The Branch Line Society


Bury Bubble Tracker
Sunday 19th July 2015

Report by David Hill

We have all enjoyed participating in a Society Fixture, but what's it like to plan, organise and run one? That is something I have recently found out, but it all began back in July 2014. Kev approached me whilst I was on guards' duty at the ELR and asked if I would like to look into the possibility of a BLS visit to cover rare track. Yes, I am up for a challenge and was certainly interested to see what could be done. That started the planning process. Being a volunteer, I am not always at the railway at the same time as the 'full timers'; therefore finding the opportunity to speak to the right people took a while, but time was on our side, so no rush. The ELR advised me to put together a 'spec' of what we wanted to do. Thus to the drawing board and one of the most interesting bits of the process, working out what we could attempt and whether we would have time to cover it in a day without overstretching ourselves. Various emails between Kev and me then ensued with my rough idea and Kev's thoughts. The Baron Street Yard area had been remodelled in 2007 for Carillion to use, storing and assembling their engineers' trains for Metrolink work, thus my narrative of the various sidings caused a bit of confusion between us! I therefore put together a suite of photographs and we had a discussion on a mainline railtour in January this year. Then we had to set a date; a weekend without an ELR special event, avoiding BLS fixtures or potential mainline railtours. Sunday 19 July was eventually decided on.

With the route spec agreed between Kev and myself, I then went about splitting it into sections and working out when we could occupy the mainline to fit around service trains. The date fixed, the spec submitted to the railway and formalised allowed Kev to finally advertise the fixture. The 'fully booked' sign went up quickly, an extremely positive sign, but now the pressure was on to deliver with people travelling from far and wide. Various phone calls and email exchanges took place with Kev to ensure everything was covered in the 'Method of Ops' issued to us by the railway in the week before the tour. Nervous tension awaiting this (presumably, how Kev feels pending validated NR timings on a mainline tour) turned to relief and excitement, that it was effectively the spec we had submitted. Now to enjoy the tour, although the hard work was not yet completed.

The short cameo appearance of 09024 was much appreciated by those on board.
[© David Hill 2015]

Drivers were in place and men on the ground to assist with the point clipping and scotching, along with a guard (myself). Arriving at the railway on the Sunday, conversations were had with Bury South box and the Responsible Officer; ensuring everyone had copies of the Method of Ops to enable the day to (hopefully) run smoothly and all were fully aware of the moves to be covered. Kev then arrived with Jim and Glen, our stewards for the day. I had arranged for him to park at Baron Street, but did not realise this would generate so much excitement, Kev rushing from the car leaving his two stewards to unload as he had seen some stock stabled which was a cop; sorry Kev. We then proceeded to Bubble Car 55001, our vehicle for the day, stabled as a nice bonus for us on C&W Road 3. Headboards duly positioned on each end, we then ran to Bury station to pick up our passengers; stewards and guard (!) with their first bit of required track in the bag. More was definitely to follow. The driver was briefed and reminded of our route as we proceeded and certainly played his part in ensuring we always reached the safe extremities. Departing from P4 at 10.00 prompt, we traversed Carriage Siding (CS) 2 to the stabled stock before our first reversal in P4 and then CS1, another reversal took us to 'Belle Vue Terrace' onto the through siding. A further reversal (the driver getting the hang of it, as they do) took us back to Bury South before running towards C&W as far as Belle Vue Terrace Stopboard. A brief stop followed awaiting loco 09024 which piloted the tour into Bury P3 for an impromptu photo stop. The Class 09 then hauled us to Castlecroft slot where it was detached, its short cameo appearance completed and much appreciated by those onboard. Another two reversals were required to reach P4 as there is no direct access from Castlecroft slot. Due to running early and waiting the service train, a short break was taken. We then ran early nonstop to Ramsbottom sidings, no longer needing to wait in the station to cross a train hauled by diesel 37109 which passed after we had entered the sidings instead. The right hand siding road was followed to the buffers where a stewards' group photo was taken, before the other road onto the headshunt adjacent to Ramsbottom Signalbox. Next to Ramsbottom station awaiting steam loco 13065 (BR 42765) to pass on a train. Due to the efficiency of our driver, clippers and scotchers on the ground, there was an extra 35-minute break here. A nonstop return to Bury completed the morning's activities and a 45-minute lunch break ensued when passengers could visit the interesting Bury Transport Museum.

Prompt reconvening after a driver change meant an early departure for the afternoon session with a run through Baron Street Yard Through Road 3 to the Metrolink Boundary. A short wait here whilst all five point clips were positioned enabled traversal of Road 5 to just inside the steam shed doors. Roads 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 were then also taken as far as possible. Then came a bit of track our driver, both the clippers and scotchers all needed; the Steam shed coaling road (they were diesel department staff so had no requirement for coal). The South end of Baron Street Yard was then covered in numerical order, Roads 4, 2, 1, 0 (Super Siding, so named allegedly as it is laid with concrete sleepers) and -1 (the tram siding; because it stables Metrolink 1003), whilst constantly looking at our watches to ensure we didn't miss our path to Heywood. Unfortunately circumstances conspired against us as we were delayed waiting for 09024 hauling D7076 to stable at the South End of Road 4. This meant arriving 16 minutes late back into Bury P3. A quick change of ends and with the Responsible Officer on board (to activate Green Lane crossing), we departed 13 late. Conscious of the need not to delay the following service train (so as not to queer the pitch for future trips and our Society's reputation), the decision was made to omit the section from Heywood to Hopwood G.F. (covered by railtours from NR), but retain the much rarer Heywood run round loop. This proved an excellent and well supported choice; arrival back into Bury was only 7 minutes late with just a minor 2 minute delay to the service train.

A short comfort break was then taken during which I contacted Bury South Signalman to add an extra bonus, a run from P4 to the Metrolink Bridge via the Outer Curve before returning via the Inner Curve into P2 and then, following a reversal, the crossover from P2 onto the Through Siding to Baron Street Yard north end. Using all 5 point clips enabled swift and safe coverage in order from left to right, Roads 6, 5, 4, 2 and 1. All available track traversed, we then proceeded back to terminate at Bury in P3, 30 minutes early at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable day. Thus, after 53 reversals, numerous points being clipped, scotched, and unclipped, 23 miles later the fixture was complete. Would I do it again? Oh yes! In fact, Kev has already come up with some ideas for next year, onto the planning phase we go again.

A dingy wet Bury Bolton Street in BR days with a Class 504 third rail EMU in 'Rail Blue' livery about to leave for Manchester Victoria.
Bury Bolton Street CP 17 Mar 1980 when it was replaced by the new 'Bury Interchange' now the Metrolink terminus. The station was ROP by the ELR 25 Jul 1987.
[© Ian Mortimer]

The view in the opposite direction at Bury South Jn, looking south, with an EMU arriving from Manchester Victoria. The sharp curve left towards Castleton (CP 5 Oct 1970) had been singled but was still in use for domestic coal traffic to Rawtenstall (CA 8 Apr 1981). Note its checkrail and also the telegraph wires on the right.
[© Ian Mortimer]

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