Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Shap and its Quarries - By Ben Yates

Shap, both famous and infamous in railway circles, is a market town with a population of 1264, situated in the fells just east of the Lake District National Park boundary and 10 miles south of Penrith.

Its folklore as a battleground for engine crews against the gradients and weather came largely to an end in 1974 with electrification – with northbound trains BRAKING for the speed restriction for the summit! The line here has a rare flat section, drops for a mile or so with another flat section through the station, cutting though the rock east of the village in a spectacular curved cutting and starts the long drop of 1 in 125 to Penrith.

Shap remains an important railhead for mineral traffic today, with 3 quarries plus lime kilns producing 1/3rd of the UK’s lime output. 

A lesser known issue affecting Shap was the Beeching Report and its subsequent implementation by Ernest Marples (the villain of the pantomime if ever there were one) which led to the loss of the stopping services on the WCML between Lancaster and Carlisle in 1968. Stations at Hest Bank, Bolton-le-Sands, Milnthorpe and Shap closed in 1968.  The mainline platforms at Carnforth were taken away in 1970 following the loss of traffic. Other intermediate stations at Burton & Holme, Grayrigg and Clifton & Lowther succumbed earlier in 1954. Traffic was light, the 1955 and 1966 WTT with 2-3 trains a day depending on the season and timetable. Stopping trains typically a class 4 tank engine and load 4 seemed to be regular, though the 1955 timetable shows the 10.35 ex Euston (presumably the relief to the Royal Scot) forming the later afternoon service, and the southbound Lakes Express (Workington to Preston portion) forming a morning service. There is some photographic evidence that DMUs took over these turns.

One regular unadvertised working was a short workers train from Shap Station to Shap Summit platform known as the “Tommy”, taking quarry staff to Shap “Blue” Quarry situated just west of the summit. The WTT shows a light engine ran from Tebay shed, picked up stock stabled in the short siding on the Up side of the station, and ran the 1 mile,  5 minute trip to the Summit, returning in the evening (midday on Saturday). The stock was reportedly brought back into the siding by rope and capstan. There is no record of the stock other than there was a first class section for office workers, but it is fair to assume this would have been at the historical end of the spectrum. The train doesn’t show in the 1966 timetable, so presumably had ended by then.

Shap “Blue” Quarry (also known as Summit Quarry) just west of the summit produces blue granite for hardcore and the former “Pink” Quarry produced architectural granite some 2 ½ miles south, at Wasdale Head, linked to the blue quarry by a narrow gauge railway, which can still be seen. Operating at 1320ft, this was narrowly shy of Corrour station on the West Highland line. Gordon Edgar captured this in operation - as seen HERE - and his book(Available Here) is highly recommended.

Shap Beck Quarry (sometimes known as Sweetholme) is located around a mile north, and produces limestone for the steel industry. The rail connection was brought in around 1942 is known as “Harrisons Sidings” and forms a loop and spur on the down side of the WCML before the line dives through the oblique diagonal crossing of the A6 (the main road to Scotland until the 1970s) forming the 70 yard “Shap Tunnel”. There was a signal box here from 1942 of the later LMS type, which controlled the loop and also formed a block post with Thrimby Grange, either box being able to control the intermediate block signals. Traffic from here included workings by rail to Shapfell / Hardendale on the shortest modern regular freight flow, being an exercise in avoiding heavy lorry traffic through the village.

Shap Fell Quarry (also known as Hardendale) was opened in 1962, and quarried limestone from the huge quarry behind Hardendale Fell – behind which is now very little! This quarry was established to provide limestone to Ravenscraig in Motherwell, and was further expanded in 1970 to become a limeworks (stone also being supplied from Shap Beck) with an additional kiln added in 1990. With steam operated freight being normal here until the end of 1967, 9Fs were regular motive power here. Diesels took over, and double headed electrics followed from 1974 for the heavy traffic to Motherwell, though this ceased in 1992.

Whilst the overlap with Stainmore in operations is at best fleeting, I decided to include the quarry in the route, but in its original state without the lime kilns.

Phil has previously made some quarry conveyor assets, which I have put to good use here at Shap Fell.

1 quarry down, 2 to go.

More Screenshots:

More Soon. . . . . . . .

Monday, 24 October 2016

Four Miles of One in Seventy Five - Shap

By Ben Yates. . . . . . . . 
  THERE CAN hardly be a more infamous incline in british railway folklore. It’s the one quoted for steam records both past and present, the one feared by fireman, and made famous by Norman Wilkinson’s superb publicity poster of the down Coronation Scot climbing past Salterwath, and the photography of many fine lensmen including the legendary Bishop Eric Treacy and Ivo Peters.

