Fred Dibnah

Charismatic Engineer, Steeplejack and British television personality Fred Dibnah was Born 28th April 1938. As a child, Dibnah was fascinated by the steam engines which powered the many textile mills in his home town of Bolton and developed a keen interest in mechanical engineering, Steam Engines and chimneys and the men who worked on them. He began his working life as a joiner, before becoming a steeplejack. From age 22, he served for two years in the armed forces, as part of his national service. Once demobilised, he returned to steeplejacking but met with limited success until he was asked to repair Bolton’s parish church. The resulting publicity provided a welcome boost to his business, ensuring he was almost never out of work.

Dibnah’s interest in steam power stemmed from his childhood observations of the steam locomotives on the nearby railway line, and his visits to his father’s workplace—a bleach works in Bolton—where he was fascinated by the steam engines used to drive the line shafting. He later became a steam enthusiast, befriending many of the engine drivers and firemen who worked on the nearby railway. As a teenager he met a driver who invited him onto the footplate of his locomotive and who asked him to keep the boiler supplied with fuel. Dibnah became so enamoured with steam engines that he eventually looked for one he could buy. He learnt of a steamroller kept in a barn near Warrington and which the owners had bought from Flintshire County Council. He had the boiler pressure-tested and, despite it being in poor condition, bought it for £175. He towed it to a friend’s house, spent a fortnight making various repairs and drove it to his mother’s house in Bolton.

After he married and bought his own property on Radcliffe new Road, he cut an access road to the garden of his new house and moved the steamroller there. Restoring the engine took many years, as Dibnah had to create his own replacement parts, using Victorian engineering techniques and equipment he built in his garden. The boiler was in poor condition and needed serious work, but Dibnah used local knowledge and was eventually able to build a new boiler. Once restored, he used the 1910 Aveling & Porter steamroller together with a living van he bought and restored, to take his family around the local steam fairs In 1978, while making repairs to Bolton Town Hall, Dibnah was filmed by a regional BBC news crew. The BBC then commissioned an award-winning documentary, which followed the rough-hewn steeplejack as he worked on chimneys, interacted with his family and talked about his favourite hobby—steam.

He made many more Television programmes about Steam Engines & Locomotives and In 1998, he presented a programme on Britain’s industrial history and went on to present a number of fascinating series, largely concerned with the Industrial Revolution and its mechanical and architectural legacy. In mid-2000, Dibnah was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Technology for his achievement in engineering by Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, and on 19 July 2004 he was made an honorary Doctor of the University by the University of Birmingham. He was also awarded an MBE for services to heritage and broadcasting. He said “I’m looking forward to meeting the Queen but I shall probably have to get a new cap. And I’d like to meet Prince Charles because we share the same views about modern architecture.”On 7 July 2004, Dibnah went to Buckingham Palace to receive his award from the Queen.

Sadly Fred’s health was failing at this point although filming continued at various locations around the country, with sons Jack and Roger, who had become essential members of the tour, providing much-needed support for their father. By the end of July, the crew had filmed only 34 days with Dibnah, out of a planned 60. It was becoming more difficult by the day for Dibnah to fulfil his filming duties and the crew decided to cut short the schedule and he died shortly after on 7 November 2004 and is sadly missed. He is survived by his five children from three marriages.

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Severn Valley Railway Autumn Steam Gala

This years Severn Valley Railway Autumn Steam Gala takes place from Thursday 21 September until Sunday 24 September. During the gala The  home-fleet of engines will be in steam, including: ex Port Talbot saddle tank GWR 813, 1450, 0-6-0 15xx class 1501, GWR 28xx class 2857, 7714, GWR 78xx Manor class 7802 Bradley Manor, GWR 78xx Manor class 7812 Erlestoke Manor, West Country class Pacific 34027 Taw Valley, Battle Of Britain classPacific locomotive 34053 Sir Keith Park & Ivatt class 4 43106. In addition the Railwayman’s Arms Wil be selling a number of guest beers during the gala, including Repton 4%, 1501 4.3%, Bluebell 4.6% and Erlestoke Manor 5% all brewed by Bewdley Brewery (try saying that after a few pints). After the Autumn Steam Gala the Battle of Britain class Pacific locomotive 34053 Sir Keith Park will also be departing from the Severn Valley Railway. The home fleet will appear alongside visiting locomotives for the Autumn Steam Gala Which this year include:

Southern Railway Maunsell ‘Schools’ class locomotive No. 926 Repton
The 1913 Great Eastern Railway (GER) Wordsell Y14′ class 0-6-0 Locomotive No. 564 (LNER J15 class)
‘P’ class locomotive No. 323 ‘Bluebell’ courtesy of the Bluebell Railway
Small England’ No. 2 Prince courtesy of the Talyllyn Railway

Severn Valley Railway On the Buses

Severn Valley Railway London Transport on the buses event takes place at Bewdley Station on Sunday 10 September 2017. This year it featured the 1914 built London & North Western Railway (LNWR) Leyland ‘Charabanc’ (reg. No. CC1087) from the London Transport Museum in 1924 LB5 ‘Chocolate Express’ livery, which was based at Euston Station in London running bus services in Watford and was used for pleasure-trips around North Wales . It was also requisitioned by the War Office in March 1915 for troop transportation in London. Also present were 1962 London Transport AEC Routemaster RM1005 with Euro 6 engine, Registration: 5 CLT and The first production AEC Routemaster RM 5 from 1959. Registration: VLT 5. In all Bewdley Station has up to 25 historical and modern vehicles in attendance, From a Daimler Metrocam to a 1953 Guy Special.

