Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway

Or in local ‘speak’ La’al Ratty (Little railway).


A trip both ways along the ‘Ratty’ was one of the highlights of a short break taken in Cumbria.


Actually getting there by train from Carlisle is very much part of the day. For many miles the train runs alongside the coast and although it is not the prettiest of coasts it is certainly impressive.


The ‘Ratty’ is a 15 inch gauge ‘tourist’ line that was laid on the trackbed of a defunct 3 foot  gauge mineral line.


The original 3 foot line opened in 1875 and closed in 1913 only to be re-gauged and re opened in 1915.


At one time the track was dual gauged with standard gauge track straddling the 15 inch gauge line.


After the second World War, the line was bought by the Keswick Granite Company who’s quarries closed in 1953 and the railway was sold in 1960.


Preservationists and locals got together to form the ‘Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Preservation Society’. 


Today the the railway is owned by a private company and operates with the backing of the preservation society.


My first contact then with the ‘Ratty’ was this sign in the backyard of the mainline station at Ravenglass.




My first view of Ravenglass station. The sign in the second picture is on the back wall of the building on the left which looks out onto the Cumbrian coast main line.


My first impressions were that the railway looked to be well set up and organised. I was surprised at the sophistication of the operation. The quality of its buildings is obvious. The track is well laid and the overall feel is one of organisation and competence. The staff I spoke to were friendly and welcoming and when I asked for permission to visit the sheds I was treated like a responsible adult and not like some wayward child.


In all my (many) years of railway visits this is the first time I have ever been tempted to volunteer at a line. If only it was 170 miles further South !! 


Look at this trackwork, beautiful !!


The signal box at Ravenglass and the station signal gantry at the back of which are two former Pullman coaches which are used as holiday lets during the season.






Although it was early late in the year, There were three trains in operation and all seemed to be well loaded.


The locomotives in service on the day were.



This 2-6-4T named Wroxham Broad which was visiting from the Bure Valley Railway (BVR) in Norfolk.

Originally conceived in 1964 for use on a sugar plantation in the Bahamas. This fell through and the loco was eventually completed as a steam outline petrol hydraulic loco. 


Between then and 1991 it worked on a number of lines including the ‘Fairbourne Railway’ and the ‘Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway’ (RH&DR).


Purchased in 1991 by the BVR it was rebuilt again in 1992 this time as a true ‘steam’ loco.


Sold again in 2008 to ‘The No. 1 Preservation Group’, the loco is normally on long term loan to the BVR.




Usually found on works trains, ‘Perkins’ was doing a stint on passenger duties. A 4 wheel diesel mechanical, it dates from as far back as 1929 being built on the frames of a Muir-Hill Fordson tractor. Classifiied as an 0-4-4.



The other loco in service was ‘Northern Rock’. I only saw it in passing and was not able to photograph it myself. This image was kindly supplied by Rachel Bell of the R&ER and  also shows the rural nature of the line. 


A 2-6-2 tender loco built by the R&ER and completed in 1976. It has worked on other railways including a line in Germany. Currently painted in the livery of the ‘Highland Railway’. 


It was named after the Northern Rock building society who provided most of the funds for its construction.


Two similar loco’s have been built for the Shuzenji Railway in Japan. They are named ‘Northern Rock ll’ and ‘Cumbria’

Northern Rock


Tucked away in the loco shed were two other steam loco’s.


‘Hercules’ is a 4-8-2 on loan from the RH&DR.


Built by Davey Paxman to a Henry Greenly design it was delivered to the RH&DR in 1927 to work heavy ballast trains. 


This powerful loco became famous during the Second World War when it was used for hauling the lines armoured train.



The shed’s other resident was ‘River Mite’.

A 2-8-2, it was built by Clarkson and Sons of York in 1966 for the R&ER. The tender used the frames of another tender formerly fitted to the ‘River Esk’ in the late 1920’s.

The loco is styled in the manner of Sir Nigel Gresley’s 2-8-2 ‘P2’ class and painted in the Indian Red livery of the former ‘Furness Railway’.


Apart from ‘Perkins’, there were two other diesels locomotives to be seen. 


Also painted in ‘Furness Railway’ Indian Red is B-B configured diesel-hydrulic ‘Douglas Ferreira’. Named after a former General Manager of the line who served from 1961 until 1994. 


The loco was built in 2005 by TMA Engineering.


To me, the styling of the cab is reminiscent of the Class 66’s that currently work on the main line.



The other loco was this 4 wheel Diesel Mechanical loco which is used as station pilot at Ravenglass.


It was built in 1932 by R.A Lister and is called ‘Cyril’ after former employee Cyril Holland.


Originally built to a gauge of 2 feet , It was re-built and re-gauged following its arrival on the R&ER in 1985.



