Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Setting off a Train of Thought

Anyone for spam?

In my last post I briefly mentioned that The Nene Valley has a new visitor – or to be more accurate, a returning resident after an extended holiday.  The locomotive is 34081 92 Squadron, a Battle of Britain class Bullied Pacific.  A potted CV of the loco reveals that she was purchased from Barry Scrapyard by The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society in 1976 and despatched to the NVR where rebuilding commenced.  The lengthy project took until 1998 to complete, when 34081 entered service as a mainstay of the locomotive fleet.  In 2003 the loco departed for visits to other heritage lines, latterly the North Norfolk Railway.  Recently 34081 failed a boiler examination with 13 broken stays and although the owners were hopeful of an extension if the stays were replaced, this did not prove to be possible and a full overhaul is required.  With many of the society volunteers living locally to the Nene Valley, it made practical sense to bring 92 Squadron back to Wansford.  So much for the technical side – but when I saw 34081 stabled in the yard on Saturday morning, tightly squeezed in between 31108 on one side and the DMU on the other, it immediately brought back faded memories of an early trip to the NVR in 1998.  When I returned home I went through my photo archives, and found that my memory had not deceived me after 12 years – which is amazing, as it always lets me down after 12 hours and I have no idea what I did yesterday.  Or today, come to that.

The relatively smart exterior hides a huge engineering task to be tackled.

I was aware of the NVR at the time, having previously paid a fleeting visit to see Flying Scotsman in 1995.  However, my interest at the time was in the contemporary scene and heritage railways were merely an occasional diversion.  On this occasion, Susana and I were having a day out together, and I’d suggested Ferry Meadows as neither of us had ever been there and the brochures looked appealing.  I’d noticed that the railway ran right through the park, but at the time it was of passing interest rather than the destination itself.  It presented an opportunity to gently break Susana into the world of railways; in fact it would be her first sight of a real live steam train as she hails from Madeira.  Ironically enough, in the same month that 34081 returned to the NVR, Susana also made her first visit after 12 years – coincidence, or am I missing something?

Perhaps this early visit to the NVR sowed a small seed in my mind; after all I usually take some time to catch onto things and taking 12 years to reach a decision really isn’t unusual.  But back to the day in question – unfortunately my notes have long gone so I only have some skimpy scribbles on the back of the pictures (no digital camera in those days!) plus my rusty memory to rely on for information.  Fortunately I numbered all my pictures, so at least I can work out the order they were taken in and work back from there.  Who needs Inspector Morse when you’ve got a system and a mind like mine?  

We must have parked up at Ferry Meadows, then walked to Mill Lane - in the intervening 12 years since I took this photo the vegetation has taken hold and this scene is much more closed in.

Then we followed the Nene Way through the park and caught the next working approaching Orton Mere – the fireman is holding out the single line tablet for the signalman as the train approaches, and the riverside boathouse in the background confirms the location. 

We’d then followed the train down to Peterborough – quite how I persuaded Susana to do all this walking is lost in the mists of time; these days she’d take a taxi round Asda if they’d let her.  I got a couple of grotty pictures at departure time before walking back up towards Ferry Meadows later in the day for this shot at Yacht Club Crossing, still a perennial favourite photographic location that has featured in many Grumpy Git Productions videos.

Now, although my fuzzy brain had vague recollections about 34081 in service, it wasn’t until I began trawling through the photos that I discovered these two pictures that I’d completely forgotten about, taken on the same day.  They feature Austerity tank 75006 in service on the Danish rake of coaches and the pictures were taken at Lynch Bridge.  Susana is the girl in blue watching the train.  Yes, of course I’ll edit you out … This is not the same loco that has recently entered service on the NVR in lined maroon; 75006 has been out of use for some time and is currently stored in the loco depot at Wansford.

75006 as she appears today; stored unserviceable in Wansford shed.  Shame.

I’m delighted to make a re-acquaintance with 92 Squadron once again, and it was interesting that seeing the loco after all this time rekindled fond memories of the past in an area that has become of great relevance today. 

For more information about 34081 and The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society I can recommend a visit to their website.  The overhaul is going to be a long one – years, rather than months are being talked about, after which the loco is expected to remain on the line in passenger service.  


  1. Ah, one of my favourite locos. I prefer them naked, as it were...rebuilt, but these streamlined locos have immense charm. These are great photos. I like the one of 75006 in the shed; faded paintwork and rather tired looking. I had a shock for a moment, thinking it was the new Austerity. The BB will I'm sure, bring a great deal of Kudos to the line, a great marketing move!

  2. The first time I saw 75006 back in April I thought it was the new Austerity tank and couldn't understand why people were talking about a beautiful restoration job. Fortunately I was there a few days before No. 22 actually arrived!

    34081 was the talk of Wansford all weekend, and as you say, will bring the visitors in. I might even have to get a spanner out to speed the job up a bit - although when the lads see how well I did the brakes on the car recently, I think they'd prefer it if I stuck to selling tickets!


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