17 March 2017
Toddington England United Kingdom - During World War II the railways of Britain were for a time, invaded, by
locomotives that shared none of the elegant lines of typical British designs.
They were chunky, powerful-looking, robust, and oh, so American.
They were the S160 2-8-0s that were constructed in considerable numbers, many shipped to Britain for the D-Day invasion of France in 1944.
But while they were being stockpiled, several of them found use on British railways, and the Great Western was the largest user, employing them mainly on coal traffic from South Wales.
The class was designed by Major J.W. Marsh of the Railway Branch of the US Corps of Engineers, later to become the United States Army Transportation Corps (USATC).
During the 1930s, the US Army adapted a Baldwin 2-8-0 design of World War I vintage to create class S159, of which just eight were built in 1941.
Major Marsh, in conjunction with the Lima locomotive works in Ohio, undertook a large number of improvements, including details from the "lease-lend" S200, a 2-8-2 built for the British Army (none of which ever reached Britain), to create the S160 class.
The first of them rolled off the production line in 1942.
There were variations of the class too, S162 and S166 for Russia (with its broader gauge track), and S161 for Jamaica.
The S160 could hardly be labelled an aesthetic triumph.
Instead, it was very much an austerity design intended for quick economic manufacture, simple maintenance, and a relatively short working life.
Cast bar frames, greased axle boxes, fabricated rather than cast components, and wide tyres contributed to relatively light weight and the ability to cope with the most indifferent of track.
The boiler incorporated thermic siphons that supported the brick arch, although these became troublesome in practice and later boilers omitted this feature.
The all-steel boiler steamed well, with or without the siphons, while the wide firebox could burn almost anything combustible, including oil.
The bogie tender was large by UK standards, carrying 6,500 US gallons (5,400 Imperial gallons) of water and nine US tons (eight long, UK, tons) of coal.
The cab was roomy and comfortable with controls easy to reach for both driver and fireman.
Use in the UK
In all, 2,120 S160s were produced, construction being shared between Lima, Alco (American Locomotive Company), and Baldwin.
Of these, nearly 800 were shipped to Britain under a lease-lend agreement signed by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The rest were shipped direct to Europe, North Africa, and China.
The first 398 to arrive were used by the British War Department to supplement depleted locomotive stocks and high traffic demands in the UK, although adaptations were carried out in UK works to make them suitable for use here, not least of which was turning the wheel flanges to suit UK track.
Even so, they had a tendency to "snatch" point work when running in reverse.
Their distribution was as follows:
Their use in the UK was relatively short-lived as they were all taken back into USATC stock after D-Day and shipped to mainland Europe.
The locomotives must have been a shock to GWR crews as they were quite unlike anything that had ever run on the system before.
But while GWR sensibilities may not have led them to be liked, in practice they proved to be extremely powerful, surprisingly economical, and entirely suitable for heavy freight traffic.
They also enjoyed rapid acceleration and were also often used for troop trains and, occasionally, ordinary passenger traffic.
However, they did suffer a high failure rate, they tended to develop hot driving axle boxes while those fitted with thermic siphons tended to suffer leaks and tubeplate cracks.
The locomotive steam brake was very poor, particularly when working unfitted trains.
In the boilers, a major weakness was excessive corrosion and fatigue of the firebox crown bolts, especially if the boiler water level was allowed to fall too low or there was an accumulation of scale on the firebox crown.
As a result, there were five incidents of the crown collapsing while in UK use, a disaster for the crew, of course, although only one such event resulted in fatality of a fireman.
That actually happened near Honeybounre on the Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham line with a Margam-bound freight, in December 1941.
The conclusion of the accident inquiry found that a contributory factor was the unusual gauge frame design, which could give a false reading if the screw valves (quite different to UK gauge frame valves) were not opened properly, in other words, a satisfactory water level could be indicated when the water level was, in fact, dangerously low.
Incidentally, the gauge glass was designed to last the life of the locomotive, rather than a protected glass tube as in UK practice, the American version was a bored solid square-section block of glass, the light refracting in a way that made the water appear black and easy to read.
After hostilities ceased, the USATC transferred most of the surviving locomotives to countries throughout Europe whose railways were struggling to get back to some kind of normality.
After the war, the following countries eventually took members of the class into their own stock:
Several locomotives surplus to USATC requirements were sold direct to other railway systems.
The locomotive visiting the GWSR for the 2017 Cotswold Festival of Steam is number 6046, which never ran in the UK, but was delivered straight to France from the builder, Baldwin, arriving in 1945.
After the war, French National Railways (SNCF) sold the engine to Hungarian State Railways (MAV) where it become number 411.144.
The locomotive was eventually privately bought out of industrial use and shipped to the UK, and after partial restoration at Tyseley, was bought by Greg Wilson in 2006 for use on the Churnet Valley Railway.
