The Branch Line Society


'Ribblesdale Rider' Clitheroe Cement Works Railtours,
Sunday 30th September 2018

Report by Mark Sutton

After two very successful ventures with Hanson Cement at Ketton, the Society collaborated with the company again over the weekend of 29 and 30 September, at its Ribblesdale (Clitheroe) site. Once again, a well attended public open day was held on the Saturday, with various attractions including green liveried GBRf 66779 'Evening Star' which our stewards took a keen interest in. On Sunday there were a series of four, all-line, Society 'enthusiasts' tours; both days stewarded by our members.


On the Saturday there were about 1,300 visitors - a big success - over half made a train trip in our riding vehicle 'Molly' then most had a conducted quarry and works minibus tour. Molly looked very smart after her repaint at Barrow Hill for the occasion in Hanson Blue (remarkably similar to British Rail Blue!). Hanson kindly facilitated Molly's repaint and her transport costs in accordance with the commercial arrangement reached with the Society and we were able to donate surplus funds to several Hanson nominated charities. Of note the Saturday was one of three events mounted by the Society that day; the others were at the Llangollen Railway and Coate Water Miniature Railway. In today's climate of declining industry and Health & Safety concerns, the once-common industrial tour is a dying breed - and thus from a personal point of view always high on my list of priorities to book.

Welcome to Hanson Ribblesdale Cement! - a converted Wickham trolley at the works entrance; perhaps it once ran on 'flower power'?
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

Arriving in good time for the first trip on Sunday, having followed the comprehensive parking and meeting instructions issued in advance, there was time for an unexpected 'bonus' ride on a peripatetic miniature railway which had been set up to give public rides the previous day. This comprised a 100ft length of raised track with sit-astride coaches, powered by an excellent scratch built battery-operated replica EM1/Class 76 loco 26054. Needless to say, while the locomotive's pantograph was faithfully recreated, the 1500V overhead wires were not! A good speed was safely achieved as is often the case on raised track.

Mileage table

The main standard gauge tour train was formed of GECT 0-6-0 DH site shunters 09, 'Chug Chug' (Works number 5401, 1975) and 10, 'Winston' (5396, 1975), either end of our Society asset and former Ferry Van 'Molly'. The first destination was the Network Rail boundary, now positioned 1 chain south west of West Bradford Road level crossing, having been moved from its original position by Horrocksford Jn to allow freight trains off the national network to recess on the branch loop without requiring Hanson authority. Motorists were clearly bemused on a Sunday morning to see trains full of passengers roll onto the crossing and stop, before returning back in the direction from which they had come!

The next leg took the tour the full length of the large site, passing beneath the cement silo for loading rail wagons and over the weighbridge; here the sudden jolt and bang surprised some unsuspecting passengers! Reaching the buffers on the longer of the two sidings at the end of the line represented penetration significantly further than Pathfinder's 'Lancs & Yorks Builder' railtour of 10 June 2017, which accessed the works from the main line but only traversed the shorter of the two sidings and didn't actually reach the stops due to long term parked wagons (removed especially for us). An excellent view of the extensive quarry workings was available. 100M tonnes have been extracted creating a massive hole which is well hidden and there are another 40 years of reserves. A second reversal took the train back through the works and to the loco shed. The shed itself was passed right through and, in time-honoured BLS style, the stop block beyond the doors at the far end was reached.

The temporary passenger platform looking towards the works and the end of the branch. To the right is the line through the loco shed with its buffer stop.
[© Chris Ziemer 2018]

The last remaining piece of track to 'do' was the shorter end of line siding, which Hanson had kindly made sure was clear of wagons (like all the lines) to allow complete coverage. In fact, this siding was traversed twice for a longer run, with an extra return trip to the temporary platform in between.

All in all, this was a highly enjoyable way to spend a Sunday morning, despite the slightly damp weather. Tours like this provide an opportunity not only to ride exceedingly rare track, but also to study industrial equipment and architecture at close quarters and, on this occasion, quarry excavation on a huge scale. Thanks are due to all involved, particularly Kev Adlam who made multiple site visits.

After our four tours had run at 10.00, 11.00, 12.00 & 13.00 some members visited the nearby Ribble Valley Live Steamers Model Engineering Society the other side of Clitheroe near Roefield Leisure Centre, Edisford Road, BB7 3LA. This Society provided the peripatetic miniature at Ribblesdale Cement and made us most welcome. Multiple rides were enjoyed on the interesting and lengthy mixed gauge elevated railway circuit - including between the 'arrivals' and 'departures' platforms - in park woodland by the River Ribble. Public running is Sunday afternoons Easter to the end of Sep, weather permitting.

The other end of the train (a 'Molly' sandwich) looking towards the branch junction; the works entrance is middle background right. Left is the buffer stop for the line through the shed.
[© Chris Ziemer 2018]

On the shed branch.
[© Chris Ziemer 2018]

Running through the loco shed.
[© Chris Ziemer 2018]

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