40 Years of steamsounds

2008

In 2008 and the following years, as I'd moved away to somewhere a bit less accessible so recording opportunities were even fewer than in previous years but I did get some SSE mileage in during the summer and did get out to see the re-run of the 15 Guinea special with 70013 in August.
While, after later attempts at recording the loco, I have to say that it is one that I'd not go out of my way to record, because its appearance was significant in the history of railway preservation in the UK, there's only one recording to choose for this year...

November 2008 saw a most significant event in steam preservation. Earlier in the year the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust had at last seen their brand new LNER design A1 4-6-2 60163 'Tornado' completed and in steam. The loco had been run in at the Great Central Railway including some running at 60 mph but November was to see Tornado on the main line for three test runs.
60163The first of these was an engine and coach run from York to Scarborough and back. As they had gone to the trouble of bringing the loco to my home town it would have been churlish not to go and see it. Despite it being a foul night; all the test running was planned to be after dark, that didn't stop most of the enthusiast population from the area turning up as well.
That was on 4th November but two days later 60163 was to have a loaded test run from York to Barrow Hill and back.
In view of the way things were supposed to happen, we decided that a spot at Dringhouses would be our best bet. For one thing, being close to Holgate sidings, we thought that, although there isn't much of a view, we'd have a better chance of seeing what was happening as the stock for the run, 12 coaches with a Class 67 diesel attached at the rear was supposed to be stabled there prior to reversing into York station with the A1 attached.
Aside from not having much of a view, the other problem with Dringhouses, as well as other spots south of York, are other trains which can pass at the most inopportune times, it just needs a bit of luck!
You know what they say about the best laid schemes...
We arrived at our spot in plenty of time and expected that it wouldn't be long before the A1 came past us before reversing onto the stock. We hoped for the added bonus of an extra recording of Tornado drawing the stock out of Holgate onto the main line as it isn't possible to get into the station from the sidings.
Later than we anticipated the sound of a steam loco could be heard away towards the station and a single headlight appeared under Holgate Bridge. But then it went away again. It turned out that the stock was already in the station.
I was hoping that departure would be somewhere near time as I didn't want to hang about in York waiting for the last train home but departure time came and went without anything happening.
I've already mentioned the problem with other trains so it was typical that, after 15 minutes without a single train passing in either direction, when 60163 finally put in an appearance we had not one but two trains passing eastbound.
The first was an eastbound DMU, which wasn't too bad but the second was a Class 66 hauled freight train which spoiled any chance of us hearing the A1 as it headed away towards Challoners Whin.
Still, I'm not going to complain as I was most impressed with the way the loco was being worked with 12 coaches and the diesel behind the tender.
It doesn't seem like 18 years ago since this project was first mooted and got plenty of 'It'll never happen!' comments from the doom and gloom brigade. It just goes to show what you can do if you really want to. It has been a long wait but the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust have done an amazing job, a job to be extremely proud of.

60163 passing Dringhouses. - 6th November 2008
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2:25

2009

This year started off really well with, in February, one of the best recordings I've made of 46115 running on the Settle - Carlisle line. A couple of steam galas followed that along with a few visits to the lineside for some steam hauled trains on the main line before the summer season saw the SSE, still running via Leeds and Harrogate, began again...

