Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of weddings and Windermere

5th May 2014

Well, by rights there shouldn't really be a blog this week. I mean, on Wednesday I popped down during the afternoon to meet D8 as it rolled in to Rowsley, as the Operation Director was on board and he would have with him his plan for utilising 14 901 during May. Basically this has the loco in use every Saturday and Tuesday after the first week, but I might as well have saved myself the trouble, for within an hour or two of me getting home, someone had put it out on the WNXX forum anyway.

While I was at Rowsley, I fired up James and gave it a bit of running (engine only) to check the batteries were OK – provided you trip the cold-start it now starts quickly which saves hammering the aged batteries too hard, yet sadly a day or so later someone who better remain nameless flattened them...

But this weekend went by without progress on the collection as it was the weekend my daughter got married. It was back up at the hotel on Windermere where her now-husband proposed 15 months or so ago. However fortunately - as I would otherwise have nothing to write about - it was not without railway interest, as having arrived Saturday lunchtime, bringing the bride over from Darlington, Andrew and I were charged with keeping “entertained” a young man after whom Sentinel “Tom” is named. And seeing that the R&ER is a touch too far away, we naturally gravitated to the Lakeside & Haverthwaite.

The L&H is all that remains of the Furness branch from the coast to Windermere, planned for preservation in its entirety but cut off by road improvements on the A590. In those days, the impecunious preservationists were told that they could have the whole line if they paid for a bridge to get the new dual carriageway over the railway, how kind of the Ministry of Transport!

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Anyway, the remaining stub is about 3.5 miles in length, making it about the same as Peak Rail, though to me it seemed shorter. In action on Saturday was a Barclay 0-6-0T, one of several locos that ended up at Thomas Muir's scrapyard, and an industrial having come from the Scottish coal industry. As back up, I assume, is a Bagnall 0-6-0ST, so again an industrial: the “inevitable” Austerity is in the display shed, as are the two “main line” Fairburn 2-6-4Ts, one of which has had its boiler removed.

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Haverthwaite station is one of those prototypes that a modeller would love to cite as it comprises a two platform station squashed between two tunnels. I presume the line was always single, but both bores are double, with the coastal end loop running through one and the inland bore carrying a headshunt for accessing the goods yard, which today is now the car park. In years gone by, Haverthwaite had a significant traffic in locally-made gunpowder, and a horse-worked 3ft gauge line once came into the yard from the factories for transport away by rail. Two of the vans that carried the gunpowder are preserved, but are in the open and deteriorating – they could do with being in a better position and backed up with something to explain their features to the public.

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Anyway, our train arrived from Lakeside and comprised 4 well-laden Mk 1s, and the Barclay 0-6-0T proceeded to water up at the coastal end, the tank being just before the tunnel mouth, making an interesting backdrop when the lighting is good.

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The ride itself is pleasant and smooth, but seemed rather slow, though maybe I am confused by spending most of my rides on the footplate of a 14 at the moment (as opposed to the cushions). The only intermediate station is Newby Bridge, a couple of miles along, and we stopped there on the lake-bound run. Arrival at Lakeside however is a bit of a disappointment from the enthusiast's point of view. Once it had three platforms and goods yard, now one platform face remains, platform two exists but is fenced off and acts only as a run-round, and platform 3 and the yard are in light industrial use- and rather unsightly. Passenger facilities are minimal, though to be fair, most passengers are transferring either to a road coach or a steamer service (once railway-operated, nowadays private) and the atmosphere was reminiscent of a commuter hub. The signal box still exists and is operated, though the platform length is scarcely necessary and the loco disappears from sight in order to run round.

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Our return run was uneventful, Newby Bridge was passed without stopping, and we watched the run round and subsequent departure before returning to our hotel.

I have stopped at Haverthwaite several times over the years, normally when heading towards the Cumbrian coast on business and it doesn't seem to have changed much, which presumably means as a “formula” it works and is viable. Certainly the loadings I saw on a Bank Holiday Saturday were satisfactory, but I suspect more passengers originate at Lakeside, and, having reached Haverthwaite, see little to tempt them to do other than take the next train back. Certainly the car park was nowhere near pressed to capacity, and demanding you pay an extra £1 to park when you come to pay your fare at the ticket office seemed to me to be a trifle mean.

So, hopefully it is back to normal next weekend, with 14 901 rostered to come out on Saturday. Oh, the wedding? Well, as a closing picture, here is the happy couple being photographed by the official photographers as well as numerous passing Japanese tourists (ironic as they are honeymooning in Japan!) on the pier where the groom proposed. And the rowing boat in the background – whether this is a frequent occurrence or not I don't know – saw them, raised their oars and gave them three cheers.

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