  Yet in numbers terms it really is nothing special. The three south Devon Banks are considerably steeper, Beattock is almost as steep and far longer, and that’s before you even start to compare to Lickey or go further afield to Scotland, Wales, Dartmoor where such a climb would hardly be noticed. Even preserved lines can rival it or beat it, such as the 2 ½ miles of 1 in 49 to Goathland. Even the 3 ½ mile climb from Bury to Heywood at 1 in 80 on the East Lancs is in the same ballpark (and I have the shovel marks to prove it!).

  The magic is, however, undeniable, though today somewhat dented by the M6’s constant noisy presence over Shap Fell and as a terrible scar in the otherwise stunning Lune Gorge.

Yet one of the most surprising thing about Shap is that it were ever built. The rival proposition was a line from Carnforth through to Kendal, then up the narrow deep valley of Longsleddale past Kentmere on light grades. A 2 mile tunnel under the heart of the Lake District fells at High Street and Gatesgarth would bring the railway out in Mardale (now Haweswater reservoir) and through the Lowther valley to Penrith.

As we have seen with Stainmore, the lower capital cost of a route avoiding a tunnel was taken, at the considerable additional operational expense of slower running, steep gradients, and more than a century of banking engines at both Oxenholme and Tebay. Until electrification, double heading of diesel expresses was regular practice.
  The climb to Shap takes 2 parts – the climb from Milnthorpe to Grayrigg, an underestimated twisty, slippery climb of 1 in 100 for over 10 miles, and the 4 miles of 1 in 75 from Tebay to Shap summit. The 4 mile flat section through the Lune gorge offered a brief respite to build the fire back up, and take water at Dillicar.

  Almost all freight, and a good portion of passenger trains took a banker at Tebay – sounding a double crow whistle at Tebay no.1 Box and stopping clear of the Lune at the down advanced starter signal. The banker would buffer up but not couple, and after and exchange of crows they would set off, reportedly firing constantly to the summit, where the banker would drop off, cross over and roll back down the grade.

Some cine footage can be seen HERE, bout 7 minutes in, with a ride on the engine. 

  The loco fleet in LMS days were the Fowler 2-6-4 tanks, fitted with cab windows to protect the crews from the weather. These in turn were replaced by Fairburn's equivalents, 42110 and 42210 observed by Maurice Burns in November 1964 (see his excellent article “Last of the Shap Bankers in HR's “Steam: the Grand Finale” for further reading). In turn, these were replaced by displaced Standard 4 75XXX 4-6-0 tender locos (note the 4-6-0s were the tender equivalent of the tanks, the moguls having smaller driving wheels), Burns observing nos 19, 24, 26 (green, and with double chimney) 27, 30, 32 lasting to the end of duties on 31 December 1967.

There is mention in some sources of the use of Clayton (Class 17) diesels for subsequent banking at Tebay using Carnforth allocted locos, but this seems to have evaded photographers – answers on a postcard please!

2 of the Fairburns survive at Haverthwaite, 75027 survives at the Bluebell with another 5 classmates elsewhere. The Patriot group have announced a Fowler tank as their next project.

  The last scheduled steam working over Shap was Kingmoor's pet, 70013 Oliver Cromwell, working on boxing day 1967 taking Carlisle supporters to Blackpool and return. On the return journey, she stopped for a banker, but none was available so made the ascent unassisted, Burns reported the astonishing sound from Scout Green in the crisp night air.

  Banking on Shap has only been repeated on one occasion, with 45407 (masquerading as 45157) banked by Standard 4 mogul 76079 - highly appropriate for such a duty! - on 6 October 2001. It is thought very unlikely that this will ever occur again. The footage for this unique moment in preservation, possibly the very last steam banking over Shap Summit, can be seen HERE.  

More Soon. . . . . . . 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Signalling More Progress

  Just to show that development continues, in this blog post we share a number of images of recent progress. One of the major developments recently was the agreement between ourselves and Anthony Brailsford to use his excellent custom signals in our route. On top of this, Anthony has agreed to make some custom ones which are needed to fill the 'gaps'. 

