Welcome to the Lickey Incline blog devoted to the celebration of the railway and in particular the great days of steam trains both standard and narrow gauge, on the railways of Britain.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Bryngwyn Branch - another railway line with severe gradients

Bryngwyn Branch Book
A new book by Dave Southern and the late John Keylock and published by The Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group describes the history,  operation and closure of the Bryngwyn branch and its development into today's slate trail.

The Bryngwyn "branch" was the main line under the original North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Act of Parliament.

Within a matter of two years, it had been relegated to a branch despite generating more revenue from slate traffic than the new main line. Named after an adjacent farm, there are a number of villages in walking distance. However, its main function was for the slate traffic arriving from the incline, at Bryngwyn.

From this isolated terminus, the cable-worked double track Incline led up to a point known as Drumhead (at Fron Heulog), where the tramways from the quarries converged.  More here


Friday, November 07, 2014

A Lifetime with Locomotives, Roland C.Bond - Railway Autobiography

Roland BondA thoroughly recommended  autobiography with 84 illustrations, by Roland C Bond one of the last Chief Mechanical Engineers and who was at the centre of the changeover from steam to diesel and electric power. A fascinating study of the triumphs, traumas and failures of British railways locomotive engineering and motive power development between  during his career.
Forward by E S Cox who was the Executive Officer for Design on the former Railways Executive and who worked with two other former LMS men - Robert Riddles and Roland C. Bond to design and develop the fleet of British Railways Standard Steam locomotives. This book is an excellent companion to Cox's own autobiography Locomotive Panorama and his book British Railways Standard Steam Locomotives both published by Ian Allan; also worth  a read is Riddles' biography The Last Steam Locomotive Engineer: R A Riddles  by Colonel  H C B Rogers.                                
Roland Curling Bond (5 May 1903 – 20 December 1980) held senior locomotive engineering posts in the LMS and became Chief Mechanical Engineer under British Railways. Born in Ipswich in 1903, he was educated at Tonbridge School and became interested in railways when staying in Yarmouth during the Great War. .
Bond joined the Midland Railway in 1920, which in 1923 became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. He was an apprentice under Henry Fowler and took up a post as Assistant Works Manager at the Vulcan Foundry. In 1931 Bond returned to the LMS, becoming an Assistant Works Superintendent at Horwich and later Assistant Works Superintendent at Crewe. In 1939, he was sent to Scotland as acting Mechanical and Electrical Engineer but in 1941, moved back to Crewe to become Works Superintendent involved in managing locomotive and munitions work.
On the formation of the Railway Executive in 1948, Bond was appointed Chief Officer (Locomotive Construction and Maintenance), reporting to Robin Riddles, who was Member of the Railway Executive for Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. In 1953, Bond became Chief Mechanical Engineer, BR Central Staff and later in 1965 General Manager, BR Workshops. He retired in 1970 and died in 1980, aged 77.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Famous Lickey Incline in the 1930s

Banking onthe Lickey Incline
Source: Railway Wonders of the World

Gresley P2 Cock O' the North

Cock O' the North
Two organisations are planning to build a replica of Sir Nigel Gresley's class P2 Cock o' the North, that was completed in 1934 by the London & North Eastern Railway at its Doncaster works.

Firstly, there is The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust that has built the completely new 'A1' Tornado to the original design and with the help of the latest technology, for details click here. Secondly there is the Doncaster P2 Locomotive Trust - Cock O' The North LNER 2001, for details click here. Both appear to have made rapid progress since announcing their projects.

To read a contemporary article about the thinking lying behind the design of the P2s have a look at an article published in Railway Wonders of the World published in the 1930s, click here for the article
Gresley P2

Friday, August 01, 2014

Lickey Incline on Facebook

Alan Spencer, a fireman based at Bromsgrove MPD from 1963 till 1970, has set up a Facebook page at The Lickey Incline and Bromsgrove MPD’

View SW, towards Bromsgrove etc.; ex-Midland Birmingham - Bristol main line. At 1-in-37, few lines - let alone main lines - were burdened with a steeper incline and virtually all Up trains here had to be sent up from Bromsgrove with at least one banking engine; these were not coupled and they dropped off at the summit at Blackwell. On this comparatively light train, the 14.22 stopping train from Worcester Shrub Hill to Birmingham New Street, Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 No. 45040 is managing so well with just the current Bromsgrove banker (Class 9F 2-10-0 No. 92079) that it is blowing off as it passes.
© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lickey Incline - new book

Pat Wallace book
Life on the Lickey Incline - new book
Life on the Lickey: 1943-1986 by Pat Wallace

For over forty years author Pat Wallace worked the Bromsgrove line, well known for the steep Lickey incline and the locomotives which helped the heavy trains to cope, including the famous Derby built Big Bertha 0-10-0.

From engine cleaner to fireman and driver, Pat carefully records his career in a series of diaries which capture the daily routine and events of a railwayman’s life as steam hauled trains gave way to diesels. Today the line awaits a new station and electrification.

The book is complete with one hundred photographs of locomotives and rolling stock through the years.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Graves St Johns Church Bromsgrove
Picture from Andy Savage Railway Heritage Trust
Memorials, which have stood for over 170 years in St John’s Church Graveyard in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire marking the deaths of Thomas Scaife and Joseph Rutherford have been restored.

They died in 1840 when the boiler of the locomotive they were working on in a yard at the foot of the famous Lickey Incline exploded. The accident led to the formation of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME).

