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Scunthorpe Steel Works Cold Steel Tracker
Saturday 4th January 2020

Report by Michael Trower


As is now traditional, our first 2020 fixture was, appropriately, the 20th Scunthorpe Steelworks tour with the usual AFRPS stock and motive power. As a portent of things to come I had already been blessed with three moves by NR on the Friday. A signalling problem saw a weave from the Up Fast to Up Slow at Wimbledon Durnsford Road and a cross back at West London Jn to regain the fast lines, also done by another participant en route. On the 09.57 Grand Central train from King's Cross to Doncaster a window was shattered by something thrown up. The train was routed Down Fast to Doncaster P3b so a Blue Peter job could be effected - it was covered in (presumably heavy duty) sticky backed plastic.

The day dawned bright and sunny at Frodingham platform with not a cloud in the sky - that is until a quenching operation at the coke ovens produced clouds of steam; once a common sight, it is becoming an endangered species. Our 'ECS' arrived slightly late and in reverse formation, but I still went for a heated brake van in the middle. The aim of these railtours is to cover as much track as possible and go to the extremities of the lines; there is over 100 miles of standard gauge at this vast nearly 20,000 acre site. In true tradition departure was towards the nearest buffer stops at the loop headshunt! Back to the other end of the loop for a reversal and through the loop to the headshunt again for overlap and only then did the tour leave the station area in search of track to scratch. The train comprised four brake vans (BR 20t Standards 7605, 955160, 'Shark' 993829 [unheated] and LMS 20t 295516) with over 80 people on board. All seemed to have received either a new red biro or highlighter pen for Christmas and were very eager to use them. Motive power was Yorkshire Engine Co 0-6-0 DH No1 YE 2877/1963.

We set off for the Heavy Repair Bay where we did Sidings 5, 6 & 8. The much requested No8 was inconveniently blocked by some wagons but resistance was futile and they were shunted into another siding so that we could do it to just short of a poorly parked unmovable (it was too) road pile driver. Mission accomplished we headed to the bridge over Dawes Lane at 529 points and reversed up to the Corus Rail Sidings [♫ ♪ All together now ♪♪] area, passing a surreal sight of a lineside planted Christmas Tree with decorations! The sidings were extremely unusually bereft of wagons (they were out on the main line with NR Christmas work) so Sidings 2, 3 & 1 were done in that order.


A surreal sight of a lineside planted Christmas Tree with decorations!r.
[© Michael Trower 2020]


Sidings 3 & 1 each had a lone wagon at the buffers. Someone advised these were cripples, but to be politically correct it was decided that they should henceforth be known as mechanically disadvantaged wagons. After traversing Siding 4 to the headshunt we then nipped down the other headshunt at the east end of this area just out of the way of a (long) train of long welded rails coming out of 5 Bay hauled by a Di8 of which there were many in action today. Seeing this, there was only one place to go next - the end of line at 5 Bay, inside the length of the large rail service centre. It was very choice track for nearly all. This building gives some scale of the vast Scunthorpe complex. It can take a whole long welded rail train for loading and there was a huge amount of rail stacked in there awaiting dispatch all over our rail network, and abroad. Indeed I am expecting a delivery at my station in a couple of weeks when the Up line is replaced, so I will inspect it to see if it came from Scunthorpe - the existing rail did.

By this time our brake van was now nice and warm thanks to the efforts of young Archie Lewis as stoker in chief of the stove. Comments were made about child labour, but as he was not down the pit, merely using previously mined coal, this was deemed acceptable. He did end up with a very black face though. At one point the stove was glowing red hot - a novelty for the AFRPS guys who took photos. If Archie ever wants a part time Saturday job he would be great at tending the blast furnaces.


Quality rare track indeed, the end of BOS Yard Siding No4, with our brakevan buffers at the bottom. We must remember to bring some shovels with us next time…
[© Mark Thomas 2020]


Back down the incline and past the Christmas Tree took us to Trent Sidings No9 then via The Angle to Anchor Exchange Sidings (no anchors on view) and, at Brickshed Jn, in via Siding 15 and out via 14 without appearing on Scunthorpe panel even. We continued clockwise round the site and crossed to the outer loop at 452/1 points. Then it was around the perimeter of the site to the Mills Exchange Sidings where an unusual lack of wagons enabled us to go up and down sidings to our hearts' content and clear 8 lines in total - a very creditable achievement. [An updated Jan 2020 unmarked and marked up map showing this tour is available with e-BLN 1344.] There was a distinct scarcity of locos here, but several congregated later [a shift change?]. They were perhaps avoiding us so as not to disappoint those who had not booked to not get haulage from a not British built loco or not anything like that.

