vehicles but the effort is worthwhile. Without the Trust, many of these now-priceless exhibits would have been lost to the nation, most having been rescued in various stages of dilapidation.
All too soon it was time to leave, and we made our way back to the station just in time to see the L&Y engine make a spirited run up the grade and into the station with its Oxenhope bound train. We took the opportunity following its departure, to go into the station office to examine a photograph dating from just before the opening of the line. This showed Ingrow tunnel under construction and the adjoining chapel suffering a mysterious, and terminal case of subsidence. The company initially refused to compensate the congregation for the damage to their three-month old building, but sense finally prevailed and a replacement chapel was provided. However, it came at a cost - some £7000 (the whole line only cost £75000) and the resignation of the chairman of the chapel congregation and director of the railway (the same person!).
A few minutes later, having exchange the single-line token in Damems Loop, our train, hauled once again by No 41241, emerged from Ingrow tunnel to take us back to Keighley. So with a quick, but well-deserved thank-you to David, we sadly had to leave the KWVR to catch our smart new EMU back to Leeds. Despite the rain showers, it was a very enjoyable day's visit. The lucky ones in our party made their way south immediately. Those who stayed over on the Sunday night, awoke to find the north of England flooded, with no trains south for some time. It was a really memorable summer outing!