Thursday 26 May 2016

Narrow Gauge Railways. What's the Point?

Well quite a lot actually

It does seem strange that the Narrow Gauge Railways of the world do not garner as much attention as the big boys of Railways. For them to appear in the columns of our favourite magazine of the month there normally does need to be something quite profound to warrant taking up white space with Little Trains.

It did cheer us up this week that our very own government (shock horror) have thrown some money away in a 'competition' for Railways to our Little Trains. Baffling as it seems that Railways up and down the land have had to save up tokens from the back of their corn flakes boxes to 'win' money to invest in making Heritage more accessible. But hey, its dollars where needed.

The Government Competition has awarded £1M to a series of Heritage Railways for worthy projects to help boost tourism.

With the popular arguments being set for 'authentic' galas and 'recreating' the past in a true way, it is a shame Narrow Gauge gets left out of both the argument and the answer.

Nothing gives us greater pleasure of pointing out a TV program getting the era of Trains wrong

We sit around watching ITV3 wondering why the hell a Southern Loco is storming past Claude Greengrass in Aidensfield. (Because its fiction)

And WTF are they thinking using the Nene Valley in a Bond Film, everyone can tell its a.. (Yawn)

In our minds, there is one clear winner of this argument. We have in these good ole British Isles a collection of Narrow Gauge Railways that we would say rivals any in the world as a collection of both authentic, historical and down right enjoyable Railways known as The Great Little Trains of Wales.

For those bleating that a Railway adding disabled toilets to a platform goes against the authenticity of a Heritage Railway depicting the Victorian Times, frankly do one. Those peoples grim faces didn't look the same as they did 20 years ago, why on earth not? Don't they care? 

We really do think its time for these Narrow Gauge Railways to be taken seriously and treasured alongside national icons at which they richly deserve to be recognised. 

They don't make the news regularly with side shifting new builds and colossal new building programs costing millions of pounds. 

Wait, we need to go to Porthmadog more.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Diesels everywhere. Seriously everywhere.

They're bloody everywhere

Now here is the story as we know it. A Heritage Railway has a spare weekend so throws on a few diesels for that eclectic mix known as Diesel Bashers. Few extra people turn up on a normally quiet weekend, hang out of windows, flail (which is an actual thing) and have a grand old time.

Then they get back to normal. 

Something odd has happened

The Severn Valley had shunted their normal Diesel Gala later in the year, occupying the teatime slot of the year. Reserved for people watching The Chase while eating their fish fingers and chips. Its not quite prime time but for everyone who has a cushy job, its a good time of day.

It seems this shunt worked a treat for diesels and their fans. They flocked and filled trains on the first day of the Gala. Standing room only for what was arguably one of the best collection of diesels in one place at one time.

The sparkling new Diesel Depot was opened to much fanfare, it is an incredible achievement and facility that has set a new benchmark for looking after what was once the dirty word on a Steam Railway.

So what is the future?

There has always seemed a tinge of worry/sweaty palmed blind panic over scheduling diesels into Heritage Railway timetables. No longer were these the replacement for those well paid for kettles. They have rebranded themselves better than Craig David getting away from Kes and wetting the bed.

Welcome to the Heritage Diesel

If the Queen is left high and dry by a steam locomotive, the fanfare shifts to a 'Heritage Diesel' taking its place. There was a sigh but people went to watch it fly by their schools and newspapers still covered the story.

The Severn Valley hold what has been lauded as one of the best ever Galas, not referencing the fact that not one steam locomotive was on duty. The North Yorkshire Moors ran another well received Gala that was 'mixed traction' and complaints by hardcore fans were silenced.

Have we now turned a corner with throbbing sulzer engines rather than one of Gresley's or Stanier's finest?

It does seem those beautiful rakes of Teak Coaches or GWR originals can have a new heritage icon on the front of them and not only do the punters not mind, but prefer it.

Will Railways be rushing to spend £'0000s on repairing those Black 5s or simply hire in a Class 66? 
Time will tell.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Evening Star, Evening Star & Evening Star Too Far?

Yes, other Engines exist

The National Icons do indeed run beyond the class of A3. Let's peer beyond this and look at the other strange incident of the past few days. We now have, as a nation, three 'Evening Star's.

