Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Brewood Hall Maintenance

Of course, trying to look after an old, listed building is a bit like the saying about painting the Forth Bridge - as soon as you finish, you need to start again (although Network Rail claim to now use a special long-life paint - we shall see). A lot of people seem to believe that if you have a listed building, there is Government support to preserve it for future generations. Sadly, not so. Listing brings obligations but no benefits. What many owners find particularly irksome is that when an individual spends money on the maintenance of a listed building, not only do those funds come from taxed income but that all repairs also carry the standard rate of VAT - a "double-whammy" which can be a significant additional burden.

A few fairly recent examples of maintenance work are outlined below.

External Repainting

When I came to the Hall, lead-based primer offering excellent performance was still in use. Health and Safety legislation then banned the use of lead in paints, leaving zinc-based primers as the best alternative. After a few years, the use of zinc, too, was banned. Modern water-based primers have very poor performance compared with the earlier options. In September 2013, external repainting as necessary was carried out. The view below shows an upper window with flaking paint removed prior to re-painting.

Window awaiting repainting.

Whilst a ladder was in position on the rear elevation, I took a few pictures, included in the Brewood Hall Roof album, linked below.

This picture was taken from a ladder on the rear elevation, during repainting in 2013. John Keay foots the ladder for the photographer. Note the telecommunications 'drop wire' L to R in the foreground

Manhole Cover

The cost of this little job was actually covered by insurance. In connection with some ongoing maintenance work, we had a skip delivered. When the lorry came to collect the loaded skip, the front wheel cracked a cast iron manhole cover in the yard. This was a bit surprising - the manhole cover had been replaced a few years earlier in connection with renovation of the Small Barn and a heavy-duty cover had been specified. The skip firm's insurance covered the damage so, in November 2013, Pete and Jim cut out the old frame and fitted an 'extra heavy duty' manhole cover.

Jim cutting out the old manhole cover frame.

Soil Pipe

Most of the rain water pipes and soil pipes at Brewood Hall are cast iron. In severe weather, this raises the risk of cracking and in November 2013 Pete and Jim replaced a cracked soil pipe at the rear of the Hall. Modern Health and Safety practice required the use of an access tower to get to the broken pipe so the relatively simple job of exchanging the cracked pipe for a new one was compounded by the need to hire a suitable self-assembly tower, bring it to site, erect it and, on completion of the work, disassemble the tower and transport it back to the hire company.

Jim and Pete assembling the access tower.

Before the access tower was taken down, I ascended with a camera to take a few record shots. My pictures of the garden are on page 2 of my May-December 2013 album, linked below.

Jim, Pete, Anne and Dean pictured from the access tower.

Roof Maintenance

The Hall roof has clay tiles, with some lead work. The Small Barn has clay tiles. The Big Barn was re-roofed (possibly as late as 1930) with slate. As far as possible, these roofs and the associated guttering and rain water pipes have an annual inspection before the worst of the winter weather sets in. In 2014, my roofers managed all the work from a triple extension ladder apart from one area. They promised to return when they had a 'Cherry Picker' on hire and on 29th September 2014, they were back. In case you're wondering, yes, I did manage to get a 'lift' to see the less-accessible areas of the roof. I was very impressed with the capabilities of the truck-mounted 'Cherry Picker'.

The neat appearance of the truck-mounted 'Cherry Picker'.

My pictures

Brewood Hall Roof and Views of the District Brewood Hall Maintenance. Brewood Hall Garden, May-December 2013 (page 2)

Review of the Year - 2014

I'm amazed to find that this is my ninth 'Review of the Year'. It's not a comprehensive index of all the posts added during the year, just a note of more significant events.


Trip to Burma

On the 20th April, I set off on another expedition to Burma. The first trip report can be found here, with a link to the next post, and so on. Alternately, all the posts on the trip can be found here. Each post has links to related photographs. All the pictures on the trip are in the collection here (apart from railway pictures, which are in the collection here).

