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.

Jason’s NVR Photo Guide.

Part Three – Overton to Peterborough Nene Valley.

In this final third chapter I will be showing you the popular spots to watch trains between Overton and Peterborough Nene Valley having covered Yarwell to Overton in Chapters 1 & 2. With a public footpath practically paralleling the whole railway all the way from Wansford to Peterborough there are plenty of good public places to view the railway from. 

We start this chapter at the yacht club crossing just to east of Overton station situated on a curve it is a popular spot to see trains while out walking in the Ferry Meadows country park.

71000 Duke of Gloucester heads away from Ferry Meadows station as it was then called heading for Peterborough October 2011.

© Jason Isaac

3F 47406 heads for Wansford October 2018

© Jason Isaac

Orton Mere foot crossing and station are popular spots to watch trains especially on Gala days when the passing loop at the station is being used.

Prototype High Speed Train Class 41 on the trailing end of a class 56 as it heads for Wansford April 2016.

© Jason Isaac

Double header combination Coal Tank 1054 & Pannier Tank 1501 exchange staff with the signalman as they depart Orton Mere for Wansford during the 2015 Steam Gala.

© Jason Isaac

Deltic 55022 Royal Scots Grey passes 46100 Royal Scot which had just come off the main line.

© Jason Isaac

73050 City of Peterborough arrives at Orton Mere in snowy conditions February 2012. 

Class D306 Class 40 Atlantic Conveyor departs Orton Mere for Wansford during spring the 2010 Spring Diesel Gala.

© Jason Isaac

Old friends reunite former Somerset & Dorset locos resident Standard 5 73050 City of Peterborough passes visiting 9F 92212 at Orton Mere station during the Steam Gala 2014. 

© Jason Isaac

Longville Junction along with Castor Bank one the two most popular spots on the railway to see trains going past its here where the fletton loop diverges off. Even though the 2 tracks are actually 2 single lines Longville Junction has got that main line look about it with double track.

D1062 Western Courier passes Longville Junction during the 2010 Autumn Diesel Gala, note how different the crossing use to look like before it was remodelled.

© Jason Isaac

4464 Bittern passes Longville Junction with train for Peterborough during the 2012 Steam Gala.

© Jason Isaac

Class 31452 passes by with a train for Peterborough during the 2016 Spring Diesel Gala.

© Jason Isaac

Austreity 75008 Swiftsure passes Longville with a Santa Special for Peterborough November 2016.

© Jason Isaac

60009 Union of South Africa opens up for a run past the junction during a photo charter September 2017.

© Jason Isaac

One last good spot before we reach Peterborough the foot crossing at Wharf Road is always is good spot to see trains departing Peterborough especially if you are filming.

Large Prairie 4141 departs Peterborough for Wansford March 2013.

© Jason Isaac

Lastly we reach the end of the line at Peterborough Nene Valley station.

4936 Kinlet Hall runs round at Peterborough during the 2011 Steam Gala.

© Jason Isaac

A4 4464 Bittern is uncoupled at Peterborough during the 2012 Steam Gala. 

© Jason Isaac

Well that’s end of the three parts off photographing along the NVR I hope you have enjoyed reading them.

Putting a label on things

Here are two labels from my collection of photographed items.

Whilst not connected directly with the NVR they do show that Peterborough was an important staging post for goods by rail through the area and across the country.

Now the one above is for fish from Mallaig in Scotland to Lowestoft on the East coast.
I would guess some will be thinking why send fish from Scotland to a port on the East Anglian coast?

Well as far as I can find out they used to follow the herring around the coast and it was sent to Lowestoft for processing, should you know differently please drop me an email.

This image above again shows fish from the West coast of Scotland to the East coast of England. But in this case to Gt Yarmouth.

Judging by the date on the top left of the second image these are from the 1930’s

Should you have any more you can add to what I have written above reference the transportion of the fish from one port to another then I would love to hear from you.
Contact details are in the right hand column.

A few more tickets

Previous posts showing old tickets have been popular with some site visitors asking if we have any more.

So here are a few more old tickets. I hope you enjoy them.

Wansford to Penrith
Castor to Northampton for a bicycle
Castor to Northampton 3rd class
Peterborough East to Wansford
Uppingham to Peterborough via Wansford.
Peterborough North Platform Ticket

Old Railway Maps.

There is a lot to be learnt from old railway maps.

Take this one for example:-

Right click on image and save to computer to view a bigger version

If you look at this map you will be able to follow the line from Wansford to Peterborough and beyond.

The keen ones will notice the line from just outside Wansford to Stamford. Also you will notice this map predates the Fletton Loop.

It’s interesting to use something like Google Earth to follow the old lines that whilst on this map don’t exist anymore, the Stamford one being a good example.

Have a try and look at what you can see from current on line maps of what still survives.