Now the first one was built at Swindon in 1960 and is an undisputed national treasure that has become infamous for being flangeless. Those heady days in the 80s with this big Green 9F storming the mainlines of Britain will seemingly be no more. Network Rail are not ones to go back on their words now are they?

Then we all lost a Cock.

We were gutted at this, a big black 9F called 'Cock of the North'. It was a gift to the nation that kept giving. Unfortunately the 'Cock' was lost before The BM was even a small sidenote in 'Steam Railway' magazine. 

We miss the Cock

It headed on down to the Great Central Railway with promises of being called 'Central Star', nice name we thought.

Then it became Green and became 'Evening Star'. That dear old 9F in York literally weeped at this News. I hope you all feel happy now. The loss of Cock was hard.

So the Nation now had two 'Evening Star's, one you could see silent in York or alive and well at Loughborough. The choice was yours. Now creating choice is always a good thing, plenty of options for our lazy ways. 

Let's be honest folks, the magic of Evening Star wilted in the glean of it's newly recreated paint. It was the same as the day we discovered 'Daisy' was not kind of railcar you would want to bring home to your Mum. 

So with the magic of Evening Star ever so slightly split in two. You would think nothing else could take a chip out of the last steam locomotive built for British Railways.

Now we are a fan of iconic moments as much as the next woman, but seeing an icon of American Engineering in the home of the British National Collection left us feeling a little cold.

The argument is the last of the Class 66s deserves its rightful place as being 'iconic'. It is indeed a good statement of celebration that is deserving of British Railways logo and Brunswick Green.

But, at Toton lies more deserving subjects

Gripping Stuff.

Monday 16 May 2016

Text 'SAVE' to save Network Rail Scotland Gauger

It really is the gift that keeps on giving

There is always a reason that 'things' are regarded as 'Icons' and gain the status 'Legends'. In America this is normally based on wealth and fame and not a lot in between, perhaps the odd infamous statement to stir up the biggest of hornets nests.

In Blighty however, it is normally down to misfortune or colossal cock ups of a magnitude that makes us all go 'Aww bless them', or pick up the phone and text vote some god awful singer who had a dream despite sounding like a trespasser falling off a stepladder. 

Take the England Football Team, let down after let down but they still manage to sell out Wembley. The English are forgivers and love a little scamp that may let us down every so often.

Fast forward to this weekend as football again makes the headlines with a Man Utd match called off after what seemed an 'explosive device' was found down a toilet, and no it was not Jonny Vegas dispensing of last nights curry. 

The papers had a field day,  'Someone's getting sacked in the morning' as one of the most famous people in the country was a random run of the mill security person who was involved in training sniffer dogs for security devices. By Saturday afternoon that person was sweating harder than well, that bloke who didn't gauge Flying Scotsman in time.

So the ever popular Carry On Scotsman continued this weekend. It was brilliant in its British-ness. All sorted, fine and dandy - then a cock up - then balls up - then all good again and we rejoice. 

On Friday, the Scottish Tours of the world's most famous steam locomotive were called off as the owner of the Railways wasn't sure it would fit down their tracks. Fair enough you should say. But this was decided the day before said tour was to take place. You would claim that you couldn't make it up, but this is Flying Scotsman.

Almost immediately, there were cries of 'Someone's getting sacked in the morning' and a person working for Network Rail Scotland was immediately sweating harder than the bloke who left a mobile in the crapper at Old Trafford. 

The BBC said they were cancelled. Everyone confirmed it, so that's that then.

Then. One Day Later, it is all back on.

Now picture this sweating bloke running along the Forth Bridge with a Tape Measure, the orange of his Hi Viz suddenly turning code Brown. 

Now picture a person, in an office, receiving a phone call from the Scottish Government. Would you, a Network Rail employee, turn around to your Government and say 'Sorry Love, nothing I can do now'. Or would you simply take the risk of tearing off coping stones on every Station from Newcastle to Bo'ness? 

We will never know the answer to what happened in the 24 Hours between CANCELLED and HUNKY DORY. 

The power of this A3 Pacific is now stopping all known protocols in their tracks. It is a moving Tourist Attraction that no government will want to stop.

