ELR Autumn Steam Event

The trip to recharge my Northern batteries began as usual by putting 'Love will tear us apart' on the iPod as the Virgin Pendolino passed through Macclesfield. Then it was The Smiths and Elbow into Madchester Piccadilly. I got a packed 135 bendy bus to Bury (I found out later Manchester buses were on strike!) and was pleasantly surprised to find that th'Art cinema that was once named Chicago Rocks had been refurbished by J D Wetherspoon and was now called The Art Picture House. That Friday night we went to see my nephew Noel's band Dirty Little Secret play a gig at the Seven Stars at Harwood, and very good they were too, with half a brass band accompanying them. The audience too had made a great effort in dressing up for Halloween and I consumed a few pints of Bolton-brewed Flat Cap at (less than) £2.50 a pint.

Saturday 31 October was the East Lancs Railway Autumn steam event. The 12.00 to Rawtenstall was pulled by 'Mickey' 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier (see video here), so I jumped on and went to the end of the line. On the way back I got off at Ramsbottom for a wander and a cup of black peas at the stall, then jumped on a train pulled by double header 'Jinty' (I still don't know why they are called Jinties!) 47324 and industrial saddletank No. 15 Earl David to Bury and thence to Heywood (see video here). The other engines working were No. 32 Gothenburg doing a shuttle service between Bury and Rammy, 61994 The Great Marquess and an 0-4-0 industrial saddletank in Yates Duxbury livery on a goods train. Disappointingly, 7100 Duke of Gloucester was undergoing repairs in the shed! Back at Bury I had a nice pint of Cairngorm's Witches Cauldron at the Trackside for a reasonable £2.45.

I had meant to go again on the Sunday, but it was a complete washout - gales and thrashing rain all day - so I watched the NY marathon on TV looking out for Erica Smith. Monday I visited the smart new Fusilier Museum in Bury in the old Technical School with a new modern bit tacked on, opposite th'Art gallery. They even moved the Lutyens cenotaph war memorial from Wellington barracks on Bolton Road to its new location outside in Gallipoli Garden (formerly known as Sparrow Park). The soup in the splendid new cafe was Pea and Ham so I had a cappuccino instead and made a bus-pass expedition to Oldham. Did the GMPTE tourist trail (world's first chippy, world's first Yates Wine Lodge, boarded up arcade etc) and ended up at the new Gallery Oldham in Oldham's 'cultural quarter'. Now, I'm not keen on modern museums (see my rant on the Towner at Eastbourne) - they seem to be lots of space with nowt much to show. There must be a huge permanent collection, but all that's on show are a few pieces in a temporary exhibition on Women of Oldham (including Ethel Whitehead, a relative of Steve's?), plus the odd Victorian painting in dark stairwells (Samuel Colman's magnificent Belshazzar's feast, for example was by the lifts). Despite winning the prize for classiest brochure, overall very disappointing - and there was no cafe! I put it down to all that modern glass - not enough walls to hang pictures on! Presumably there will be more on show in the next exhibition, Oldham's Treasures, opening 5 December? The Ashmolean has just been refurbished so they can show more of their collection - why do other galleries hide their treasures away?

On Tuesday I travelled by bus to Manchester's MOSI, to see if there was anything left of the Garrett Gathering I'd missed in August. There was a model Garrett by the big White One, but little else, tho I managed to buy a souvenir programme to see what I'd missed! I noticed that Baby, the world's first computer, had moved too - nearer the front of the museum, where the printing presses used to be. I also discovered a steam engine, part of a generating set, made by Ashworth and Parker of Bury. I got an unusual bus back from Shudehill, through Broughton, Kersley and Besses o' th' Barn, ending up going through the Sunny Bank estate where I was brought up!

Wednesday is market day so I'd saved my amble around Bury town centre for then, starting off at th'Art Gallery. The Turner was on tour again, but there were some nice exhibits by Manchester artists including some animated drawings by Andrew McDonald. The minimal display in the museum downstairs hadn't changed since my last visit so I went up The Rock to see what had happened to the Art Deco Hornby Buildings. They were completely gone, revealing the tiled side of the 1930s Odeon, which was still standing. The new shopping development is massive! I took a detour to check out the site of the old Scala and my grandad's old house on Spring Street (it's for sale!) then dived in to Bury's 'famous' market, full of old ladies on coach trips, to buy some 'tasty' Lancashire cheese and a couple of 'fatty' black puddings for friends and relatives. I had half a veggy toasted ciabatta and cappuccino at Katsouris Deli on The Square, sheltering from the rain, and finally a pint of Black Cat at th'Art Picture House, admiring the opulent gilded interior. I also discovered that the George, probably the first pub I ever drank in (at Bury Folk Club), on Kay Gardens, was now a card shop!

Thursday was my first trip on the tram (it was raining!), a £3.50 ticket to Manchester Picadilly then down to London where the escalators on the tube weren't working and to Brighton where I realised that I'd done a stupid thing and hoped to travel home on the night of the Lewes bonfires. There was a huge queue for the train that should have taken me to London Road, so walked home, down the hill, my Northern cold beginning to take hold.

Previous visits to the ELR:

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