Monday 13th July 2020

5643 being shunted round to the FRT shedYet another blog, this time to let you know that 5643 arrived back at Preston this afternoon and is now tucked up in the FRT shed. 5643 over the pit in the FRT shedThanks to Adrian and Keith who oversaw the unloading and shunt for us. This is how the reorganised shed now looks:View of the re-organised FRT shed

A small group met last Wednesday to continue the preparations for re-opening the FRT and RSR workshops to volunteers. Keith had laid down some yellow markers in the FRA shed the previous Sunday. Phil hoovering the RSR workshopPhil joined us to hoover the RSR workshop and plant room.

Yellow distancing markers in the RSR workshopTim, working with John Dixon, painted a further eighty marking lines at 2 metres distance so completing the bulk of this work – or so Tim’s knees hope!

It is intended to mount a number of hand sanitisers around the site this next Wednesday and suitable signage is being prepared to emphasise the need to wash hands regularly and to maintain social distancing.

Alan returning after Covid-19We also had the welcome sight of Alan on Wednesday for the first time after his Covid-19 illness, also sporting a lockdown haircut. He has taken the copy for the latest edition of The Iron Horse to the printers so hopefully it should not be too long before one lands through members’ letterboxes.

Monday 6th July 2020

What’s this? Two blogs within the space of 14 days? Well something must be happening!

First of all we can reveal that the Trust’s former GWR 0-6-2 tank locomotive No. 5643 is now due to return to Preston from Embsay around the 14th July. A preparatory shunt of the FRT shed at Preston was due to take place today, Monday.

Secondly, we are sorry to hear that Roger Benbow has recently had a spell in main works, Furness General Hospital at Barrow. Happily Roger is now home and making a good recovery we hear. Best wishes to you, Roger, from us all.

Ade with his lockdown hairBack to the good news, Ade, John Dixon, Tim and Keith re-united at Preston last Wednesday after a gap of three and a half months. Keith also overdue a haircutTim had brought down with him various boxes containing PPE, hand gel, adhesive tape and floor paint. The plan was to lay markers at 2 metres distance in both the RSR and FRT sheds. It was decided to practice with the FRT shed where Ade (sporting a 100 day isolation hair style) hoovered the floor.Ade hoovering the floor

The floor was then cleaned with white spirit before John applied adhesive black/yellow tape.John Dixon laying adhesive tape

Unfortunately the tape didn’t like the concrete floor so Plan B was invoked. Tim with yellow paintOnce the time consuming option of masking tape had been ditched, John made up a wooden stencil to enable Tim to apply some yellow marking paint, which appeared to do the trick.Floor markings in place

Now that we have the technology it is hoped to make rather more progress this week. Once this is achieved, and signage and hand sanitisers are mounted, we will be well on the way to re-opening the workshops.

Monday 22nd June 2020

It has been well over a month since our last blog so time for another update.

It must be said that there isn’t a huge amount to say as there hasn’t been any physical activity at Preston and we are still waiting for clarity as to what is allowed and when. However, behind the scenes, you can be assured that planning has been taking place in order to determine what the new norm should be when we return to the FRT shed at Preston.

On the positive front, we have amassed stocks of black/yellow adhesive floor tape, yellow marking paint, tissues, disposable masks, disposable gloves, waste bins for used PPE and 5 litre containers of hand sanitiser gel. A batch of wall mountable automatic hand sanitisers are on their way so hopefully, when the Government has finally decided how many metres apart we need to be to work, we should be able to plan in final detail how we organise our activities and can then post appropriate signage. The latter is already designed and ready to print but, again, there is no point in making up 2 metre distance signs if a ‘one metre plus’ regime is about to come into effect, as suggested in new over the weekend.

Mike and Tim have been undertaking the majority of the planning in respect of both the RSR and FRT workshops and also the RSR running shed. This is so that both organisations can adopt similar regimes. When we are able to set up the buildings so that they can be used in a safe manner we will issue a brief for working members to let them know what the new regime will be and so that they can arrive adequately prepared when we are able to re-open for volunteers. The RSR is also having to go through a similar, but more complex, process for the re-opening of the museum and railway to the general public.

We hope that you have all kept well during the lockdown and that you have managed to do all those jobs that you have been putting to one side over the years, so that you can return to work at Preston in the knowledge that there are no distractions at home!?!

Monday 11th May 2020

With the Prime Minister announcing a vision for the way out of lockdown last night, we thought that it would be a good time to make contact again.

Obviously, until a bit more clarity has been given on the revised restrictions, it is not possible to plan a specific date upon which work can start again in the FRT shed. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that Covid-19 has no intention of disappearing from the stage anytime soon, so we will inevitably have to look at ways in which a robust social distancing policy can be put in place at the Trust’s facilities at Preston for the protection of working members ready for when activities can safely resume. We will keep you informed as and when there are any further developments that can be announced.

In the meantime, we are pleased to be able to inform you that you can now buy your very own (rather smaller) 5643! Sonic Models are producing some N gauge versions of the 56xx, including our very own 5643, which are due to be available from the autumn. 5643 will be depicted as is, in pristine lined green livery with the later BR crest (the weathered version with the later crest depicts 6681; there are also other GWR and BR livery options). These are limited edition models which are being marketed exclusively by the well-known model retailers Rails of Sheffield. Pre-orders are now being taken and are advised, as the limited run  means these could sell out quite fast.

Keith will be pleased to note that the 56XX Class is described in the blurb as “attractive”. The extra bit of good news is that a donation to the FRT has been kindly promised from proceeds of the sales.

New polo shirtWhilst on the subject of retailing, Alison tells us that she can now supply black FRT customised polo and sweat shirts at £11.50 and £15.00 respectively each to members plus P&P – large and extra large sizes only at the moment.

We are also pleased to announce that Alison is now a great grandmother, to a little boy named Charlie James, born courtesy of granddaughter Lauren. Needless to say, Alison is thrilled to bits! James was her late husband Bill’s first name, and Alison says Lauren was very close to Bill. But Alison also wants to know how she can be old enough to be a Great Nana?!  (No rude answers from the back, please..!)

After the suggestion made in the last blog, Paul Balshaw has emailed to make contact with us and to say “cannot wait to get back to some real mechanical work! Garden getting to be superb!”

More contributions from members are welcome.

Finally for this week, a contribution from a long-time fan of our work. Photographer Philip Hatfield from Barrow often bumps into Neil when they are both working, and now he’s in the process of hanging up his cameras, he is going through some of his old photos and videos. And he’s come across something he shot purely for his own pleasure. It features some, well,  twenty years younger familiar faces… See how many you can spot!


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.