Fifteen Guinea Special

Stanier Black Five 45110

August 11 marks the anniversary of the 1T57 Fifteen Guinea Special rail tour which took place 11 August 1968 and was organised to mark the last occasion a steam hauled passenger train could legally run on the mainline in theUnited Kingdom before British Rail introduced a Steam ban the following day. It ran from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back, and was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey (with two engines sharing the third leg). The Fifteen Guinea Special was so named because of the high price for tickets on the railtour (15 guineas = £15 15s 0d in pre-decimal British currency). Ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.

The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain. The BR steam ban was introduced the day after the railtour, on 12 August 1968, making the Fifteen Guinea Special the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network (though BR would continue to operate three steam locomotives on the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol line until it was privatised in 1989). After this point all trains in Britain would be hauled by diesel or electric power, with the exception of privately owned heritage railways and privately run charters that are now able to run on the mainline provided that the steam locomotive has received necessary certification. The only steam locomotive to which the ban did not apply was Flying Scotsmandue to a clause in the contract in which she was purchased from BR in 1963. Several other railtours had already marked the end of steam haulage on other parts of the British (not UK) network. During most of these railtours, the Fifteen Guinea Special included, the line was flanked with large crowds due to the high popularity of steam engines and the belief that it was highly unlikely that they would be allowed back onto the network, although in the event steam specials on BR lines were introduced only three years later in 1971. All but one of the locomotives that hauled the train passed into preservation. 45110 now resides on the Severn Valley Railway and has been named RAF Biggin Hill. 44871 is currently mainline operational and resides on the East Lancashire Railway and 70013 Oliver Cromwell is now part of the National Collection and was restored to mainline running in 2008. It is based on the Great Central Railway. The only one not preserved LMS Black 5 no 44781 was used for filming of the film The Virgin Soldiers, for which it was derailed and hung at an angle for visual effect. After filming was completed, an enthusiast tried to purchase her, but was unable to find the money needed, so she was then sold for scrap and eventually cut up.

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of 1T57′ and end of steam on British Railways a re-run of the tour ran on Sunday 10 August 2008 (as 11 August was a Monday in 2008). The original tour ran from Liverpool Lime Street-Manchester Victoria-Carlisle-Manchester Victoria-Liverpool Lime Street. Class 5 45110 went from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria! While Britannia Class 70013 Oliver Cromwell travelled from Manchester Victoria to Carlisle! While Stanier Class 5 44871 and LMS Stanier Class 5 44781 travelled from Carlisle to Manchester Victoria and LMS Class 5 45110 Travelled from Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street. Locomotives used during the re-run in 2008 Included Stanier Class 8F 48151, Britannia class 70013 Oliver Cromwell, LMS Stanier Class 5 45407 (as first choice, 44871 was under overhaul) and LMS Class 5 45231. LMS Class 5 45110 was not used as its mainline certificate had expired. However, 45110 ran over the Severn Valley Railway on 11 August 2008 with a special 1T57 service and this was 45110’s last day in service with its at-the-time boiler certificate. LMS Class 5 45305 was allocated to the original train back in 1968 but failed the night before and was replaced by 45110.

The 15 Guinea Special at Barton Moss on the last leg from Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street hauled by Stanier 5MT 45110.The railtour started at 09:10 from Liverpool Lime Street. It was hauled by LMS Class 5 45110 to Manchester Victoria, arriving 8 minutes late at 10:42. No. 45110 was replaced with Britannia Class loco no. 70013 Oliver Cromwell – the last steam locomotive to be overhauled by BR – and the train departed for Carlisle at 11:06. The train arrived at Carlisle, 33 minutes late, at 15:29. For the first part of the return leg, two LMS Stanier Class 5 locomotives, 44781 and 44871, double-headed the train back to Manchester Victoria. The train departed Carlisle at 15:44 – 14 minutes late – and arrived in Manchester at 19:00, 12 minutes late. Re-joining the train at Victoria station, 45110 then worked the remainder of the journey back to Liverpool Lime Street, arriving only 9 minutes late at 19:59

Severn Valley Railway Classic Car Day

This years Severn Valley Railway Classic Car & Bike Day takes place on Sunday 30 July at Kidderminster, Highley Bewdley & Bridgnorth Sations and features approximately 200 vehicles on display. There are also cars on display at Arley & Highley Stations aswell as an impressive line-up of classic & vintage motorcycles on display at Hampton Loade Station. From Ford to Fiat, Jaguar to Lotus, Rolls Royce to Triumph, and VW Camper to Heinkel Bubble Car, there will be up to 150 vehicles in attendance.

 

Cars in previous shows have include a Bentley 3 Litre, 1926 Cluley, a 1926 Rolls-Royce, an Austin Maxi, Bentley & Rolls-Royce Classics, a rare 1934 Hillman Aero a 1920s Austin Seven Tourer. E Type Jaguar, Jensen Interceptor, 1960 Messerschmidt 200, Morris Minor 1000, Austin A40, Ford Zephyr, Vauxhall Viva, Austin 7, Hillman Minx, 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, 1925 Bentley, 1934 Lagonda 16/80 & 1953 Armstrong Siddeley. 1959 Heinkel Bubble Car, MG TA, Daimler Dart, Jaguar XK150, Morris Minor Police Car, Austin Burnham, a Rover 10, Ford Consul, Riley RME, Triumph Mayflower, Alvis TE21, Triumph Roadster, Vauxhall Cresta, Austin 7, MG TA, Morgan 4/4, Jaguar S type, Wolsley 12/48, Morris Minor Traveller, Land Rover, Hillman Minx, Ford Capri, Lotus Elise, Austin A35, Ford Zephyr Zodiac, MG Magnette, