Heretic BINGE

OK, for the sake of a title this is really two items in one post. If you want to skip to the Heretic part click here

Our First Granite Restoration

The first item is news of a Binge Weekend. Before you start worrying about excessive drinking and my health I’d better remind you what BINGE is in this context, Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers. We are slowly building up the stock for the narrow gauge railway at Beamish with a mix of new wagons were creating and the restoration of some Granite Wagons on loan from the Festiniog Railway.

The first of the FR waggons we did was 978 which is basically a slate waggon boarded in and with higher sides to allow it to carry stone. That was done over the winter of 2015/16.

For our next challenge over the winter of 2016/17 we took on a bigger challenge in the form of one of the tippers. This proved to be such a big job that we didn’t get it done by the steam fair of 2017.  To demonstrate the size of the task Rule 1 in the restoration was supposed to be, “we’re not touching axles and bearings”. Well that didn’t last further than Waggon 1. This one has had all four axleboxes stripped and re-metalled. Self interest was at work here as we were fitting a new floor (within our scope) but it was needed because knackered bearings meant the wheels were grinding the floor away.

So the opening working day of this weekend was all about finishing this waggon off with the brake gear getting our attention. First job was getting some of the old bits apart.

Fire was used as the main weapon here along with a long lever. They actually came apart leaving some usable thread which just needed cleaning up with a die nut.

Next was to assemble the linkages with the spring assist assembled with some newly turned top hat shaped washers top and bottom. The spring unit is designed to keep the brake pressure on as the brake blocks wear down.

The top of the spring has a pressure plate with trunnions that sit in hanging links that suspend it from the wagon floor. This wasn’t in a fit state to be reused so a new one was roughly cut and the trunnions turned in the lathe,

You can just about see how this assembles in this picture if you click on it to enlarge it

With that done, and it was more than we expected to get done in a day the wagon is done apart from four chains to retain the door and tipper cotters and then some sign writing with its number and load details.

Heretic DMU’s

This was a day out on the trains that featured different levels of Heritage DMU’s or just an excuse for a jolly day out with a mate.  The plan was this, travel from York to Derby to meet Panda using Cross Country [XC] trains, then travel to Duffield with East Midland Trains for a ride on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway before retracing our steps. Well it was a good plan but it didn’t last long.

Through the very kind offices of Panda I had an XC Friends and Family ticket which allows off peak (after 09:30) travel on XC services. The plan was to get the 09.35 but, luckily as it turned out, I was at the station an hour early because that’s when my lift was going.


A quick text message confirmed that the Train Manager of my intended train knew I was travelling and that I was expected. It also revealed that it was stuck behind a failed train and was already half an hour late. A quick look at the clock and overheard platform announcement resulted in an ill considered sprint to platform 9, a quick hello to the guard and i am told to “get in this coach and sit down”

On the plus side it was one of these. An HST, which is better than the modern voyager which my train should have been but it just a fast DMU really and its forty years old so its the first Heritage DMU of the day.

The slightly sticky wicket we were on now though was a standard class after 09:30 ticket in First Class on the 08:45 from York.  No problem in the end.


Free WiFi is good stuff so Panda and I were able to coordinate the evolving plan.

It was working out that he would get to Derby sufficiently before me to get to Costa and get the coffees in. This was looking like being one of those days – Costa closed for refurbishment. Anyway, an alternative source was clearly found as I was met on the platform with a brew. Derby did manage one last twist though. My train was scheduled into Platform 3 and our next train to Duffield was to be Platform 2, other face of the same platform, cross platform, no stairs – excellent. 5 minutes to go and they changed it from P2 to P1 so it was over the bridge after all.

Another nearly heritage DMU on the mainline got us to Duffield and the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.

They have a fleet of 1950’s/60’s first generation or heritage DMU’s and any of them would have been great but when IRIS turned up we were well pleased. IRIS is a single car Derby Lightweight and is only one of two that survive. It owes it survival to a career as a test vehicle for radio reception after its passenger days were done



I worked on repairing a few of these Derby Lightweights when I was doing my apprenticeship as British Rail Engineering including one where the engine had decided it wanted to come up through the floor




A plus with these units over modern things that worry about crash worthiness (how about making sure they don’t crash?) is that you get big picture windows at the ends so you can see where you are going (or where you’ve been in this case) complete with the 1950’s bus engine smoke screen.

Now I have fond memories of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway when it was just the Wirksworth Branch of British Rail. As a kit I lived close by and we used to cycle to see the stone trains that were its last traffic.

Now a preserved line slowly being developed as funds allow it runs on a couple of days a week out of season and on this day IRIS was doing a couple three round trips from Wirksworth to Duffield which allows two laps from the Duffield end. Our convivial day out went Duffield to Wirksworth, first course of Lunch, Wirksworth to Duffield and back to Wirksworth, 2nd course, Carrot Cake [sure its one of your five a day] and, finally, back to Duffield.

By the end of our day the weather had decided to remind us it was winter by absolutely chucking it down as we walked across to the mainline station for our train back into Derby.

Back in Derby by about 4:30 it was a bit soon to be heading back to York so we repaired to the waiting room, sometime also known as platform 7 [Derby has 6] or more accurately The Brunswick Public house conveniently located close to the end of platform 1.


Well we could really wait in there and not have a drink, or three, could we.


There was an ulterior motive too as it suited my hosts train time and a convenient one for me on which he knew the crew working it so my F&F ticket got another very pleasant upgrade to the posh end – well it was nearest the pub and it was still raining.

The train home did rather spoil the day though, it got me home two minutes early without a fuss, so can’t really complain on that score but all the trains so far had been heritage of one vintage or another from the last millennium.

Still it was a jolly day out that we must do again sometime soon

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