Coaching stock is a mixture of closed, semi closed and open air and there is an observation car which was hiding in a shed.


Named ‘Eskdale Belle’ it is very well appointed and as the sign says, It can be hired.


The coaches each have a number of compartments which seat two people side by side facing two more. They are a bit tight for those of us with a ‘fuller’ figure (including me) but they are perfectly adequate for the journey.









The only sign of a non passenger carrying vehicle was this wagon at Ravenglass. With the spare sleeper and paint pot being present, I would guess that it was for the use of the engineering department.




A quick look at the other end of the line shows the substantial building that provides the shop, cafe and toilets etc. While the name board speaks for itself.




One charming feature at ‘Miteside Halt’ is the provision of a shelter that appears to be the bows and mid ships section of a boat.


The piece that I have written is a memory for me of an excellent day out on a lovely little railway in marvelous surroundings.


Inevitably, it only scratches the surface of the reality. If you want more, go to the website of the R&ER. If you want more than that, go to Ravenglass. You will not be disappointed.


Finally, a look at the surroundings that the railway enjoys. As I said at the start. It’s a pity it isn’t 170 miles further South.




Although the more I look at the pictures, the more I am tempted to return .........................................


Sunday, 23 February 2014

‘Scene’ recently in Loughborough part 2

This further small selection taken ‘recently’ brings together two brief visits. One at the very end of 2013 and another in the first week in February.


Loughborough, a small compact town sits astride the A6 North of Leicester and South of Derby.


It is blessed with a wide selection of bus operators who provide a busy and colourful scene.


‘Centrebus’ operate 2 routes from Loughborough. No. 8 serves Grantham via Melton Mowbray whilst the other No. 154 serves Leicester via Swithland.

PAZ 9346

Probably the oldest bus on display is this 1995 vintage DAF SB220 with Northern Counties Paladin bodywork.


Part of the ‘Centrebus’ fleet. It arrived with them in 2011 when ‘Centrebus’ took over ‘Kimes Of Folkingham’ who’s livery it still carries. 


It was new to ‘Speedlink Airport Services’ as M848 RCP.




A ‘Centrebus’ Alexander Dennis  Ltd. (ADL) Enviro 200 liveried for the ‘Shore Link’ service that links Oakham with Uppingham and Rutland Water is a long way from its normal haunts as it waits departure time on the Grantham service. 


‘Buses’ magazine for February 2014 has a comprehensive article by John Marsh starting on page 24 for anyone wishing to read further.





Is another ‘Centrebus’ ADL Enviro 200 on the same service. This particular vehicle is illustrated in the article referred to above.




A VDL SB180 with MCV Evolution bodywork had a spell with ‘White Rose Bus Company’ in Yorkshire (A ‘Centrebus’ group company) before moving South where again it is on the Grantham service.


The Leicester service sees the use of XIL 6081 an Optare Solo.


Originally registered YJ54 BTV it previously worked for Veolia Transport.




and T163 RMR


A Dennis Dart SLF with Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork.


Previously employed by’ Thamesdown Transport’ in the Swindon area.






A Wright Streetlite W/F operating for ‘Roberts’ of Hugglescote in Leicestershire. It is one of 3 that came from ‘Menzies’ at Heathrow.


I had the pleasure of visiting Roberts premises last year on a PSV Circle organised outing to find they have a varied fleet and a large yard that was full of elderly Metrobuses (or should that be Metrobi ?)



Nottingham City Transport (NCT) operate service number one. The route travels out over Trent Bridge, then on through Gotham where the South Notts (SN) bus company was based.


South Notts were taken over by NCT in 1991, 65 years to the day after SN ran its first service.


The normal buses on this service carry normal NCT livery with dark blue branding which I like to think is a nod to the old SN livery of dark blue and cream.



A Scania N94UD with East Lancs. bodies seating 90.




An Optare Excel 2 in NCT's standard unbranded livery.


‘Arriva’ runs a direct Leicester service the 126.


Y479 UGC

A DAF DB250 with ADL’s ALX 400 body first saw service in Arriva’s London fleet in red livery and with 2 doors.

Having been cascaded North and single doored, it had a spell with ‘Wardle Transport’ in the Stoke area.




A VDL DB250LF with Wright Pulsar Gemini bodywork.




Monday, 17 February 2014

‘Scene’ in Derby today 17th. February 2014


Scania L94UB/Wright Solar which came into 'notts + derby' ownership when 'Wellglade' group took over ‘Felix of Stanley’.



Another Scania/Wright combination that has recently joined ‘Arriva’ in Derby from Hinkley. 




W475 BCW

The Volvo B7TL with Plaxton President bodywork makes for a handsome bus. It was 1 of 4 received from 'London United' 4 years ago.




A Volvo B7RLE/Plaxton Centro freshly repainted in ‘yourbus’ livery waiting to go to Ilkeston.


I first new this bus when in ‘Nottingham University Hopper Bus’ it worked for ‘Premiere’ travel.


Their ceasing to operate brought it into ‘yourbus’ hands still in 'Hopper' livery and ‘K&H Doyle’ ceasing trading recently caused it to be repainted.


I do not know who does ‘yourbus’ repaints but this one is a particularly fine job. Well done!




An Optare Tempo on the jointly operated (with Arriva) X38 service to Burton on Trent.


The X38 normally departs from Victoria Street and I have never seen one in Derby’s bus station before.


It might have been a crew comfort stop or a maintenance issue or could the X38 be coming into the bus station on a regular basis .............?




An ADL Enviro 200. 


I always think it brave to choose a white based livery. It soon gets dirty, however on a dull, damp day in February ‘Littles’ have done a good job in keeping this bus looking smart.





One more Scania/Wright on one of ‘trentbarton’s ‘sixes’ services. 


It seems a long time since these buses started being repainted but with rumours of a ‘sixes’ re launch in the near future, maybe the old livery is about to become a thing of the past !!



A trio of ‘unibus’ liveried vehicles to conclude.


X236 WRA

An Optare Excel.



M135 PRA

A Northern Counties bodied Volvo B10B. 


The oldest of the lot having just registered its 19th. birthday.




A VDL SB200/Plaxton Centro that came into ‘Wellglade’ ownership with the purchase of TM Travel in 2012.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

'Scene' recently in Loughborough part 1

This small selection of bus images taken recently brings together two brief visits. One at the very end of 2013 and another in the first week in February 2014.


Loughborough, a small compact town sits astride the A6 North of Leicester and South of Derby.


It is blessed with a wide selection of bus operators who provide a busy and colourful scene.


There are a couple of locally based operators.


‘Kinchbus’ (Kb), a ‘Wellglade’ group subsidiary has the highest profile.


‘Kb’ has a history dating back to 1987 when Gilbert Kinch started trading as GK Kinch. At that time his operation was based in Barrow on Soar.


Expansion followed in the 1990’s and in 1998 the company was sold to the ‘Wellglade’ group.


Apart from local services in the Loughborough area, longer distance services operate as far as Leicester, Nottingham and Derby.


At the time of writing ‘Kb’ operates approximately 30 vehicles.


‘Kb’ took 4 Optare Tempo’s and 7 Optare Solo’s in 2007 and both deliveries are represented here.






Seen in the dedicated livery of the ‘sprint' service which links the town with the University and the railway station.



Another Solo, came from 'trentbarton's (tb)s main fleet having previously been painted in both fleet and ‘Harlequin’ liveries.

'tb' being another 'Wellglade' group company.


In 2008, 'Kb' took 6 Volvo B7RLE’s with Plaxton Centro bodies for the ‘skylink’ service that links Derby to Loughborough via the East Midland Airport. 


These were supplemented by another of the same which came into the fleet when (tb) took over ‘Felix of Stanley’ in January 2012.



Volvo B7RLE/Plaxton Centro.




The route has since been extended to Leicester which necessitated the addition of one of 'tb's Scania L94UB's with Wright Solar Urban bodywork.


It is also anticipated that more of them will follow.






X234 WRA

An Optare Excel. Now in the twilight of its career and helping out on Town Service No.11. It still carries the remnants of the old 'tb' fleet livery.





Other Scania/Wright buses work on service 9 to Nottingham. At one time it worked on 'tb's Rainbow 5 service.


Route 9 was originally a ‘Premiere’ travel route that came to ‘Kb’ when ‘Premiere’ ceased to operate in early 2013.





Another Scania/Wright working for 'Kb'. 


The livery it carries is for ‘tb’s  H1 Derby, Heanor and Alfreton service.


This bus and others in the same livery have been displaced on the H1 by new Optare Versa’s. See my blog

‘H1 New Shiny Bus’ dated 11/01/14.


Another ‘Wellglade’ group bus in town was,



Another Scania L94UB with Wright Solar Urban bodywork working for (tb) on the lengthy ‘skylink’ service from Nottingham via the East Midlands AirportThis vehicle previously worked on and carried the liveries of the ‘Calverton’ and ‘H1’ services.


The other local operator ‘Paul S. Winson’ always operates buses and coaches that are superbly turned out.


I have never seen a dirty bus in service.


W647 SNA Dennis Trident 2 with East Lancs Lolyne bodywork came from ‘Nottingham City Transport’.


W563 RSG

A Dennis Trident with Plaxton President bodywork that was previously operated by ‘Lothian Buses’.



ADL Enviro 200’s, Both purchased at the same time. 


The company makes regular use of PSW suffixed registrations.