Monday 5th March 2018

A short update this week.

Attendances at working parties were somewhat reduced owing to the arrival of the so-called “Beast from the East”, which caused travel problems throughout the week.

John Davis, Tim and John Dixon continued work on the RSR’s TPO coach on Wednesday, with both Johns and Paul doing the same on Friday. John Dixon preparing the west end of the TPO coach for paintingJohn Dixon is seen here working on the west corridor end before applying some primer to bare metal.

Alan and Ade continued work on Caliban. Ade attending to the hornstay bolts on CalibanAde is seen here attending to one of the hornstays.

Both Alan and Tim had been due to travel across the Pennines on Wednesday for a meeting, but this was cancelled on Tuesday with the expectation that the A66 snow gates would be down, which they were – for several days! However, Alan and Tim, chauffeured by Ade in the RSR’s pick-up truck, did manage to make a trip to Crewe on Thursday afternoon to bring back some loco parts. There were very cold gale force winds to endure, but the trip was successful.

Saturday saw Alan, Alison and Tim at John Houghton’s house where, at the request of the Executor of John’s estate, they started the sad task of collecting together the rolling stock on his extensive model railway. These items have been put into store and will be made available for purchase, with the FRT benefitting from the proceeds. Please let Alison know if you are interested in purchasing any of these models. Some of Caliban‘s components, which were also at John’s house, have also been removed for storage elsewhere.


Monday 26th February 2018

There was, not surprisingly, a large turnout from the railway community at John Houghton’s funeral on Friday, with not a seat left spare in Preston Crematorium. Faces from past and present gathered to pay their respects and to celebrate John’s life. Most retired to the Wheatsheaf at Garstang afterwards, where there was chance to catch up with each other, recall times past and to look at the many photos which were displayed on screens in the pub whilst eating the food provided. Everyone agreed that it had been a good send off for John, and congratulations go to Richard and Janet Harrison for the splendid arrangements.

Ade holding Caliban's frames in placeBack at Preston, John’s beloved Caliban was jacked further up into the stratosphere on Wednesday by Ade and Howard to allow the axleboxes to be examined. Caliban's frames jacked upDismantling them is proving to be a painstaking job as the pins have been exposed to the elements and not been touched for many a year, making the grease they were coated with extremely hard. Alan sprays some release oil on to an axleboxHowever, after the application of some release oil by Alan, Howard pursued the task on Saturday and reckoned that he was starting to see some movement in the pins, but there is some way to go yet!Howard enjoying his work inside Caliban's frames

With the all clear given by our boiler surveyor, the specification for 5643’s tubes has been agreed with Andy Booth and sent to a tube manufacturer for a quote. As some of you will be aware, Keith has been under the weather over the last week or so and is having some time off to recover; we wish him well. However, George went across to Embsay on Saturday and he tells us that, as well as demolishing a tasty meal of fish and chips cooked in lard, he also cleaned up the faces and studs on 5643’s safety valve assembly.

Work on the RSR’s TPO coach continued apace on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and the end is in sight for the long task of making good the bodywork. John Davis and Mike Rigg painting one of the TPO bogiesThe north side bogies have now been cleaned up, primed and are now receiving undercoat.

More work took place on Fluff on Saturday with Anthony Jolly in attendance. It is hoped to be able to lift out the engine in the coming weeks.

John has all but finished his work in the mess room and, with the TPO bodywork nearly finished, should perhaps be ready to join in the task of painting the vehicle, which should commence shortly. Outside the mess room, it is expected that tarmac will be laid in March as a prelude to the creation of the children’s play area.

Matt Bedford moves the restored signal post towards the MuseumFinally for this week, one of the other tasks that has been undertaken by FRT members is the restoration of a signal post, which has been shot blasted and then painted by David. It is seen here on Saturday being driven by Matt Bedford on its way to the RSR Museum where it was united with a set of signal lights and is now ready to be wired up.The restored signal post united with the lights in the Museum

Monday 19th February 2018

We start this week’s blog with a celebration of Alan Middleton’s 80th birthday this last Saturday. No point in keeping it a secret!Both Alan and Alison were at Locomotion, Shildon, for the first of FR 20’s steamings in 2018. Perhaps, then, Alan shouldn’t have been surprised to find the campervan festooned with balloons and banners proclaiming the fact that he is now an octogenarian – but still of course driving his beloved steam trains! Needless to say, a suitably inscribed cake appeared at his celebratory dinner that evening.Not a campervan tea today then?