Except Norfolk, if its running in Norfolk, it's cancelled.

The moral of the story - Norfolk cant be arsed.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Something Nice, just enough to warm your cockles

No, not that

We read something very nice at BM Towers today that warmed our very cockles from here to Cockermouth. It is possible, us women (don't believe everything you read in Steam Railway) can be nice sometimes.

So here's the cockle warmer - a Care Home in Stroud has set up its very own Steam Train complete with an interactive wall simulating the sights and sounds of a speeding train for patients with dementia. Simply a calming space for patients to take time out and relax.

Here's the puzzler

Does the online world of Railways quite match up to this image of sophistication and calm in the Care Home at Stroud? We are reminded of this puzzle as two neighbouring Facebook Groups declare a 'peace pact' after months of mud throwing behind keyboards.

The two camps have decided to calm the wibble and charge over the top into No Man's Land for a good ole game of football. Good on them.

Then comes the topic of the heated arguments, bannings and blockings - Factions of the same Heritage Railway at odds with each other merely based on the a pair of miles between them. Chances are you are in one of these factions, and you know the other lot on the other side. Drat, blast and dam them with their views and ways.

So will your faction be the first to say 'Wibble', or brave going over the top with an Ale in one hand and a mutual respect for each others hobbies metaphorically tucked into a bag of Roasted Peanuts in the other.

Would we all be better off with some of Ringo Starr's 'Peace and Love'? Or would we miss the fun of this hobby which is heated debates and the mutual respect in not giving a toss what those arses up the line think?

Perhaps the answer is to pull up ones socks, draw yourself a spiffing drink, paint on a stiff upper lip and get together to make friends, kiss and make up. 

Now which 'outspoken but invariably entertaining' (from our favourite magazine this month Steam Railway) organisation could arrange such a thing we wonder.

In Tribute.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour

No, not Clarkson & Co spending Thousands of $'s a second to c*ock about but the Grand Tour of the National Treasures.

One simple thing struck us over the past couple of days. The Scotsman arriving at Bo'ness for the viewing public - as its prepared for a mainline tour, NOT pulling Passenger Trains, lined up at Bo'ness Station, NOT pulling Passenger Trains, admissible by a Platform Ticket and most definitely NOT pulling Passenger Trains.

It does seem a big shame that 60103 will not be going for at least one ride over the stunning Bo'ness Railway? In fact its a shame its missing out the Heritage Railways of the UK, apart from you know who and you know what.

Surely those that should benefit most from a visit by this National Treasure would be the Bo'ness, the Swindon and Cricklade, the Dartmoor and all of our other smaller railways in the UK? 

What's the worst that could happen?

Perhaps once the big green Loco has done its dues on the mainline it will indeed visit the smaller minnows of the Railway world so they get a bite of the cherry. 

Then, once the ticking clock of an impending multi thousand pound overhaul looms, the tins of Apple Green are warned up and readied for another speedy overhaul. Meanwhile, to fill the void we can rename a green Class 68 'Flying Scotsman' and the circle of life continues around again.

Hakuna Matata.

Monday 9 May 2016

Oh! Cocked up Beeching.

Yes, we've got wound up by more petitions. A simple search of this site brings up various 'Reopen The (Insert Quaint Name) Railway Immediately'. Now these are the titles of the petitions, the details are not important and admittedly don't really exist. 

They do no harm and if they get the public's response and make an impact all well and good. The issue is they simply don't. Often as 'Enthusiasts', the image is tainted with memories of Trespassing, Long Lenses, Step Ladders etc etc. Once this tarnished image is associated with a petition then its as dead as any duck that ever got close to Kings Cross.

The Borders Railway is and will be a success story that fueled theories that railways should be reopened wherever possible. We wholeheartedly agree, the issue is the amount of dead flotsam and jetsam from previous attempts to reopen the best of British railway lines still disappearing under new trunk roads and shambolic town planning.

The Borders Railway Project epitomises 'project planning' and getting as many knock backs as a joint meeting between an Ann Summers Group and Class 60 Appreciation Society. Carnage. But above it all, Gemma, 23 from Surrey and Bill, 56 from Toton somehow hit it off and in a few years welcome the birth of little Brush Junior and Kim Princess to the ultimate celebration of lucky breaks despite all the hidden Rail Magazines under the bed stacked against them. 

The Borders Project does however show a thorough foresight of the huge issues associated with opening railways in Britain.
Beeching Balls Up

We watch Beeching sympathisers say what he did to Britain's Railways was an undying necessity to save the Railways from themselves and Steam Train nutters. It was in fact the birth of Steam Train Nutters giving them plenty of miles of track to save, play trains and argue about for years to come.

The overriding issue with the closures was forward planning of saving infrastructure that could be put to good use for any other means later on. Railways that didn't wind there way through stunning National Parks were cut up and buried under tarmac and god awful bungalows. But hey, who can change this reckless cock up?

More people are travelling on our Railways and the answer seems to be HS2. Here is a can of worms called HS2, we are not going to open this can - just yet.

Mickey from High Wycombe writes a petition to call for the Aberystwyth to Camarthen line to be reopened immediately. What Mickey has done here is filed his petition under 'crap' immediately. The foresight Mickey must take is to galvanise his crusade with lobbying local MPs, build up a business case, look at the regional impact.. lets be honest, Mickey has  got bored and gone back to a Railway forum to point out flaws in someones photo of a HST. You stay there Mickey.

We urge you when writing up your Petitions to not take the Mick.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Replace Scotsman with a Pacer. Seriously.

OMG, its back again

That's how the youth of today talk about the return of Scotsman. Well not many 'youths' are talking about it to be fair. The youths of today - cant control them - cant keep them behind lineside fences. Well in our day..

And there the argument stops. It seems it isn't the youth of today that are causing problems both on the streets and by huge fences along the East Coast Main Line. It is indeed those retired folk shouting out of car windows in sensible Kia Cee'd Estates that are the ones causing the issues.

We have seen a YouTube video explaining to these well meaning supporters how to stay behind lineside fences. There is a special military sector of the British Transport Police foaming at the mouth ready to be let off the lead and seize any stray drones or Thermos' that may stray onto Network Rails danger zones.

Norfolk was the first loser in the battle against the evils of trespassers as their fanfared visit by Scotsman was completely shelved as unsafe. Much safer is to leave the Tours on the High Speed Lines than simple country railways, 125mph versus 60mph, at least it will be a clean sweep. There will be much less damage when the almost inevitable happens and someone trips at the wrong time at the wrong moment and pulls the plug on mainline steam for good.

The return of West Coast was inevitable

Could you imagine a fevered Scotland still cursing those South of Hadrians Wall able to stomach their star tourist attraction in the Jacobite being cancelled and struck off the record? The underpants of those at the ORR are not strong enough to repel the firestorm that would have hit them should they dare even try.

So the next big story sits and waits. Will people stay behind those line side fences between York and Newcastle? Will they be forced to run the Scotsman behind closed doors perhaps? Covered in a mock cardboard cutout of a Pacer so as to put off anyone holding a Berghaus Mule 2 40 Camera Bag (We used Google here)?

There is a good counter argument to the whole Scotsman furore and excitement. That is that it has done the world of good for Steam Railway Preservation. We wholeheartedly agree. 

But it is also a loaded gun

If any incident happens of a nature that needs Nick Knowles to make a 90 minute special of the aftermath, it wont just be the ORR that have streaked underpants. 

How hard is it to stay behind a fence for your photographs of Scotsman? We wait and see.

Friday 6 May 2016

Here's some cash. Go buy some Pacers.

Seriously. A Pacer Preservation Society?

Yes, we are still in a state of shock at the fact such a thing exists in a modern world where people are able to do more than bash rocks against cave walls. 

The Preservation of our Railways is something the British have done proudly for over 60 years. Will the bubble burst? Yes, probably.

A Heritage Railway that has a strong youth base among its volunteer workforce is stronger than any other Railway out there. Even we would like to believe this statement, it is not true. The Railways that have a healthy bank balance, healthy turnover, commercial masterstrokes and a beautiful scone and tea on offer are the healthy ones. Don't you feel the need for a shower mixing our lovely Heritage Railways with the words financial strength and commercialism?

