The Branch Line Society


Scunthorpe 'Steel Spring' Tracker
Saturday 6th May 2017

Report by Terry Cotter

Showing the continuing popularity of these unique visits, the usual cross (but very happy) section (per BLN 1273.213) of nearly 60 members gathered on the AFRPS platform ready for a 09.30 departure. Motive power was Hunslet 0-6-0 '58' hauling the three brake vans which seem to vary in colour each visit. Another feature was the new orange station name signs and green metal fencing not due to a new operator for a change but improvements to the station area - very smart.


Full advantage was taken of three of Winn's Sidings unusually being empty. Right, and occupied, is 'Middle Road' (don't ask!), to its left is 'Tube Side' then the two 'Iron Roads'. The clear lines were completely traversed supervised by the expert fully trained and accredited AFRPS volunteer (our very own Alan Sheppard, Scunthorpe Steel Works BLS Route Director). Appleby Coke Ovens are to the left, one of the few such plants working in the UK now.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

Our tour commenced with the obligatory visit to the station headshunt and loop, both swiftly achieved and starting as we meant to go on. In fact the whole day's operation was a very slick affair confirming the professionalism of all those involved; the 94 reversals (but no setbacks!) were possibly a Society record for one of these trips. The last tour in January had a respectable 79 reversals and was notable for the number of visits unusually inside buildings while this tour was memorable for the number of buffer stops touched, (beams/other reason to stop reached) - the buffer stops all passed the test too!

Warm up complete (and it was certainly needed given the chilly conditions, although participants had been warned of this beforehand) the tour headed off to the first target of the day, the Heavy Repair Bay north end, where roads 1, 2, 5 and 6 (inner) were traversed before moving on to Winn's Sidings where buffers were reached on both Iron Roads and then Tube Side (which provided good photo opportunities of former Class 20 '81' on a nearby siding). [Click here for a new marked-up track plan.]

The Rail Products area which is quite high up and exposed (=cold) was found to be remarkably clear of rolling stock;
full advantage was taken as can be seen from the 'marked up' map [link above]. Looking west towards Scunthorpe station,
the various main line exchange sidings and the line to Cleethorpes are to the right but at a much lower level out of view.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

Next to be investigated was the Rail Products area starting with Rail Service Centre 2 Bay, East and West (as far as the lowered barriers), RDL (Rail Delivery Line) 1 & 2 (to doors), the headshunt by RDL 4 (to buffers) and finally RDL 4 & 3 (to beams). The manoeuvre (as far as a wagon!) on New Gantry gave excellent photo opportunities of six OOU shunter locos on Old Portal before reaching the headshunt buffers in the Corus Rail sidings. Return saw the tour on Siding 7 where a change of direction part way allowed the West end of the road to be reached (to the buffers) before another reversal put us in the headshunt to the east to await departure of a loco from the area. This allowed sought after Siding 5 to be fully traversed to the earlier headshunt giving overlap. [Unusually; the lines are normally occupied.]

In the words of our esteemed Scotland Regional Editor, who frequently makes the pilgrimage to Scunthorpe, it is an area totally unspoilt by tourism.
On the South Melting shop running road with a British Steel loco in the distance. To the right and out of view are 'The Four Queens' (blast furnaces).
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

With lunchtime approaching, it was time to head to the AFRPS shed but first taking in Trent Low Yard Line 11 (to the NR boundary - any further and we would have illuminated the line at Scunthorpe Power Signal Box!) and Redbourn B1 and B2 plus 227 loop (not covered on recent Society tours). The run to the AFRS depot is between the 'Basic Slag Road' on one side and the 'Old Stripper Shed' on the other. not far from 'The Four Queens' (blast furnaces). The normal lunchtime efficiency saw everybody fed and watered. Duly refreshed (including the crew), we set off for some more highlights; first the shed headshunt to the end then reversing in the right hand siding.

Heading down the Coal Running Road towards Bridge 44, reversal allowed the entrance to Rod Mill Entrance 14 to be reached with return via 14 Loop followed by the nearby siding (to the buffers of course) returning via 15 Loop towards Bridge 44. A good run took us to the Slab Yard area where a reversal nearby allowed the CONCAST upper siding to be taken to reach the end of the lower siding before heading off to the P Way area headshunt buffers, after which the two sidings were taken there to the parked track machines and gates respectively (as good a reason as any to stop…).

Next was one of the more unusual places, the Iron Pits The landscape colour and profile here creates the impression of being on a far off alien planet and today seemed even better than on previous visits due to the presence of steam adding to the effect! Following track inspection, all four sidings were covered to safe limits. The area is used to tip molten iron from the hot torpedoes if the steel making plant cannot take it, to prevent it solidifying in the torpedoes. It then forms in sheets which are broken up for recycling using a large mobile electromagnetic crane dropping a large metal ball on it - what a fun job! The resulting scrap goes back into the blast furnaces (of which two of the four were working).

