Monday 20th April 2020

A short blog this time just to keep in touch with our members and followers.

As you can imagine, given the current Government restrictions, there is no progress to report on maintenance or restoration activities. However, we can record that the new springs for FR 20 have been received at Preston and are in storage ready for when we can restart operations. Thanks go to the full time Ribble Rail staff for receiving the springs on our behalf.

We are pleased to be able to report that Alan Middleton is on the mend and that both he and Alison are now technically now out of isolation after Alan’s recovery from Covid-19. However, Alan informs us that the virus has left him without much energy and that he is struggling to get much inclination even to play with the O gauge tinplate variety of railways never mind the twelve inches to the foot scale. On the same subject, we hear that Jim Kay has also been suffering from the dreaded lurgy, but he is fortunately well on the way to recovery. Best wishes, Jim, from us all.

You will no doubt be pleased to learn that the usual background administrative activities are still being tackled and that the 2019 accounts are now being finalised. The next challenge will be to get the various documentation to the Trust’s Independent Examiner.

Maisy Davies, Ribble Steam Railway’s Front of House Manager, has still been beavering away, albeit from home, and has now posted a piece on the RSR’s website regarding the work done by artist Gavin Redshaw on Caliban‘s restoration for exhibition at the Harris Institute. Unfortunately the exhibition has had to be closed because of the current emergency, but some of our working members will no doubt recognise themselves in the sketches now on line.

The current good weather has no doubt enabled many of us to catch up with some of those jobs that devoting time to steam preservation has previously caused us to put to one side. We assume that everyone’s gardens are now in fine fettle and that this will eventually allow us all to return to the FRT shed with a clear conscience knowing that the household jobs are out of the way!?! We are pleased to report that the good weather has also enabled “Wootton Hall” to make a rare appearance out in the sunshine….Wootton Hall steams... err...

We hope that all our members are fit and well. Please feel free to keep in touch (send an email to Neil) with any of your own news that we can include in future blogs. In the meantime, keep safe!

Monday 30th March 2020

A much reduced blog this week for obvious reasons and, we are sorry to have to say, with very mixed news.

Firstly, we are very glad to be able to report that Alan Middleton has made a good recovery from Covid19 which has delighted doctors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Alan returned home on Saturday to spend the next fortnight in quarantine with Alison. Quite whether he will ever be able to find anything again is subject to debate, as Alison has been turning her attention to cleaning and tidying the house at Thornton Cleveleys since undergoing isolation there! We wish them both well as Alan convalesces in the coming weeks.

Paul RamsdenUnfortunately, Alan was joined at Victoria Hospital in Blackpool a week last Sunday by Paul Ramsden, husband of forty years to Tim Owen’s sister Jacky. We are very sorry to have to report that, on Friday evening, Paul lost his battle against Covid19. Although eighty years old, Paul was still an avid cyclist and some of us can remember him cycling from Lytham to Haverthwaite to see Jacky. Our sincere condolences go to Jacky, Kurt and Jayne who along with Paul used to frequent the L&HR in the early 1980s.

The Government announcement last Monday evening severely curtailing activities to just those deemed as essential unfortunately caused the cancellation of the movement of 5643 from Embsay to Preston. Simon Reid, of Reid Freight, promises us that the loco will be top of the list when he is able to restart transport operations.

We know that this will be a time of huge frustration for all our working members for it may well be quite some time before we are able to recommence regular working parties. We will keep you up to date with any news and in the meantime hope that you all stay safe.

Monday 23rd March 2020

We are afraid that we have to start this week’s blog with more bad news for, as some of you will already be aware, Alan Middleton was admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Wednesday evening. He is currently in the Acute Medical Unit suffering from confirmed coronavirus. Alison is in enforced isolation at Thornton Cleveleys and is, as I am sure you will understand, very frustrated. The good news is that Alan appeared to be a little better today when he was visited by son, Andrew, and grandson, Sam. Seems he was complaining about too much salt on his food, which can only be a good sign! Fortunately the latest tests have concluded that there are no other underlying symptoms on his lungs other than coronavirus. We wish Alan well and our thoughts are with both Alan and Alison at this distressing time.

Needless to say, the current emergency has very much dampened the Trust’s activities at Preston. We received news that Embsay did not now foresee a need for 5643 in the immediate future and so arrangements have  been made for it to return to Preston, provisionally this Thursday. We had not been planning for this eventuality so Tim, Keith  and Ade spent quite some time last Wednesday with a tape measure before coming up with a plan to squeeze the loco into the main shed area so that some TLC can be given to its brakes, pistons and valves.