A Heritage Railway should be struggling financially, it should need Barry from Plymouth storming in on his white charger with a membership subscription under his arm to save the rundown little Railway. Barry feels good about himself, the Railway benefits, the public hear about Barry and vote to name a steam locomotive after Barry. Don't you just love Britain where this is the way things are, or more to the point were.

Here is the startling truth

This hurts, cover your original Thomas books and welcome adulthood in all its monotonous glory. Railways are a business. 

The god awful idea that the PPS (we cant even say the name without feeling queasy) have will work, not because of the amount of supporters for its cause (-37000.8 if you're interested) but if the suits in a bank office can make a good business case then it will work.

Would the Bluebell Railway have been a viable business proposition? You would have to ask a banker rather than the men and women down at the local. 

Isn't adulthood rubbish.

The obvious answer here is for volunteers to retreat at your local Heritage Railway Ltd and let the staff take over, buy a soulless perforated ticket and enjoy the day.

Where's the fun in that? This is where our Britishness comes rushing back, our 1950s spirit for saving our beloved Railways. We won't let it happen. The commercial strides that are leaping through the Railway scene are a necessary evil. As long as they stay within nondescript offices and are unable to sell Scotsman tickets through windows - all will be well with the world.

There is a clear competition that will be fought for years to come:
Money V. Heritage

Should we pick a side and fight our corners on forums or Photography Groups? Yes. People will. Should you? Of course not.

Think quietly and don't let anyone hear you - think of your most favourite Heritage Railway. Does it roll around in cash? Is it as broken as a Pacer passengers spine?

If its a yes to either of the questions, then you know which side you need to be on for your Railway. Because what makes us British and what makes our Heritage Railways great is that:
Money + Heritage = Your Favourite.

Thursday 5 May 2016

An Apology

We have failed you.

They launch almost weekly and soak up the enthusiasm of the many like a brand new scouring pad, fresh out of the pack from Lidl. They capture the imagination like a freshly cleaned kitchen top with your 4.3p Scouring Pad.

The New Builds.

We haven't taken a pop at them have we? For this we at BM Towers apologise profusely. There is of course a reason we don't highlight this particular art form of showing off with millions of your pounds.

It is all down to that cheap scouring pad. The enthusiasm with your pad is there for several days. Bits of grease find there way into it, you start to multi task with it and end up scouring shit from your shoes, it becomes a friend to you in the hour of spilt curry but then it begins to look a bit ropey, but, it still does its job.

Then you get fed up of it.

Now we are not, in the words of a recent tweet, 'Pro-Scourers'. We simply want those gold star, historic, scouring pads that rinsed the George Foreman Grills in Victorian Times to be remembered. The rough, well engineered pads. We don't want those forgotten.

Reading another recent email into BM Towers, we were thanked for our persistence with the thoughts of 'Scotsman is out and about, what about Green Arrow?'. Would we as a nation of Robson Green lovers ever forget about that iconic 4771? Would we be given the choice once it is locked in at Leicester North? Would Robson be able to get his Black & Decker onto it if he had to use his 'Geordie' accent all the way in Leicester

At this point we will be balanced. Green Arrow is no rusting hulk, it is a manicured, looked after, spoilt, good looking, friendly cousin of the most popular kid in class, Scotty.

You will have befriended a rusting hulk currently braving the elements on a siding at your favourite Heritage Railway. You will be longing to see that hulk brought back to life. Now here is the hard realisation that comes with the launch of any New Build project.

Your beloved hulk moves further down the queue.

This has to be simple logistics. There is only so much money in this country for wilful splashing of cash on hulks of metal that will last ten years before you have to do it all again. Throw in the new more popular kid in a class and the limelight goes off the friendly cousin. It has to. Even ever popular Scotty starts sweating.

Now strap yourself in faithful readers. 

There is a bloody Pacer Preservation Society.

Seriously folks. You're letting this happen in a modern day society where Green Arrow is allowed to sit steamless? Sort it out, we beg you.

Anyway, New Builds.

We hope there is a common sense factor that will now creep in with new build projects. Those shiny brand new Dodo reincarnations that you give your hard earned cash to. Don't forget about those rusting hulks. Chuck them a quid, buy them a beer, give them a nice warm hug.

And shit, please remove yourself from the Pacer Preservation Society.