Monday 9th April 2018

Only a brief update this week following the late publication of last week’s blog.

John Dixon concentrates on applying the yellow undercoatThe paintwork on the RSR’s TPO is almost complete following the working parties on Wednesday and Friday. Ready for the vinylsThe yellow stripes along the lower panels of the body were added as was the orange electrical warning line on the gutter edges. One of Roger's brightly coloured bogiesThe painting of the bogies was completed on Friday with Roger adding the final touches of colour before he disappears on holiday. The vinyls should be added on Wednesday followed by a final coat of varnish on Friday.

Howard has been working alone on Caliban in Adrian’s absence. Ade before the knifeWe are pleased to be able to report that Ade should now be back at home after going under the knife during a four hour operation on Thursday. He tells us that the hospital food was OK but that he couldn’t find the mini-bar! He is still feeling rather sore and reckons that it will be a little while before he will be able to continue his efforts to dismantle Caliban‘s springs.

Keith continues his work on making cylinder covers for Wootton Hall and is expecting Ian Massey back this next Friday and Saturday to do more work on the Hall’s tender frames.

Fred tries to make the TV workFinally, in the mess room, Fred brought in an inside aerial to try out on the TV but was unable to get much of a picture with it. It looks as if we will have to invest in a proper outdoor aerial sometime.


Wednesday 4th April 2018

The blog has been significantly delayed this week by a combination of factors, including the need to crew steam engines and the school holidays which place demands on writing time!

However, work has continued apace at Preston on the RSR’s TPO coach, the cosmetic restoration of which is now well down the home straight. John and Tim have now applied three coats of paint to the body sides and the lining should be finished by the end of this week. The TPO coach ready for lining paintThe photo shows the coach in Royal Mail red masked up ready to receive the yellow stripes along the lower panels. As can be seen from the shining bogies, Fred, Roger and John Davis have also been hard at work down below. It is planned that the vinyl Travelling Post Office lettering will be applied to the body sides next Wednesday, after which a finishing coat of varnish is scheduled for the Friday. It shouldn’t be too long after that before the coach is transferred into the museum.

Howard with a stubborn spring hangerAde and Howard have finally managed to release the first of Caliban‘s spring hangers, where the steel pins are proving to be well and truly seized up. Howard is seen here attempting to remove the second of the spring hangers. Howard is also looking to call in reinforcements as chief dismantler Adrian is due to go under the knife in Preston Royal Infirmary tomorrow so will be on light duties for a while after that. Good luck Ade!

Newly acquired second hand clack valve for Wootton HallKeith continues to be on the look out for components for Wootton Hall and has been fortunate to obtain a second hand clack valve courtesy of Andy Booth. Please see Keith if you would like to contribute to the purchase of this or the two new snifting valve castings which were mentioned in last week’s blog.The new snifting valve castings for Wootton Hall

A new top cylinder cover plate on Wootton HallKeith has also been fabricating two plates to cover the cylinders on Wootton Hall, one of which is seen in position here.

Finally, Alan and Alison braved the cold and wet weather to go over to Locomotion, Shildon, last weekend. Alison raised some more funds whilst Alan looked after FR 20 on its penultimate set of steamings at Locomotion this year. The loco is provisionally due to leave Shildon for Preston on the 9th May.


Monday 26th March 2018

Gothenburg departing with the first train on Saturday, 24th MarchAs mentioned in last week’s blog, the Ribble Steam Railway’s Spring Steam Gala took place on Saturday and Sunday with four locomotives in operation, including visiting Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T Gothenburg from the East Lancashire Railway which is seen here departing from Riverside station with the first train on Saturday.

Ready to go. The buffet car waiting for its first tripThe Gala marked the introduction into service of the FRT’s former RMB buffet car No. 1812, which was placed in the centre of the three coach rake, and very smart it looked. Draught beer has been re-installed to the bar and Brent is seen here drawing off the first drink of the day.Brent draws the first drink of the day

The FRT’s sales stand at the Gala was augmented by the rolling stock from the late John Houghton’s railway layout, which the FRT is selling and will benefit from the proceeds. Alan sorting out the locos for sale

The overhaul of the RSR’s TPO coach bodywork is now reaching its final stages and a coat of red undercoat was applied on Friday. John painting the TPO coach on SaturdayJohn Dixon is pictured here in the process of applying gloss paint on Saturday and it is planned to put on another gloss coat on Wednesday, so a dust curfew is required in the shed for that day. John Davis, Fred and Roger have been continuing their task of painting the frames and bogies and are nearly at an end with this part of the project. Paul Balshaw has been attending to the missing rubbing plates on one of the corridor connections.

Howard and Adrian have continued the task of dismantling the spring hangers and supporting pins from Caliban, it being a slow process as split pins are removed piece by piece!

Keith has picked up two brand new brass snifting valve castings from a foundry in Blackburn for Wootton Hall, and is looking for sponsors of these – they cost 84 each.

We have had news that the new tubes for 5643 are currently being cut and swaged in readiness for transporting to Embsay at the end of the week. Andy Booth is programming in some time shortly after Easter to fit them.

Finally, Alan and Alison are off to Locomotion at Shildon again this next weekend for FR 20’s Easter steamings, although Alison will be at Preston on Good Friday with some of the unsold OO gauge model rolling stock whilst Alan is driving. We hope that the forecast ‘mini-beast from the east’ (wot, another one?!) won’t cause the A66 to be closed once again!

Monday 19th March 2018

It might have been yet another cold wind blowing outside our shed this week, however, within the relatively snugness of a well insulated and heated environment we have seen more progress this week on the three main projects.

John Dixon painting the corridor end of the TPO coachWork has now commenced in earnest on the painting of the RSR’s TPO coach, and John Dixon is seen here painting the corridor ends. The corridor ends going blackNow that this has been achieved, it is planned to start painting the body sides next Friday. Paul Newton and John Davis at work painting the TPO coachDown below, John Davis, Paul Newton, Fred and Roger have been continuing their work in painting the frames, headstocks and bogies. Fred painting one of the TPO headstocksRoger sees red with bogie springsPaul Balshaw also made a start on cleaning up the interior of the coach now that the filling and sanding has finished.

Alan and Howard at work on Caliban's axleboxesAde, Howard and Alan have been stripping the axleboxes on Caliban, although this has been a slow process as it is many years since they have been apart. Ade contemplating under Caliban

Ian Massey was back on Friday to continue his work on welding a new section to Wootton Hall‘s tender frames. Ian Massey at work on Wootton Hall's tender framesIt is planned that he will return again shortly to complete the job. The latest weld completedThe work is taking a little longer than anticipated owing to some distortion that occurred during the original welding and the need to adopt a different technique to prevent a recurrence.

The mess room is becoming better equipped as a result of the clearing of the late John Houghton’s kitchen, the contents of which have been made available to the Trust. Derek has kindly donated some pictures which are starting to go up on the walls.

Next weekend, the 24th and 25th March, will see the rolling stock from John Houghton’s model railway being put up for sale. A reminder here that FRT members will be allowed first pick from 09.00 on the Saturday morning. Videos, books and vinyls for saleA large selection of books, videos and vinyl LPs, seen here stacked in the mess room, will also be available for sale.

Groundworks outside the shedOutside our shed, work has started on preparing the ground ready for tarmac to be put down, probably this next week. This is in advance of the new children’s play area which will be created between the FRT shed and the museum.

FR 20 in the snow at ShildonAlan looked at the weather forecast and decided to delegate the role of owner’s representative for FR 20 at this weekend’s steamings at Locomotion to member Brian Goodfellow, who lives locally to Shildon. After a cold night at ShildonThis was a sensible decision as Alan was due to play at a St. Patrick’s Day gig with our folk band Live Steam at Cark on Saturday evening and, in the event, the local mountain rescue teams had to turn out to rescue people from the A66 on Saturday night!

Monday 12th March 2018

Breaking news this week is that the mess room has now been commissioned, the keynote moment being the transfer last Wednesday morning of the kettle and tea bags from the shed into our new accommodation for members. Keith had wired up the hot water system so John Dixon and Tim then set about re-arranging the tables, chairs, desk and filing cabinet into their new positions, setting up the oven and microwave, as well as selecting those tables which could go into store for use with the sales stand. With the permission of the executor of the late John Houghton’s estate, the FRT has been allowed to clear some household items from Garstang and some cooking pans and a camp bed have been installed in the mess room. These will be followed this next week by cups, plates and cutlery as well as the store of tinned food from John’s cupboards. We are setting up a mess room fund into which donations can be made for tea bags, coffee, milk and the food.

Back to the work place, there has been a continuing push to get the RSR’s TPO coach ready for painting, with Tim John, Dixon, John Davis, Paul Balshaw, Paul Newton, Mike, Fred and Roger all lending a hand. It is hoped to start painting the corridor ends this week before the rather larger task of painting the sides begins. The role of supervisor is obviously very pressured!Mike can be seen here offering suitable supervisory advice to John Davis from the comfort of his chair as John paints a bogie.

Ade and Howard have been making steady progress with Caliban, managing to remove all the pins which were holding the axlebox keeps in place.

Keith has also been making some progress with Wootton Hall and Wednesday saw the arrival of a new clack valve.. New clack valve for Wootton Halland an eccentric rod… Second hand eccentric rod for Wootton HallKeith is asking for expressions of interest to sponsor these items – the clack valve is £400 and the eccentric rod £375 .

With the roads almost clear of snow, Alan and Tim finally made it over to the north east for a meeting on Friday. Alan and Alison have been spending all their spare time this week at John Houghton’s house sorting out his possessions. The items from the train set are being catalogued and Alison is planning to have a sale of the rolling stock during the Ribble Steam Railway’s Steam Gala. A special preview session for FRT members will be held from 09.00 on Saturday, 24th March after which the sale will be open to members of the public. With a bit of luck, it is hoped to have a list of the main items available in time for next week’s blog.

Finally, this next weekend sees Alan and Alison heading over to Shildon for two more steamings with FR 20, with them beating a hasty return to Cark on the Saturday evening for a St. Patrick’s night gig at the Engine Inn with Live Steam.


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.