Thursday, 29 May 2014

‘Scene’ at the Great Western Society (GWS) facility at Didcot Part 1

A day out to Oxford mainly to see the buses (see elsewhere on my blog) also afforded me the time to catch the train from Oxford to Didcot where the ‘GWS’ are based. 


Although it was not a running day, there was plenty to interest me and from the assorted wagons on display, I have been able to make up a couple of typically ‘Great Western Railway’ (GWR) trains that will appear in later ‘blogs’.


Where vehicles have been restored, the standard is excellent and work is ongoing to restore many others.


The GWS site stands at the side of Didcot railway station and the sound of trains passing by on the main lines is a constant accompaniment.


Access is via an underpass from the mainline railway station and the site itself is spacious and well set out.



 The coaling stage with the water tank on top dominates the 1930‘s built loco sheds seen to the right.


Loco No. 5227 

A Great Western Railway (GWR) 2-8-0T of the 5203 class built at Swindon in 1924.

They were built for hauling coal trains from the South Wales coalfield over relatively short distances.

The loco was has been used to supply parts for the building of a class 47XX No 4709 freight loco at Didcot.

What is left is displayed to represent  loco’s that were in Woodhams scrapyard at Barry.



Loco No. 6697

An 0-6 2T loco of the ‘GWR’ 56XX class built by Armstrong Whitworth & Co. at Newcastle in 1928.


This class of 200 loco’s were urgently needed to replace worn out machines taken over from the absorbed railways of South Wales. This led to the use of outside contractors, an unusual move for the ‘GWR’.


Sold into preservation in 1966 from Wrexham depot the loco came to Didcot in 1970, was restored cosmetically and is now on static display.



Loco No. 18000

A gas turbine- electric loco (gte) was ordered by the ‘GWR’ in 1946 and delivered to 

‘British Railways’ in 1949. It was built by Brown Boveri and SLM in Switzerland.


The ‘GWR’ chose the ‘gte’ because at that time there was no single unit diesel electric that could haul what the ‘GWR’ King class loco could.


In service it proved troublesome and expensive to operate so was withdrawn in 1960. Returned to Switzerland, it was used in wheel to rail experiments. In 1975 it was displayed in Vienna. It was returned to the UK in the early 1990’s and was stored at Crewe. It spent some time on the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway as a static exhibit before coming to Didcot in 2011.



Loco DL 26 named ‘The Rat’.

Built in 1957 by the Hunslet Engine Co. of Leeds. A lightwieght loco it is used for moving stock over the carriage shed traverser (see later).


British Railways (BR) class 05 was a very close relative and although this loco carries a  ‘BR’ totem it is in fact a loco produced for an industrial customer.



Loco 08604 named ‘Phantom’.

Although it carries ‘GWR’ style number and nameplates it is a standard ‘BR’ 08 class shunter.


Built originally as D3771 at Derby, one of a class of 996. Shedded for many years at Tyseley, Birmingham it has been at Didcot since 1984.


Diesel Railcar No.22

Built by the ‘GWR’ at Swindon in 1940/41to diagram A1. Powered by 2 AEC 105 HP engines this and its classmates were the forerunners of the mass introduction of Diesel Multiple Units that were to be produced in the early 1960’s at about the time that No. 22 was withdrawn. 



No.190 Autcoach

Belonging to an earlier generation of passenger transport is this ‘GWR’ coach built at Swindon in 1933 to diagram A.30. Being non powered, they always worked with a loco in push-pull mode, the loco normally being a tank. 


A driving cab was fitted at the one end whilst the loco end is without windows.


No. 190 has been in preservation since 1970. The interior has been refurbished but the unit only operates on high days and holidays.



The sheds that hold the coaching stock at Didcot are accessed by a traverser. The little red/cream ‘cabin’ is effectively a loco that pushes or pulls the bridging deck to line up with the vehicle required which is then extracted and placed elsewhere.


A clever device that saves a lot of points and trackwork in a limited space.



There are a couple of direct links to Isambard Kingdom Brunel (IKB) at Didcot. The first of which is this remnant of pipework from ‘IKB’s unsuccesful ‘Atmospheric Railway’ (AR) in South Devon.


The story of the ’AR’ is far to lengthy and complex to be covered in detail here however it is a fascinating story and is well worth further investigation should you be so minded.


This piece of original pipework is seen set between a section of broad gauge track. 


After the failure of the ‘AR’ the hardware was disposed of. The section seen below was recovered from a site at Goodrington Sands near Paignton. It had been used for land drainage. The smaller sections that make up this pipe were discovered in 1993 by the South West Group of the ‘GWS’.


The other link to ‘IKB’ is to the ‘Broad Gauge’ (BG) itself. ‘IKB’ was of the opinion that a track gauge of seven feet would produce a more stable and a higher speed line. Indeed many hundreds of miles on the ‘GWR’ were so built before it was decreed that Stephenson’s gauge of four feet eight and a half inches became the Standard Gauge (SG).


Didcot has a short stretch of ‘BG’ Track and here we see it interlaced with ‘SG’ track to produce a dual gauge point.



‘BG’ and ‘SG’ track side by side.


A replica of a ‘GWR’ ‘BG’ loco named ‘Firefly’ stands in an adjacent shed when it is not in operation. Its construction took over 20 years entering service at Didcot in 2005.


The original loco of was designed by Daniel Gooch in 1840 as a 2-2-2 and it ran in service until 1870.



 I think that Brunel’s original conception of the Broad Gauge was probably right in that it would have produced a more comfortable ride than the Standard Gauge.


The whole railway would have been bigger and more spacious. Just how much that would add to the cost of today’s HS2 ? I dread to think.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

‘Scene’ in Sheffield Part 3 'Stagecoach'.

‘Stagecoach Yorkshire’ (SY) in Sheffield is a relative newcomer compared to ‘First’ who inherited the ‘South Yorkshire PTE’ (SYPTE) operation.


‘SY’ was formed in 2005 when ‘Stagecoach’ took over the ‘Traction Group’ which in turn owned Yorkshire Traction, ‘Yorkshire Terrier’ and others. 


SYPTE had in turn inherited the previous operations of the Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster municipalities plus other small independents and so have a history dating back over a hundred years.


None of that prevented ‘SY’ from diving in at the deep end and giving ‘First’ a good run for their money. 



A MAN 18.220LF with Alexander ALX 300 bodywork. Big number branding certainly catches the eye.


The 83 is a cross city route serving Ecclesfield in the North and Millhouses in the South.




One more MAN/Alexander combination.

On the 87, another cross city route linking High Green in the North with Low Edges in the South.




A Scania 230UD with Alexander Dennis Ltd. Enviro 400 bodywork.

This is a ‘Stagecoach in Chesterfield’ allocated bus and is seen on the 43 which links Chesterfield to Sheffield via Dronfield.




A MAN 18.240LF with ‘ADL’ Enviro 300 bodywork.Part of ‘Stagecoach in Chesterfield’s allocation and looking naked after what has gone before.



A Dennis Dart SLF with Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork this time from ‘Stagecoach in Mansfield’.


The ‘Mansfield Move’ branding refers to the replacement of Mansfield’s old bus station with the much better new one. A event that is now over a year ago. Time for re-branding perhaps ?




An Scania 94UD with East Lancs Omnidekka bodywork.


It was ordered by and delivered to ‘Yorkshire Traction’ and appeared in their yellow and purple livery before the company joined ‘Stagecoach’.



A Dennis Trident 2 Alexander Enviro 400 Hybrid. (That is how ‘Stagecoach’s fleet list describes it).

It looks well in the green variation of the standard livery.




Tram No.107

When considering ‘Stagecoach’ operations in Sheffield, the tramway has to be included.


Built in the early 1990’s and fully opened in 1995. The infrastructure is owned by South Yorkshire PTE whilst the system is operated by ‘Stagecoach’.


The system was originally operated by a subsidiary of the PTE but due to its perceived lack of popularity was sold to ‘Stagecoach’ in 1997.


‘Stagecoach’ instituted changes which have improved the system and at the time of writing, approximately 15 million passengers per year are carried.


The trams built by Siemans Duewag are three car, double articulated units and are currently painted in a livery derived from ‘Stagecoach’s  railway livery used in and around the South of England.




Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A 'Day out with Dennis' to Sheffield

For the past year or so, I have been writing articles for a community magazine based in the Derbyshire village of Kilburn. The magazine called 'all Things Local' is distributed free to 9,000 homes in Belper and Ripley. Apart from advertisements it carries all manner of general interest articles and information. It is widely read and indeed, copies of it can be hard to come by if you do not live in the two towns.

My contribution is to describe a variety of days out more or less locally that can be undertaken by anybody of any age. The purpose is to get folks out and about to enjoy the beautiful part of England in which they live.

I have provided a link from the articles to illustrations of the vehicles used that can be found here on by blog. So here goes !!

First bus of the day is a ‘trentbarton’  (tb) ‘red arrow’ to Chesterfield. Here we see a Swedish built Scania chassis carrying a Spanish built body by Irizar arriving in Chesterfield.


The ‘Stagecoach’ service to Sheffield is usually in the hands of another Scania chassis with a Scottish built body by Alexander Dennis Ltd. (Although they also have a manufacturing plant in Scarborough).


From Sheffield to Bakewell recently ‘Hulleys of Baslow’ have been using an all white single decker. This is another bus produced entirely by Alexander Dennis Ltd.