After this grand siding shuffle we continued southwards past the former Bloom & Billet Mill to do the totally new through track from 319 to 316 points including the loop in both directions as well and the loco ran round the brakevans (work that out if you weren't on the tour). This was a major score for all on board as it was not connected up in Jan 2019 and had been under possession on our Aug 2019 tour.

BOS Yard Siding No4 by the Concast plant was next - rare as it is usually occupied, then on to Siding No1 outside the BOS Plant. There was much muck covering the rails; it had not seen a train for a while. By now lunchtime was approaching so the train ran back to the AFRPS sheds via the Northants Bridge, hanging a left under the High Lines and dropping into the shed area. Having seen pictures of the High Line in New York, I feel the Scunthorpe one is better as it is totally unspoiled by tourism.

In the AFRPS buffet an excellent spread was provided for us but those wanting cold turkey had to go cold turkey, although there was Christmas cake and mince pies on offer for the 11th day of Christmas.

The train was then spilt and most crammed into two brakevans for a quick shunt to AFRPS Shed Lines 3 & 4. After collecting the other two vans we inspected Queen Victoria's bottom (the two lines under the eponymous blast furnace, of course) and then the Torpedo Repair Bay covering as far as possible on Roads 4, 5 & 6. Seeing the size of the torpedoes explains why the Bismarck came off second best.

Heading south we then went to the part of the site near Bridge 44 with four parallel tracks, which was presumably fairly rare in industrial use, even less so in preservation, and is very impressive to see. The only example in true preservation is at Swithland on the Great Central Railway. The AFRPS is unusual (unique?) in UK preservation as not owning the track they use - it is fairly common on the continent where a society will use a freight/private line on the occasions they operate.

We must all be grateful that British Steel permits them the access they do. After a double reversal the tour went along the Down line towards the BOS Plant and scooped the small section between 153 & 160 points - a required piece for me at least. Another sight which shows the impressive scale of the works was the line of hot torpedoes (always welcome on a cold day) waiting discharging at the BOS Plant. Along with empty ones for collection, this makes the direct line between points 154 and 152 permanently occupied and impossible to do. There is a Jan 2020 updated track map annotated with track that is impossible to do on our website document archive (dated 05.01.2020). After reversal we then set off on the Up line and headed right towards Northants Bridge and then northwards past half a dozen long-disused derelict locos and back towards The Angle. Redbourn Sidings were fairly well occupied which saved us a trip into the coldest, most open and windswept area of the whole works.

There were two possible ways back to the platform, so which way would the BLS choose? No contest really, so off we set round the perimeter line again with the sun setting in the west. Past the gaggle of Di8s in Mills Exchange Sidings, down the long straight then by the Slab Yard, round the end of the BOS Plant and on the outer line back to Bridge 44, two tracks over from where we had been earlier.

Passing the Torpedo Repair Bay again with a blue flame emanating from a chimney and back round to Frodingham Platform where it all started some seven hours earlier (which had passed so quickly).

After thanks and goodbyes, our members left for the 32 counties/boroughs they had journeyed from for the tour. The furthest extremities were Cumbria, Devon, East Sussex, Powys, Tyne & Wear and even 'sarf' of the Thames. It just shows what a good job Brigg Tourist Office do - indeed at the station a lady overheard three of us talking in the waiting room after the tour as we extolled the delights of the public tours, some with steam, (BLN 1342.4171 & see item 338) - she seemed very keen on the idea!

The final stats were that we officially did 33 separate sections of requested track with 66 reversals confirmed. A record breaking BLS donation of £3,505 was made to assist AFRPS's preservation efforts. Our thanks to the train crew of the day and the catering crew for the buffet lunch whose efforts were all appreciated. Thanks also to Martyn Brailsford for his highly detailed map of the network. Special thanks to Archie who kept our brake van warm all day with a glowing stove (hot pot) - given a few tons of coal and a Bullied Pacific, he will go far! Last but by no means least, our Hull Member, Mr Alan Sheppard Scunthorpe himself, route director, chief shunter and AFRPS working volunteer - he certainly worked very hard for us this day (and even did 5 new bits of track himself, so it must have been good!). Our next such railtour is booked for Bank Holiday Mon 31 Aug, 09.30-18.30; keep an eye on BLN.

This was my fourth BLS trip here and fifth visit to Scunthorpe. I only ever did one British Rail brake van trip so I am making up for it with these. One Scunthorpe virgin enjoyed himself and said he would be back again, so long may they continue. [Another first timer really had requested an aisle seat!] My trip home was via Bedford as I didn't fancy Cambridge on the ECML diversions, then between Waterloo and Woking via the PSUL route at Byfleet Curve due to engineering works at Wimbledon.


Not a porthole but a photo of a level crossing safety mirror (that could do with a good clean) reflecting No1 propelling four brakevans over Queens's Approach Road Level Crossing. This was while visiting Queen Victoria's bottom shunting between the two roads - 115 points.
[© Simon Mortimer 2020]




Siding No1 outside the BOS Plant; it had not seen a train for a while.
[© Mark Thomas 2020]




Inside the cavernous Rail Service Centre on Road 5 with the end of line ahead.
[© Simon Mortimer 2020]




View forward as we slowly approach the stops in Rail Service Centre Bay 5 guided in by Glenn Britcliffe, Mr Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Society himself, on the left.
[© Simon Mortimer 2020]




View from our railtour inside the Rail Service Centre building Road 5.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Earlier a Di8 Norwegian loco hauled a long rake of rail wagons out of the Rail Service Centre Road 5; it is on the connecting line sloping down to Dawes Lane and the rest of the steel works. Taken from our tour which is on the Rail Service Centre east head shunt end of line. It was at this point that it was decided to make for Road 5 before another train appeared with wagons to reoccupy it…
[© Simon Mortimer 2020]




Also at the high up Rail Service Centre was the previously unheard of situation of Roads 1, 2 & 3 (far right to left) being so clear of wagons. Our tour propels back to the west end head shunt, Points 619 are in view. Scunthorpe itself can be seen behind the vegetation.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Heavy Repair Bay, Road 8 with wagons in the way - but not for long. The pile driver at the end was a different matter though.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Our tour shunts the aforementioned wagons across into Road 5 (already done by the tour) clearing out Road 8, to the pile driver (right). There are no prizes for guessing where the tour went next… The scale of the Heavy Repair Bay building ahead can be appreciated. One discovery on the tour was the new buffer stops on Road 7 (right), severing the loop so it no longer joins Line 6 towards the building.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




BOS Yard Line 4 - see earlier for an end of line close up. Top middle left is the Slab Yard, then Concast with the BOS Plant far right.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




After lunch and with everyone squeezed onto two brakevans, AFRPS Shed Lines 3 & 4 were traversed; Line 4 is the clear one ahead.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Below Queen Victoria Blast Furnance; both lines were done and end just round the corner; a hot metal suit is needed to enter!
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




On the middle line of the BOS Plant itself, looking towards the end of line; left is the hot torpedo queue (empties this end).
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Passing Appleby Coke Ovens (right with its branch) just as some burning coal is being quenched in a coke car - it is just steam, honestly, but you should see how they make the Pepsi. Left is Redbourn Container Terminal.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




A line that everyone was very keen to do; the new through line and its loop (right). The junction (Points 319) with the existing line is just before the entrance to the former Bloom & Billet Mill ahead. It has turned into a remarkably sunny day for the first week in January.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Trent Yard Siding No9 with the main line on the right (Scunthorpe is to the left and Cleethorpes off to the right).
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Where are all the wagons? Mills Exchange Sidings; 15 is full but 11-14 (here) were covered as were 6, 8, 9 & 10. The Foreign Ore Branch is behind.
[© Chris Ziemer 2020]




Just before entering Rail Service Centre No5 Bay. The klaxon warning system has been activated hence the green light left of the triangular train sign on the building. A bit of 'impossible track' is to the left and left of that at the front is AFRPS member and accredited shunter-in-chief, Alan Sheppard our member, Scunthorpe expert and route director.
[© Simon Mortimer 2020]




Scunthorpe: Pre-grice shunting; (moving wagons from heavy Repair Bay Road 8 to Road 5.).
[© Mark Thomas 2020]




An area of outstanding natural industrial beauty... our tour on the approach to the blast furnaces.
[© Mark Thomas 2020]




An area of outstanding natural industrial beauty... our tour on the approach to the blast furnaces.
[© Mark Thomas 2020]




Lincolnshire Hot Pot… Chief Stoker Archie Lewis at work (it didn't quite melt).
[© Mark Haggas 2020]

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