Saturday, 25 January 2014

Watching the trains go by

Like many youngsters one of my pleasures was to watch trains go by. The noise and smell of steam locomotives was addictive.  Many a happy hour was spent looking at trains of many varieties.  Trains of fish wagons, trains laden with coal, iron ore and steel, general freight trains, slow passenger trains and express passenger trains.

One of our favoured locations was Tapton footbridge, just north of Chesterfield Midland station.  There we would watch express passenger trains starting from Chesterfield station and we would stand on the bridge over the track the train was running along.  We would be enveloped in smoke and steam as the locomotive passed under the bridge.

Our favourite location was Lockoford Lane bridge over the Midland line, just north of Tapton Junction.  From this vantage point we could see the line to Sheffield curling away to our left and the 'old road', the original North Midlands Railway, making its way down the Rother valley to Staveley. Below us the Great Central's Chesterfield Loop passed under the two aforementioned lines, then curved away to the north to Brimington station and ran parallel with the 'old road'.   When we saw the steam from a train coming along the Great Central from the Brimington direction one of our number would be dispatched on a bicycle down Lockoford Lane hill to the 'iron bridge' over the Great Central to 'cop' the locomotive.  He/she had to take care as the hill was steep and half way down an an abandoned rail track crossed Lockoford Lane and could be slippery in wet or cold weather.

The line to Sheffield was for the most part the route passenger trains took.  We would see a succession of Jubilee and Black 5 locomotives, sometimes piloted by a 4-4-0 and occasionally  one of the 4-4-0 compounds.  The 'old road' was busy on summer Saturdays with passenger excursion trains to the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire coastal resorts.

The 'old road' was very busy at other times with southbound coal trains.  For much of the day, just as the locomotive on a coal train had passed under the bridge, the next one would come into sight from the Staveley direction.  There was a steady flow northbound of iron ore trains.

Much has changed. The Great Central closed in the 1960s and the coal and iron ore traffic has gone.  One abiding memory of of the empty fish vans train in the early evening.  All the doors were open and the smell lingered for minutes after the train had passed.