‘Hulleys’ are a long established company with a history dating back for over a hundred years. Being smaller than either ‘trentbarton’ or ‘Stagecoach’, they operate a varied fleet and it might be that another bus other than the white one turns up which will normally be in the fleet livery.


It might be this which is another product of Alexander Dennis Ltd. 



Or possibly one of the double decker buses in the fleet like this earlier Alexander product built on a Dennis Trident chassis. This particular bus spent many years working in London before coming North.



The journey from Bakewell will be aboard one of ‘tb’s Scania’s this time carrying a body produced by ‘Wright’s of Ballymena in Northern Ireland. The buses on the ‘sixes service have recently been refurbished and given a much brighter coat of yellow paint than they had before.



Passengers returning to Ripley from Matlock will probably do so on one of these which is another bus built by Wright’s. This particular model is called the ‘Streetlite’ although like Hulleys, ‘yourbus’ by virtue of being a small company a different type could be substituted.


Monday, 19 May 2014

‘Scene’ at Nottingham Railway Station (NRS) May 2014

For much of its most recent history ‘NRS’ has been covered in vast quantities of plastic sheeting whilst work on cleaning and renovation went on underneath.



Slowly it has emerged from its wrappings.




Until like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, it is revealed in all its glory.




This was the third station built largely on the original site, the others dating from 1839 and 1848 proved to be too small and in 1903 the third building was opened by the ‘Midland Railway’.


Designed by Mr. A.E. Lambert who was also responsible for Nottingham’s Victoria station.

Construction was in red brick, terracotta and faience (a form of glazed terracotta) with a pitched slate and glazed roof.



It would have been easy to bulldoze the old building and replace it with concrete, chrome plating and plate glass but it is to the credit of the decision makers that they chose to clean, re-furbish and adapt the existing structure.


Inside the old entrance which was built to accommodate horse drawn coaches and more recently taxi cabs has been re surfaced and converted into an area for retail purposes.


The large information boards are well lit by the vast glass roof.



The same airy open look continues into the ticket hall. The height and light gives the whole building a feeling of spaciousness and elegance. 


I have passed through the station on many occasions in the past and never noticed what an attractive building it is.







The detailing which was part of the original building is lovely. This frieze is over the doorway that leads from the ticket hall to the platforms.



This panel over a doorway clearly shows the ‘Midland Railway’s initials on the centre shield.



While the year the station was built 1903 can be detected in this detail.



Once past the ticket barriers which were not operating on the day I was there, All is fresh paint. 


On the platforms the blue hoardings that closed off most of the buildings during refurbishment have been removed.



A lot of trackwork has been replaced and the new ballast contrasts with the old ballast of the far set of rails which is original.



The revised trackwork on the approaches to the station are shown with the upper image looking to the West and below to the East. 


East Midland Trains depot is visible to the right under the first arch in the lower image.




In 1903 when the station was built, the cost was put at a million pounds and obviously a lot more money has been spent in bringing up to the standard it is today.


In a time when public money seems to disappear into thin air, we have at least got a building that is quite literally bricks and mortar to show for it.

Hopefully, it will still be around in another 110 years.


If you are traveling via Nottingham Railway Station, try and take a few minutes extra so that you can stand, look and admire.


Friday, 16 May 2014

‘Scene’ coaching in Oxford

A short visit to Oxford brought home to me the sheer volume of coaches running between Oxford to either London or its airports and sometimes both.


Oxford’s Gloucester Green coach station is the starting point for a number of high quality operations.


The ‘Oxford Tube’ (OT) is probably the best known.


Part of the ‘Stagecoach’ group the ‘OT’ is operated by a fleet of Van Hool TD927 Astromega’s.


I notice that ‘Stagecoach’ have recently ordered a further 26 Astromega’s for the ‘OT’ to Euro-6 specification to replace the entire existing fleet.



Pulling out on yet another trip to the capital.


Variations of the rear end adverts carried on these vehicles.



Note the registration T50 UBE.


JF61 OXF A Scania K340EB4 carrying Plaxton Panther bodywork off to London Heathrow.

Operated by the ‘Oxford Bus Company’ (OBC) which in turn is part of the ‘Go-Ahead’ group. 




Another of the same.




A Volvo B12B with Plaxton Panther bodywork again operated by ‘OBC’ this time liveried for the X90 Oxford to London via Hillingdon service.




Another Scania. This time a 360EB with Plaxton Panther bodywork.

One more ‘OBC’ vehicle which according to the ‘blurb’ links Oxford to London and Heathrow and Gatwick.




A Volvo B11RT with Plaxton’s Elite Interdeck bodywork. Yet one more of ‘OBC’s varied operations.





Visiting coaches on the day are represented by 



An Irizar i6 of ‘Clarkes’ of London. 




A Volvo B9R with VDL Jonkheere bodywork from ‘GoldenTours’ of Peckham.

Two vehicles that were well up to the standard set by the locals.