Staffordshire standard gauge steam
Cauldon Lowe reopens
13 November 2010
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Stone traffic from Caldon Quarry last used the railway down to Leek Brook junction, thence to Stoke-on-Trent, in 1992. The original line from Leek Brook was the Waterhouses branch, where the Leek and Manifold 2'6" gauge line then connected - the last short section to the quarry forming a spur off the branch about a mile from Waterhouses. By 1994, the track was becoming well overgrown. The undergrowth was cleared in early 1994, to enable a number of railtours to travel up the branch. I travelled on the Branch Line Society's "Caldon Peak" on 16th April of that year - a most enjoyable outing (see "The Caldon Peak" on "Trips 'n Tours"). The line was then left to nature - "mothballed" - and became unusable. In the intervening years, much has happened locally, and the Churnet Valley Railway now runs to Leek Brook Junction. Then, just a year or so ago, Moorland and City Railways was set up with the prime objective of reopening throughout from Stoke to Caldon Lowe, with the intention of carrying stone once again. The story is best told on their website - suffice it to say that today's events marked an important milestone in that project. The line is notable for its gradient profile - the steepest (short) section is 1 in 40, with a long stretch at 1 in 45 followed by 1 in 59 to the summit near Ipstones - and then a descent at 1 in 61 towards the quarry. Definitely not an "XYZ Valley Railway"...
Several trains were advertised for public service - topped and tailed in turn by 71000 "Duke of Gloucester", 34028 "Eddystone", 44767 "George Stephenson" and the (controversially) red liveried 8F 8624. In the event, 71000 only completed one return trip up the line*, and diesel 33 021 was pressed into service (sensibly on the "tail" of both trains we saw). We arrived just in time to see an earlier unadvertised service drifting back down the line, then photographed the four trips which would run in daylight (only just, in the case of 8624...). Further trains would run during the hours of darkness - and are planned for the next two weekends and a couple of weekdays. I'd decided some time ago that today, weather permitting (and it did - wonderful!), would be a day for photography - but I will be back for a ride - that's a must! Spelling note: Caldonlow quarry is at Caldon Low. Immediately north of the quarry is Cauldon village - and immediately south is the tumulus-topped Cauldon Lowe. Hmmm. M&CR use "Cauldon Lowe" - so have I... *71000 note: The story - I've no idea whether it's true - was that he used much more water than expected on the first run - and there are limited facilities for watering... Valve gear note: It can't be often that three different types of valve gear can be seen (as in outside motion) operating in one day - Walschaerts, Caprotti (71000) and Stephenson's link motion (44767). (Shame it wasn't an unrebuilt Bulleid pacific...) Link: The Churnet Valley Railway
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
The Duke lays a smokescreen Return of the Duke Eddystone in the moorlands Eddystone Eddystone and the 33... ...and the observation car George Stephenson near Ipstones Do you prefer them in red... ...or gold?