Well… it’s been a while!
Just after writing the latest update, I underwent some fairly major surgery on my right hand, after which I was not allowed to use it for three months.
This meant that touch-typing was out of the question, and I really didn’t fancy trying to update the site typing with one finger!
So here’s a quick whistle-stop tour of what’s been happening since February!
Full Size Fun
During the early part of my recovery, I was very limited in what I could do.
Riding around on trains was one of the few activities that didn’t require two hands, though it’s still very difficult to open a carriage door while holding a cup of tea!
In practice, it meant I couldn’t travel alone and Andrea had to accompany me everywhere. Between us we had only 3 working hands and 3 working legs… what a pair!
Later on, as I was allowed limited use of my hand, I was able to do a few additional trips out on my own and start using my DSLR again!
There are too many trips to go into details, but our excursions included:
- A Pathfinder Railtours ‘Pennine Wayferer’ trip to Bolton behind a pair of Class 37s
- Wandering down to Banbury station to watch Flying Scotsman come through.
- A trip to the Model Railway Event at Statfold for my birthday.
- A day at the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway, our local preserved line.
- Severn Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala
- A Vintage Trains railtour to Llandudno to visit the Victorian Extravaganza, hauled by a pair of Class 20s.
- West Somerset Railway steam gala.
- My first ever visit to the Churnet Valley Railway
- The ‘Beyer Bash‘ at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway – celebrating the 120th birthday of the line’s two Beyer Peacock locos.
- The ‘Cotswold Festival of Steam‘ at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway
- Most recently, the Railway Touring Co‘s ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ railtour from London Waterloo to Exeter behind Bulleid Merchant Navy 35028 ‘Clan Line’ along with a visit to the newly re-opened Okehampton station.
Tuesday 24th May was an auspicious day in the rail industry, as it marked the opening of the long-awaited and much-delayed Crossrail route across London, now rebranded as the ‘Elizabeth Line’.
Like pretty much every other rail enthusiast in the south of England, we headed into London to try it out.
It is striking just how huge everything is compared to the existing London Underground lines. The platforms and stations are wide, spacious and offer lots of circulating space. The journey was incredibly quick, crossing from west to east London in what seemed like just a few minutes.
It really is going to be a step-change for transport in London, and is a much more pleasant experience than the Central Line alternative!
While we were in town, we decided to check out a couple of other recently delivered transport projects:
The Northern Line recently opened a new branch to Battersea Power Station, to serve the massive new development there.
We also dropped in to Bank, where the old southbound Northern Line tunnel has been turned into a passenger concourse, and a new running tunnel and platform have been created next to it.
The Northern Line platforms at Bank used to be narrow, crowded and generally horrible (having had to spent plenty of time there while working in the City), so this will be a massive improvement.
In the evening, we had booked ourselves onto a Pullman-style dining trip on the ‘Sunset Steam Express‘.
Operated by Steam Dreams, this is a circular trip from Victoria via Staines, Woking, Guildford and Redhill, including the picturesque Surrey Hills.
Our train was hauled by B1 61306 ‘Mayflower’, and the food and service were excellent, a superb way to finish off our day of rail fun!
As it turned out, this was the penultimate run before Steam Dreams was purchased by Locomotive Services. Although the Sunset Steam Express still runs, it is now only on selected dates rather than every Tuesday, and the first run under new ownership saw it operate with a rake of Air-Con Intercity liveried Mk3s… not quite the same atmosphere or experience!
Outside of railways, one of our other key interests is aviation, and pre-Covid, we regularly visited airshows around the country, but unsurprisingly, hadn’t had much opportunity in the last two years.
We were therefore pleased to hear that RAF Cosford, in Shropshire, would be putting on an their airshow this year, after two years off, and on Sun 12th June, after an overnight stay in Wolverhampton, we headed off on the short distance by train to Cosford station, right next to the airfield.
It was great to see some action in the air again, with a wide variety of aircraft and helicopters being put through their paces. Old favourites included the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight spitfires, the Red Arrows and the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon in a catching ‘Union Jack’ colour scheme.
The stand-out displays came from the international participants, including a French Rafale and a Belgian F-16 in its eye-catching ‘Dream Viper’ scheme.
Back to Bloxham
Another event that made a welcome return this year was the Bloxham Steam & Country Fair, just a few miles from home.
This event, which started in 1968, also had to miss the last two years because of Covid, but made a triumphant return on 25/26 June.
We headed over on the Saturday, along with a friend who was visiting from Belfast.
As well as a large number of steam engines of all shapes, scales and sizes, the event also featured classic cars and motorbikes, military vehicles, commercial vehicles, fairground models, trade stalls and lots of other activities to keep the whole family occupied.
Apart from a couple of short showers, the weather was excellent and the event seemed to be really well attended. It’s great to hear the organisers are looking towards making it even bigger and better next year!
With my right hand out of action for most of the last 4 months, and still suffering with limited dexterity, I have not been able to do any modelling.
This has been particularly frustrating as, having been signed off work during my recovery, I had time but not the ability!
Nevertheless, a few interesting items have arrived for the collection:
- Bachmann’s new Ivatt 2MT tank in LMS livery – The original 2MT was one of the first locos I ever purchased, and the upgraded version includes several improvements, including DCC capability.
- Peco/Kato 009 Ffestiniog Railway ‘Small England’ 0-4-0STT ‘Prince’
- Another Bachmann Fairlie, in this case Merddin Emrys in lined maroon.
- A Swedish Dm3 loco, used to haul iron ore on the Malmbanan
- A G scale ‘freelance’ saddle tank loco, based on an LGB chassis. Sadly some of the detailing came loose in transit and needs re-gluing.
- A First Great Western ‘Barbie’ liveried HST set, representing those I used to travel on to and from uni back in the mid 2000s
- A ‘Regional Railways’ loco hauled train set, made up of a Class 37 diesel loco and 5 Mk1/Mk2 carriages.
- A Roco continental narrow gauge 0-6-0T loco, actually in HOe scale but will not look out of place on the Bryn Ffenics Railway, as well as being useful for testing purposes.
- Various miscellaneous items of rolling stock in OO, HO and G gauges.
More photos will follow in a future update, once I’ve cleared some space on the test track!
Closure of BDMRC
In some sadder news, the Banbury & District Railway Club, which we’d joined earlier this year, shut its doors for the final time at the end of June.
With the drop-off in membership and the impact of Covid, the club was simply unable to afford the ongoing rent for its clubroom (located in a business unit charging ever-increasing commercial rent) and no viable alternative could be found.
We will greatly miss having the chance to chat with like-minded folk and run trains on a Tuesday night. Hopefully a club might return to Banbury some day in the future, but with current economic conditions, it seems unlikely to be any time soon.
Meanwhile, some of the club’s tools, supplies and even a layout have found a new home at Phoenix Hill Railways… more on that soon!
With my hand getting slowly back to normal, I should be able to go back to updating more regularly, so hopefully I’ll have more news and trip reports soon.
With my Rail Golden Ticket due to expire in August, I’m keen to get as much use out of the last month as I can!