Some time back in the Late Middle Ages my family lived in the southern part of the UK; Berkshire to be more exact. I spent my formative teen years there and developed a lasting appreciation of the UK railway scene, both in prototype and model form.
Fast forward a few decades (oh, that hurts…) and Jason put forward the idea of entering into the UK market and I was fully on-board. The results of this endeavor is our first UK model, the OO gauge APT-E, available from locomotionmodels.com, the model wing of The National Railway Museum in Shildon.
Over the last week and a half I have been back in the UK announcing our SECOND UK model, the Stirling Single. (Full details of this model, including price and availability, can be found here). In addition to being very productive for Rapido, this trip has been a fantastic chance to catch up with clients and friends on the other side of “The Pond”.
My trip began with an Amtrak train from Old Saybrook, Connecticut to Newark, New Jersey where I boarded an overnight flight for Manchester (UK) via Philadelphia. I need a new travel agent….
I had made arrangements to meet Arran Aird from UK manufacturer C-Rail “somewhere” on the western side of the UK as he was driving down from Scotland. I intended to take a train north and meet him at a convenient mid-point. In fact, he made such good time driving down (I am now calling him “The Flying Scotsman”) that he met me at the airport instead! After loading my bags into the back of his little red Ford Focus diesel (a car that I developed a new-found appreciation for!) we were off.
We had made plans to stop at the Keighley and Worth Valley (K&WV), one of the premier preserved steam railways in the UK, so that was our target for the morning. However, on the way we were distracted briefly by another steam railway, the East Lancashire, when we stopped in the village of Ramsbottom (yes… go ahead…. Arran and I already did most of the possible jokes – none of which are appropriate here). We had stopped just to check out the station, but discovered that we would have only a short time to wait before the next train, so stayed a while.
From Ramsbottom (yes, yes…. I know…) it was off to Haworth on the Keighley and Worth Valley.
At this point my morning coffee had caught up with me, so I went off to admire the carefully restored facilities. When I returned Arran was nowhere to be found. Eventually I located (well, heard) him in the ticket office. He came out, announced that he had just signed my life away, but that we would be riding the footplate (sorry, cab), each with a full return trip on the line!
What an amazing experience! The locomotive was British Railways standard class 4 4-6-0 #75078. It was fresh out of a major overhaul and was immaculate and in top form.
The K&WV is a winding, steeply graded line and being on board the loco on the start of our Keighley on a steeply grades curve was worth the airfare alone (Jason may not agree, but then, he wasn’t there!)
The next day, Friday, was spent in York. I had made arrangements to visit the Search Engine, the National Railway Museum’s (NRM) archives center, in order to view and copy some drawings and information on the Stirling Single, our next UK model project.
It was amazing what they could find on a locomotive that was built way back in 1880. My only regret was that I could not spend more time there just looking through the vast collection of books and periodicals in their reading room.
After my NRM visit it was off to York Racecourse to set up for the York Model Railway Show which was taking place that weekend.
York Model Railway Show is an amazing mix of layouts, manufacturers and dealers spread out over multiple levels of the racecourse grandstand. I have never been to a show quite like it. I spent the weekend at the NRM/locomotionmodels.com booth answering questions about the upcoming OO gauge APT-E model. I was helped (corrected?) by Kit Spackman and Paul Leadley of the APT-E Preservation Group.
Kit worked on the tilt system of the original train and Paula and his brother are largely responsible for spearheading its restoration. Turnout was strong, and I was surprised to have so many people recognize me!
After the York show it was on to NRM Shildon where we were to make the announcement of the Stirling Single project on Wednesday. While changing trains in Leeds I was pleasantly surprised to see class 91 91111 “for the Fallen”, a special repaint (wrap actually) done as part of the World War I centenary commemorations.
We had arranged for a 3-D scan to be done of the Stirling Single to be done at Shildon during the launch. In order to make this possible Richard Pearson and the crew at Shildon had to shunt (switch) several locos around in order to make enough space around the loco. When it came time to pull the Single out I asked rather sheepishly if I could ride the cab and Richard told me to get on board. I felt like a little kid!
The announcement at Shildon went over very well and surprised many people. It seems that nobody was willing to believe that Jason would approve a steam project! In fact, this project has been in the discussion stage since the APT-E launch. Members of most of the UK model railway press were there to cover the event and many enthusiasts made their way to Shildon to see the scan in progress. It was great to be able to see and talk to so many people and see their enthusiasm for both projects.
I decided to make Thursday a “day of rest” (right…..) and sightsee a bit. As an avid history buff I love getting the chance to explore the British countryside. There is just so much history to be seen. After a quick stop back at Shildon I headed off in my rental car to Egglestone Abbey near the village of Barnard Castle in County Durham. I was also able to spend a little time exploring both the town and castle.
On my way out of Shildon Richard had asked if I was interested in visiting the shop where the A-1 Steam Locomotive Trust were working on new-build A-1 4-6-2 “Tornado” which was being overhauled and P-2 class 2-8-2 is just starting construction. Richard phoned ahead to arrange permission, and I made a point of making time on my way back to Darilngton to see the shop. What an amazing place! In an incredibly cramped workshop area the team had “Tornado” apart in many pieces. The boiler was out for a re-tube but the tender had just been finished and painted. All around the shop various other pieces of “Tornado” were being prepared for refinishing.
In an incredibly cramped workshop area the team had “Tornado” apart in many pieces. The boiler was out for a re-tube but the tender had just been finished and painted. All around the shop various other pieces of “Tornado” were being prepared for refinishing.
Along one side of the shop stood the frames of P-2 #2007 “Prince of Wales”. Like “Tornado” , #2007 is an all-new locomotive being built from the ground up. Just an amazing effort to see in progress…..
A final stop at the Head of Steam Museum nearby in Darlington allowed me to see their amazing collection of very early steam locos and memorabilia linked to the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Well worth the visit.
From there it was on to the train and off to Manchester airport. I changed trains at York, one of my favorite stations. I looked in vain for a class 55 Deltic. A little Pacer will have to do. So sad… (Sorry Charlie.)
So, we’ve embarked on another UK project, our second with locomotionmodels.com and our first steam locomotive! If you’re interested in following our progress on the Stirling Single or the APT-E please make sure to sign up for our UK newsletter.