45407 Scarborough does very well for steam during the summer months as, in addition to the Scarborough Flyer once a week, we also get the Scarborough Spa Express running three days each week from the end of July to the end of August. The first of these trains for the 2009 season ran with ex LMS Black 5 4-6-0 45407 as motive power for this 12 coach train.
For some reason, this year, the SSE was routed from Colton South Jc. to Church Fenton along what we used to call the slow lines. To me, this seemed like a pointless exercise as nothing was booked to overtake on this section but I suppose if it's programmed into the computer, that's what happens.
I though that this was rather a pity as, while the crossover at Colton Jc. is a high speed one, crossing over at Church Fenton was always a leisurely affair and gave no opportunity for a run at Leeds Bank beyond.
However, I had forgotten that during the winter there had been extensive engineering work at Church Fenton which had included upgrading the turnouts on the crossover to high speed ones and, as this recording begins we have just crossed back to the Leeds line and are passing through Church Fenton at the Black 5's maximum permitted speed of 60 mph.
Once onto the curve beyond the regulator is opened a little and speed rises very slightly before we start on the climb.
A little later our driver decides that we are going to have a proper run at the bank and produces sounds from the Five that I haven't heard the like of for quite some time.
Approaching Micklefield everything is looking good for a very fast time to Leeds but, alas, it was not to be as we had caught up with a preceding train and the regulator has to be shut.
Back in the 80s on an SSE with a load of 10 coaches we always thought that we were doing well if our minimum speed on the bank stayed above 40 mph, on this run with 2 coaches more we had only just dipped below 50 passing Micklefield; a remarkable performance, such a shame that it wasn't allowed to continue right to the top of the climb.
Later, I was told by another passenger that when he had spoken to the driver, commenting that he had never heard a Black 5 worked as hard as that, the reply was that the loco had only been in 45% with full second valve. ONLY 45%?

45407 from Church Fenton to Micklefield. - 23rd July 2009
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5:57

2010

Unlike the previous year, our first few attempts at getting recordings were dogged by loco failures but later in the year things improved. We had SSEs back for the summer but with WCRC operating them rather than RTC and, more significantly, a change of route. Instead of going round what we had always referred to as the York Circle through Leeds and Harrogate mornings and evening, this years trains ran via a different circle through Normanton, Wakefield and Castleford in the same direction both times. With the change of route, we weren't convinced that these trains would do as well but we were wrong about that.
However, for the recording I've chosen we are back nearer the start of the year with a recording that made up for previous disappointments...

After two outings to record steam on the main line had resulted in getting nothing for our trouble, our third opportunity came on 19th March 2010 when the BR Standard Pacific 70013 'Oliver Cromwell' was booked to work a railtour from Crewe over Shap to Carlisle then return to Preston via the Settle - Carlisle line. This was something not to be missed.
After weeks of suitably calm weather this particular Friday didn't continue the trend providing us with a fairly strong wind but luckily the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week didn't materialise and we had some sun at times instead.
Arriving at our usual spot at Shap Wells in plenty of time we soon realised that the wind wasn't quite such bad news as we had thought it might be. For one thing, the trees at the other side of the line were providing sufficient shelter so that we didn't have to resort to sheltering behind walls and, better yet, it was carrying the sound of the nearby M6 motorway away very nicely; for once, we could hardly hear the traffic which usually is such an annoyance here.
Not far from right time steam appeared down towards Greenholme and we started to hear the loco once the train was near Scout Green.
70013 had 12 coaches behind the tender and while I'm not sure what the unassisted load for a Brit on Shap was in steam days I'm fairly certain that most drivers would have been whistling up for a banker from Tebay with this load.
As 70013 got nearer we could hear that speed was falling but the loco was well in command of the situation and making a fine sound as it passed our spot. We later found out that there had been a 20 mph TSR in the Lune Gorge which meant that they hadn't been able to start the ascent of Shap at the usual speed so, under these circumstances this has to be an excellent performance.
Sound carried back very well and we could hear the loco all the way to the summit and as it began to accelerate on the following falling gradient. Of all the recordings that I've made on Shap over the years, this has to be one of the best.

70013 at Shap Wells. - 19th March 2010
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7:09

2011

Contrary to expectations following the change of route the previous year, Scarborough Spa Expresses running via Normanton, Wakefield, Woodlesford, Castleford as well as York did very well for passengers and returned for another season. At times it must have seemed that the entire population of Wakefield took a ride to the coast over the summer but, while the new route lacked some of the fast running opportunities of the old route, there was still some entertainment to be had, particularly the climb away from Wakefield Westgate...