Dr. Hla Tun met me on arrival in Yangon and, accompanied by his son, we travelled to Mon State (south of Yangon) to visit a number of Drop In Centres forming part of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project. We returned to Yangon where Dr. Hla Tun had arranged for me to visit the Power Signal Box at Yangon Central Station. I also travelled around the Circle Line in the cab of the diesel-electric locomotive (there's an incomplete technical report on the cab ride here). Next, Dr. Hla Tun and I flew to Nyaung Oo so that the Doctor could see patients at the Bagan Medical Clinic and I was able to study the growth of this project. Dr. Hla Tun then returned to Yangon in connection with the donation of medical equipment to the clinic but I was able to visit a number of schools in the Bagan area which are supported by the RTM Social Contribution. Next, I flew to Mandalay where I spent a day with my friend Htein Linn and his family and met my friend Ko Hlaing and his family. Then, it was back to Yangon for two nights before flying north again to Rakhine State. I spent three marvellous days in Sittwe and Mrauk U seeing a little of this historic area, after which I flew back to Yangon. I managed to meet Dr. Hla Tun and Captain Myo Lwin for drinks at the Strand briefly then I explored the city again on foot. All too soon it was time to leave Myanmar.

Shaitthaung Temple, Mrauk U.

One Night in Qatar

I flew Yangon - Doha where I spent one night before returning home on a Doha - Manchester flight. My brief visit is described here.

View of the amazing skyline from across the Bay, Doha, Qatar.

Trip to Vienna

On the 7th November, I flew from Heathrow to Vienna with my friend Rita for a weekend exploring the city. Although only a short visit, we managed to fit in a number of experiences. The first trip report can be found here, with a link to the next post, and so on.

Schoenbrunn Palace, Vienna


During the year I made various trips (mainly by rail) to various destinations.

Blackpool & Fleetwood

On 3rd January, I made a trip to Blackpool and Fleetwood, described here (with railway notes here).


On the 25th January, I was off again, this time on a day trip to Holyhead, described in two reports - Part 1 and Part 2. Later, I added another report with more information on the history and signalling of the Holyhead to Crewe line, which you can find here.

East Croydon

On 5th February. I travelled to East Croydon by rail, to visit my friend Rita. The journey was affected by Industrial Action. The trip is described here.

Birkenhead & New Brighton

On 8th February, I made a trip to Birkenhead and New Brighton which is described in three posts - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Later, I added another report with more information on the history and signalling of lines in the Birkenhead area, which you can find here and a post on Services to Birkenhead Woodside in Steam Days which is here.


On 26th February, I travelled by train to Chirk, described here.

Liverpool via the Borderlands Line

On 8th March, I travelled by rail to Liverpool, via a route including 'The Borderlands Line', described in two reports - Part 1 and Part 2.

Furness and the Cumbrian Coast

On 21st June, I made a day trip by rail to Furness and the Cumbrian Coast which is described in two posts - Part 1 and Part 2.

South Wales

On the 26th July, I made a day trip to South Wales by train. This is described in two reports - Part 1 and Part 2.

Southport and Liverpool

I made a day trip by train to Southport and Liverpool on 9th August. The trip is described in two posts - Part 1 and Part 2.

Huddersfield and Shipley

On 23rd August, I travelled by train to Shipley, near Leeds, to attend the 2014 'Lionsmeet'. I travelled via Manchester, Huddersfield and Leeds, allowing time to stop off at Huddersfield to admire the station buildings (listed Grade 1). My report on the trip is here.

Llandudno by Road

On Saturday 30th August I went to Llandudno with Ann and Dean by road. We stayed overnight at the Imperial Hotel and spent most of Sunday exploring the pier and the Great Orme. There's a report here.

The Great Eastern Railway in London

On 8th September, I travelled to London for a business meeting, but left early enough to let me look at the Great Eastern Railway terminus at Liverpool Street and travel as far as Stratford. There's a report here.

