Bluebell vintage bus day

Air raids
Originally uploaded by fred pipes
After the storms and gales of Saturday, the weather for the Sunday vintage bus day at the Bluebell Railway was actually quite clement. I boarded a splendid but quite modern Southdown bus at St Peters again, but this time it was quite full. At Sheffield Park the nice ancient Metropolitan Railway set of carriages was about to leave, pulled by SE&CR Wainwright goods, No. 592 with its big brass dome, so I jumped aboard one of the crowded non-corridor compartments, where I took a photo of the Air Raid Warning Instruction card above the lovely art deco upholstery.

We had to wait for the Golden Arrow to pull in so we could use the single track and apparently there had been some electrical fault at Kingscote, so everything was running 20 minutes late. Eventually, in came the posh Pullman carriages full of posh diners, but the train was being pulled by a boring BR black Standard Tank, no. 80151! And I think I'd have been very disappointed had I shelled out for a luxury meal and been on that train - still it could have been worse, it could have been a diesel!

At Horsted Keynes I spotted rebuilt SR Bulleid Battle of Britain class, no. 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair on the other platform. Now that's what should have been hauling the Golden Arrow, but their loss was my gain, as I changed horses mid-stream to return to Sheffield Park pulled by the pacific. There I had time to look round the sheds, then it was off on a round trip of the entire line. Bought a bottle of BSB (Bluebell Special Bitter) in the Buffet Car, and sat back to watch the agitated bunnies, sheep and pheasants in the field by the side of the line. On the way back it was getting dark, and that's no fun for a train-spotter! I caught the last bus back (a single deck Statford Blue) and cycled home for another beer.

Previous visits to the Bluebell:
Southdown buses


Bury mods

John Dicky and Vanessa
Originally uploaded by fred pipes
When I was up in Bury last week, I was reading the Bury Times when I spotted a letter from Vanessa Major, wondering about the whereabouts of John Dickie, who she knew in 1967. This prompted me to dig out some old photos from that time - I wish I'd taken more of them. I was at college in Battersea 1965-68 but visited my home town of Bury in the vacs with my brand new Exa IIB 35mm SLR camera. Unfortunately I developed the photos myself, so the quality isn't great! These images (more on Flickr) were scanned from the negatives. This is the gang that hung out around Melody Fair record shop on the corner of Market Street and Kay Gardens, frequented Bury Palais de Dance at every opportunity, and travelled to Manchester on the electric train each Saturday night to groove to the latest R&B and soul sounds at the Twisted Wheel, Oasis, Cavern, Jigsaw, Jungfrau etc, etc all-nighters. Further recollections can be read here.


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: