Category Archives: Steam Age Daydreams

Railway Preservation in the 1980s and 1990s – January 17th 1997

Railway Preservation in the 1980s and 1990s  JanuaRY 17th 1997

Still more photos from this old publication.

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Steam Age Daydreams, Trains of a certain vintage

Steam Age Daydreams

Trains of a certain vintage


Bellerophon, the name of the locomotive in the photograph, was a Greek, mythological, dragon slayer, well Chimera slayer, to be more precise, whose tale is told in Homer’s epic, The Iliad. The Chimera, a lion’s head, on a goat’s body, with a serpent’s tail, is finally nailed by Bellerophon, with the help of his trusty winged steed Pegasus. Classic stuff, sounds a bit George and the Dragon myth to me, but he came later – that’s the thing with all this classical antiquity, myths mixed with philosophy, and a dash of Chinese whispers thrown in, nearly as good as modern propaganda.

There’s nothing mythological about the Bellerophon in the picture, a scan of one of my old photographs, in her day Bellerophon was quite an innovative bit of machinery, having outside motion and piston valves, the latter being particularly state of the art in 1870s Britain. Built for Haydock Colliery, in 1874, she is the last of the only six engines ever built by the Haydock Foundry. The Haydock Colliery / Foundry complex had more than 60 miles of private railway and a fleet of locomotives operating over them. The Haydock Colliery railway system maintained connections with the London & North Western Railway and the Liverpool & Manchester Railway for the onward shipment of the company’s coal and manufactured goods. ‘Where there’s muck there’s brass’, the old saying goes, and in the case of Haydock Colliery there was plenty of muck and brass.

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Nowadays, the loco ‘Bellerophon’ is to be found at Foxfield Railway, Staffordshire


From Steam Age Daydreams, Thomas goes main line

From steam age daydreams

Thomas goes main line


Not quite ‘live from Loughborough’ – this photograph is from the GCR’s Autumn gala in 2014. However, all things being equal, on Saturday, I hope to be at the 2015 Winter gala enjoying scenes like this, there might even be a bit of snow, putting the icing on the cake.
Based on earlier designs, by Samuel Waite Johnson, who was the Chief Mechanical Engineer to the Midland Railway from 1873 to 1903, these 0-6-0Ts, classified 3F, have been immortalised as ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. They began to enter service, on the LMS, from 1924 onwards, under the auspices of Sir Henry Fowler, not Sir Topham Hatt. However, as time passed, they saw service not only on the LMS but around the country.
In 1958, according to my Combined Volume, there were 417 of these engines still in service. My shed book for 1960 shows these much loved and ubiquitous little tank engines spread around the country from Bath Green Park on the former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway to Swansea (Victoria) and its sub-sheds Gurnos, Llandovery, and Upper Bank, a Midland Railway out-post in Wales. In Scotland numbers of them were shedded at Polmadie and Corkerhill in Glasgow as well at Hamilton 66C, and in 1955, No. 47541 was up in the Highlands at Inverness. Sticking with 1960, No. 47429 was based at New England (Peterborough), and Nos.47306 & 47311 were at 30A Stratford in East London, and No.47312 was based at 33A Plaistow, the Ex-London Tilbury & Southend Railway depot. Even former North Eastern strongholds like York and Starbeck had an allocation. The locomotive in the photograph, No.47406, was, in 1960, shedded at 24L Carnforth, just as she had been in 1955 when Carnforth was 11A.
Today, No.47406 is a resident at the Great Central Railway’s Loughborough MPD where she was returned to steam, from ‘scrapyard condition’, by Roger Hibbert and his team.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

You might also enjoy my ebook ‘Gricing’ the sales of which help to keep this blog running.


From Steam Age Daydreams, No smoke without fire

From Steam Age Daydreams

No smoke without fire.


Blue skies and thick black clag, which to some railway enthusiasts is just as it should be. However, there’s another school which thinks making black smoke is bad form, gets railway preservation a bad name, and upsets the neighbours and the green lobby. Then there are the almost inevitable arguments about, how the fireman should have opened the dampers, or firehole door etc., etc.

Debates about how to drive and fire a steam locomotive usually bring out all the armchair theorists, a sprinkling of ex-steam firemen and drivers and, the inevitable, ‘ Mr. Know it all’, who could be an ex-footplateman just as easily as it could be an enthusiast. One grows to accept all this as part and parcel of a hobby which arouses people’s passions and prejudices in almost equal proportions. Being an ex-footplateman, and an enthusiast you could say I have a foot in both camps – I even had a regular column in, the now defunct, Steam Railway News, which went under the name ‘Clag and Rockets’ – so maybe my sympathies lie more towards the ‘I love clag camp’.

There is another debate, and this one does concern me more than the colour of the exhaust, it’s about setting off and having the cylinder cocks open. In general terms one completed movement of the piston, with the cylinder cocks open, should clear any water from the cylinder. There may be an exceptional set of circumstances which could result in the need to open the cylinder cocks if the engine was carrying water from the regulator valve – only a seriously over-filled boiler, or an engine priming very badly due to needing a washout are likely to cause this.

However, the are some drivers, on the heritage railways, who run with the taps open for ludicrous distances, way beyond anything reasonably required to clear the cylinders of any build up of water. In the case of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway some of them still have the taps open as they approach the entrance to Grosmont tunnel – this is dangerous, they cannot see that the line ahead is clear of obstruction, nor can they see if anyone is waving a flag, lamp, or arm to warn them. I suggest that those who think this is sound operating practice, take a long hard look at all the hours of footage of steam action from the 1900s to 1968. What you don’t see is engine and train enveloped in a white mist for a quarter of a mile or more.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

You might also enjoy my ebook ‘Gricing’ the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

or for British readers.