In view of this significant event in Alan’s life (yes, Alison thought that we ought to mark the occasion properly!), we concluded that it would be an opportune time to include a ‘blast from the past’ photo along with some others that have provided us with entertainment in past editions of the blog. Younger days, with cigar, at the DFR

A hat to match the chimney

Like my bike?





On location






Happy Birthday, Alan!

We have had news from Embsay that our boiler surveyor has examined 5643’s de-tubed boiler and is happy for Andy Booth to start the process of inserting new small tubes.

Howard watches closely as Ade jacks up CalibanAt Preston, Adrian and Howard spent Wednesday jacking up Caliban‘s frames with the aim of being able to release the wheels.

Andy Morton sanding the TPO coachWork has proceeded with the body overhaul of the RSR’s TPO coach with lots more filling and sanding taking place. Paul Balshaw made his second appearance (yes, it seems that he is keen to continue with us) and worked alongside Mike and John Davis who were cleaning up the corridor ends and the north side bogies. John Davis cleans up a TPO coach bogieRoger once again continued his painting mission on the frames.

John Dixon measure up the cupboard bottom fascia boardJohn Dixon tells us that he has almost finished fitting out the mess room, having made progress with boxing in the water pipes and with the cabinet skirting panels, and should shortly be ready to end his winter hibernation in there.

Tim and the RSR’s Mike Bailey met our joint solicitor, Richard Greenwood, in the mess room on Thursday to further the finalisation of the sub-lease for the shed. On other matters of administration, David has completed the 2017 accounts and presented them to Tim to finalise for the Independent Examiner. Mike has been examining the new General Data Protection Regulations and how they will affect the FRT when they come into force on the 25th May – a draft action plan has been drawn up.

Finally, a reminder that John Houghton’s funeral will take place at Preston Crematorium this Friday at 12.15.


Monday 12th February 2018

We start by thanking you all for the tributes paid to John Houghton following the announcement of the news of his death in last week’s blog, including those who took time to post comments onto our Facebook page (click on the image below to go to the page). 
It is clear that he really had made his mark with so many people and he will be sorely missed by us all.

Caliban starts to go up in the worldWe’ll start the news this week with the loco formerly co-owned by John Houghton – Caliban. Howard, Alan and Adrian have carried on the good work on the 0-4-0ST and the frames have now started their ascent to allow  the axleboxes to be examined – there is still some way to go though with the jacks…

Ian Massey at work on Wootton Hall's tender framesContractor Ian Massey spent Friday and Saturday welding the new metal onto the front frames of Wootton Hall‘s tender. This is still work in progress and a further visit from Ian is being arranged in the coming weeks.

More good progress has been made this week on the RSR’s TPO coach which is being restored for the Museum by FRT volunteers. The third can of filler is now nearly empty and, having brought the north side of the coach up to a condition whereby it is ready to receive paint, all hands are now being concentrated on the corridor ends and the south side. We were delighted to welcome Paul Balshaw to his first working party with the gang last Wednesday  and hope to see him again on a regular basis.

The visit to Embsay by Fred and Keith last Sunday to wash out 5643’s boiler was stymied by the refusal of the high pressure pump to actually pump the water, even though the engine was running smoothly. A further attempt to wash out the boiler was scheduled for yesterday after attention had been given to the pump at Preston on Friday.

57 304 brings in the train from EastleighThe big event over the weekend was the arrival at Preston Riverside of a Pathfinders Tours charter train from Eastleigh with some 500 passengers on board, which had set off at 05.27 on Saturday morning. It arrived bang on time at 14.30 before departing, again on schedule, at 16.30. 66 428 at the east end of the trainThe FRT shed was specially opened up to the visitors, having been cleaned in readiness the previous day, and Alison was there to sell souvenirs whilst other FRT members showed visitors around the shed.It's free to get in but you've got to get past Alison on the way out!After taking into account donations received, it proved to be financially very helpful. We also seemed to make quite a number of friends and, surprisingly, saw a few familiar faces who had driven south to Coventry to board the special!

Looks familiar, but not quite the same!Of interest to the Carriage and Wagon Gang was the inclusion in the 14 coach special train of RMB No. 1813, carrying the number adjacent to RMB 1812 which we had just overhauled. However, 1813 was built at Wolverton in 1960 in a different batch whereas 1812 was built at York in 1957.

It has to be said that John Dixon looked very pleased with himself on Saturday (and rightfully so) for he had completed the plumbing in the new mess room and now awaits an electrician to connect up the electric water heater. Just a few more jobs to do to box in the water pipes and fit some cupboard doors. We can then decide upon the layout of tables, chairs and other equipment within the mess room.

Finally Alan and Alison are heading across the Pennines again next Friday for the first of FR 20’s steamings at Locomotion, Shildon, now in the final six months of its ten years boiler certificate. Let’s hope that the snow holds off for them!


Monday 5th February 2018

John Houghton, RIPIt is with the greatest sadness that we start this week’s blog with news of the death of John Houghton, who passed away in the early hours of Friday morning at the age of 82. John was a most colourful character who was founding chairman of the Lakeside Railway Society when, in 1968, it was formed out of the Lancashire Railway Circle, now 50 years ago. John led the Society through the formative years at Carnforth and then on to Haverthwaite where the volunteers played such a major role in preparing the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway for re-opening in 1973. He was also the joint owner, with Alan Middleton, of former Courtalds Peckett 0-4-0ST Caliban which was the Society’s first steam locomotive. These were the groundbreaking and fun days of railway preservation when there was less intrusive legislation to dampen volunteer activities! This undoubtedly fitted in with John’s philosophy of life and, at the end of Sunday working parties, he was often to be found in the White Hart at Bouth, entertaining all with his strong views and stories. These activities obviously played a major part of John’s life at that time, although he was also heavily involved in local politics, being an elected member of Cattterall Parish Council until last year, worked for the British Aircraft Corporation at Salmesbury and was of course supported at home by his late wife Jean.

After 15 years as Chairman, John relinquished this role to Tim Owen and, surprising many, took a back seat whilst he looked after his mother. He was appointed a Vice President of the LRS and subsequently re-acquainted himself with Carnforth where, with Caliban‘s arrival for overhaul, he arranged the purchase of a PMV and spent many Sundays there working on the loco and, of course, drinking tea! Being a keen railway modeller, and having finished at BAC, John then opened a model shop in Park Hill Road, Garstang, and specialised in building bespoke model railways for customers. The late Geoffrey Thompson, MD of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, was one such customer and John became heavily involved along with Alan in the garden railway at Myerscough as well as the miniature railway at the Pleasure Beach.

Following the formation of the Furness Railway Trust in 1991, John became a trustee, a position that he held for many years. Once the FRT had moved to Preston in 2009, John started to take a more active role again, becoming a regular member of the Wednesday working parties, usually arriving at lunchtime with Alan and bearing some biscuits for communal consumption. With the construction of the new shed and lunchtimes now becoming a ‘family’ gathering amongst the FRT’s rolling stock, John would once again enjoy holding forth with members with his increasingly colourful tales of times gone by! John was both delighted and proud that the FRT had broadened its horizons and become self sufficient – the fact that it had all evolved from a group of train spotters was a point that he made in his article in the Spring 2017 edition of The Iron Horse. When the new mess room was purchased recently, John immediately went out and bought a sink, fridge freezer and other items for us to enjoy; he wanted us to have the best.

John suffered a minor heart attack in recent weeks, a worry to us since he had already had a previous more major attack, and he spent some time in hospital. Although he was seemingly on the road to recovery, he was clearly quite frail when Alan visited him last Wednesday. He was taken into hospital that evening suffering with breathing difficulties and died in the early hours of Friday, with cousin Richard at his bedside. Our condolences go to Richard and his family.

John made his mark with everyone at Preston (RSR as well as FRT) with his trademark hat, bow-tie and suit at working parties, always having time to talk with whomever he met. We will very much miss John’s company and his stories. Aye, and the biscuits…..  We’ve just heard, in time to slip it into this blog, that John’s funeral will take place at Preston Crematorium on Friday 23rd at 12.15pm.

We are also sorry to have to record this week the death of former member Norman Moss at the age of 94. Norman served with the RAF in Ceylon early in his life, servicing Mosquitoes, before becoming a toolmaker at the Dick, Kerr engineering works in Preston. He became a regular member of the Wednesday Gang at Haverthwaite for many years, forming a duo with Ron Cooke to undertake the wide variety of engineering tasks that they were given. John and Jean Dixon attended Norman’s funeral on Friday. Our condolences go to Norman’s family.

The North London Railway coach loaded ready to go to Beamish 31.01.18Last Wednesday morning saw two low loaders with a carriage each in the car park at Preston. Tom Milner had arrived the previous evening in readiness to load up the second class North London Railway coach first thing on Wednesday morning for despatch to the Beamish Open Air Museum. GER 5 on arrival at Preston 31.01.18Dale Calkeld then arrived with Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5 which has been on hire to Beamish since April 2010. It had been restored to operable condition by members over the previous nine months in the polytunnel at Appleby. The Ribble Rail lads undertook the necessary shunting moves at Preston and the GER saloon was duly under cover in its new home in the unheated part of the FRT shed by lunchtime.

The North London Railway coach being commissioned for service at Beamish on Friday, 2nd February.The North London Railway coach was duly commissioned into service at Beamish on Friday morning, sandwiched between Peckett 0-4-0ST No. 1370 and the Duke of Sutherland’s saloon No. 58A. (Photo courtesy Beamish Open Air Museum.)

Back in our workshop, there was more work carried out on the RSR’s TPO coach on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Andy Morton came again and started to sand the south side of the coach and Alan Whaley also assisted, offering to appear again this week to help with applying filler. John David and Mike Rigg preparing a corridor end f the TPO for paintingMike, John Davis and Paul went aboard the ‘magic carpet’ to sand down the east corridor end whilst Roger Benbow undercoated the west end headstock. Roger Benbow painting the west end headstock on the TPOTim carried on with filling and sanding the north side of the coach, with filling assistance from David on Saturday.

John Dixon has again been busy fitting out the kitchen in the new mess room and hopes to finish connecting up the water supply next Wednesday, once he has purchased even more pipe and fittings!

Adrian and Alan were seen assessing the packing required to lift Caliban‘s frames last Wednesday and Keith was planning to be at Embsay yesterday to carry out a wash out on 5643’s boiler which has now been entirely de-tubed by Andy Booth.

This next Saturday sees the visit of a Pathfinders rail tour to the RSR on Saturday afternoon.


Monday 29th January 2018

Here we are, at the end of January already! But there seems to have been plenty of progress over the month and, indeed, last week.

Andy Morton works on the TPO watched by statutory onlookersWork has continued apace on the RSR’s TPO where Andy Morton paid a visit on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for giving a regular hand with the project from this next week. He is seen here with the statutory number of onlookers whilst he works.

John Davis and Paul Newton fit a new piece of wood above one of the TPO's sliding doorsJohn Davis and Paul fitted a new piece of wood above one of the TPO shutter doors on Friday and Tim has once again been busy with the filler and sanding machine. Roger appeared on Friday to continue painting the frames.

Ade cleaning Caliban's horguidesAde has been attacking the grime on Caliban with a needle gun, and can be seen here working on one of the hornguides.

Fred cleans up 5643's blastpipeFred has been making dust once more, this time cleaning up 5643’s blast pipe. Fortunately the weather was good so the dust stayed outside!

Sink in position and drains connectedJohn Dixon has continued his work on the new kitchen in the mess room where the sink unit has now been fitted and the drain connected. Will we see some running water next week?

Ade examines one of the NLR axle pads - and is Tim oiling Ade's ear or holding the brush?tFinally, the welding on Wootton Hall’s tender frames has been put back a week and is now scheduled to take place on the 9th and 10th February.


Monday 22nd January 2018

The main event last Wednesday was the installation of the drain for the kitchen in the new mess hut. Contrary to those offering pessimistic predictions, the weather wasn’t too cold and it was a welcome surprise to find that Alan Vernon had kindly excavated a trench with the JCB the previous day. However, it soon became clear that there was no time to waste as the only person on site who seemed to unaware of the plan to dig a trench in front of the side gates was Mike MacArthur, who had ordered a delivery of oil for Thursday! So John Dixon got to work with his drill, assuming that the wall of the manhole chamber could be penetrated with an 8″ long drill. However, once the 8″ had been reached it was necessary to attack with a chisel – and then an even longer chisel before a breakthrough was achieved at 12″ into the chamber. John checks that the new drain pipe stands trueThereafter John soon had the drain pipe installed and the trench was immediately filled in with the JCB.

The new worktop cut for the sinkFriday saw John doing the delicate task of cutting out the hole in the work top for the double sink to be fitted.

Part of the TPO nearly ready for painting.Work has continued on the RSR’s TPO where the initial assumption that the bodywork was in relatively good condition has been somewhat contradicted by the fact that Tim has now applied the best part of two large cans of filler and a can of fibreglass – and he hasn’t yet started on the south side of the vehicle!

John Davis and Paul working on the TPO's double doorsPaul and John Davis have just about finished their works on the south side double door and are seen here fitting a new retaining hole surround.

Roger paints the TPO framesMeanwhile Roger Benbow has continued to paint the bogies and frames.

Adrian, Howard and Alan have once again been busying themselves with jobs on Caliban whilst Alan Ogden and Anthony Jolly have done further work on Fluff.

Fred fills the shed with dust as he cleans 5643's superheater header.Fred filled the shed with dust on Friday as he cleaned up 5643’s superheater header ready for some machining.

George pulls a funny face as Keith cuts metal for Wootton Hall's tenderKeith and George spent Saturday cutting and trimming metal for the top of the tender frames for Wootton Hall whilst Derek recorded their work on video for posterity.

Further serious work on the tender frames will now have to wait until the appearance of a coded welder a week on Friday to stitch the new front sides to the existing frames.

David applies paint to a signal post that will be going in the RSR MuseumAnd finally for this week, David spent Saturday painting a signal post which will shortly become an exhibit in the RSR museum.

Monday 15th January 2018

We start this week’s blog with the news that one of our senior members, John Houghton, is in Preston Hospital after suffering a suspected mild heart attack earlier last week. John is expected to stay in care for a little while until he recovers fully and we send our best wishes to him.

Work in the shed continues on the RSR TPO vehicle where the double door featured last week continues to present stubborn resistance to attempts to improve its shape. It was decided that the profile could be improved by the insertion of a coach bolt through the outer metal skin and by tightening the nut against the interior wooden frame. Unfortunately, Mike didn’t reckon on the strength of the steel which appears to be of the hardened variety…! Drinking tea is the really hard workMike is seen here last Wednesday with the statutory assemble of onlookers drinking tea whilst he attempts, in vain, to drill a hole. This is how you drill a hole!Paul took up the cause on Friday and was more successful, only breaking one drill bit in the process!

The sanding and filling of the exterior of the TPO continues apace, although new holes in the bodywork seem to appear on a regular basis as rust is tackled. Fred at work on the TPO underframeGood progress is being made on the bogies and underframes and Fred is seen here in action with his paint brush.

Adrian and Howard, when not drinking tea (see above) have been making further progress on Caliban with a view to lifting it clear of the wheels in the not-too-distant future. Keith has received yet more new steel for Wootton Hall and it is planned to have the new tender frame sides welded on the 2nd and 3rd of February.

Meanwhile, and in the warmth of the new mess hut, John Dixon has continued his ongoing task of fitting out the kitchen area. The new kitchen units and worktop taking shapeThe new worktop is seen loosely in position awaiting adaptation to accommodate the double sink. It is planned on Wednesday to dig a trench outside for the drain, although the weather conditions look a little wintery this week!

Looking forward, the Ribble Steam Railway is receiving a visit from a Pathfinder Rail Tour on Saturday, 10th February. The Tour commences at Eastleigh in Hampshire and is planned to arrive at the RSR top and tailed with Class 66 and Class 57 locomotives. It will stay at Preston Riverside for an hour or so to allow passengers to stretch their legs and to visit the Preston site. The FRT has been requested to open up the shed to visitors and Alison is planning to have the sales stand there. Help to show visitors around the shed would be appreciated.


And finally, after what must clearly have been a successful New Year gig, our folk group, Live Steam, has been requested to appear back at the Engine Inn at Cark on Saturday, 17th March as part of some planned St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Monday 8th January 2018

A belated happy New Year to all our readers as we head into a fresh year. Who knows what it will bring?

There wasn’t much let up in the pace of work at Preston over the Christmas period with working parties continuing to take place on their usual days of the week; Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The concrete under the east end shed doors is now completeThe first photo shows the completed concreting under the east end shed doors which was laid just before Christmas. There is still plenty more to do in the east half of the shed, but the more immediate task has since been to continue the installation of the kitchen in the new mess room. As John Dixon is both our head of concreting and chief plumber, it is a case of one job at a time. More new kitchen units under construction in the new mess roomWe then need to dig a channel outside the mess room to allow a pipe to be laid to a nearby drain manhole. Once this is achieved, new tarmac can be laid there as part of the overall plan to create a new playground.

Inside the shed, work has continued on the repairs and painting of the RSR’s TPO vehicle. John Davis and Howard Fletcher inspect the RSR's TPO door which requires corrosion repairsJohn David and Howard Fletcher are seen here examining a corroded and ill fitting door whilst, below, Ade is seen demonstrating his method of fixing the problem – with a hammer! Adrian shows how C&W repairs should be carried out - with his hammerTim has continued with the filling and sanding, Paul with the renewal of rotted woodwork, and Fred and Roger have continued to clean and paint the headstocks and bogies.

Ade has spent the rest of his time moving on the project to restore Caliban including more sanding and painting .

Alan Ogden with Fluff's fuse boxAlan Ogden made a welcome re-appearance from Devon to refurbish Fluff‘s fuse box.

More steelwork has been added to the rear of Wootton Hall's tender chassisKeith has continued to assemble more steelwork on Wootton Hall‘s tender frames as can be seen from this view of the rear of the chassis. Some more components for the locomotive, which have become available recently, have been purchased, including these two rear valve head cover castings which cost £60 each.Two new rear valve head cover glands castings - £60 each.

Plus there are four castings which will make up two steam heat valves. Two new steam heat castings. £240 each in total.The smaller items cost £60 each whilst the larger casting cost £180 each.

Sponsorship of any of these items would be very greatly appreciated.

Live Steam in action on New Year's EveFinally, Live Steam played their last gig of 2017 at the Engine Inn at Cark-in-Cartmel. Both Alan and Tim were suffering for the excesses of singing on the Santa Special Trains at Preston but just about managed to sing without too much coughing and spluttering!


Monday 18th December 2017

The Christmas Dinner last Tuesday evening ensured that the gang was well fuelled on Wednesday morning to undertake the task of concreting the base of the eastern end doors to roads three and four of the shed. Concreting in full swingAfter more materials were requisitioned on Thursday, the job was finished on Friday morning and it should be possible to remove the shuttering this Wednesday. John Dixon levelling off the concreteThe photos show the gang concreting and John Dixon levelling off and then brushing off the finished concrete.John Dixon giving the concrete a brushed finish

One of the TPO bogie sides in grey undercoatTim continued the long task of filling and sanding the north side of the RSR’s TPO vehicle on Wednesday and then Fred and Roger spent Friday painting one of the headstocks and a bogie side.The new water filler cover fitted to the TPOStaying with the TPO, the new water filler cover has now been fitted.

Adrian working on Caliban's motionAdrian is continuing to work on Caliban‘s motion and Howard is seen here fettling one of the loco’s new sand box covers.Howard fettling one of Caliban's new sand box covers

Keith skimming metal from a new piece of steel plate for Wootton HallKeith has been undertaking some more metalwork on Wootton Hall and was joined on Saturday by George to prepare the new extension pieces for the tender frames for welding.

The next edition of The Iron Horse magazine has now been proof-read and will hopefully be back from the printer this next week. Plenty of good reading for members over Christmas!

With all the work currently in hand, the Christmas rest period at Preston is now planned to be rather short – just Christmas Day and Boxing Day..! Normal working parties will resume on the Wednesday after Christmas!

It only remains for us to wish all our members and supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (And talking of New Year, Alan, Tim and George will be hard at it with Live Steam playing music at the Engine Inn at Cark on New Year’s Eve!)