Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tornado in Wamphray

A complete rainbow over the West Coast Main Line on Friday evening was a sure sign of something special about to happen.

So with that good omen, I joined a good number of fellow 'enthusiasts' on Saturday morning, at Lockerbie Station, for a few seconds of excitement!

Here is LNER A1 Class 4-6-2 no 60163 Tornado, after its recent overhaul, pulling a steam charter. The 'Border Reivers' left from Carlisle to do a circular route northwards via the West Coast Main, through Wamphray, to Paisley, Ayr, Mauchline, Thornhill, Dumfries, and back to Carlisle.

Scotrail's new franchise holder Abellio has ventured into steam charters to showcase the country’s scenery, and is part of their marketing strategy to encourage more visitors to travel by train. Gets my vote!

At my age, I am happy when excitement comes in short bursts. But watching Tornado whoosh through Lockerbie was very much a case of 'blink and you've missed it'.

So, later in the day, to get more of a 'steam fix', I was waiting at Carlisle's Citadel Station to welcome the charter back to its starting point, right on time. It was somewhat disconcerting to see the train arrive at platform 3 from the north. Most steam arrives in Carlisle from the south.


A happy driving crew poses for photographs.

Considering it was a new build in 2008, Tornado seems to have gained a lot of affection amongst steam enthusiasts.

The locomotive ran around the SRPS rake of carriages quickly and efficiently.

Tender first, Tornado was soon on its way north again. The Border Reivers charter was a sell out, I note. I look forward to seeing more steam on Scottish lines in the future.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, June 20, 2015


The museum at Beamish (The Living Museum of the North) had been on my 'to visit' list for a while. I really wanted to see the trams, but I found so much more. It's quite a place!

No 196 was built in 1935 in Portugal, and brought to Beamish in 1989. Here it's running in the blue and primrose colours of South Shields. On the right is Sunderland Corporation Tramways No 16 which was built as an open-top tramcar by Dick, Kerr & Co, Preston, in 1900.

The museum occupies quite an area, and the trams run in a one and a half mile loop round the site.

Blackpool 31, constructed in 1901. Love it!

Avonside No 1764 'Portbury' was getting coaled up here, prior to its day's work. The history of this locomotive is here.

It's only a short line at Beamish, but there was a lot of interest in riding aboard. The station buildings were moved to Beamish from Rowley, a village near Consett, County Durham. The signal box came from Carr House East, also near Consett, and dates from 1896.

Now here's a beast - a 1931 Ruston Bucyrus 25-RB 125 ton, steam-powered excavator. Reminds me that I must visit Threlkeld again, see here.

Buses too. This B-Type replica in the livery of the early 1920s Newcastle Corporation Transport.

It was the small things which added to the day. I seem to remember learning all the road signs like this to pass my driving test all these years ago.

This was a wall at the back of the bus shelter, constructed using different bricks from a multitude of local brickworks.

The museum stands on a site which was at the heart of the Durham coalfield, and there is much to see in the 1900s Colliery area.

I was (of course) interested in the colliery railway, the core of which is standard gauge, but there also narrow gauge tracks. This is No 18, a Stephen Lewin locomotive, from 1877, which was in steam and at work on my visit.

No 18 worked for 93 years at Seaham Harbour.

It is a working museum!

Awaiting restoration!

Made my day!

The 1900s town is full of interest. I particularly enjoyed the interior of the local printers and newspaper branch office.

It may have been a busy Sunday, but the site is large enough to accommodate everyone. This was the only queue I encountered - for the sweetie shop!

Beamish was a great place to visit. I'll certainly go back. I think it will take many visits to see everything! The official website is here.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, May 25, 2015


At the east end of Talla Reservoir near Tweedsmuir is a little track which heads south, following the course of the Games Hope burn.

I had a perfect day for my walk, but this old rail is the remains of a bridge, and is a reminder that, in flood, the burn can be particularly powerful.

Not too far in is Gameshope bothy, and I could see that work was being done there early on Saturday morning, so keeping my feet dry I continued up the glen, with the intention of visiting the bothy later in the day.

If you like waterfalls, then the Gameshope has them in abundance.

Even in a dry spell, the burn was carrying a weight of water, draining the surrounding hills - Great Hill, Cape Law, Din Law and Garlet Dod.

Looking back down the glen.

Looking ahead over Crunklie Moss.

Peat bogs are wonderful places, but you would not want to be wandering around here in poor light! The photo doesn't really show how deep this hole is!

My first destination was Gameshope Loch.

One has to admire the wall builders of yesteryear. This one past its best now. My route was to follow the line of the wall to near the top of Garelet Dod, at 698 metres, my second target for the day.

I was rewarded with this view. Yes, wind farms in the distance, and a weather front moving in from the west.

Big sky country.

On one of my many stops on my way down, I found these smiling faces. No sheep anymore (see below), so hopefully more in the way of natural flora and fauna in the future.

On the map hereabouts is a feature marked as 'Skull Heads'. Well, with a bit of imagination .... !

It was a welcome sight to see the bothy, on the left of the storage shed.

What a wonderful wee bothy, maintained by the MBA, see here.

It's just the one room, and was spotless on my visit. Full marks to Mike, the MO, whom I had seen earlier in the day.

And the bothy is a splendid memorial to Andrew Jensen.

What a setting it has!

For me, it was a great day, with no blocks of conifers in view, and the windfarms still far off in the distance. The good news is that the Gameshope estate was purchased recently by the Borders Forest Trust, see here, and the future of the area is assured. Let's hope so.

The bothy has a wonderful feature ... its own 'moat'! There's no bridge across the burn, just a ford. Whichever way you look at it, it was going to be wet feet. However, with a pair of dry socks in my pack, it was a comfortable walk out!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wamphray's Pyramids

Here's a First Transpennine Express EMU from Manchester Airport passing through Wamphray as it heads north on the West Coast Main Line.

Network Rail has been working on the line hereabouts. I thought I should 'inspect' the work that's been done!

At this point, the line goes through a shallow cutting. The recent work has involved putting in drains to ensure the stability of the embankment on the eastern side of the tracks.

And a very good job has been done too.

Crossing the railway by the bridge I found that the gorse was spectacularly in bloom last week.

On the west side of the cutting is a reminder of when the line was built by the Caledonian Railway in the mid 1840s. (Wamphray Station was opened on September 10, 1847.)

The cutting was excavated with pick and shovel by the navvies building the line. They piled up the spoil in mounds on the western side of the line. JAM Carlyle's 'Parish History of Wamphray', written in 1964 and found here, describes these as a 'series of bings', and calls them 'barrow pits'.

I've always thought of them as 'Wamphray's pyramids'!

Although much overgrown, they remain as a monument to those who built the railway.

Wild flowers on a spring day!

Such beautiful things, and such a contrast to the horror that happened a 100 years ago, some miles south of Wamphray. I wrote a little about Britain's worst railway accident at Quintinshill a year ago (here) and wondered then why this dreadful accident was not particularly well remembered. This has changed. There will be a number of commemoration events, including one attended by the Princess Royal, and even a television programme on BBC Two Scotland at 21.00 tomorrow (Wednesday, May 20). This is to be repeated on Thursday, May 21, at 21.00 on BBC Four.

How the accident happened can be found here, here, and here, and the book by Jack Richards and Adrian Searle (here) has all the details and is a compelling read. I had wondered what happened to the survivors, and my questions were answered in this book by Peter Sain Ley Berry.

One hundred years on, at 06.50 on Friday, I know what I'll be thinking about.

Photos © Skip Cottage