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entry 2 Nov 2014, 13:01
Our 2013 summer holiday was based on Germany's "Romantische strasse" which runs from Fussen on the Austrian border to Wurzburg. There are many walled towns along the route containing colourful and interesting buildings. Nordlingen is one such town. It is one of only three towns in Germany with a complete set of walls. The other two towns - Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Dinkelsbuhl - are also on this road.

Parking inside a walled town is always a trickly proposition so we followed the parking signs on the approach road and found ourselves at a multistorey car park by the town station. What we did not expect to find once we had parked was the sight of many locomotives and carriages from a previous era on the far side of the station. This turned out to be the Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum. We did not have time to visit but I took some photos to remind us to do so the next time we might be passing through.

Some photos were taken on our arrival. The sun was directly behind the museum so the photos are not brilliant. The photos taken later when we returned to the car are much better. I don't know much about German railways, so I will refrain from embarrassing myself with inaccurate captions.

entry 13 Sep 2008, 21:32
Approaching it's tenth birthday and having travelled 135,000 miles, the trusty family Galaxy decided it was time to spring a leak in the cooling system. Nothing terminal, but a water consumption rate of about 3/4 litre every 50 miles meant taking No. 2 son on his annual migration to St. Andrews Fife was a non starter.

"Fix it!" you say, but for reasons too long, complex and boring, ferrying the possessions of young car less adults about is all it is used for; even our garden waste gets collected these days. With the recent departure of No. 1 son and the imminent departure of No 2 child and only daughter, No. 2 son is the only one in need of bulk transportation twice a year. Taxing, insuring and maintaining the Galaxy is more expensive than hiring a reasonable sized family estate for a long weekend.

Now there are two things that hiring said reasonable sized family estate doesn't do. It cannot accommodate the necessities of life to sustain your modern student for 9 months away from home unless the back seat is folded down, on both sides. In fact I do wonder if such a solution would have worked for our daughter. In our experience, girls have even more "stuff".

The other short coming is "dog care". I'm not sure that car hire companies welcome dogs in their cars (hair on the seats, etc). So not only was there not enough seating capacity for three, the dogs were definitely not going to make it and the resident dog sitter had just moved out.

It was now apparent that only one parent could accompany No. 2 son on the annual migration. This was a tough call. The drive as far as the point where the M6 crosses the M62 is not something to wish on anyone. It doesn't start to get really interesting for me until the drive along side Beattock. The interest subsides for the passage of the central lowlands but picks up once more with the A91 at Stirling. St. Andrews itself is a very pleasant place. Mother is particularly fond of St. Andrews and is more tolerant of the drive than I, so it was agreed I would do the dog minding. As I had spotted an advertisement in the local free newspaper for the Mid Hants Railway "Big Four" Steam Gala, I knew I wouldn't be stuck for something to do.

So once the hire car had been stuffed almost to the gunnels with the essentials of student life (I don't know what these are, I daren't look in the boxes but it seems to require a lot of DVDs) and the appropriate farewells said, I gave them a ten minute start and headed for Alresford in Hampshire, the southern terminus of the Mid Hants Railway. I have forgotten quite how I discovered it, but I know a cross country route from the A33 down some very narrow lanes. About three miles from Alresford, the road descends steeply from a ridge and as I did so, I saw my first steam locomotive smoke of the day rising in the distance. About half an hour later I was walking on to the platform at Alresford and saw my first steam locomotive of the day:-

which was a bit of a shock because I thought the theme was "Big Four". However 34007 Wadebridge was also in the station waiting to head tender first up the line to Ropley. I boarded the train which proceeded to Ropley where it terminated in the Down platform. This fitted in with my plans as I intended to spend time there in any case. Wadebridge moved off into the shed area where it took on water. A black liveried diesel shunter took the coaches away from the platform:-

Having taken on water and blown off, Wadebridge reversed away from the water column and waited:-

As this was a steam gala, there were quite a few things going on. A steam crane was being demonstrated in the shed area:-

The class 5 arrived in the Up platform with some empty ballast wagons. 60019 Bittern arrived tender first on the Down line with a train for Alresford.

Once Bittern had departed for Alresford, Wadebridge pulled into the Down platform with another passenger train:-

After a brief wait, Bittern's chime whistle could be heard approaching from Alresford and soon came into view as it rounded the curve a few hundred yards from the station:-

I joined this train and for the first time in many years I was travelling behind a Gresley A4. I enjoyed every minute of it. We passed a pair of Ivatts at Medstead & Four Marks. We were held up outside Alton while we waited for one of the GWR hauled trains to leave. On arrival at Alton the Class 5 which had backed its ballast train into a headshunt, came down to take over the coaches of our arriving train.

At this point I left the station and walked the few minutes into Alton town centre to visit the Alton Model Shop. I have always been able to buy newly released locomotives off the shelf here and today was no exception. The lightness of my wallet was balanced by the weight of the bag containing a Bachmann Super D (BR early crest), the October edition of Hornby Magazine and a Bachmann black liveried diesel shunter.

On my return to Alton station I found Bittern coupled up to coaches which had been brought up by Nunney Castle. I took this train back to Ropley. Apart from a brief climb out of Alton, most of the journey is downhill, so the locomotive is coasting most of the time. During my second visit to Ropley, the double headed Ivatts returned. They waited for Wadebridge to clear the section to Medstead & Four Marks. I was in the right place to be able to get this very busy steam scene at the Up end of the station:-

Bodmin may not be in steam but it does help to fill in the picture.

On my return to the Down platform I found 33053 waiting for the right of way to return the now silent steam crane back to Alresford:-

I guessed I might catch Bittern one more time on a trip to Alton and sure enough I did. I got several shots, this is my favourite which is why it is a little larger than the others wink.gif

The timetable was starting to wind itself down and in doing so was creating some interesting motive power combinations. The first surprise was that the GWR headed train arriving to take me back to Alresford was in fact double headed - Kinlet Hall was piloting Nunney Castle. I got an even bigger surprise when I saw that Wadebridge had been acting as a banker for Bittern!

At Alresford I got a couple of photos of the double headed GWR locomotives as they waited for the right of way to Ropley:-

I waited to see them leave because the gradient out of Alresford is steep and challenging. They left with very sharp barks which were not quite in time. It was quite an experience. As they disappeared into the cutting, I took this shot:-

I don't think I've ever been to a preserved railway where there has been so many locomotives in steam. I counted seven, Wadebridge, Bittern, Nunney Hall, Kinlet Hall, the two Ivatts and the Class 5. In addition to that I saw the shunter and the 33, not forgetting the steam crane either.

All in all, I had a very good day out.

entry 19 Jun 2006, 22:01
I paid my first visit to the Severn Valley Railway on a Sunday in 1977 with a group of enthusiasts getting a serious "fix of steam". The day before we had travelled on a Silver Jubilee railtour which had been steam hauled in four legs from Chester to Newport via Shrewsbury. The locomotives were "Sir Nigel Gresley", "Princess Elizabeth", "King George V" and "Clan Line". We stayed overnight in the Birmingham area and early the next morning set off for Bewdley which was then the southern terminus of the SVR. We had a great day and since that time all my visits to preserved steam lines have been measured against it.

A lot has changed in the thirty years since; less hair, more beard, poorer eyesight, and the SVR has not stood still either. The line has been extended south to Kidderminster and over the years the company has been overhauling the infrastructure there into a very impressive undertaking. Here is the view of the station buildings as you walk down the path from the pay & display car park.
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We had arrived at about 11:30 and found that there were two trains preparing for departure. The 11:45 consisted of LNER varnished teak stock and was headed by 8F 48773 travelling tender first. The 12:15 was the "Sundays Only" dining train (book by prior appointment). It consisted of GWR coaching stock and was coupled to "Bradley Manor". We chose to take the 11:45 and found seats in the First Open coach at the rear of the train. Whistles were exchanged by guard and driver and our train eased away from the station on the journey to Bridgenorth. The line passes through the industrial area of Kidderminster over a canal and off into the country side. It travels down an incline and into a tunnel. Once through the tunnel, the landscape changes to the rolling wooded hills and lush green fields that define the valley of the river Severn. You can view herds of Wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains. Actually that's the safari park; I don't think they were Wildebeest and the herds were visitors in cars. The train soon crosses the Bewdley by pass and arrives in the station. It is here we realise just how long the train is as our coach is not actually at the platform.

