Sunday, 6 June 2010

Austere Times - A Leap of Faith?

Our current lords and masters who reside in grace and favour accommodation with chauffeured cars to ferry them around inform us that we are now living in austere times and a new period of austerity lies ahead.  For us, not them, presumably.  Well, I’m ahead of the game, as this weekend was all about austerity, and it was by personal choice.

One of my favourite locos currently down at the NVR is Austerity J94 number 22.  This loco only arrived in April, and made her debut working some demonstration freight trains at the Pines Express event.  22 looked and sounded in fine form during the day, and the finish on the loco is superb – one of the best paint jobs I’ve ever seen anywhere.  The Austerity was then booked onto passenger duties in early May, but unfortunately failed with big-end problems on the first run.  Repairs were commissioned immediately, and at the weekend 22 made a triumphant return to traffic on passenger duties, hauling the six-car Mk1 rake with ease and producing some great audio and smoke effects into the bargain.

Naturally I hastened down to Wansford on the extremely hot Saturday morning for a photoshoot.  Because the weather conditions were favourable, I decided to try my hand at filming at Yarwell, the NVR’s westerly terminus.  The station is located at the site of Yarwell Junction, where the Northampton and Rugby lines diverged.  No station existed here, and for many years NVR trains used the line purely as a run round loop.  In 2007 the station opened, giving passengers the chance to alight and watch the locos couple up.  The former quarry adjacent to the station was converted into fishing lakes, and a number of attractive countryside trails start from here.

The station and short line in the area present interesting opportunities for the photographer – most notably because a path now exists from the station down to the TPO equipment and onto a viewing platform that provides excellent shots of the tunnel mouth.  I’d not used Yarwell as a location before, except briefly last weekend in torrential rain, but had seen the possibilities and fancied giving it a go.

5485 with the Polish Plumber's Special last weekend.

There’s only one way to reach Yarwell – by train!  By taking the first service out of Wansford I had an opportunity to film the runround and departure through the tunnel.  It would be two hours before the train returned, so I set off to climb the pathway that leads onto the top of the tunnel for a great view of the line.  Because the area around the Nene is so flat, this is the only place that offers a panoramic vista of the line.  How I spent the two-hour wait is covered in my other blog here, before the train reappeared and filming began.

22 runs round, viewed from above the tunnel - a cracking location.

Once the train had departed, I now had another 2-hour wait – or a walk to Wansford, which I reckoned would take around an hour.  Well, it was far too hot for that sort of thing, so I decided to wait at Yarwell and read a bit.  However, I met up with some walkers at the station and we got chatting, which passed the time pleasantly enough.  I’d intended to simply return to Wansford and go home – there weren’t really any more photo opportunities available down the line with half the services now run.  But once on the train I started chatting with the crew, of course, and decided I might as well go to Ferry Meadows for an ice cream, and then catch the train on its way back up the line.

As we approached Lynch Bridge, it was clear that the sunny weather had brought out the teenagers in large numbers.  A footpath runs on the bridge alongside the railway track, and on hot days it’s a popular hangout for the Peterborough teen scene.  Usually they’re pretty laid back, but there have been occasions in the past of lunatic behaviour, as well as vandalism and obstruction of the railway track itself.  A story told with some relish to all newcomers on the NVR is that several years ago, two clever idiots placed their bikes across the tracks at this spot.  The crew alighted from the loco, took one bike each and put them on the tender.  The bikes were then held at Wansford until the angry kids with even angrier parents turned up to demand their return.  They got them back, but only after paying a donation to the Railway!  There are many other tales about incidents down at Lynch Bridge.  The bridge itself has a speed restriction of 5 mph, which gives these youngsters plenty of time to devise up various forms of entertainment.  Between trains they amuse themselves by the sport known as ‘Tombstoming’.  This entails jumping off the bridge into the River Nene below.  It’s a sport confined to teenagers, which is a pity – I wish bankers, politicians and traffic wardens would take it up.  I have breezeblocks going spare …

The lads wished they'd checked first, as the M6 hurtled up to meet them ...

The most common activity is the age-old custom of ‘mooning.’  If I’m working as TTI on a sunny day I usually advise passengers that they can expect to be honoured by a 21 Bum Salute as the train crosses the bridge.  Reactions range from taking a sudden and deep interest in the Ferry Meadows brochure right up to, “I’ll get my camera.”  Forewarned, and all that … Personally, I think that as long as they don’t interfere with the running of the train or get abusive, then they can do what they like.  A bit of friendly banter out of the train is customary, and of course they just love getting attention.  It’s always nice to see pretty girls in bikinis in summer, and far more preferable than the sight of middle aged men in mandals.  I rest my case.

Down at Ferry Meadows I got my ice cream, which I ate in my customarily messy fashion.  I don’t know how I do it, but I cannot for the life of me negotiate my way round a Magnum in summer without wearing half of it and end up looking like a toddler who’s just put his face in his dinner.  I’ve learnt from this experience and always carry baby wipes with me in my camera bag.  They’re more important than a spare battery these days.

Ferry Meadows station lies opposite the golf course, which provided something to look at after I’d cleaned myself up with babywipes, now new and improved with ‘ello-vera and carbon monosodiumglutimates and enhanced with enricher VT7, for a longer lasting enrichness.  Yes, I watch all those ads on TV; they’re not wasted on me at all.  The course was doing good business, and it was interesting to see a lot of young blood enjoying the sport – and pretty good at it too.  It was in complete contrast to the tombstoners, and proves that there is always a balance, despite what the Daily Mail would like you to believe.  Golf is not my sport – setting up the DVD recorder to tape A Touch of Frost is my idea of activity – but I have dabbled in the past.  I could never get the ball through that damn windmill on hole 18, though.

I took the train back to Wansford, past the tombstoners who pushed a girl off the bridge as we trundled past – and I missed the shot!  (She was willing; I mean they didn’t just pick up a passer-by and chuck her off).  I decided to film departure of the train and call it a day, but I was invited into the signalbox and that was far too good an opportunity to miss.  Consequently, I stayed until the last train returned, and the railway closed down for the night.  It was an interesting and entertaining excursion, and as austere days go, not half bad.


  1. Yes, No.22 is becoming a favourite of mine, too. That's a great picture of her at the head. Interesting post. The FR has had problems in the past with the yoof of today...or at least that is who it was blamed on, I'm not so sure. DLG's dome was dented by a flying rock a few years ago, we've had a signal box vandalised and don't mention the booking office at Blaenau. Whoever it was though, they didn't win. The line goes from strength to strength, and most local people, young and old, that I speak to are fond of the railway, even though it makes a mess of their washing, makes them wait at level crossings, etc. Just a few silly sods make a noise out of all proportion to their (trouser)size.

    Anyway, sorry about that. Great post, great new look, may the blog go from strength to strength!

  2. Many thanks for those comments. The redesign came when Blogger posted some new ideas and I thought I'd play around a bit. No. 22 the movie is on the way ...


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