The Branch Line Society


Cumbria Long Weekend, Day 1
Friday 16th May 2014

Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway: Which railways have a numbered platform not in regular passenger use? La’al Ratty is one. Coaches have doors on one side only and Ravenglass P2 is on the opposite side. The 31 members for our 08.55 charter on a warm and sunny day were delighted to see the three coach rake at the turntable end of the very rare P2, with ICL No. 8 'Lady Wakefield'. The two open coaches were particularly popular although the closed coach offered a more comfortable seat! The R&ER had even made a bespoke BLS headboard with signal and distributed their special BLS brochure to everyone. Departing punctually we had a unique photo-stop at Murthwaite PW Depot, originally a stone crushing plant served by a standard gauge branch from Ravenglass. After a few more photo-stops (not possible on a service train) we reached Dalegarth outer non-preferred platform. In the impressive spacious glassy 2007 station building we descended to the lower room for a sumptuous spread of homemade cakes, biscuits and various warm scones that were too much for us all, even including the train crew. There was endless tea and coffee with a takeaway option too!

The one low point of the weekend came when our General Secretary asked all those present, whilst enjoying the fixtures, to remember Terry Flavell, who had sadly just passed away. Terry, a true BLS character, was a regular on our locomotive-hauled tours, always ready with a smile and witty retort, so all were pleased to do this in memory of a popular member and friend to many who will be greatly missed.

The first service train of the day had arrived and departed, cleverly arranged to swap locomotives so that we had ICL No. 11 'Douglas Ferreira' on our return from the other platform! (À la TISWAS, the programme isn't just thrown together, it’s carefully planned over many months.) A fast run back to Ravenglass P3 ensured we didn't delay the 11.25 service train. Then another Brucie Bonus – sorry, Adlam Add on! To complete our coverage of all R&ER platforms, ICL No.9 'Cyril' took our train out and back over the station crossover into P1; noting that its direct connection over the turntable to the siding alongside NR has been removed (since 2009).

Once all train movements had ceased, members were allowed under supervision to walk to this long siding adjacent to (but fenced off from) the NR main line, now accessible from P3 only. They viewed items stabled there; saw a well loaded southbound Northern service passing then visited the museum, locomotive and carriage sheds. A very friendly, welcoming yet busy professional railway recommended to all, who are due our hearty thanks for putting together such a fine visit. Then it was free time as members wished to take photos, patronize the café, travel on a service train behind steam or even visit the Silloth Miniature Railway (where the shed branch was successfully traversed) before our evening fixture:

West Cumbria Guild of Model Engineers, Workington: No-one visits West Cumbria we were told by the operators of this mixed 3½”/ 5” gauge elevated railway, a circular track with three steaming bays set in woodland. That’s a shame as 29 members (including one of note who travelled especially from Eastbourne!) were very well received for BLS special running with two steam and four battery locomotives on a lovely sunny evening. Any slight wind chill was offset by tea, coffee and luxurious specially baked chocolate topped caramel shortbread. Two of the battery locomotives were available for members to drive, 2384 'Alexander' (Baby Deltic design) and 33030 (DRS liveried Class 33). We appreciated just how stable this elevated railway is, supported on metal posts driven into the soil. For steam traction there was LNER 4-4-2 1297 'La’al Gwen' and Southern 4-4-0 758. All 3 steaming bays were unusually traversed hand propelled. A Planet style battery locomotive was noted and ran by request, our General Secretary being its first ever passenger!

Operating in Curwen Park CA14 4YB (NY 007287) most Sundays 14.00 to 16.00 weather permitting, a visit is recommended to a site largely not frequented even by other model engineers. In the evening some of the party had interesting discussions with the Civic Nuclear Police at Sellafield while spotting although as they said (having great difficulty keeping a straight face) no one had done anything wrong!