There is now a short delay as we wait for the line ahead to be cleared by the incoming southbound train. Movement from the passengers on the platform opposite indicates it is coming and a quick look out of the door window shows
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A4 60009 "Union of South Africa" gliding slowly into the adjoining platform. This is how the front of an A4 looks. Any model which does not have that greyhound like thining snout just doesn't cut the mustard (1980's vintage Hornby A4s, I'm talking about you!).

Once we have received the token for the next block, our train continues the journey north. The line passes through woods for a while. The eerie "Whoooo" sound of the 8F's whistle is carried back to us as we approach ungated road crossings. Then the train slows for the 15mph speed restriction over the Victoria bridge which carries the line to the western bank of the river. This is one the "signature" features of the railway with its graceful arch, but you don't see that from the train.

At Arley we exchange tokens with a Class 2 2-6-0 which is on "SVR Footplate Experience" duty today. I would say ex-LMS except the builder's plate says Crewe 1950.
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This is probably the smallest loco in steam today.

Our journey continues along the line. We pause briefly at Highley which is the site of an ambitious new Lottery funded project to create an "Engine House" display centre. It is currently little beyond the site clearance stage but if the project is carried through to the same high standards visible elsewhere on the SVR it should be well worth a visit when it is completed. Hampton Loade follows Highley and we are passed by King Edward I travelling south, tender first. Our 8F attacks the bank to the summit at Eardington and then coasts down the line to arrive in Bridgenorth. Once again our coach is a little shy of the platform and we must move forward before we can make our exit.

Bridgenorth houses the line's MPD. Among the engnes on shed today are this pair
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For all fans of opening doors, the smokebox on the Prairie is ajar.

We don't just travel on trains on our days out, we like to walk and see the countryside. Bridgenorth is worth a visit in its own right. The station is connected to the "high town" by a recent high level foot bridge which removes the need to descend to the valley floor and then climb the far side. There is still a short climb to the centre of the town but it is a relatively gentle slope. The main street in Bridgenorth is a wide thoroughfare dominated by this building bearing the date 1652
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The lower part of the streetscape is difficult to see because of parked cars and the building lines are spoiled by shop signage but once you look above this level, an interesting variety of architecture is yours to behold. This central part of Bridgenorth sits on an old red sandstone block that has somehow been pushed upwards through the valley floor. These rocks are pre-Jurassic. Here is a view taken from the riverside.
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and I can't have a Blog about Bridgenorth without showing a bridge
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There are many more interesting buildings to see and there is a very popular fish and chip shop, or maybe there is just one shop selling takeaway hot food. Whichever it is, we saw a remarkable number of people working their way through portions of chips. We made our way back to the park at the southern end of the high town area and caught this shot of Bradley Manor hauling the day's other eager diners up the steep incline on their return journey to Kidderminster.
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We made our way back to the station to catch the next train south. The platform roads were empty but a fair number of people were thronging the station. The small shop was packed. Bridgenorth station is not large and it became clear why the SVR might be keen to develop Kidderminster - they have so much more room there. We walked to the end of platform One to await the arrival of our train. During the wait, the SVR Footplate experience backed out from the coaling and watering station and rejoined its solitary brake second coach. Watching the bracket signal guarding the entrance to the station soon showed that a train was due. Some faint whistles were carried on the breeze and not long afterwards King Edward 1 came into view across the bridge. Having been accustomed to the size of the class 2 in my viewfinder I was immediately impressed by the size of this four cylinder top link locomotive as it came into view
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Once the line was clear the class 2 headed south. The king uncoupled from the train and headed to the MPD for water and coal. The coaling plant at Bridgenorth is a long reach loader fitted with a bucket. The first scoop fell into what sounded like a very empty bunker. Duely replenished, the locomotive reversed out of the yard across the bridge and then returned to the front of our train. All these movements were under the control of the shorter calling on and shunting signals on the gantries. Like us, King Edward was a visitor to the SVR and a small band of photographers had gathered beyond the fence to mark the occasion, braving the light rain which was now falling steadily. The now slightly greasy rails might make the climb to the summit at Eardington a little more interesting. As I remember it, there was very little slip as the power was applied gently and we pulled away. There was a lot steam and smoke and apparently I had quite a dusting in my hair when I returned to my seat clutching the camcorder which had recorded our departure.
On the run back to Kidderminster we passed Bradley Manor running light engine at Hampton Loade; the carriage works is located in a very "grand" building in Kidderminster.
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At Bewdley we meet "Union of South Africa" which was travelling chimney first - the only locomotive to be turned at each end of the line, though where it did this, I didn't see.

The SVR is a "railway", not a "steam railway" and so is host to a variety of retired diesels a few of which can be seen here at Kidderminster
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Our train pulled into Kidderminster somewhat behind time. King Edward was detached from the coaches, reversed into the release road and headed swiftly back up the line alone. "Gladys" was left to haul the coaches to the carriage sidings for the night. For reference, this is the SVR's interpretation of "blood and custard".
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Every railway needs a "Gladys"!
My one regret is that the timings of my visit meant I did not ride in a train hauled by "Union of South Africa". I did hear the chime whistle on the occasions that we passed it in stations, but apart from some wheel slip, I didn't have the chance to listen to the three cylinder "Gresley Beat". The one thing that stands out from the day is the very individual sounds of the whistles. From the A4 chime, through the 8F's eerie "Whooo" to the King's shrill sound, they are truly distinctive. Whilst it can be hard to tell a a rapid two cylinder from a four without concentrating really hard, with the whistles there is no mistake. Therefore my prime consideration for model loco sound will now be the whistle, but I will need to learn a few first!
All in all, another grand day out which has renewed my belief that it is hard to beat the SVR for a railway experience.

19th June 2006

entry 20 Apr 2006, 20:24
On Easter Sunday my wife and I drove to the Isle of Purbeck with the intention of riding the rails to Swanage and having a walk by the sea. We parked in the SR's park and ride at Norden and purchased two adult returns to Swanage.

The service is quite frequent and soon we were boarding a train of BR Southern Region liveried green Mk 1 coaches hauled by a standard class 4. (With respect to a thread earlier this month, it was wearing an early crest). The short stretch into Corfe Castle is quite spectacular as the railway skirts the base of the castle mound. It is quite the highest mound that I have seen. The houses nearest the castle are interesting in their own right, especially the roofs which appear to be made of stone tiles.

At the half way point, we passed the other train working the line that day. The loco was an American 2-8-0 which had only arrived on the line during Easter week for a 3 month tour of duty. It normally lives in Staffordshire and only retired from the Chinese coal mines in the 1990s.

The line continues down a fairly steep grade. There are several occupation crossings which require whistles from the engine driver - the significance of this will become clear later. The train eased into Swanage and we alighted to visit the town.

Swanage is like a lot of seaside places which are "far from the madding crowd". The chain stores have not given the high street an "identikit" appearance, so it is worth visiting just for that.

We returned to the station in time to catch the last train which would get us to the park and ride car park before it closed. In fact we were a little early and the platform stood empty. We strolled to the end of the platform and waited. The wind was blowing off the land and on it we heard the distinctive sound of the 2-8-0's 5 chime Nathan whistle. The wind must have been quite strong, for it was actually some time before the train arrived in the station. After running round its coaches, the loco stopped by the water tower at the end of the platform to replenish its tank. Closing your eyes, the sounds transported you back to episodes of Casey Jones and The Cannonball Express. We climbed aboard for the 30 minute journey back to Norden.

All in all, an enjoyable day out. If you want full and correct details visit the Swanage Railway website

20th April 2006