Ecclesbourne Valley Diesel Weekend.

I've been down to Rugby to visit my brother and family. On the way back I thought I'd visit the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway that runs between Duffield and Wirksworth in Derbyshire. It turned out to be diesel weekend, which was a bit disappointing for me but I nevertheless enjoyed the ride. There were classes 26, 31 and 33 in action and I enjoyed the sound of their growly old diesel engines. The class 31 was hauling a 3 car Metro cammell DMU (class 101). I don't know if its engines don't work or if they were just short of coaches. From Wirksworth a short line carries on up a 1 in 29 gradient to Ravenstor, the old limestone loading point. This was being worked by a Derby Lightweight railcar from about 1956, the sort that was used to try to save the Banbury Buckingham line. I don't think it's engine is in very good shape. As it climbed the incline it left a trail of blue smoke hanging in the air.

Diesel events attract serious railway enthusiasts. Megabytes of video and still photos were being generated, some people were writing things in notebooks and there was an atmosphere of serious study.

Opposite me on the railcar sat a fat man and a thin man, both in their 60s and dressed for a 1950s locospotters club outing. The fat man said in a disparaging tone "I think one visit is more than enough for me",. "Oh" said the thin man, the fatty continued wth a disapproving air "this line wasn't even part of the branch". "It was used for mineral traffic" the thin man ventured. "Yes" continued his friend, now sounding a little angry, "but it never had a passenger service"!  Clearly he will refrain, on principle, from the delights of the Foxfield Railway, the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway and the Nant Gwernol extension of the Talyllyn Railway.

Class 31 arriving at Duffield with the DMU set

The Class 33 "Crompton" at Shottle, the crossing point for trains, viewed through the rear cab of the Metro Cammell DMU.

The Derby Lightweight waits for passengers then sets out up the incline to Ravenstor.

Serious railway enthusiasts mill about in the shade of the railcar at Ravenstor.

An industrial diesel with permanent way train in a siding at Shottle.

31st July 2010 On My Way at Last

2010-07-31 @ 05:29:46 by ashtonboatman

On my way at last

The donkey rattled and bucked along the line that had miraculously escaped Dr Beechings axe. It deposited me and my bike at Romiley and then scuttled off up the single track to Rose Hill.

The Sheffield train soon arrived and I climbed aboard. It was full of elderly walkers with boots and rucksacks heading for the hills. One venerable gentleman had a bagfull of maps and kept everyone else informed about the passing countryside with a running commentary. We threaded the beautiful Hope Valley and at each stop some walkers got off and other returning ramblers climbed aboard. Strangely, the homeward bound walkers were visibly younger. Perhaps the hills have a rejuvenating effect.

The geographical encyclopaedia got off at Grindleford, where we entered a long tunnel through to the suburbs of Sheffield. Soon the diesel unit was sliding into a platform to terminate at the main station.

In a bay platform there rested a shiny and sleek new East Midlands Railways train for London, first stop Derby. I boarded it but couldn't find a place for my bike. The train was empty and not due to leave for 30 minutes, so I went to look for another. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a Cross Country Voyager arrived and soon me and my bike were aboard and swishing through the Derbyshire countryside like a guided missile.

My destination, Duffield, flashed by and the train began to slow for the Derby stop. I unloaded my bike and went to look for the next Matlock train as these stop at Duffield. I had not long missed one, and so I spent 45 minutes happily watching trains come and go. Across the tracks the former headquarters of the Midland Railway is now a college.

A single railcar clattered into platform 1 with Matlock on it's destination panel. I clambered aboard and were soon rattling along back the way I had come. As we slowed for the Duffield stop I went to get my bike, but my way was blocked by the guard who was trying to fine an old lady for not buying her ticket at the station. She was having none of it and was quite happy to pay the proper fare but not a £20 fine. I thought this was a brilliant technique for discouraging passengers. It was obvious to me that the lady was not a fare dodger but just someone who didn't understand the rules.

Reluctantly, the guard let me past, then opened the door to allow me to detrain at Duffield. The bike ride could now begin.

26th July 2010 What I did on my Holidays

2010-07-26 @ 05:22:12 by ashtonboatman

What I did on my holidays

I have a strange idea of holidays. Unless I go on my own or with my partner or a few good friends, canal boating is work, though work that I enjoy. I don't like too much heat, so travelling to hot countries is out, even if I could afford it and didn't feel bad about the carbon footprint. I don't like inactivity, so lying on a beach is not for me. I don't have a lot of money, so that rules out all sorts of options.

What I like to do is to get on my bike and cycle slowly through the land, seeing what I see and stopping to explore whatever interests me. In the evening I find a secluded spot, usually a bit of woodland off the beaten track, and set up camp. I light a fire to cook a meal and sleep under a tarpaulin stretched between trees.

I mark a line on a map between two points picked pretty much at random, then follow that line as closely as I can. 5 years ago I set off on a line from Ashton to Zouch, a little known row of houses on the River Soar near Loughborough. I got as far as Duffield near Derby. Last week I decided to continue the journey.

My plan had been to set out on Monday, but the need to collect an engine for "Forget me Not" caused me to put it off until Tuesday. All of Tuesday was taken up with sorting out bilge pumps so that the boats had a chance of staying afloat whilst I was away. It was on Wednesday morning that I was finally able to drop the van off with a volunteer driver and set out.Full of the joys of the open road I set out on my bike, with bags and pots and pans dangling all over. I got about 300 yards when a telltale psssshishpsssishpssssish from the back wheel informed me that I had a puncture. I unloaded the bike, upended it and removed the tyre. Soon the tube was mended, but I discovered that my brand new bicycle pump would not put sufficient pressure into the tyre.

On a soggy back tyre I rode back to surprise the boatsitters at Portland Basin as I searched for another pump. The only one I could find had been sunk when "Hazel" went down and was a little rusty. It also lacked the right size tube, so I had to walk up to Wilkinsons to get a universal one. Their tube leaked so much air at the joints as to be useless, but I was able to transfer the universal adapter part on to another tube and get a bit more air into the tyre.

As I rode on through Dukinfield it soon became clear that the pressure was still not sufficient. I plodded on and soon came to Hyde North station, heaved my loaded bike over the footbridge and enjoyed bread and Houmus as I waited for the train. Soon the hourly nodding donkey to Rose Hill clattered over the points and stopped at the platform. I hauled my bike aboard the lightly loaded railbus and sat down as the engines started to rev. I was on my way at last.