On Tuesday 26th July 2011, with a good weather forecast I decided that it would be a good idea to get out for a couple of lineside recordings of the SSE while 45407 was still in use and naturally my first port of call was Wakefield where I walked up to the park at Wrenthorpe.
45407Now recording in a public park on a fine day is fraught with difficulty as there may well be lots of other people about who, quite understandably, will be curious as to what that man is doing with that hairy thing on a tripod. Still, as other than recording at Outwood, something I'd planned for the evening, I didn't know of anywhere else in the area so set up my equipment in what I hoped would prove to be a less frequented spot where I was lucky in that the few passers by either didn't notice me or thought it best not to approach the strange man.
Running close to time I could just hear 45407 departing from Westgate as an East Coast service propelled by a Class 91 headed down the gradient into the station and once the London bound train has passed the Black 5 sounds to be going very well with its 11 coach load on the 1 in 100 gradient.
Once past, 45407 is clearly audible all the way to Outwood where you can hear the loco begin to accelerate, and beyond almost to the top of the climb at Ardsley as the wind was in just the right direction to carry the sound back despite interruptions from an aircraft and another southbound train.
All in all, an excellent recording; I'll risk that spot again.

45407 passing Wrenthorpe near Wakefield. - 26th July 2011
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6:26

2012

Although I was getting out for less steam than had been the case in the past, I had started doing something new around this time and that was taking a few trips into Europe, particularly Germany where the railway scene was much more interesting than it is in the UK.
One part of Germany that I was keen to visit was the Harz mountains in the north of the country and ride on the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen which operates steam hauled trains on an extensive network including the line to the summit of the Brocken and this was the year when I finally got there.
I expected to be impressed with the noise on the climb to the summit and wasn't disappointed...

For years people have been telling me that I should visit the Harz mountains in northern Germany, not for the scenery but to see the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen.
HSBThe HSB is a largely steam powered meter gauge railway system covering 3 routes in the Harz region bounded by Wernigerode, Quedlinburg and Nordhausen not forgetting the most popular route being that from Wernigerode to the 3700 foot summit of the Brocken mountain.
Trains returning from the Brocken usually cross an uphill train at the siding part way between the summit and Schierke adjacent to the Goetheweg footpath and I'd worked out that this would give an ideal opportunity for an on-train/lineside recording of the uphill train passing.
On 21st June 2012 having enjoyed a noisy ride to the summit my plan was to return on the same train and try for a recording from the train at the siding. We had been late coming up from Wernigerode due to having to deal with some sticking brakes and, as we were also late returning, the uphill train arrived at the signal protecting the siding before we were safely inside.
99 7239 makes a fine sound restarting its train on the steep gradient and is soon away allowing 99 7234 to reverse out onto the main line.

99 7235 passing the Goetheweg Siding. - 21st June 2012
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2:57

2013

This year saw me making more trips to Europe including Switzerland where I took a steam powered ride to the 2,350 metre Brienzer Rothorn; my current altitude record for steam and Austria where I made time to visit the Achenseebahn...

For a little over two weeks in June 2013 I had planned another jaunt through the Channel Tunnel and part of my plan was to visit a few steam railways. Unfortunately my plans had to be changed at short notice as one of the areas that I'd planned to visit was Saxony, specifically Dresden and the Elbe Valley but the serious flooding in that area in June meant that there would be little point. That meant that two of the steam lines I'd intended to visit went off the list.
I did have one other steam line to visit; that was in Austria, the Achenseebahn, a rack line that runs from Jenbach in the Inn Valley to Seespitz on the Achensee.
AchenseebahnI arrived in Jenbach on 27th June 2013 in good time to record the 10:00 departure and headed off uphill away from the station to find a suitable spot for a recording and, finding a path through the trees next to the line below the station at Burgeck, soon found a good spot off the path which even gave a reasonable view and got a most satisfactory recording.
There was another departure from Jenbach at 10:45 and I'd originally planned to rush back to the station and have a ride but I'd been sufficiently impressed with my first recording to consider another lineside recording instead. Also, I'd noticed that the noise from the loco on the first train had increased considerably once it was past Burgeck so I decided to stay on the lineside and headed off to another very steep path which crossed the railway about 500 meters further up the climb.
I was well pleased with my recording here as the sound seemed to carry further and, as had happened with the first train, No. 2 with two coaches was much louder on this section.
The only downside was that I didn't have time for a ride. That will have to wait until next time.