Striking while the iron was hot on a line that is normally occupied and yet another buffer stop beckons.
The end of Concast Lower Siding was reached by the earlier facing crossover from the Upper Siding on the left.
The perimeter line runs along the fence, across the background in front of the greenery beyond and at right angles to these two.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

The Iron Pitts (to the left and right of this line); the long building behind is part of the former Bloom & Billet Mill and the one projecting
out on the right is the former Soaker. The total length of these mostly disused continuous buildings - off view both sides - is about a mile!
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

Passing through Mills Exchange Siding No.13 and lucky for some on the tour, perhaps so called
as participants who had done it before could exchange it with someone else for one they needed?
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

The four track section, over 'Bridge 44' (just before the curve). This is the south west corner of the complex looking south;
all four lines and the crossover were covered during the course of the day.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

Then it was a fast run past the closed Dawes Lane coke ovens, round the loop and down through Mills Exchange siding 14. Reversal took us back the way we had just come through Siding 13 and another change of direction saw progress through Siding 12 and on to the entrance to BBM2 (Bloom and Billet Mill entrance 2). Heading back north allowed the other track to be covered to a suitable reversal point to head south again and run through the former Bloom and Billet Mill (inside at last!). A fast run round the bottom of the outer loop past Bridge 44 included parallel running with a 'top & tailed' loaded train on the adjacent line. Then it was off the BOS Plant…..

A fast run round the bottom of the outer loop past Bridge 44 included parallel running with a 'top & tailed' loaded train on the adjacent line.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

From the rear brakevan, at the BOS Plant, a queue of hot metal torpedoes (they were too!) waiting to be tipped. In the distance towards
the green and pleasant fields can be seen the end of line, remarkably high up. The buffer stops were reached, as many were this day.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

The outer perimeter line passes the end of line at a much lower level at right angles beneath.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

The approach to the BOS Plant, to show what a busy place it is with steam and rust-coloured
smoke/fumes emanating from several different places at once, the orange is the end of a torpedo.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

At the earlier reversal point there was, of course, another reversal allowing the lower line to be taken to the buffers at the end of the BOS plant (Basic Oxygen Steel making) line passing the queue of hot torpedoes. This was covered at the end of January's tour but it was nice to do it in daylight and see the view from high up. Return was via the higher line after doing the siding/headshunt alongside Lime Avenue while it was empty.

The penultimate area visited was to Queen Victoria West Road and then towards the blast furnace area stopping short as usual. This was as regal as this trip got compared with the January one, but it was none the worse for it! For those that don't know the Scunthorpe blast furnaces are 'The Four Queens': Queen Victoria (1954), Queen Anne (1954), Queen Mary (1938) and Queen Bess (1938).

After the Central Engineering Workshops Dock (CEW on the map) headshunt our final destination was the Heavy Repair Bay south end. This included Roads 4, 3, 2 & 1 to the doors and the siding by the stored locos (Road 6 was OOU and 5 full). A filthy Highline loco refusing to give up its identity was turned into a giant scratch card as years of grime were rubbed of revealing 'No6'. A winner for some…

Those formerly from Selby and other places who 'only do Baker' will have seen just how much of the system is depicted on page 43 of the 14th (June 2015) Edition!

The Heavy Repair Bay (South End) was also remarkably clear for once. Here there are some unusual interesting single rail trap points to protect those
working on locos in, or in front of, the building. The AFRPS volunteer shunter is about to hold one shut for the tour to traverse Line 4 to the doors.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

The very rarely used track set in tarmac to the right joins on to to the Appleby Coke Ovens 'coke car' line (much used) for transporting the burning coal to be
'quenched' which happens at remarkably regular intervals creating large pathognomonic plumes of steam. The points in front of the tour train were changed so that
it took the 'Coke Oven Weighbridge Loop' to the right. The tour mainly did lines not covered on our recent tours and those requested by participants (if possible!).
In the cutting bottom left, the former 'low level lines' came out into the works. These used to run under the main line east of Trent Jn at Scunthorpe to connect
with the branch to various iron ore mines including Roxby (now used for tipping) and via Dragonby Sidings to the demolished Normanby Park Steel works
(all closed by Feb 1982) and Flixborough Wharf branch.
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

After nine hours that was (sadly) the end of another excellent tour and it was time to head back to the starting point with many looking forward to the Sunday TPE tour as well as the next Scunthorpe visit on 6 Jan 2018. A huge thank you to everybody involved with organisation, operation, documentation and catering for the day but especially Glenn Britcliffe (AFRPS), Martyn (Map Man Brailsford), our own Alan Sheppard (Mr Route Director and a qualified AFRPS working member and he did work hard - all day) for making sure all those buffers, beams, doors etc were reached.

Running alongside the 'Slab Yard' (the building right), the track to the right enters it via the 'middle entrance'.
It used to run through this building and out of the 'east entrance' further along the building, past the end of the 'new loop'
(seen to the left with wagons in it) and join up again with the running line but is sadly now disconnected at the far end (see plan).
[© Chris Zeimer 2017]

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