The engine steamed for the first time in Britain in 2012 and has been a reliable performer ever since.
Although many only survived for a very short time, a good number continued in use until relatively recently and several survive either preserved by railway museums across Europe and in America or are dumped.
Six have been imported or re-imported to the UK, some of which saw service on British railways before D-Day.
Only a small handful ever found their way back to their country of birth.
16 March 2017
Swanage Isle of Purbeck Dorset United Kingdom - Classic locomotives will be steaming into Dorset for a nostalgic
rail trip down memory lane.
Swanage Railway will host the largest gathering of working classic 1940s Bulleid Pacifics express steam locomotives since 1967.
The Strictly Bulleid event marks the 50th anniversary of the end of British Rail steam trains in southern England.
Bulleid Pacifics used to haul trains on the Southern Railway between London and Weymouth before electric and diesel trains took over.
Four of the locos are coming back to Dorset to join a fifth already at Swanage to haul trains on the nine-and-a-half mile length of the Purbeck line for the event from Friday, 31 Mar 2017, to Sunday, 2 Apr 2017.
Swanage Railway general manager Matt Green said, "We are looking forward to the sight of five classic 1940s Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives in action which will be the largest gathering of Bulleid Pacifics since the end of steam trains in southern England during the summer of 1967.
"It will be very evocative and reminiscent of the Bournemouth and Weymouth locomotive depots from the mid-1940s through to the end in July, 1967.
The visiting locos are West Country classes number 34046 "Braunton", number 34092 "City of Wells", as well as Battle of Britain classes number 34053 "Sir Keith Park", and number 34081 "92 Squadron".
A fifth Bulleid at the event is the Swanage Railway-based Battle of Britain class number 34070 "Manston" which sports its original 1940s air-smoothed casing over the boiler.
The huge frames of yet to be restored West Country class Bulleid Pacific number 34010 "Sidmouth" will be on display at Corfe Castle station.
Learn more about the Swanage Railway in this article.
11 March 2017
Sakura Japan - What could be prettier than a steam locomotive passing next to blossoming sakura cherry
The combination between the delicate flowers and the raw power of the old time locomotive would make a very enjoyable visit for any railway enthusiast, and not only just for them.
There are a few places in Japan where you can still see functional steam locomotives.
The easiest to access is the small steam railway of the Kyoto Railway Museum, which in this season recreates the feeling of spring times past.
16 March 2017
Pittston Pennsylvania USA - The Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad Historical Society will host a happy
hour meet and greet 4 May 2017 at Susquehanna Brewing Company, Pittston.
Proceeds will benefit the restoration of Boston & Maine steam locomotive 3713, "The Constitution", at Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Festivities are from 17:30 to 20:00 featuring a brewery tour, happy hour appetizers, live jazz, and a short presentation on the 3713.
A cash bar in the SBC tasting room will feature the brewery's line of locally produced beers.
Tickets are US$25 and limited to 50 persons and are available online at www.project3713.com.
Tickets are also available by check from event chairman Ed Philbin, 36 E. Cole Street, Pittston, PA, USA, 18640 made payable to B&M 3713 Restoration.
The Pacific class steam locomotive was built in 1934 in Lima, Ohio, for passenger service on the B&M.
The railroad held a contest for school children to name its new locomotives and the 3713 was named "The Constitution".
The railroad and the original Steamtown museum in New England saved the locomotive from scrapping.
It last ran in excursion service in 1958.
Project 3713 is a partnership between the L&WV and Steamtown.
The L&WV, a 501C non-profit, is focused on raising funds for the mechanical repairs to return the locomotive to service.
The organization is currently raising US$750,000 for the necessary repairs, US$250,000 of that has already been raised.
Number 3713 is owned by Steamtown.
When complete, the locomotive will be used in excursion service by Steamtown.
The L&WV is dedicated to preserving and interpreting transportation history in NEPA chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.
16 March 2017
Ficksburg South Africa - On 1 Apr 2017 Josefina Pitra Diakite, the Angolan ambassador to South Africa, will open
the Stars of Sandstone 2017 Steam and Heritage Festival in the Eastern Free-State and officiate at a naming ceremony where one of the seven authentically
restored Angolan narrow gauge steam locomotives dating back to the early part of the last century, will be named after her, "Josefina".
The occasion will commemorate a historical collaboration between the Angolan authorities and the Sandstone Heritage Trust, whereby nearly three months were spent during 2002 evaluating the number of heritage two-foot narrow gauge locomotives which survived the Angolan hostilities, which ended with the death of Jonas Savimbi of UNITA that year.
Several locomotives were found to be intact near a number of sugar mills in Angola, resulting in seven of these relics being restored by the Sandstone Heritage Trust, which has, after many years of commitment to this milestone project, completed the task and are now unveiling the authentically restored locomotives, some complete with their original name plates.
The Sandstone Heritage Trust will release these steam locomotives, originally mostly ordered from the manufacturers O&K (Orenstein & Koppel) in Germany and Decauville in France, for use should Angola rebuild its heritage railways.
All costs relating to the recovery, transportation, and restoration of the locomotives were absorbed by the Sandstone Heritage Trust in this bilateral agreement between Sandstone and Angola.
The Stars of Sandstone Steam and Heritage Festival
Launched in 1999, the Stars of Sandstone Steam and Heritage Festival takes place in the picturesque Eastern Free-State of South Africa from 30 Mar 2017 to 9 Apr 2017.
The award-winning Sandstone Estates will provide world-class entertainment for all ages, with vistas of the magnificent Maluti Mountains, cosmos flowers as far as the eye can see, 30 kilometres of private railway track, with steam trains, military vehicles, trek oxen, tractors, vintage vehicles, and classic aircraft to provide fun for local as well as international visitors.
Described as probably the most diverse and spectacular steam and heritage event in the world, the Sandstone Heritage Trust endeavours to save, restore, and utilize heritage assets across a broad spectrum to live up to its motto of, "Saving the best of the past for the future".
The directors' efforts have been recognized with the 2016 Business of the Year Gold Winner for Tourism award in the annual ROCCI/FNB Business Awards in November 2016.
18 March 2017
Middlesbrough Yorkshire England United Kingdom - An impressive looking steam train "The Whitby Flyer"
has stormed through Teesside.
The incredible 10-coach train "The Whitby Flyer" made its way through Middlesbrough station on its way to Whitby.
Flanked by a steam locomotive at each end, it started at York station and left just before 09:00.
It moved steadily northwards, speeding along the East Coast Main Line through Thirsk and Northallerton, with stops to pick up passengers.
It then pulled into Darlington station, where it reversed its direction of travel and proceeded along the route of the 1825 Stockton & Darlington Railway.
And train spotters came out in droves to catch a glimpse of the loco as it whizzed through Middlesbrough, after passing through Eaglescliffe and Thornaby.
It then carried on through Redcar and Saltburn, before steaming along the Esk Valley line through the northern part of the North Yorkshire Moors.
"The Whitby Flyer" reached its destination at 13:15 and allowed riders to spend a few hours in the seaside town before retracing its route back to York.
The day's featured steam trains were the ex-LNER B1 4-6-0 number 61264 and BR Standard Class 4 2-6-0 number 76084.
Standard class tickets to ride on "The Whitby Flyer" were on sale for £99.
18 March 2017
Ropley Hampshire England United Kingdom - The Mid-Hants Railway Watercress Line is marking science and
engineering week by encouraging families to take part in a host of captivating experiments and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour.
The event, which takes place this weekend (18-19 Mar 2017), is being run by the "Canadian Pacific Project" and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Science and engineering week runs from 10 to 18 Mar 2017 and is a celebration of the best of British for these industries.
It will see fascinating events rolled out across the UK for people of all ages.
Science experiments at the railway viewing gallery will include lighting a lightbulb with just a comb, learning to write invisible messages to friends, and seeing how far slime can be stretched.
Families can also explore the world of engineering with a behind-the-scenes tour of the workshops and yard where they can test their knowledge with a simple machine spotter sheet.
Caroline Appleton, marketing manager at the Watercress Line, said, "We are marking science and engineering week by giving families the chance to take part in exciting experiments and by going on a special tour of our railway workshops, providing great entertainment for all the family. With the Watercress Line's tradition and commitment to fun education, we are delighted to be able to offer such an exciting weekend that visitors will love. The railway obviously owes a debt of gratitude to the wonders of science and engineering, so we felt it was fitting to put on a special weekend to celebrate this."
Activities take place between 10:30 and 16:00 and are free to passengers.
Tickets cost £16 for adults and £8 for children aged two to 16.
"Canadian Pacific" is a massive steam locomotive built during the Second World War at Eastleigh when the workforce included a large number of women.
This is why "Canadian Pacific" is of interest to women who might not usually look twice at a steam locomotive.
In its 75 year life, it would have touched the lives of many people.
This not only includes those who worked on the railways or drove this locomotive faster than the Flying Scotsman, but also troop movements in wartime, taking immigrants from Southampton Docks, hauling prestigious boat trains, and holiday makers travelling to the south coast.
The "Canadian Pacific Project" helps job seekers, talks to WI groups, works with student film makers, and runs family fun days, probably not things associated with steam engine restoration.
But these are nevertheless all parts of the Watercress Line's Heritage Lottery Fund-supported "Canadian Pacific Project" that will see their flagship steam locomotive return to service.
Learn more about The Watercress Line in this article.