Pete Waterman has been associated with spinning turntables since the early days of his musical career. But on the 1st May 2010 the phrase gained a new meaning as Pete Waterman kindly inaugurated the new turntable at Peak Rail.
It's been a major project to dig out the original turntable pit at Rowsley, re-brick, completely rebuild the turntable acquired from Mold Junction, install, commission and carry out the required inspections but on 1st May 2010 this work reached a triumphant conclusion. Peak Rail had organised a '48624 Steamy Special' day and I was rostered for the morning turn on the '8F' with Dave. 'Royal Pioneer' was shed pilot, with Richard and Robin. We came off shed about 9.45 a.m. and moved to the south end of the 6-coach train via the run-round loop. A long string of immaculate diesels were waiting on the adjacent road for their turn to 'go for a spin'. We hooked onto the stock and John, the guard, gave the load as "six - 225 tons". Pete Waterman arrived and a few photographs were taken.
At about 10.15 a.m., we departed on the first round trip to Matlock Riverside, travelling tender-first to Matlock. By the time we arrived back at Rowsley, there was a large crowd around the turntable and plenty of people elsewhere. We uncoupled the coaches and, once we had the instruction, moved 'light engine' across to the turntable siding. Rob was our shunter and he called us back and 'set' us on the turntable, where we 'screwed down' the handbrake. The 'vacuum tractor' which turns the turntable using the partial vacuum created by the braking system on the lcomotive had been tested with various locomotives but not with 8624. Once the long hose on the turntable had been connected to the front vacuum hose on the locomotive, I started both large and small vacuum ejectors and Pete Waterman engaged the tractor. I fully expected the LMS ejector to be equal to the task but I was surprised at the speed and smoothness of the operation as we were turned through 180 degrees. Pete Waterman made a very well-received speech inviting admiration for the achievements of volunteers all over the country who have re-created steam railways. He then joined us briefly on the footplate and drove the locomotive clear of the turntable, before leaving for another engagement.
I then had the new experience of putting 8624 on the south end of our waiting train with the locomotive facing south. With this new orientation, we took the second service to Matlock Riverside. Of course, a driver will have memorised a series of suitable 'marks' to be able to stop in the correct position at each station but with the engine turned the driver is on the opposite side and a new set of 'marks' are required. We reached Matlock Riverside without incident, where we stood for a while whilst photographers recorded the scene.
After running-round the train, we returned to Rowsley running tender-first. The standard Stanier tender is not ideal running tender-first as far as visibility is concerned, so it's particularly important that the driver and fireman work together as a team.
Once again, we ran round our train and (still a little late) departed on the third round trip to Matlock. Again, we had to run round our train before setting off up the bank to Rowsley. Back at Rowsley, I ran round for the last time before being relieved by Gary, the afternoon driver.8624 performed flawlessly and the operation of the turntable was a delight. Congratulations should go to all the staff and volunteers whose restoration efforts made this special day possible. More pictures.