Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Asthmatic Express

Since we bought our house almost four years ago we have had a steam train pass across the bottom of the garden on two separate occasions (see here and here for the details), yet all we have managed to see was smoke and steam. Well Sunday turned out to be mostly third time lucky.

The first problem was that I didn't know that any steam trains were due to pass the house. While I check the UK Steam Tours web page fairly regularly, I'd either not checked it recently enough or had simply missed the entry (it probably didn't help that I'm use to the service running in the autumn). So just as on the first occasion the first we knew about it was the distinctive sound echoing up the valley as the train headed for Penistone. Fortunately a number of the neighbours have trimmed back some of the trees in their gardens since last time, and with the remaining trees not yet having leaves we managed to see more than just smoke. Unfortunately I didn't have the camera to hand, but we saw enough to know that, as on previous occasions, the train was being pulled by a pair of LMS Black 5 locomotives.

Having missed out on a picture for a third time, I made the rather rash descision to grab the camera and run the half mile or so across Penistone to get a shot of them passing over the viaduct. I was fairly certain I had about four minutes as the train would have to wait at the station to allow the normal scheduled service to pass through. Unfortunately, even when I was reasonably fit, I was never a sprinter, but I did run as fast as my legs would carry me, and I did just make it. Given the quality of the pictures I managed to take (this one was the best of the bunch) I'm not entirely sure the exercise was worth it, especially as I'm still coughing and wheezing over 24 hours later (I did have asthma as a child, but other than during a trip to Beijing it hasn't really bothered me in years).

While I was having problems drawing in enough air to breathe comfortably, the engines were certainly having no such difficulties as the drivers pulled sharply away from Penistone and over the viaduct towards Huddersfield. Hopefully next time I'll manage a photo of them at the bottom of the garden!


  1. You'll have to get a bike Mark. This running is good for neither man nor beast.

    1. I bike would probably have helped, mind you even that sounds too much like exercise, and I'm definitely of the opinion that exercise is bad for you!

    2. Forgot to say it's a good photo. Steam looks great working hard with the regulator wide open and the steam injectors to the smoke box the same. I would not envy the stoker though. A wonderful engine is the Black Five. The zenith of steam.
      I wonder why they double headed this train.
      They do it on this line with diesels but only because they are moving nuclear fuel flasks for export to Japan. Can't risk a break down. It's a branch line maintained to perfection. they still use fish plates on the curves. Well worth a look is Sellafield to Barrow track.

    3. I'm not sure why they double head this one either, although in the description (which isn't online now the date has passed) that the engines have to work hard on the climb from Sheffield to Penistone. I know that section is fairly steep but I wouldn't have thought it required two engines -- the old photos I've seen don't show double headers. The only thing I can think off is that they put on quite a long train (I think it was six full-size coaches) that maybe they need the extra power. There must be a reason as each time it's gone past it's been a double headed service.

  2. Well that's a good 20 minutes spent reading about Black Fives and delighting in the enlarged version of the photo and reminiscing in what passes for my mind in the double headers that used occasionally to pass the bottom of my school's fairly small playground. We used to get really excited by double headers for some reason.