A Fascination for Steam Engines.

West Country Class Express Engine, Lord Dowding, No 34052. Originally Named Braunton, No 34046, It was renamed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated and admired steam engines. Whether it is a main line express engine or a small industrial locomotive they have always enthralled me.

This all comes about from an early age when we always seemed to be looking at and watching steam locomotives.

My family have history and connections with the railways. My grandfather worked on the railways on the East Coast mainline. He clearly had a fondness for the engines. I remember clearly when visiting my grandparents there were numerous books about the railways and we often went on walks via the local railway station and stood to watch the trains pass by.

An A4 pacific locomotive pulling an open wagon goods train at Sandy, Bedfordshire.

My father has always been a steam enthusiast. He speaks of days when he would go train spotting when he was a boy, and it seems he never got out of the habit. His enthusiasm has clearly passed onto me.

Hornby model of the Mallard A4 pacific engine, No 4468.

Model railways have always been present in my life. When I was a boy, I was introduced to the pleasure of making a layout and running the trains and today I have a collection of model trains. Regretfully they are hiding in our attic, but it is my hope to have a permanent layout one day.

Llangollen Railway Station on the Llangollen Heritage Railway.

I love visiting heritage railways to see steam engines in action. It is difficult to explain but the noise, smells, motion of pistons, clatter of coaches and wagons, even the workings of the track and signalling still have me enthralled.

It still amazes me when you consider that so much railway was constructed during the industrial revolution. So much has disappeared, and yet it is a pleasure to find and explore places where the railways were constructed. Discovering our industrial past gives me great pleasure. I study old maps to find old railway lines and use current maps to see if anything remains.

Great Linford and Bradwell Railway Stations, Milton Keynes.

In Milton Keynes we have an old railway line that is now a Redway (a path for cyclists and pedestrian). The old Wolverton to Newport Pagnell line. There are still remnants of the railway past and it makes for an excellent route to go running. So I can do two past times that I love at the same time. Exploring an old railway whilst going for a run. Absolute bliss for me.

Race the Train at the East Lancs Railway in Bury, Lancashire.

I shall never forget an amazing experience of Racing a Train last year. This was made possible by a dear friend – https://savagemumruns.wordpress.com/ – who gifted me the opportunity to do the run. It occurred at the East Lancs Railway in Bury, Lancashire. On arrival we discovered we would be running against the Union of South Africa, an A4 streamlined pacific locomotive. I am not going to bore you with details of the engine, its history, and heritage, but suffice to say that it was a fantastic experience that I will not forget. Thank you. Read about the adventure in her excellent blog – https://savagemumruns.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/savagemum-races-a-train/

The Mallard, No 4468, in the National Railway Museum, York. (Credit to K. Platt for the photo)

I find the way how railways and steam engines evolved fascinating. From the very early days of steam traction and the engineers (Richard Trevithick, George Stephenson, et al) through to the time when steam was being replaced with diesel and electric locomotives, right up to today.

Not forgetting the pinnacle of steam engine achievement with the Mallard locomotive creating the world record for steam engine speed in July 1938, achieving a speed of 126 miles per hour.

The commemorative plaque on the side of the Mallard.
Tornado, No 60163, at Milton Keynes Central Railway Station, April 2013.

From the first days of steam railways, right through to the present-day they have always commanded admiration, fascination, excitement, and awe. Even today, the Tornado mainline express steam engine (which was only constructed ten years ago), and the Flying Scotsman engine along with others draw large crowds when they are working, and I love being one of the crowd.

Steam trains and engines will always be working. They will always be popular and create an attraction. Heritage railways are becoming more and more popular as the years pass by and crowds are drawn to a railway line if there is a steam train passing.

May it always continue……..

Write a blog they said….

I have had it said to me that I should write a blog. This makes me wonder why and what should I write about? I am a keen runner, I have a fascination for steam engines, and I have spent my working life in the public sector within custodial institutions. What could I possibly write about?

Perhaps a little background scenario may help.

Running in the local parkrun with my lovely wife.

Running – My running adventures started just over three years ago. I reluctantly joined a local running club after some encouragement from my lovely wife. My interest and enthusiasm for running had been non existent prior to this. At first it was a battle to put the training shoes on and join in with the running activities but, surprisingly, I soon got to enjoy the running. We both joined in with a beginners group for running with the local running club. Within a couple of weeks I was hooked. Three and half years later and after numerous events, including marathons and half marathons, I love running and have become a run lead and have had the privilege and honour to be a mentor for other runners. I am now in training for another marathon. It is my plan to blog about my adventure to complete this event, giving some hints and tips along the way.

60009 Union Of South Africa

Steam Engines – I have had a fascination with steam engines from my earliest memories. The looks, motion, sound, and smells have always intrigued me. There is something amazing in their design and engineering and when the engines are in motion belching out clouds of steam and smoke for me it is an amazing experience and sight to see. It is in my blood. Older generations of the family worked on the railways in steam days, some of my earliest memories are seeing steam trains, my life has been full with railways. It is fair to say that I am a steam train enthusiast and love to visit heritage railways. I have been known to stand by a main railway line waiting for a steam special to pass by. Steam trains will chuff into my blog on occasions.

In uniform

Public Sector Work – My working life has been inside custodial institutions. My career in Her Majestys Prison Service commenced in 1981, directly after leaving school, and ended in 2014, when I retired. A total of thirty three years in custody. It has been a long and illustrious career during which I have worked in different establishments in different roles and witnessed many changes in the prison service. There have been good times, happy times, sad times, and some truly dreadful times. My experiences in a public service may be boring to some, but I hope to others they are interesting, and perhaps give some hope and insight into what it is like to work in a prison.

So, in answer to my initial question, it looks like the blog is going to be about running, steam engines, and reflecting on my life in the prison service.

This could be interesting……..