Oh those tickets are big!

I was reminded today of a comment often heard when people looked at the display on the walls of Orton Mere station.

We had pictures of various things on the wall, amongst them were pictures of old tickets enlarged to A4.

One off the most common comments we heard was:-

“Oh look how big tickets were in the old days!”

Most were amazed when we told them that they had been enlarged so they were easier to see, I could never imagine anybody walking round with an A4 sized ticket in their pocket.

Ghost train: Northampton to Peterborough.

I received this from Mark Hernandez Deputy Editor of Nene Steam. My thanks to him for this contribution.

I’ve seen the video above shared on a few local railway groups I belong to on social media and by a lot of NVR volunteers so I got in contact with James, the young lad who created it . He kindly agreed to a short Q&A over email which I’ve included below.

Hi Marc. No problem. I am glad you like the vid it is probably the longest I have made in this format! (Ghost Train)I’ll try and answer as best I can.

Q – What made you decide to produce a then and now animated journey on the Northampton-Peterborough railway? I take it’s part of a series you’ve been doing of lost/closed railways

A –  I chose the Northampton – Peterborough line in part via a suggestion from one of my followers. Every now and then I will throw a poll or question as to where I should explore next with my various projects – after I had produced several “Ghost Train” films in this style it was recommended that I take a look at the Northampton to Peterborough line. On quick inspection I discovered some interesting changes to the local landscape. (A lot of the track seems to be cutting through water/ lakeland in many places.) I myself am not a local being based in North Norfolk.  However I am always interested in dramatic change from anywhere in the country and railways provide a striking albeit poignant one. 
Q – Have you got any local connections to the original railway or ‘Nene Valley’ area?

A – I have not been to the Nene Valley but no doubt its on the to do list after all these lockdowns!
Q – Can you briefily talk us through the process of how you created the video? Time it took etc
A – I split into phases with these films. First I research the stations along the route – what images are available to use etc then I plot the route out on both the old map and the modern day. I then synchronize the two so they work in tandem with one another. I can then animate the train and add in any extra “cutscenes” showing the on the ground locations as they are now. True trainiacs will note that the locomotive I have been using isn’t authentic to the line but that is more a limitation of my resources and should be taken as illustrative of the route rather than a reflection of the original railway. I can usually get one of these done in a matter of a few days – with the pandemic I have had more time than usual to devote to such projects!
If you could link to my youtube channel that would be a great help. https://www.youtube.com/c/JamesFoxTimeTravelArtist/  Let me know if there are any other questions and I will try  and answer as best I can!

Please visit the James Fox YouTube channel. The history of the railway and its social implications are my areas of interest, so I personally found this video very interesting.

The Wansford to Stamford Branch Line.

Occasionally you will, when trawling through the junk on YouTube come across little gems. Here is one such gem.

© Peterborough Images

The video is from Peterborough Images, please look at their YouTube channel and also their excellent web site at www.peterboroughimages.co.uk where there are many pictures of not only the railways of Peterborough but also pictures from around the city.

My thanks for their permission to link to the video.

Is it a dirty job on the footplate?

Now that’s a question I have been asked on a regular basis.

The answer is it depends on what you think is dirty.

Here is a picture of Harry Baldwin back in 2009, he was a cleaner on steam locos. I often commented the loco was cleaner than he was!!

© Robert Maskill

What’s your most unusual memory?

The other day I received an email, now that in itself is not unusual, I receive many emails every day.

But this one, just out of interest was from a member of the public not a member of the railway and asked the following question.

What is your most unusual memory?

Now that’s not an easy question to answer as I have so many memories of the funny, the sad and the unusual at the station I ran for over 14 years.

But one incident springs to mind and it is from the first year I was on the railway.

Now my first year was spent split between working at Ferry Meadows station and working on the trains as a TTI, and it is doing the latter job that this incident comes from:-

Highlight of the year without doubt was opening the compartment on the Mk1’s with the blinds drawn. On opening it I was greeted with the sight of a young lady on her knees in front of her boyfriend. She was topless. I said “Tickets please” she did not flinch, he almost went through the roof in shock, I clipped their tickets and left with the comment that I would not charge for the two bald headed children and shut the compartment door behind me.

Never a dull moment!!