   Scenery progress? Well, the 'short and sweet' reply from Ben was as follows - "I've done most of the KS to tebay sections aside from the terrain painting. Main gaps are currently east of Bowes, north and south of Shap and between Appleby and Temple Sowerby." So lets share some of this progress below. You'll notice a 'Thumper' Unit has got a bit lost! Also, in these images, there aren't many scenery gaps. So things are really progressing nicely!
Clifton Moor station and the West Coast Mainline are in the background with a new LNWR-type signal added to the scene
Clifton Moor Station - First station of the Eden Valley line.
A Thumper at Warcop. Warcop is the modern-day home of the Eden Valley Railway, where a preserved Thumper can be seen.
Another view of Warcop
Musgrave Station with some nice track-side detail
More appropriate motive power now, with a BR Standard Class 2, now on the Stainmore line between Tebay and Kirkby Stephen East
Between Ravenstonedale and Smardale, the line runs high above the river. We approach Smardale Gill Viaduct
And then pass under Smardale Viaduct, which carries the Settle and Carlisle line over the valley.
The siding and coal drop at Smardale station
Kirkby Stephen East with the Darlington-bound service in the platform
The signal is off. The Kirkby station area, and it's immediate environs are basically complete

As you can no doubt see, things are coming along nicely. We conclude with a few brand new shots showing the wonderful array of signals around Kirkby Stephen, made possible by Anthony's kindness in allowing us to use his signals in the route.

More Soon. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Signalling Stainmore - By Ben Yates

 Signalling can be a challenge for any route, and it is important operationally, as well as being key to the feel of the route. A further challenge for Stainmore is the mix of railway companies and regions, and some fairly rare signalling situations that we wanted to capture.

The signalling also changed over time – particularly the rather cynical approach by British Railways in the late 1950s to carry out unnecessary expenditure on infrastructure to provide a justification for closure. Certainly the photographs demonstrate a change from NER lower quadrant signals to BR upper quadrant signals prior to closure in 1962 – yet on the West Coast line, many LNWR lower quadrants survived until electrification.

The North Eastern Railway had (it becomes apparent from photos) various designs – decorative lattice signals, slotted post signals, and simpler wooden square posts. They also didn’t take a simple approach to signalling, the adage being why use one signal when you can use three. There was also an early operational practice for passenger services to run through stations and reverse into a bay platform – the layout at Barnard Castle certainly lends itself to that, and does nothing to simplify the signalling.

The default TS16 signals, aside from being inadequate to signal parts of the route, certainly don't look anything like the signalling on the route. We are pleased to announce that Anthony Brailsford has agreed that we can use his excellent LNWR signals for the route. These are perfect for the Grayrigg to Penrith sections, and definitely look the part on the Stainmore and EVR sections.

On the West Coast mainline, the LNWR favoured tall co-acting home signals visible from long distances – certainly handy descending Shap at high speed or with a heavy train. The most well-known example was the up signal at Scout Green, which I estimate to be around 55 feet tall – other examples featured at Penrith and Tebay. There was a rationalisation of signalling by the LMS, with a number of boxes taken out and replaced with intermediate block signals – colour lights controlled by neighbouring boxes.

One of the aforementioned tall signals, this one at the south end of Tebay station
Another of the very tall signals at Scout Green
The Eden Valley line was single track, with token working split into sections. Intermediate stations at Temple Sowerby and Musgrave had cabins on the platform operating signals, though it is unclear what function these had without swapping tokens and I would surmise from the timetable, they were permanently switched out. Signals protected crossings at Cliburn, Waitby and (I think) Kelleth, worked from a ground frame.

Later in the line’s history, the Stainmore section west of the Summit was divided into sections, providing virtual single line working over viaducts at Merrygill, Belah, Aitygill and Mousegill, though both running lines remained in situ, and token exchange platforms were provided. Only 1 train was permitted on Belah at a time, and this approach was also taken on Aitygill for structural reasons. The others are not documented, but the Merrygill  signal diagram on closure certainly  reflect this operation. Following are a selection of images showing the new signals in place in and around Kirkby Stephen East station.

East of the station. The bracket is controlling entry to the Stainmore and EVR platforms, as well as sidings
Looking west, from the station. All these signals control passage to Tebay and Penrith.
Signal box can be seen in the background which controls all the signals at the west-end of the station and it's approaches.
Looking back east, an impressive gantry carries the signals for arrivals from the west.
On the left is the outer home on the approach to KSE, from Penrith. The bracket signal on the right controls approaches from Tebay.
A departure signal for trains heading to the summit
As previously blogged, the Tebay line was rationalised in 1924 following the downturn of mineral traffic leaving a long single line block from Kirkby Stephen to Ravenstonedale. Still no answer whether the Smardale Box moved to Merrygill in 1924!

Signalling on the route is pretty much complete aside from the colour light sections on the WCML to do.