Monday, 30 June 2008

'Tyseley 100'

On the 28th and 29th June 2008 Tyseley Depot celebrated the 100th anniversary of its opening by holding 'Tyseley 100'. The event also raised funds for the charity The Railway Children. The original Great Western locomotive depot is now split into two sites - Tyseley Locomotive Works (a subsidiary of Birmingham Railway Museum Trust) dedicated to railway preservation and the Depot run by London Midland which maintains modern Diesel Multiple Units. The two sites were re-joined for 'Tyseley 100' and I made a brief visit on the Saturday.

I was a working volunteer at Birmingham Railway Museum for a number of years. I was a 'late starter' in railway preservation, but I joined the 'Lion' supporters group, the Old Locomotive Committee in time to accompany the venerable locomotive on a number of her visits around the country, including two which 'Lion' made to Birmingham Railway Museum. During these visits, one of the OLCO members let on about my interest in railway signalling. Since the Museum's plans were well advanced for building a new demonstration line incorporating a Great Western signalbox (relocated from Holesmouth Junction), new recruits were being actively recruited. And so I trained as a Guard and Shunter, helped out a bit on the signalling side and passed out as a Signalman. When Driving Experience Courses proved so popular at the Museum, there was heavy demand for people who could tell the trainees a bit about shunting, signalling and, with the benefit of a number of a number of locomotives under restoration to study, the principles of locomotive engineering. I served in this capacity for a while and then gravitated to Instructor Driver on the 'Little Engines' used on the Driving Experience Courses - locomotives like 'Henry', 'Cadbury No. 1' and occasionally one of the 'Panniers'. After some more experience, I was passed out on the 'Big Engines', initially 'Defiant' or 'Clun Castle' but later we had all sorts of visiting engines.

I haven't been active at Birmingham Railway Museum for a number of years so 'Tyseley 100' provided an irresistible opportunity to renew old acquaintances, both human and mechanical. I was delighted to see so many of the people I used to work with (and a few of the people who'd been on Driving Experience Courses with me) still going strong.

There was an impressive line-up of steam around the turntable, but photographic opportunities were rather limited whilst I was there because of the crush of visitors. 5029 'Nunney Castle' stood next to 5043 'Earl of Mount Edgcumbe' (in primer but looking a lot more presentable than the last time I saw her). 7029 'Clun Castle' (shown in the heading photograph) was alongside 4936 'Kinlet Hall' and 4965 'Rood Ashton Hall' (thought to be 'Albert Hall' for years). The first two of the Tyseley Trio of Panniers (7752, 7760) were side-by-side on the turntable. The third member of the troupe (9600) was was giving rides on the demonstration line. Just for good measure, Pannier 9466 pottered about with a short freight train (More pictures of 9466 at Shackerstone).

A lot of interest was caused by the 'Puffing Billy' replica from Beamish Open Air Museum which was giving rides on the short track parallel to the demonstration line.

All very positive. I was less happy to see 'Kolhapur' on display but not in steam and looking a little careworn - this engine had been a particular favourite of mine. 'Cadbury No. 1' is also awaiting its turn for attention and looks rather sad. It was disappointing to see the 'Bloomer' replica in the works, still awaiting completion. The original intention had been to get this tribute to McConnell's famous 2-2-2 design ready for the 150th celebrations of the opening of the London & Birmingham Railway. I hope she'll be operating in time for 175th anniversary, because I'm not likely to be around for the 200-year celebrations!

Over at the London Midland Depot, a big effort had been made to welcome visitors with a line of portable toilets next to a 2-coach buffet, a number of trade stands, children's entertainments and an impressive collection of preserved diesel and electric traction in the outside yard. I found a couple of tempting new and secondhand railway bookstalls and so, agreeing with Oscar Wilde's dictum that "the only thing to do with temptation is give in to it" (at least in connection with the purchase of books), I staggered away from the site with three loaded carrier bags of books.

An immense amount of work is involved in arranging this type of gala and all those participating are to be congratulated on their efforts.

I travelled back via Birmingham Moor Street, where there was a small 'Railway Fayre' to celebrate 100 years of the North Warwickshire Line. There's a short piece on the history of Birmingham New Street here.

My pictures of 'Tyseley 100'.