7
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3:16

2014

This year was notable for the lack of steam through the summer after Network Rail at York instituted a steam ban due to perceived fire risk causing the entire SSE programme to be diesel hauled.
However, my European travels continued in 2014 with a very successful visit to the Harz and, later in the year I found myself staying in Nuremberg during a weekend which happened to coincide with an event at the Deutsches Dampflokomotiv Museum which wasn't far away in Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg. The event was a programme of steam hauled shuttles up the Schiefe Ebene. A rather nice coincidence and completely unplanned...

For September 2014 I'd planned yet another trip around Europe flying to Budapest then working my way back to the UK by train stopping off here and there and for this trip there was no steam involved; at least, that's what I thought when I planned it.
One of the places I'd planned to stop off in was Nürnberg, a city that I'd passed through, even visited the DB Museum there but never stayed and having one full day free I scouted around on the internet for something to do aside from walk the streets of the city. My browsing just happened to lead me to the Deutsches Dampflokomotiv Museum which wasn't far away in Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg and I put that down as a possible but then spotted that by complete coincidence, my free day just happened to coincide with an event which would see regular shuttle trains running to Markschorgast taking them up the Schiefe Ebene which, with its 23‰ average gradient (a little less than 1 in 40), is Germany's answer to the Lickey. What's more the museum had planned to be hosting no less than 9 BR01 Pacifics 6 of which would be working the trains along with two bankers. Talk about a happy coincidence.
So, on Saturday 20th September 2014 I had an early start from Nürnberg and got to Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg in good time to buy a ticket and take a ride on the first train of the day before heading to the lineside for the rest of the day.
After my ride I caught a service train back up to Marktschorgast and set off along with hordes of other spectators down the path that runs alongside the line.
I was hoping to meet up with a German friend of mine who I'd spotted at the lineside during my ride but needed to find a way to get to the other side of the line and while it would have been an easy matter to just cross the tracks; unlike in the UK, in Germany and throughout much of Europe railways generally aren't fenced, but my built in unwillingness to trespass on the railway wouldn't allow that.
Schiefe EbeneSo, I walked down further and eventually found an underbridge manned by people from the museum demanding 15€ to go to a photo point overlooking the line. The 15€ charge was for anyone who didn't already have a ticket so I was Ok.
Having crossed to the western side of the line I headed back towards Marktschorgast expecting it would be easy to get to the point I'd spotted my friend at. Wrong. Worse still, I was in entirely the wrong place when the next train came up the line; there were two trains each hour.
Further exploration in the direction of my friend's spot proved fruitless so I decided that, as I'd given it a good try, enough was enough and it was time to find a spot.
After blundering across a field I found what I was looking for; obviously a good spot as there were a few other sound recordists already there and before they knew that I was also there to make sound recordings, one of them came over to instruct me (in German) that, if I were staying there, I must keep absolutely quiet. Clearly I'd found some like minded people.
As well as the steam shuttles, there were also service trains on the line and as this recording begins, after the distant sound of thunder, a single railcar comes hurrying down the gradient while Pacifics 01 1075 piloting 01 533 head for Marktschorgast with Prussian P8 4-6-0 38 1301 at the rear.
With the contrasting sounds of the three and two cylinder pacifics plus the noisier of the two 'schubloks', I thought this was my best recording of the day.
With two steam hauled trains running each hour for much of the day I can honestly say, I've never seen anything like it and they were going to do it all again the next day. I don't suppose there will ever be anything like this on the main line in the UK, Network Rail would have a fit!

01 1075 & 01 533 banked by 38 1301 near Marktschorgast. 20th Sept 2014
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4:30

2015

This year settled down into the pattern of previous years; a few steam galas, a few trips across the Channel; visiting the Harz for a steam fix had become an annual event, and a few outings to the main line.
After the previous year's fiasco, there were no Scarborough Spa Expresses to travel on or record through the Summer but we did get three during October. Despite the lack of SSEs Scarborough did get some steam...

