The Branch Line Society


AV Dawson II … Let them eat cake!
Saturday 21st July 2018

On a very pleasant day in Middlesbrough (no, seriously) I arrived at AV Dawson's on Depot Rd. The 10.00 railtour was just about to cross returning from the North Sea Supply Base Wharf. There were numerous photographers taking advantage of the proceedings with some rather bemused road users waiting patiently; they seemed understanding. I gave my details to David Russell, the BLS steward. He registered my attendance and gave me a Jim Sellens masterpiece ticket in return. David also mentioned an '00 gauge' special Class 08 in RSS livery (£150 reserve - it sold) and a cab ride on a first come basis for £40 with all proceeds to AV Dawson's chosen charity, the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.


Seems like a good idea! Forty Foor Rd level crossing with the large Automtotive Steel Terminal in the background. (All pictures in this section by BLS Steward Dickie Irvine - access with permission.)
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

Once in the upstairs refreshment area of the offices, the very pleasant ladies raising money for the local Grade II listed St John's Church Refurbishment Fund greeted everyone with: 'Would you like a drink? …and a cake?' With the best part of over 20 different types of homemade cake on display, it was a shame that I don't eat cake, to others it was cake paradise! In the seated area of this room the gathering* of visiting enthusiasts held many conversations with snippets of information being wielded to and fro. (*What is the collective noun? A 'grice of railway enthusiasts', a 'Quail' or an 'enthusiasm'?)

Soon we were ushered into the adjacent meeting/conference room where more formal matters were about to take place. A presentation, by Charlie Nettle, Head of Commercial and Marketing, outlined the history of AV Dawson's which, coincidentally celebrated 80 years of business that very month. The dos and don'ts about photographs, do not touch the (razor sharp) steel in the warehouse, the fire drill - no test was expected - together with the clear progress the company is making made for a most interesting illustrated talk. It was obvious to all that Charlie was very proud of the Automotive Steel Storage Terminal with its temperature and humidity controlled environment plus other features at the leading edge of technology. He cited several cities from around the World from where visitors had come to see and appreciate the warehouse with a view to having similar facilities at their locations.

With the presentation over it was a walk through the impressive very smartly kept Automotive Steel Storage Terminal to find our train waiting outside. The train, in the order of the first move, was 08774 'Arthur Vernon Dawson' (Derby 1960), 786968 'Molly' (some mainline railway companies could benefit by adopting seating of a similar standard to Molly's) and Cobra's 01567 'Elizabeth' (TH 276V 1977).

Thanks to Martyn B, track coverage is shown by the Red line

Mileage table

Over the Forty Foot Rd Crossing (staffed by Crossing Keeper Martyn Brailsford) at the end of the line in Ayrton Terminal Warehouse, previously used for steel coils it is now receiving investment.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

With everyone on board we departed a few minutes early on the 11.00 trip. After a short distance it was the first reversal, at No25 points. With 01567 now leading we headed to the Warehouse passing the Undertrack Unloading Facility on our right with 08600 (Derby 1959) and 08598 'Hercules' (Derby 1959) plus a few JGA and similar wagons. It turned out that these contained the final consignment of Potash by rail from Boulby Mine, although Polyhalite (K2Ca2Mg(SO4)4·2H2O) traffic continues instead. At the warehouse itself the traditional BLS 'Kissing of the buffers' ceremony was duly achieved.

We returned back the way we had arrived and could view progress on building of a new £1M rail loading facility for imported German gypsum. It will enable the gypsum to stay drier with less energy required to dry it fully when it reaches British Gypsum's site, 'somewhere' in the East Midlands.

When clear of No4 points we reversed and took the right hand road. On our right was an old track panel graveyard with several score present, all stacked about ten high with a dozen or so stop blocks on individual short pieces of track scattered around. We continued via No4 road (between points No9 and 17) then across Depot Road Level Crossing and onto the inland road of the two at the North Sea Supply Base Wharf. The end of this line, which has no traffic, was not quite reached because of steel stacked across it. The branch to Dent's Wharf remains well blocked. Reversing again it was left at No16 points and from No14 points to the left hand road of Cobra's facility; the highlight of the day for many.

We changed direction once again and when clear of No11 points reversed yet again and travelled on the left hand road beyond the Metz Road overbridge right up to the Network Rail boundary. The final reversal saw us go left at No2 points to just short of the Automotive Steel Storage Terminal ready to form the next tour. Many then took the opportunity to take photographs of the train and locomotives.

It was back to see the ladies in the refreshment area for another coffee again and I selected a lemon butterfly cake for the long suffering lady in my life. Who said romance was dead‽ I initially wrote the previous sentence without the 'long suffering' and was asked to insert those words by the said lady. My first attempt selected a lemon butterfly cake for the lady in my long suffering life did not pass the domestic vetting procedure which caused butterflies in my stomach. Despite my best endeavours, the cake would not be accepted as an early Christmas present but, and I quote: 'It was a lovely cake…' This fixture would not have been possible without a great deal of effort by many organisations and people; AV Dawson, Cobra Railfreight, Reid Freight, Barrow Hill Roundhouse, Rail Support Services, PLEG, Martyn Brailsford for the maps, Gary Lonsdale for the stocklist, 'Pogo' for the mileage and moves report and Jim Sellens (who else?) for the tickets. To the stewards and officials of the BLS, particularly the one and only indefatigable Kev Adlam, who all gave up so much so the visitors could enjoy a journey on an excellent fixture. The planning for such an event would be difficult to underestimate. Getting the rolling stock together, checking the routes available, its suitability for travelling along and changes which might stem from all that are but just a part of it. I left the site leaving our volunteer stewards to continue to give up most of their day to bring a lot of pleasure to so many.

While in the area, I decided to have a run to Saltburn to do the remodelled Saltburn West Jn and to Bishop Auckland for any realignment due to the new Hitachi plant. This only served to remind me how much those volunteers unselfishly give. Over the next day various members could be seen locally at places such as the 15" Saltburn Miniature Railway, Darlington Railway Museum, Teesside Small Gauge Railway as well as Ruswarp and Ryedale Miniature Railways. Others also made a whistle-stop tour by car including Seal Sands, the Wilton branch, Tees Dock, Redcar and South Gare Breakwater.

One thought regularly crosses my mind, if AV Dawson can make such a welcome increase in the use of rail freight then what is holding back other companies in other similarly industrialised areas? Finally, a thank you is long overdue to the wives and girlfriends (or both) who tolerate our absences so regularly in pursuit of this highly addictive interest but which raised a very creditable £6,300 in total for charity.

Near Ayrton Warehouse, the view through the Undertrack Unloading Facility.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

Between Points 11 and 16 along the edge of the yard, coming out of Cobra Terminal before reversing to reach the NR Boundary with the third transporter bridge (Middlesbrough) to feature in this BLN.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

Crossing Depot Road Level Crossing coming off the the North Sea Supply Base Wharf branch. Martyn Brailsford is on the left facing sideways and Mark Haggas is on the loco balcony.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

On that branch which is now rarely used.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

Hold on tight everyone; the crane shunting demonstration is about the begin … at the end of the North Sea Supply Base Wharf, inner track.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

The highlight of the trip, the Cobra Railfreight Terminal hopper house.
[© Dickie Irvine 2018]

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