The CLC, Liverpool Docks and Wirral Railways Today

Following publication of my post on the history of the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) here, I decided to travel over the remaining lines on the 4th October. There's a report on these journeys here. On the same day, I transferred to Merseyrail trains to 'finish off' the available CLC lines and explore some of the dock area on foot (On foot around Liverpool Docks) and then continued to explore the Merseyrail network, travelling to West Kirby and finally to Ellesmere Port. The report on my Merseyrail travels is here. Finally, back on Network Rail metals, I travelled from Ellesmere Port to Helsby, Helsby to Warrington Bank Quay and caught a Virgin service back to Wolverhampton. My report on the last segment is here. After all this, I added another post titled Signalling on the former Cheshire Lines Committee in the 1950s.

On Foot around Liverpool Docks

At the end of October, I published the post Notes on Liverpool and its Docks to supplement the earlier On foot around Liverpool Docks. So, having explored on foot from Sandhills to Pierhead on 22nd November, I walked from Sandhills north to Seaforth. This walk is described in two posts - On foot around Liverpool Docks (2) and On foot around Liverpool Docks (3).


During 2014, I was re-elected Secretary of the Old Locomotive Committee and remained an active volunteer at The Battlefield Line and Peak Rail.

The Old Locomotive Committee

On 14th June, the OLCO Annual General Meeting was held in the Museum of Liverpool Museum. There's a report here.

In 2014, 'Lionsmeet' was held at the Bradford Model Engineering Society track at Shipley and there's a report on the event here.

You can find all my posts about OLCO here.

OLCO A.G.M. 2014: The 'Group Shot'.

The Battlefield Line

On the 22nd March, I was rostered to drive the diesel railcar. There's a report here.

I described turns at the Battlefield Line on the single-unit diesel railcar on the 15th July and on 3803 on the 20th July in the post Another Busy Week. The 20th with the Great Western 2-8-0 was particularly notable - five round trips with a 6-coach train and a party of around 60 Morris Dancers performing on the platform at Shenton, taking lunch on the train to Shackerstone and performing on the platform at Shackerstone before we returned them to Shenton! Our last trip of the day started in one of the worst thunderstorms I can remember.

Midweek driving turns on the diesel railcar at the Battlefield Line on 13th August and 27th August are described here.

On 7th September, I was driver of 3803 during the Shackerstone Family Festival. There's a report here.

3803 at Shackerstone ready for the 3rd trip to Shenton on 20th July 2014.

Peak Rail

In January and February Peak Rail operated a Winter Timetable where 'Lord Phil' worked the service between Rowsley and Matlock Riverside, running round at each end. I had four driving turns in this period, described here.

On the 2nd March, I was driving 'Lord Phil' when a HST Charter visited Peak Rail, described here.

I described turns at Peak Rail on 12th July and 20th July in the post Another Busy Week.

On 3rd August, I was driver on the second day of the 1940s Weekend. The weather was hot and the event was very well supported. There's a brief report here.

My driving turn on 16th August is described here.

In December, I had one driving turn on the 'Santa' trains, described here.

Peak Rail 1940s Weekend, 2014.


I'm involved in the management of a small commercial woodland in Wales and on the 26th February, I made the first of a number of visits in 2014 with the forester, Rob MacCurrach. There's a report on this visit here.

My next visit was on 24th July, when a felling programme had started. There's a report here.

On the same day, Rob and I had a private tour of the Kronospan factory at Chirk where MDF and related products are manufactured. My report is here.

I next visited Ty Gwyn on 18th August, when timber extraction was well in hand. There's a report here.

Finally, I visited Ty Gwyn on 31st August with Ann and Dean, as we returned from Llandudno. The photographs taken during this visit are at Harvesting (3) 2014.

Harvested timber awaiting collection.


The Second Brewood Vintage Garden Party was held at Brewood Hall on the 5th July. Despite heavy rain the previous day, the sun shone for the event itself. There's a report here.

Brewood Music Festival was held at various venues around Brewood from 10th to 13th July. There's a brief report on the Free Concert in the Market Place here.