For the first five years I wrote a short article covering each year.
These can be read on my old blog site at www.arkwrightsoforton.co.uk Should you read them I hope you enjoy them. Some of the information in them is no longer relevant but they do show my first five years on The Nene Valley Railway.

All about that stuff called Coal.

My thanks to Paul for this article, I hope you all enjoy reading it and learn something about the black stuff that helps power our steam locomotives.

By Paul Roe Locomotive Department Manager

Coal is very much in the news at the moment as the UK ceases to mine its own coal, some say we are facing a coal crisis and soon we won’t have any coal left and Heritage railways will soon struggle to operate. This is far from correct and coal is and will still be imported from other parts of the world, the ironic issue being the carbon footprint is much larger importing coal then actually mining it in the UK.  Many years ago in the heyday of coal mining, people were scared that if mining continued the UK would float and float away 

Coal is classified into four main types, or ranks: anthracitebituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. The ranking depends on the types and amounts of carbon the coal contains and on the amount of heat energy the coal can produce. The United States holds the world’s biggest coal reserves. The nation’s proved coal reserves as of December 2018 stood at 250.2 billion tonnes (Bt) accounting for approximately 24% of the worlds proven coal reserves. Anthracite is found on the east coast in the US, South Africa, Australia, Western Canada, China and Russia. Two-thirds of Russia’s coal reserves are anthracite. Because of its efficiency and thus less carbon and sulphur usage per watt of power, anthracite is also the ‘cleanest’ coal in the world.

The NVR over the years have used coal from across the Globe, we have used Scottish, Welsh, Cumbrian, Russian, Polish, Bosnian. By far the cleanest is Welsh Steam coal, this coal provides high heat and less smoke, but is more expensive and takes a longer time to combust, so as a fireman you have to think about boiler management earlier than using a non-steam coal. At present a tonne of coal is averaging at £175 a tonne plus vat, coal consumption is different on each locomotive and several factors come in to play, size of boiler and firebox, how the driver operates the locomotive, the load that is being hauled, steam heat, is the coal of good source? So coal steams are terrible and the coal will just not burn hot. A locomotive the size of 92 Squadron would use up to about 1 tonne of coal per trip on the NVR, if the locomotive is running not stop less coal would be used and the locomotive would be working more efficiently. Currently the NVR is running on Scottish coal, this is a good coal but can be smoky coal, this can be controlled by the fireman, if you see dark thick black smoke, this would indicate that the fireman has over fired and not enough air is entering the firebox to burn the gasses away. 

Composition of Air and Coal

 Combustion takes place when coal burns in air, and correct combustion can only be obtained by bringing together the right amounts of coal and air at the same time. To examine this statement more fully it is necessary that we should know something of the chemical constituents of coal and air.

 Coal varies in quality and composition, but the greater part of it consists of carbon, the remainder being composed of gases and ash (see Fig. 1).

    Air consists of a mixture by weight of approximately 23% oxygen and 77% nitrogen, or when measured by volume, 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen.

Coal comes in all different sizes and the ideal size of coal for burning on a steam locomotive is “The size of a man’s fist”, anything any bigger will take longer to burn and can make cold spots in the fire bed, we are currently in stock with coal on the NVR we about 35 tonnes of Scottish coal on site, this will soon be added to with about 28 tonnes of Northumberland coal which is being provided by West Coast Rail and a very good price. The Miniature Railway at Wansford operates on anthracite coal and these are the size of beans, anthracite is used on all steam models and it is smokeless so this stops the smaller boiler tubes furring up and creates a high temperature for the smaller fireboxes 

Great Northern Lamp

Just a couple of images of a Great Northern Railway Company lamp from New England I photographed a few years ago.

Not the greatest of images but they do show the lamp and also it’s identification plate.

© Robert Maskill
© Robert Maskill

Does the river flood very often?

One question that I have often been asked over the years, especially when it was raining was does the river flood very often?

The answer is yes it does on a regular basis and depending on the amount of rain the level of the river can change dramatically.

This year Nene Park was quoted as saying that it’s one of the worst winters yet for flooding.

Here are three pictures taken a few years ago at Orton Mere showing how the river can overflow and how close it can get to the station.

The lock at Orton Staunch © Patrick Knight
© Patrick Knight
© Patrick Knight

The above show the waters flooding immediately behind platform 2.

As a visitor said to me a few years ago. It makes a change from photographing trains.