Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Isle of Wight Steam Railway

As i mentioned in the blog post on the Island Line only one stretch of the once extensive Isle of Wight railway system now remains in use. There is another line though which runs from Smallbrook Junction to Wootton which is operated by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. I had an enjoyable ride along the line hauled by British Railways and later Southern steam locomotives. They have a nice museum too at Havenstreet, well worth a visit. A nice friendly line like the EVR. You can see my photos here.

The Island Line

When i was a small boy i had a holiday on the Isle of Wight though can barely remember anything about it. I thought it was high time i returned to the island and have a trip along the unique Island Line which is the last remnant of what was once an extensive National railway system before Beeching. What makes the line between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin unique is that it is operated by ex-London Underground tube stock from the 1930s.

Visiting Portsmouth for Easter i headed over to the Isle of Wight and caught the Class 483 EMU at the pier head. Then headed down to Shanklin before coming back to Smallbrook Junction to catch the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (which will be covered later) and the steam loco hauling the preserved line train was younger than the Island Line electric train stock! You can see my photos from the Island Line here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Back to the EVR

Although the Severn Valley Railway remains my favourite there is something about the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway (EVR) in Derbyshire that also has great appeal. Its on a lot smaller scale than the SVR (though has a decent line length at 14.5 km) and doesn't have the multi-million pound investments in infrastructure. Everything is a lot more simple and friendlier and a bit more approachable. Anyway yesterday i returned to the EVR for their Mixed Traction Event which involved their usual DMUs being hauled by 2 preserved diesel locomotives.

Both locos are proud products of the Midlands in Derby's Class 25 and Birmingham's Class 33. I also had a trip on a short steam line up to the EVR's spur line up to Ravenstor, my first trip in a brake van! That can be crossed off the bucket list. You can see my photos here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Westland Sea King (Haynes Manual)

To mark its final year of service in the forefront of UK Search & Rescue (SAR) Haynes bought out this manual on the Westland Sea King last year and its a very good edition in the Haynes line. The Sea King is iconic of course, originally a US designed and built helicopter, the UK version built by Westland has served in the Falklands, Gulf Wars, Afghanistan though this book concentrates on the HU5 version used for SAR duties.

The book starts with a short general history of the use of helicopters in rescue operations and then the development of the Westland Sea King. Much of the book is taken up with the Sea King's innards and how to maintain it (as you would expect from a Haynes manual!) What is most interesting here is the more specialised equipment unique to a SAR helicopter and role. The book ends with a few examples of the many rescues and recovery operations the Sea King was involved with during its career.

The end of the Sea King also means the end of Royal Navy involvement in SAR as the role passes to a civilian contractor working for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, in a way the passing of the Sea King HU5 from service is sad but the new SAR fleet is much more up-to-date and modern which will be welcomed by anyone in trouble! One wonders though if the new service and it's equipment will get immortalised in a Haynes manual one day?