The Branch Line Society

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The Luca Pezzulo Express
Saturday 20th July 2019

Report by John Hampson and (Stocksbridge section) John Cowburn

There was an element of understatement in the description ['Tour to Four Freight Locations'] of this tour in the fixtures grid. The day was certainly 'rather special and unusual' in many ways, having been conceived to raise funds for Martin House Hospice near Wetherby, which is a charity providing family-led care for children and young people with life-limiting illnesses. Martin House had been an enormous support for Luca and his family; the tour was named in his memory. Luca's mother is a Network Rail incident controller at Route Control in York Rail Operating Centre, and the wider railway family across many organisations had worked together to create an amazing and memorable itinerary.


     



Mileage Table
[© Jim Sellens 2019]




Route Description
[© Paul Stewart with thanks to Martyn Brailsford; 2019]




Wrenthorpe West Siding (note electrification) looking south towards Wakefield Westgate; the main line to Leeds is far left. All pictures (unless otherwise specified) by Geoff Plumb, our official Society Photographer https://plumbloco.smugmug.com/ or by authorised staff on his behalf.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Historical Route Map 1
[© Dave Cromarty 2019]




Historical Route Map 2
[© Dave Cromarty 2019]




The Stocksbridge Railway on a 1961 One-inch OS map. Deepcar station (closed to passengers 15 Jun 1959) is bottom right on the Sheffield (off bottom right) to Penistone line. [See later for 1985 pictures of the Stocksbridge Railway and more text.]




Aerial view of Kellingley Colliery site, the closed Eggborough Power station is in the background with Drax (coal fired side) to its left further away.
[© Chris Davis 2019]


As is public knowledge, Luca had received regular respite care at the hospice since he was 18 months for an undiagnosed neurological condition from which he very sadly died at the age of 11 in Oct 2018. Luca's younger sister Kitty, his mother and her parents - Luca's grandparents - were our guests.

We were promised several very tasty highlights and I can't remember a previous tour that has packed in so much in recent years. Traction was advertised as a Colas and a West Coast Railways Class 37 'top & tailing' Mk 1 stock. Naturally there was much speculation about what might produce, but in the event, 37521 resplendent in Colas livery headed the train south from Lancaster and provided most of the haulage all day with 37669 on the rear. In fact, 37521 had not hauled a charter since Feb 2004, when perhaps fittingly, it was paired with 37669, although both locos have changed hands since then.

Following an early arrival into Preston P4, we progressed south over the recently electrified route via Chorley, Bolton and Manchester Victoria, taking in Brewery Jn Down Passenger Loop. After the Rochdale pick up (where there were Northern DMUs in both the south and north bays), we had a clear run through the Calder Valley, which has recently been resignalled, including the impressive 1 mile 1,125yd Summit Tunnel.


The impressive 1 mile 1,125yd Summit Tunnel.in May 1977 - doesn't it look like a picture of a model railway, and you might say that it's not very realistic as a railway would never look like that in real life...
[© Ian Mortimer 1977]


The disused L&Y Milner Royd Jn signal box was still standing but fenced off.

Eagle-eyed observers of the timing sheet had noticed 15 minutes unaccounted for at Healey Mills and although nothing had been advertised, this was indeed an opportunity for a bit of bonus track as we traversed Engine Lines 'P' & 'V' and Departure Line 'A'. Surrounded by demolition, dereliction and birch trees, this is the only remaining Down route through what was once a large and complex yard.

Beyond Horbury and running early, we waited on the Down L&Y Slow - an unusual layout where the slow lines are the central pair of four tracks and the Down Fast is much lower than the other lines. There was time for a brief leg stretch on P1 at recently smartened up Wakefield Kirkgate which even has a nice modern café now, before reversing back up the gradient on the curve to Wakefield Westgate. Here we took the relatively rare (and unadvertised) centre through road avoiding P2. This rather surprised a member who was on said platform (booked operational stop) waiting to see us!

After passing the Prison Siding (without doing any time in there), a large number of NR ground staff were at Wrenthorpe and ensured we reached the points at the end of West Siding. The tour route had been well publicised within NR to encourage staff to pay their respects to Luca's family. The loop junction was once Wrenthorpe South Jn where until 1965 a line to Ossett and beyond headed off.

Return was via the first crossover to Westgate P1, then the West Riding & Grimsby Joint line to South Kirby Jn, pausing in the Up Doncaster Passing Loop at Hemsworth. After a brisk run along the Swinton & Knottingley Joint, we diverged at Aldwarke Jn, passing the Liberty Steel plants, with four of their locos outside the shed. There is still a lot of rail infrastructure in this area. Perhaps for a future tour?

Beyond Rotherham Parkgate, we were sharing the line with Sheffield Supertram before the NR line singled and we turned east at Tinsley South Jn to explore what little remains of Tinsley Yard. Unlike Healey Mills, much of Tinsley (once claimed to be the most modern marshalling yard in the world) has been redeveloped or repurposed. Inward aggregates flows have started and there was some wagon storage; the East Arrival Line is out of use. The East Departure Line (now a headshunt for the out of use line to Outokumpu stainless steel that side) was very rusty - clearly not stainless steel track then.

Although unadvertised, and thanks to DBC ground staff, our tour was able to penetrate about half a mile east beyond Shepcote Lane East Jn on No4 road, almost to the points at the end.

Next it was back to Broughton Lane Jn and to Woodburn Jn joining the Deepcar branch which was, of course, originally part of the Woodhead route. Previous tours have run to the NR catch points, locked by Annett's key, which are a short distance before the NR boundary (33m 20ch from Manchester London Road - now Piccadilly, of course, via Woodhead). This is actually just beyond where the now 2m 26ch long Stockbridge Railway diverges from the former Woodhead route. The boundary itself was once marked by a cast iron plate; the target was to do the connection onto Liberty Steel infrastructure.

Approaching Deepcar Exchange Sidings, just past the NR boundary, there was a delay as the points had not been clipped. Fortunately, the Society carries point clips on tours for such an eventuality and, once applied, we progressed slowly downhill through the exchange sidings. These now consist of only the main line, which we traversed, and an outer loop; all other tracks (once six) have been lifted.

After the exchange sidings we became possibly the first public passenger train of locomotive-hauled passenger stock ever to cross Deepcar viaduct and the Wortley Road bridge as we proceeded into the Little Don valley towards Stocksbridge Works. Although the railway is understood to have operated a passenger service from opening on 14 Apr 1877 until 1931, it is believed it was officially only for Samuel Fox & Co employees and Penistone Grammar School students with passes issued and travelling at their own risk! Your BLN Editor would be pleased to hear from any reader who has knowledge of previous public trains on the branch or more information on these earlier passenger services.

The Luca Pezzulo Express slowly passed through a shallow cutting and over the level crossing of the private access road to Ellen Cliff Farm with its public footpath. We soon reached Ellen Cliff loop, taking the right hand 'main line' road with the loop, which once housed the main rail weighbridge for incoming and outgoing traffic, to our left. We proceeded to just short of the end of the loop, where the two lines converge again, 60ch beyond the NR boundary. Despite everyone's best efforts, this was as far as the train could go as main line locomotives are prohibited from crossing the bridge over the Little Don River at Henholmes, the lowest point on the Stocksbridge Railway, the gradient profile of which is a large 'V'. This is where current main line rail traffic is exchanged between Liberty Steel and DB Cargo. This was an amazing result and must have been newly scored track for almost all on board!

To add to the fun, Yorkshire Engine Co Janus loco '35' was present at Ellen Cliff with two internal bogie flats loaded with rails from the works ready to relay the loop which was due to take place during the works' summer shutdown or 'stop weeks' - a very positive sign. After a few photographs with the locos posed side by side, the tour headed back east, climbing the gradient towards Deepcar; although the Stocksbridge Railway Company booklet (see below) suggests this is as steep as 1 in 27, it is in reality (nowadays at least) no steeper than 1 in 60. Nevertheless it is a challenge for longer departing trains which also have to contend with the long curve of the exchange sidings on the steepest gradients. http://bit.ly/2YtbEtH has more on the history of the line (with a passenger timetable!). Finally we left Liberty Steel metals for Woodburn Jn, now some 45mins late. It had however been well worth it…

The organizing team was very aware of the need to regain time to protect the highlights that were due later in the day and so a Plan 'B' was hatched. A public address announcement was made that we would be diverting via Doncaster and Goole rather than Pontefract and Selby, to recover time. [Of course, one member inevitably claimed that he only booked to do Barlby Down Passenger Loop at Selby - we think he was pulling our leg.] This was understated on 'Liverail' as 'Off Route'. The diversion turned out to include the Roundwood Chord, Kilnhurst Up Goods Loop, Conisbrough Up Goods Loop and the Up Doncaster Avoiding Line! All juicy bits and full marks to NR for arranging all this on the fly.

We arrived at Hull P7 only 15 minutes down which still allowed time for a brief leg stretch and photo opportunity. A GWR liveried 'short' HST on hire to Hull Trains provided a backdrop. Next was a shunt to Carriage Line 'E' stop blocks - previously Hull P14, one of the former excursion platforms. This platform does hold a bit of history as it was once used by European emigrants arriving in Hull and transiting across the country to re-embark at Liverpool on their journey to North America. A group of 17 Society members also did it on 14 Jan 1978 in less extreme circumstances; a football special from King's Cross (via Boothferry Park platform on the Springbank Loop) with Crystal Palace supporters - £1.70p return! Back in 2019, the stock was watered surprisingly rapidly and efficiently by 'Weedfree', who provided their services free of charge as a donation to Martin House, then we retraced our tracks to Goole.

Taking the little used single line at Potters Grange Jn, which only has passenger trains in the dark at certain times of the year, through Snaith and passing Drax and Eggborough, we headed for a further highlight of the tour at the site of Kellingley Colliery. There cannot be many tours nowadays that include a colliery in their itinerary. Indeed, Kellingley was the last deep coal mine in the country, closing 18 Dec 2015 (final outward coal train 24 Dec 2015). All surface infrastructure except one siding has been demolished although the area is far from reinstated and is a desolate scene of black slurry, rubble and spoil which could easily be on an alien planet. Between 21 Aug and 24 Nov 2017 spoil went out by rail to Killingholme to raise the land levels there, but traffic has not run recently.

Surprisingly, we were able to make our way well into the site via Reception Line 2, reaching past the former coal loading bunker to the gross weighbridge site, as evidenced on large 'scale' maps, although there was nothing to be seen on the ground. There were some stored wagons further on, but the crew sensibly decided that we had gone far enough in view of the dubious ground conditions.

Returning back through Sudworth Lane, and past the now closed and rusty line to Eggborough, we picked up members of the Drax team at Hensall before heading for Drax Power Station, branching onto one of the few surviving remnants of the Hull and Barnsley Railway system at Drax Branch Jn. Two Cripple Sidings continued straight on the Hull & Barnsley trackbed about 230yd further towards Hull as our tour turned sharp left past the NR boundary onto the Merry-go-round loop. The first (straight) part is on the trackbed of the North Eastern Railway Goole - Selby line which closed in 1964.

Participants were required to remain seated and to keep all windows closed - this being due to the harmful effects of biomass dust, as well as the limited clearances. During our tour we were treated to a fascinating commentary from one of the Drax Visitor Centre guides as well as the Rail Operations Manager. We were told that although all previous railtours to Drax had gone around the bypass line, today we were going to travel through both the biomass and coal unloading plants!

A biomass train that had passed us at Sudforth Lane was held to allow the air to clear and the tour progressed on Reception Line 4 through the Biomass Offloader under close supervision from ground staff. We could see the very deep bunkers into which biomass is discharged next to the massive silos
used for dry storage. Relatively little coal is now delivered compared with biomass, but the unloading infrastructure is operational. Our guide told us that the clearance is extremely restricted due to the lineside 'Dalek' units which formerly operated the doors on HAA hoppers, and which are still in place.

In fact, the only passenger vehicle that had ever been through the coal unloading house was 'Caroline' the NR Observation Saloon, on 27 June (BLN 1331.X.72) to test the clearance for our tour, and normal Mk1s had never been tried! Passing the 0.5 mph speed limit signs and watched very closely by ground staff, we made it through Line 'C' and came to a stand outside for official photos and presentations. It was absolutely superb to get so close to a working power station and be treated to the detailed commentary and explanation from those who work there. I was struck by the silence and awe in our coach as we went around the loop. From Drax Branch Jn round the loop and back again is 10m 63ch. There was tremendous support for this tour at Drax, who sponsored the booklet and map printing.

[Thank you to all participants who freely cooperated without question at Drax with the request for windows to be shut and to remain seated; the organising team does not ask without good reason - KA.]

Back on the main line and with fresh air from the open windows again, we made our way west to the first set down at Wakefield Kirkgate P3. A clear run through West Yorkshire gave an on time Rochdale arrival. The final loop of the day was Thorpes Bridge Jn Up Passenger Loop but we spent rather longer than planned there due to trespassers on the line at Miles Platting. After following a stopping service to Bolton, the 37 got into its stride to arrive back in Preston and Lancaster only slightly behind time.

This tour was really a BLS spectacular. All the highlights exceeded expectations, extras were thrown in and there was a great atmosphere. Additional interest was added to the diversion and, although we didn't do Barlby or Gascoigne Wood Loops, there's always another day for that. Most importantly, at least £18,000 was raised for Martin House (£2,005 from the raffle alone), and some of their team and Luca's family were on the train. The incredible planning and arrangements were first class, involving many organisations and individuals to whom we are all really grateful. It's amazing that such a feat can still be pulled off in 2019. Many thanks to Kev Adlam for attending many meeting and the numerous hours he put in on this tour, also to the catering team, stewards, cartographers, itinerary writer, ticket designer etc for all their help This will be a hard act to follow.


Wrenthorpe looking north to Leeds, our tour is in the west siding with EMU 331108 right.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Our Branch line Society Chairman, John Williamson, with Chris Verney from Martin House.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Once it would have been impossible to show the whole of Tinsley yard in one photograph but here it is in 2019. The east end of Road 4 looking west towards Shepcote Lane.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Once it would have been impossible to show the whole of Tinsley yard in one photograph but here it is in 2019. The east end of Road 4 looking west towards Shepcote Lane.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




A small section of Tinsley Yard in Feb 1975 with a Class 13 hump shunting.
[© Ian Mortimer 2019]




Healey Mills Departure Line 'A' with the tour waiting to ..... depart.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




On the Stocksbridge Railway at the end of Ellen Cliff Loop looking towards the works, taken by a NR representative while both trains were stopped. 37669, right, is on our tour.
[© Kev Adlam 2019]




The Stocksbridge Railway, some pictures from our riding visit on Mon 15 Jul 1985 using the internal brakevan.
[© Ian Mortimer 1985]




The Stocksbridge Railway, some pictures from our riding visit on Mon 15 Jul 1985 using the internal brakevan.
[© Ian Mortimer 1985]




The Stocksbridge Railway, some pictures from our riding visit on Mon 15 Jul 1985 using the internal brakevan.
[© Ian Mortimer 1985]




A most interesting picture of the arrangements at Deepcar in Jul 1985, looking south towards Sheffield (formerly Victoria station). The line right foreground is from Stocksbridge Steel Works (behind the photographer). The Woodhead line closed in Jul 1981 and Sheffield - Penistone (to Huddersfield) DMU services were diverted via Barnsley in May 1983. By Jul 1985 the overhead wires had been removed (don't the supports look odd without them) but the then 'branch' to Deepcar from (Sheffield) Nunnery Jn was still double track. Deepcar station (CP 15 Jun 1959), signal box and trailing crossover can be seen right of centre. Unlike now there was no direct connection between the main line and the Stocksbridge Railway - which also continued on a lengthy branch to a tip with poor track over rough terrain seen behind Deepcar station (off right). Needless to say our tour covered it.
[© Ian Mortimer 1985]




The Stocksbridge Railway, some pictures from our riding visit on Mon 15 Jul 1985 using the internal brakevan.
[© Ian Mortimer 1985]




Back to the future and Ellen Cliff Loop again during our 2019 tour.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The BLS Real Ale Team (left Neil Bentley and right Andrew Rawlins) dispensed Luca's Aid (4.3% ABV) - hand pumped these days using our Society's own equipment. Once costs were covered, all profits went to Martin House Children's Hospice.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Not a 'Guess the Location'.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Hull P7, our loco is adding new meaning to the expression 'Stand behind the yellow line'.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Meanwhile at the London end of Hull P7 (which was actually P4 prior to 1984)....
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The London end of the lengthy Hull Station/Carriage Siding 'E' formerly P14.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The 'keen' end of the train from the buffer stops; the ex-ScotRail DMU (right) is on Line 'B'.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Drax Coal Unloading Line 'C'; there are six cooling towers for the coal plants and six for the biomass plants.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The other end of the train here with the coal-fired plant behind.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The cheque presentation team at Drax, Kev is fourth from the right.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




A First Class invasion; Luca's family are presented the second headboard made for the tour.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Luca's sister Kitty and mother Charlotte.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Luca's grandparents
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]

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