As part of a 'Twilight Storytelling Walk around Brewood' initiative by the Libraries and Arts Service of Staffordshire County Council, on 26th November a party of about 25 visited Brewood Hall. There's a short report here.

Once again, the sun shone on the Brewood Vintage Garden Party(Photo: Tricia Underwood).


For a number of years, I've tried to support the charitable initiatives operated under the above name in Burma. When I visit Burma, I try to see as much as possible of the work in hand. When I'm in the U.K., I receive regular e-mails about the work which (with permission) I report in my blog. The charity provides Educational Support to a range of schools and orphanages and Medical Treatment to all ages (centred on the wonderful Bagan Medical Clinic). You can find my posts on Educational Support here and those on Medical Treatment here.


Peak Rail 'Santa' Trains, 2014


I was the driver of 'Lord Phil' on the 21st December 2014. Top and tailed with 'Penyghent', we provided four round trips between Rowsley and Matlock Town, working a 7-coach train. Phil Mason was Fireman and Colin Dodsley Cleaner.

Volunteer of the Year

Phil had been awarded 'Volunteer of the Year' for 2014 and, before we left the shed at Rowsley, Roger Hallett (Joint Managing Director) came aboard to present the engraved glass award to Phil. This was well-deserved recognition for Phil's work on the railway.

Phil Mason (shown draining the fire hose used for watering the locomotive at Rowsley).

Working the trains

The operation was generally similar to the 2013 'Santa' trains (described here, except that we terminated at Matlock Town station (rather than Matlock Riverside) and timings were adjusted to the standard Winter Timetable.

I think each pre-booked train was filled to capacity and, in addition, the 'Palatine' dining set provided a Christmas lunch to pre-booked guests.

This year, 'Lord Phil' was sporting a 'Christmas Pudding' headboard.

'Lord Phil' ready to leave Rowsley, showing the 'Christmas Pudding' headboard.

We ran without incident during the day, except that 'Penyghent' made an unscheduled stop with 'dragging brakes' on one departure from Matlock Town. The Guard and other members of train staff climbed down to 'pull the strings' on all the vacuum brake cylinders of the coaches and we were quickly under way again.

On the last round trip, it was starting to get dark. Colin lit a paraffin loco lamp on the footplate and, when we stopped at Darley Dale, he exchanged it for the unlit lamp we'd displayed from Rowsley. The single lamp next to the chimney is the standard headcode for an 'ordinary passenger train' stopping at intermediate stations. There's a little more about traditional paraffin lamps used on trains here. When we arrived at Matlock Town, I moved the headlamp to a position above one buffer and inserted the red glass 'shade', so that we correctly displayed a red tail lamp on the way back to Rowsley.

At Darley Dale, Colin removes the unlit headlamp, prior to fitting the lighted lamp.

As last year, Christmas Illuminations were provided on both platforms at Darley Dale, in addition to the traditional platform lighting on the Up Platform. I'm afraid that the cast iron columns for similar lighting on the Down platform still await fitting of the lanterns.

View of the Down Platform at Darley Dale, showing Christmas Illuminations.

Hard work during the day by many volunteers (and especially Santa Claus and his Elves distributing presents to the children) meant that our visitors went away happy.


On arrival back at Rowsley on the last train, we uncoupled and made our way across to the shed where Harvey coaled us, ready for the following day's service. We then stabled the locomotive on the outside pit and, with good teamwork, quickly completed disposal - remaining fire 'knocked out' (leaving a small fire pushed against the firebox tubeplate to allow the boiler to cool gently), ashpans raked out, smokebox char removed, all tools returned to stores, boiler filled, gauge frames isolated, all steam cocks closed, inspection all round looking for any possible problems, locomotive hosed down to remove loose ash. There's more information on disposal here. Once these duties were complete, Phil, Colin and I 'signed off' after a satisfying day.

My Pictures

Peak Rail 'Santa' Trains 2014