Monday, September 26, 2016

Off the rails in Blackpool

When I was a wee boy, the highlight of family holidays at the seaside was always a donkey ride on the beach! But this was not what took me to Blackpool yesterday.

I made an early start and was in Blackpool by 09.00 to be part of the second day of the Anniversary Weekend, celebrating 131 years of the Blackpool Tramway. And what a 'Tram Fest' it was.

On the right is Open Boat No 600, see here, which was to play a starring role later in my day! No 685 is part of a 'twin', being powered by No 675 behind, see here.

Balloon car 717 running south towards Starr Gate. This tram's story is here.

Most trips started out from the Pleasure Beach loop, with trams running to Little Bispham, and occasionally further to Fleetwood. Here Open Boat 227 heads out of the loop to run north along the promenade. Read about this tram here.

Full marks to all the hardworking volunteer drivers and conductors on the day.

By far the most comfortable ride of my day was on modernised balloon No 711. This tram supplements the new Flexity trams as part of the 'B' fleet.

I enjoyed this article which shows how trams can be moved across the country, when 711 was loaned recently to the National Tramway Museum at Crich.

Here it gets a new eye!

No 711's colour scheme matches that of the new Flexity trams.

My next ride arrives at North Pier, flat fronted Balloon 718, here nicknamed the 'Ghost Tram'.

It was simply remarkable how many of the heritage trams were running yesterday. No 40's history is here.

Bolton 66, on the left, joins the loop, awaiting its turn. Having missed a ride on this tram on my last visit to Blackpool in July, see here, I was determined to make sure of the experience yesterday. It dates from 1901, see here.

On the right is Balloon 701, see here.

Here's the view from the top deck of No 66 as we head towards the Golden Mile. Are the wooden seats comfortable? Not so much! But a wonderful experience.

And here's No 66 passing Blackpool's Wedding Chapel.

I am sure this is even more spectacular in 'illumination mode'. Story here.

No 736, HMS Blackpool, see here.

But what's this? I arrived back at the Peasure Beach loop mid-afternoon in anticipation of yet another trip along the prom, only to find nothing moving, and a crowd around No 600.

As it pulled out of the loop onto the main line, the rear bogie had jumped the tracks. The driver must have been on the ball to have stopped the car so quickly. However, that was the line blocked, and my enjoyment of the day riding up and down the promenade prematurely ended.

The men with the big spanners were on site quickly, and after a period of recording distances and taking photos, making phone calls, the 'man in charge' (on the right) gave the OK for the tram to be put back on the track. This was accomplished efficiently, which makes me think that this was not a unique occurrence. In any case No 600 was driven off back to the depot, and normal service was resumed.

My day at the seaside was over though, and it was time to head back home. I had really enjoyed being part of the celebrations.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vintage Excavators at Threlkeld

I visited Threlkeld Quarry in August for the 2016 steam gala (see here), and resolved then to come back this month for the Vintage Excavator Trust 'working weekend'.

Weather-wise, Saturday could not have been a better day for the event. It was a thrill to see these old excavators in action.

Not everything at Threlkeld moves! These Priestman excavators sit near the site entrance.

One has to make a special effort to visit the largest excavator on site - a Ruston Bucyrus 110-RB, weighing 150 tons. It really is massive, and was a donation to the Vintage Excavator Trust from Castle Cement. Whether it will ever see action again is uncertain.

When posting this photo, I realised that there is nothing to show scale.

This is better, with other visitors giving scale to the pic of 'King-Kong'!

Various other examples of industrial heritage caught my eye, such as this 'Brown Glutton' Primary Stonebreaker. I wonder how this worked?

I enjoyed the chance to get close up to this Barford Perkins SD9 'Pioneer' road roller from 1932. Did you know there is a Road Roller Association? Website is here.

Various sizes of Ruston-Bucyrus excavators in action.

The star of the show was the Ruston Proctor 12 ton steam crane navvy, dating from 1909. It was fascinating to watch it working away!

Aside from the excavators, Sir Tom was in steam too, providing short rides up into the heart of the quarry, and that was an added attraction on my day out!

The 0-4-0 saddle tank narrow gauge loco, Sir Tom, was built by Bagnall of Stafford in 1926 and is named after Sir Tom Callender of British Insulated Callender Cables.

Here he is getting his joints lubricated!

Heading up into the quarry, proudly displaying the Vintage Excavators Trust Quarry Express headboard.

It's such a beautiful setting in which to see a heritage locomotive in action.

I walked up to the top of the quarry to have this unusual view down at the loco and carriages arriving at the end of the short line.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Open Doors in Fife

I was grateful when an old friend pointed out this opportunity in the Fife 'Doors Open Day' programme. I spend a lot of time these days in the study of curling's history, so Sunday was marked out as an 'away day' in search of curling knowledge!

I made the drive up to the north east corner of Fife, near Newburgh. It was a lovely day for a drive, with interesting skies.

The little building with the green roof was where I was headed. What I found, and learned, on my visit is described on the Curling History blog here.

Lindores Loch, a peaceful scene on Sunday. What a great day!

Photos © Skip Cottage