Ade balance a spring on the lifting tableThe other main task on Wednesday was to refit the springs on to FR 20’s tender in order to make it mobile. Spring in positionThis had to be achieved carefully without scratching the newly completed paintwork, so a thin polythene screen was mounted to protect it. All finished and not a scratch on the paintworkThe new lifting table proved to be invaluable.

It is planned that the tender will take the place of Caliban‘s boiler on road two of the shed whilst the boiler will once again be exiled outside the shed. After arranging for the removal of the  ballast packer to the Ribble Rail shed there should now be room for Fluff on road four in the unheated part of the shed, but with only six inches to spare.

Ade appeared on Sunday to start the first part of the shunt but was thwarted when he found diesel shunter Stanlow with a broken fuel line. This was temporarily fixed today and so Ade and the Ribble Rail people should be able to do the necessary preparatory work before Thursday.

John Davis and Phil building Fluff's cabThere has been some further work by Phil and John Davis on Fluff‘s superstructure as pictured here.

Looking forward it is essential that working members put their own safety first and follow the Government’s advice. It is far better that we are all in one piece at the end of this emergency than to risk health through feeling the need to make short term progress. Any working parties should be kept to the minimum number of people required and self distancing must be observed at all times. For those who do attend, a new signing in point has been created in the FRT shed in order to eliminate the need for members to visit any other buildings on the site.


Monday 16th March 2020

We are sorry to have to start this week’s blog with the sad news which broke on Friday that the Appleby Training and Heritage Centre has closed after losing the necessary funding to enable it to continue its educational training. It is understood that the 14 staff there will be made redundant. As many of you will be aware, the Trust’s second class North London Railway coach was restored at the Centre from 2002 to 2003 with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Subsequently, the Centre very kindly allowed Trust volunteers to return the FRT’s Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5 to serviceable condition in the Centre’s polytunnel from 2009 to 2010. Both projects saw considerable input from members who regularly travelled over to Appleby during these periods and we will always remember the friendly and very helpful working relationship that we had with the staff at the Centre. This led to the Trust’s GWR ‘Hall’ class 4-6-0 No. 4979 Wootton Hall being put in prominent storage on the Centre’s site alongside the Settle & Carlisle Line from March 2007 until October 2014. Our heartfelt commiserations go out to the staff at Appleby.

News from Embsay is that 5643 passed its steam test on Friday. However, Keith brought back the news that work is necessary on the brakes and that the locomotive’s front end will require to be stripped down to undertake an examination of the valves and pistons to rectify steam leakage. The implications of this outcome are still to be discussed and an action plan developed.

FR 20's tender frames now lined outBack at Preston John Dixon continued his work to clean up the inside of FR 20’s tender tank and Tim has almost completed the painting of the tender frames.

Ade and Alan conducted some further work on FR 20’s boiler on Wednesday after which Andy Booth appeared on Friday to follow up a few areas to make the boiler ready for its hydraulic test in the presence of the boiler surveyor. This is now being arranged.

John Davis and Phil with Fluff's cab rear plate in positionWith much of the work on Fluff‘s chassis now complete, Phil and John Davis have commenced the task of fitting some of the superstructure.

Fred with paint brushFred appeared on Friday and was kept busy with a paint brush on some of Fluff‘s platework.

Looking forward, the Ribble Steam Railway’s operating season starts on Sunday with Cream Teas being served on Mother’s Day trains. Alison (who had another birthday last Friday) tells us that all the teas have sold out.

Finally, despite the Coronavirus outbreak, working parties at Preston are planned to continue. Members are asked, for their own safety and that of others, to observe the precautions published by the Government. Further information on Coronavirus is available here.

Monday 9th March 2020

The Coronavirus handshakeThere was a certain amount of jubilation on Wednesday when Fluff was finally lowered back onto its springs. However, given the current Coronavirus health advice, John Davis and Phil Bell decided to avoid the high fives and went for the now more fashionable touching of elbows.

Don't lower locomotives before clearing tool boxes out of the way...The lowering of Fluff has not been without its issues for somebody had left a tool box under the loco which now looks a little worse for wear!

Fred paints Fluff's sand boxesFred applied some gloss black paint to the sand boxes on Friday.

Roger primes the lower part of Fluff's cab back plateRoger coated the lower part of the back cab with primer.

Ade raises pressure on FR 20's boiler whilst Alan tops up the water bucketAlan and Ade spent Wednesday raising pressure on FR 20’s boiler and got it up to 200 psi before making a note of a few areas of dampness that need to be attended to.

John Dixon cleans out FR 20's tender tankTim continued to paint FR 20’s tender frames whilst John Dixon decided to spend some time in self isolation, cleaning out the tender tank.

New firebox cladding for Wootton HallThere has been more progress on Wootton Hall with some new firebox cladding appearing for fitting.

The Ribble Steam Railway has recently received a large collection of OO gauge locomotives and coaches of both two and three rail operation. These are being sold to members in the Exploration Centre to raise funds this Wednesday between 8 am and 4 pm.

Finally, news from Embsay is that 5643’s steam test for the boiler surveyor is now scheduled for this Friday 13th March.


Monday 2nd March 2020

It has been another week of birthday cake and presents.

Ade with his cakeAde celebrated his birthday on Wednesday and is seen here cutting the cake kindly supplied (again) by Alison. There was some pressure on members to eat up by the end of Friday as we still hadn’t managed to entirely demolish the two cakes from the previous week! (You’re slipping! Ed.)

Keith with his late birthday presentKeith received a late birthday present in that the long-awaited newly manufactured sets of valves and crossheads for Wootton Hall from Tyesley arrived on Tuesday.

The Armstrong Oiler lubrication padsThese were followed on Thursday by the six Armstrong Oiler pads for the tender axle boxes which opens the way for Wootton Hall‘s tender frames to be placed back on their wheels.

The wheels on their way back under Fluff's framesMuch of Friday was then spent in lowering Fluff‘s frames back on to its wheels. The springs have still to be fitted after which it will be possible to move the chassis.

Matt Jervis inspects FR 20's front tubeplate for leaksAnother step forward in FR 20’s overhaul was made last Wednesday when the boiler was filled with water. One of the tubes needed some attention from Matt Jervis (pictured), but on the whole things looked to be satisfactory. It is hoped to be able to start to raising some pressure over the next week or so.

Finally John Dixon has been fitting some new copper pipework to FR 20’s tender braking system and Tim has been busy painting the tender frames.

Monday 24th February 2020

We’ve been busy again…!

Phil Bell fits one of Fluff's cab windowsKeith has cut out the holes in Fluff‘s rear upper cab plate and Phil Bell has been busy making the final adjustments and fitting the brass-rimmed windows.

Fred wielding a hammer to a stubborn sand box linkageFred has been cleaning up the sand box linkage and is seen here persuading a stubborn nut to move.

John Davis cleans up one of the sand box outletsJohn Davis has been cleaning up the sand box outlet flanges.

The search for a replacement engine for Fluff continues and Nigel Harris kindly put out a plea on Twitter for people to let us know of any that might be available. One respondent helpfully suggested that we  look at barn sales for agricultural machinery that might possess a suitable Fowler Sanders engine, in particular a gyrotiller. Let us know if you see anything that might be of use…

John Dixon checks for rivet head dribbles of varnishFR 20’s boiler is now ready to receive some water when we can get it close to the water pipe in the Ribble Rail shed. Tim and John Dixon varnished FR 20’s tender water tank on Friday and John is seen checking for any stray varnish dribbles from the many rivet heads, which are undoubtedly the bane of any painter’s life!

Ade unloads the fire pumpWednesday saw Keith and Ade head off to Leyland to pick up the newly acquired fire pump and accessories. The RSR, which ran a half term steam service that day, had an overwhelming response from the public, so it took some time to find space for Ade to unload the kit with the forklift truck.

There is no news yet as to the date for 5643’s steam test at Embsay. Please note that there may not be a working party at Preston this Saturday as Keith is otherwise engaged on a steam trip.

Alan watches as David Rimmer cuts one of the birthday cakesThere seems to have been a spate of birthdays lately and Alison kindly provided celebratory cakes for Keith and Alan. David Rimmer is seen wielding a knife to one of them under Alan’s watchful eye.


Monday 17th February 2020

Up and awayA landmark stage in the overhaul of FR 20 was achieved when the dome was finally lifted into position by the Ribble Steam Railway’s track maintenance vehicle’s hi-ab.

Ade fits the dome into positionAde is seen making sure that the dome fits neatly into position.

Santa emerging from another chimney...Alan looks as if he has just popped up out of the boiler as he attends to the securing nuts.

John Dixon drills some holes in a blank for FR 20's boilerJohn has been preparing the last of the boiler blanks in readiness for some water to be put into the boiler.

A shiny new coat of paint for the tender tankPainting of the tender has continued with the left hand side of the tank now showing off its new coat of paint.

Fred and Alan Ogden wrestle with Fluff's sand boxFred and Alan Ogden have been wrestling to free the mechanism on the second of Fluff‘s sand boxes.

Phil Bell drills some more holesMore new platework for Fluff‘s rear cab sheet has been cut out and Phil Bell has been drilling some more holes.

Ready for the skipWith the new steel cut, Keith prepares to chop the old cab plate ready for the skip.

Finally, the steam test for 5643, originally scheduled for last Friday, has been postponed pending the acquisition of some replacement firebars. Colleagues at Embsay have this is in hand and the steam test should be carried out shortly.

Monday 10th February 2020

We start this week with the good news that the NDT on 5643’s firebox tubeplate, required by the boiler surveyor as part of the 14 month dry examination, revealed no traces of cracking and preparations are well in hand for the second part of the examination, the steam test, to take place at Embsay this Friday, 14th February. New fusible plugs and stay nuts have been acquired from South Coast Steam and it is planned that these will be fitted tomorrow, Tuesday.

Much sadder news from Embsay has been the passing of Charles Adams last Monday, 10th February, after a brave fight against cancer. Charles had been a stalwart of the Yorkshire Dales Railway (as it was previously known) for around 45 years and was in recent times the railway’s Footplate Standards Manager. Charles joined the Furness Railway Trust last year and became the guardian of ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST Cumbria which is currently on hire to the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. With assistance from others, Charles successfully worked to cure the leaking regulator valve which was very much appreciated. Our condolences go to Charles’ family.

Alan and Ade at work on FR 20's boilerBack at Preston Alan and Ade have been fitting a new dome joint on FR 20’s boiler in readiness for its forthcoming hydraulic test.

"I thought the engine was at the other end..."Underneath FR 20’s tender, John Dixon and Roger have re-fitted the vacuum pipe with its new custom made brackets. John is seen making use of the new access hole in the “boot”.

John at work on the stop cocks from FR 20's tenderAnother job on the list of things to do was to look at the two water shut-off cocks located on the sumps below the tender tank, the problem being that they have stiffened up with rust over time and are now impossible to do the job for which they were intended and actually shut. They have been removed and are undergoing attention from John.

Phil Bell fastening Fluff's plateworkThere has been more assembly of Fluff and Phil Bell has been fastening down more of its platework.

Fred cleaning up one of Fluff's sand boxesMore bits of Fluff have been dragged out from store in the outer shed area and Fred is seen making the best of the brighter weather on Friday cleaning up a sand box.

The interior of TSO 5036 looks bareThe FRT seems to be getting more and more involved with the RSR’s coaching stock, with Mike Rigg having taking on the C&W role. Seats on TSO 5036 have been removed for re-covering.

The seats are back!The professionally refurbished seats are now returning and John Davis and Mike Rigg are seen busy loading them aboard ready for re-fitting.

Keith and new pipework for Wootton HallAs ever, work has also continued on Wootton Hall and Keith is seen here fitting some newly formed copper pipe.

The previous week's drawing of Caliban's framesFinally, avid readers will remember the visits to our shed by local artist Gavin Redshaw, who has been preparing sketches of Caliban in preparation for a forthcoming exhibition at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. That full exhibition opens this weekend – and full details are available here.

Monday 3rd February 2020

Work continues apace on the Trust’s projects at Preston.

FR 20’s tender is steadily changing colour as Tim progresses with the Furness Railway paint scheme. John Dixon drills holes beneath FR 20's tenderUnderneath, John Dixon has been drilling holes to fix  the new vacuum pipe carrying brackets.

Ade and Alan in the process of removing the valve seats from FR 20's domeAde and Alan spent some time on Wednesday removing the valve seats from FR 20’s dome for machining. The seats had previously been pressed into the dome so it took some persuasion to remove them, but with ace dismantler Ade to hand, we shouldn’t have worried!

Ade in the process of fitting one of Caliban's springsJust to demonstrate that dismantling isn’t Ade’s only talent, we include a welcome photo of him fitting one of Caliban‘s springs.

John Davis cleaning one of Fluff's window framesWork continues on Fluff and here we see John Davis cleaning up one of the window frames, with the trunk from ‘Nellie’ the fume extractor in close proximity.

Keith fitting a new vacuum pipe beneath Wootton Hall's cab floorKeith has been busy fitting more pipework to Wootton Hall. He is seen here under the cab floor with the vacuum pipe that links the brake valve to the tender vacuum cylinder.

Finally, the NDT examination of 5643’s tubeplate was carried out last Wednesday and, at the time of writing, we await the boiler surveyor’s prognosis.