They were originally laid to rest with simple tombstones but in 1841 Mr Rutherford’s widow had a larger memorial made. Mr Scaife’s colleagues then raised money to have a similar gravestone made for him, inscribed with a poem which has become folklore among railway enthusiasts.

After they had fallen into a state of disrepair, the Church Fabric Committee of St John’s Church raised £10,000 to have them repaired. The money was collected with the support of the Railway Heritage Trust, the Bromsgrove Society, the IME, the railway trade union ASLEF, Cross Country, DB Schenker and others.

Read more: here

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Full steam ahead for mail rail as plans get green light

Mail Rail

On Monday 10 March Islington Borough Council approved the British Postal Museum & Archive’s planning application to develop a stretch of the old Post Office Underground Railway – Mail Rail – into a unique subterranean ride.

The decision means that visitors to the newly created Postal Museum, due to open in central London in 2016, will be given the opportunity to explore the hidden world of this railway under Mount Pleasant through an engaging exhibition and interactive ride. In total, visitors will be taken through 1km of the original tunnels, following the same route that much of the nation’s mail took for nearly 80 years from 1927-2003.

The Mail Rail ride is part of a much larger project that the BPMA is undertaking to reveal the extraordinary stories of British social, communications and design history through the universally iconic postal service. By opening up almost 400 years of records and objects from the reign of King Charles I to the present day, The Postal Museum will reveal unusual and exciting episodes from British history. It will showcase curious items including a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, original evidence from the Great Train Robbery trial, a Victoria Cross and flintlock pistols used to defend Mail Coaches in the 19th Century.

Adrian Steel, Director of the BPMA commented, “It is fantastic that Islington Borough Council has given us the green light to open up these unique tunnels to the public and reveal the captivating story of Mail Rail. Making this exciting project a reality still requires a further £0.5m, but this is a major boost to our plans and for Islington’s, Camden’s and London’s heritage offer. We hope to launch a public appeal later this year, both in the local community and further afield, and look forward to welcoming our first visitors in 2016.”

The BPMA is currently waiting on the outcome of an application for £4.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A decision is expected in May this year.

Post Office Railway

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Talk on James Cholmeley Russell

Russell - the locomotive named in honour of the NWNGR's Chairman and Receiver

J.C Russell was a London barrister who first became involved with hiring locomotives to the NWNGR. These were Snowdon Ranger, Moel Tryfan and Beddgelert.  He eventually became Receiver of the line.

Don't miss this opportunity to hear about an important figure in the history of what became the Welsh Highland Railway

Nick is chairman of the WHR Heritage Group and has made a study of J.C. Russell.
Thursday March 20th at 7.30 pm Welsh Highland Railway Society - Dennis Carson Room, Dame Elizabeth Hall, Firbank Close (off Oak Tree Lane), Bournville, Birmingham B30 1UA

To book this talk for your organisation call Nick Booker on 01926 864 900 for details

Post Office Railway - Mail Rail

Mail Rail
Mail Rail Visuals

BBC report on the latest news on the Post Office Railway - Mail Rail

The British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA) plans to open a new postal museum and railway attraction in 2016. The project is gathering pace and we have planning permission for our new home on Phoenix Place, near Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant Sorting Office. Government backing and financial support from Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd has also been announced, with Mayor Boris Johnson describing us as a ‘national treasure of global importance.”   

The Postal Museum

We care for the Royal Mail Archive (Designated as being of outstanding national and international importance) and the museum collection of the former National Postal Museum. Artefacts cover over 400 years of postal history, from classic vehicles, evidence from the Great Train Robbery and a 1st Edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, to rare stamp artwork, posters and uniforms. The collections also include a world-class philatelic collection, 80,000 photographs, letters, maps and war medals. Our vision is for a cherished and valued British postal heritage, providing world class access for all to our world class collections.  Together they tell the story of a great British institution, of the thousands of people that worked there and the industrial and social advances it pioneered. A dedicated learning space will give us a springboard for developing new partnerships with businesses on-site as well as community partners and with outreach activities, we will be able to inspire young people to consider different careers on all sorts of levels.   

Mail Rail

What makes our project particularly exciting is the opportunity to open up a significant proportion of the Post Office Underground Railway, ‘Mail Rail’ for the first time to create a state-of the-art visitor attraction including an exhibition gallery and multi-function event space.  The Mail Rail opened in 1927 and carried the mail along a 6 and a half mile stretch of tunnels from Whitechapel to Paddington. In its heyday, it carried four million letters a day before its closure in 2003.  It is the only railway in the world that was dedicated to delivering mail underground and is one of the most enquired about aspects of British postal history.  It was recently popularised by Michael Portillo in his TV programme, ‘Great British Railway Journeys,’ and many others eagerly seek access to ‘secret’ attractions such as this.  

Early forecasts show that the Mail Rail experience, which will take people on a thrilling 15 minute underground interactive ride, from the depot to the platforms beneath the Mount Pleasant Royal Mail centre, will be a major means of attracting visitors to both the museum and railway.  A 15 minute ride on newly designed trains will journey through the existing tunnels under the Mail centre, with commentary describing the construction of the tunnels, its opening in 1927 when it became the first driverless electrified railway in the world, how mail was moved across London and its operation until 2003. Vehicles on display will include pneumatic rail cars from the 1860s, which were once propelled by air through specially designed tunnels.  Mail Rail remains the only postal underground railway in existence so its preservation and heritage will attract an international audience.