Friday, July 6, 2012

200 Years Of Steam

When I was growing up the closest place I could be taken to see steam engines in action was Middleton Railway (Google Maps recons it's a 3.5 mile, nine minute car drive from my parents house).

The railway opened in 1758 using horse drawn waggons to pull thousands of tons of coal a year from the Middleton Colliery into the heart of Leeds. In 1812 it moved from horse drawn waggons to became the first railway in the world to successfully use steam locomotives in a commercial environment. Middleton Railway also has a more recent history of firsts when, in 1960, it became the first completely volunteer operated society to run passenger services on a standard gauge railway. For a more detailed history see the societies own history page.

To celebrate 200 years of steam locomotives working on the line, a few weekends ago they hosted a large steam gala, with all their operational steam engines in action as well as a number of visiting locomotives. It was the first time I'd visited the railway in at least twenty years so a lot had changed. Firstly, when I used to visit the ticket office and shop was a tiny little cabin at the edge of the car park, now it's housed inside a purpose built engine shed and museum which houses some of the locomotives I remember, although now as static exhibits awaiting overhaul. I'm intending to write about some of the locomotives in separate posts, but for this post I thought I'd show you the country's oldest operational steam locomotive: Furness Railway No. 20. It was built in 1863 by Sharp Stewart & Co. of Manchester making it 149 years old and still going strong (although it has had numerous bits replaced in that time). A perfect visitor for the 200 Years of Steam gala event.


  1. Where GB and I went to Prep school we could watch trains all day long - and often did! One line ran in a cutting down one side of the school and another ran along an embankment which we could clearly see from some classrooms and the school yard. One of those lines also ran under a bridge at the end of our road. Despite that, and unlike some of our schoolmates, GB and I never really got into train watching.

    1. I guess growing up with them everyday probably made them seem so normal that they become mundane. I'm sure if you'd grown up with diesel trains, then steam engines would have been more interesting. Anyway, I hope you will still find some of the posts interesting enough to read.

  2. Ah. This is a better explanation of that which I said in my comment on the last post.