As far as steam on the main line is concerned, 2015 got off to a very slow start and by the time I'd arranged to get out for what I expected to be my first main line recording of the year, the hiatus concerning the suspension of WCRC's operating license put paid to that.
45690So it was that my first opportunity didn't arrive until the end of May with a train bringing ex LMS Jubilee 4-6-0 45690 'Leander' handily close to home.
The train was the East Yorkshireman running from Preston to Scarborough and back with the outward journey taking in the line through Bridlington.
After arriving at Scarborough the diesel on the rear of the train went off on its own to await the train's arrival at Milford; the train was to be diesel hauled back to Preston and Manchester from there and, even though the diesel hadn't seemed to be doing much in our first recording at Bemprton, we thought it would be a good idea to go for a second one without the diesel so headed off to York to get it beyond there and having tried a spot at Copmanthorpe last year we thought we'd give it a try again rather than the more usual spot nearer York at Dringhouses.
Our choice of location proved a good one although, at first it seemed as though we might not get much.
One bonus of this spot on the four track main line south of York are the signals which give a little warning that something is about to pass and at about the time we expected 45690 to pass the signal on the up line furthest from us was showing a single yellow and the 'feather' indicating that whatever was coming was being cautioned ready to use the crossover at Colton North Jn.; naturally we assumed that the approaching train was the charter and all we would get was the sound of it drifting past. However, as you can hear at the start of this recording, it was an East Coast service that passed and, as it approached, we could see 'Leander' approaching the red signal on the line nearest to us.
The East Coast service soon cleared the section ahead so 45690 didn't actually come to a stand and makes a fine sound recovering from the check then accelerating towards Colton Jn. and as the sound fades away, a Grand Central service, also slightly checked by the same signal, passes.
Given the opportunity, I think we'll be using this spot again.

45690 passing Copmanthorpe. - 30th May 2015
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5:20

2016

2016 proved to be my worst ever year for steam.
This was partly due to bad planning on my part causing me to miss the two steam galas that I usually attend in the Autumn but mainly due to WCRC having their operating licence suspended for a while then the partial closure of the Settle - Carlisle line which caused a big reduction in the number of steam charters that I could get out to record. Scarborough Spa Expresses made a return through the Summer but with steam haulage between York and Scarborough only there was little entertainment to be had there. However, despite the truncated steam mileage, the programme of trains proved to be a big success.
Getting out to the lineside for main line steam was very rare for me, just twice in fact, and the most successful of these outings was for Royal Scot...

The fact that my previous recording of a steam hauled train running on the main line had been made back at the beginning of November last year will tell you that steam on the main line has been a bit thin on the ground for me for a while now and that is something that's likely to be the case, probably for the rest of the year.
First we had WCRC's suspension that threw a spanner in the works for a while and that was followed by the problems on the S&C between Appleby and Carlisle resulting in the closure of that section of the line. The closure seems likely to last well into 2017 and has caused most of the regular steam hauled trains that run in the north west to be either cancelled or run elsewhere. The result for me meant that there would be precious little easily accessible main line steam for me to go out for so it was good to be able to get out for one on 16th April 2016.
46100There were actually two trains booked to run that day, the first and most interesting was running with steam from Crewe to Carlisle out via the Cumbrian Coast and back over Shap hauled by a loco that I hadn't yet had a chance to record; ex LMS Royal Scot 4-6-0 46100 'Royal Scot'.
After a far too early start from home our first recording of 46100 was on the climb away from Wigan, where the train stopped to pick up passengers,
After that recording we had plenty of time to get to our next recording spot as the train spent about 30 minutes standing at Preston then a further hour was allowed in the Up & Down Goods Loop at Carnforth for water.
We headed for Lindal Bank and found a suitable spot near Pennington a little way west of Ulverston and about half way up the bank where the gradient is 1 in 80, the steepest part of the climb.
Before the Scot arrived a service train passed and gave us some concern that the section of track might be subject to a speed restriction as the DMU was crawling towards Barrow but our fears proved unfounded as 46100 was going well and coping with the gradient in a much better fashion, despite the 11 coach load, than had the two car DMU preceding it.
After that we were able to get two more recordings; at Sellafield and on the climb towards Shap making this, one of two lineside outings, undoubtedly my most successful for the year.

46100 on Lindal Bank, Ulverston. - 16th April 2016
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4:03

2017?

Watch this space!