The golden age of steam

by Helen Hooker May. 29, 2019 750 views

There’s nothing quite like a day at a steam railway when it comes to creating a sense of nostalgia. The Colne Valley and Halstead Railway, our destination today, closed to commercial trains in the early 1960s, reopening a decade or so later as a heritage railway.

You can tell this isn't a busy railway line - the tracks are covered in wild geraniums!

You can tell this isn't a busy railway line - the tracks are covered in wild geraniums!

I can never resist these colourful fire buckets at any heritage railway I visit!

I can never resist these colourful fire buckets at any heritage railway I visit!

Moving the engine into place ready for the first trip of the day

Moving the engine into place ready for the first trip of the day

Neither of us are old enough to remember steam trains running on the British railway, but there’s something about these old stations and rolling stock that is irresistible. That said, it’s amazing how familiar many of the carriages feel, as the trains I travelled to London on as a student were almost identical, right down to the patterned upholstery!

We were lucky to find a steam engine pulling a handful of carriages up and down the mile-long stretch of track today, so after a quick look around we climbed aboard and enjoyed the short journey. We decided to travel first class – not something we’d habitually do, but when it doesn’t cost anything extra, why wouldn’t you?! I spent some time while we were waiting for the engine to shunt around us at the end of the line, and while we had lunch in the buffet car, taking some photos of details around the carriage. One thing’s for sure, modern trains feel much more clinical than those made in the steam age.

Kevin, contemplating the world, as we ride through the Essex countryside

Kevin, contemplating the world, as we ride through the Essex countryside

Travelling in style!

Travelling in style!

After lunch we took a stroll around the Royal Mail train. These were used to sort the mail en-route overnight and we were astonished to discover that a worker on board could sort around 1500 letters per hour, with 99% accuracy.

It was a mail train very much like this one that was raided in the Great Train Robbery in 1963

It was a mail train very much like this one that was raided in the Great Train Robbery in 1963

Pigeonholes for the post to be sorted into

Pigeonholes for the post to be sorted into

I also spent some time in the signal box and photographing the train crew as they went about their work in the station. Often, I would convert such images to monochrome, but today the colours seemed too good to discard.

Climbing aboard again, after hitching the engine onto the carriages

Climbing aboard again, after hitching the engine onto the carriages

Just a few of the levers in the signal box, along with the obligatory teatowel to soften the blow to the fingers!

Just a few of the levers in the signal box, along with the obligatory teatowel to soften the blow to the fingers!

A sneak peak beyond the footplate

A sneak peak beyond the footplate

Waiting for the water tank to refill between runs. The hosepipe seems to have a leak!

Waiting for the water tank to refill between runs. The hosepipe seems to have a leak!

Finally, Kevin went for a second jaunt on the train, while I shot some more action pictures of the train coming through the station before we headed for home.

Pulling out of the station, heading towards Colchester

Pulling out of the station, heading towards Colchester

Steaming back into the station to visit the other end of the line

Steaming back into the station to visit the other end of the line

In the distance you can see the engine shunting back into place to haul the carriages back to the station

In the distance you can see the engine shunting back into place to haul the carriages back to the station

29 May 2019

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Nick Ambrose 1 year, 10 months ago

#18. Ah, that's why they used the tea towel. Often wondered!

1 year, 10 months ago Edited
John Waco Jr 1 year, 10 months ago

Wonderful images brings back lots of memories for me. In June 1972 I was filming in North Yorkshire so I when to see the new North Yorkshire Moors Railway Preservation Society. Its members were convinced that operating the line between Grossmont and Pickering could be viable if sufficient voluntary help was forthcoming.

1 year, 10 months ago Edited
Helen Hooker Replied to John Waco Jr 1 year, 9 months ago

Thank you - I'm so pleased you enjoyed them! I don't think I've yet visited the North York Moors railway - perhaps another one for my 'must visit' list!

1 year, 9 months ago Edited
John Waco Jr Replied to Helen Hooker 1 year, 9 months ago

It was a long time ago but I will always remember those stem trails..

1 year, 9 months ago Edited
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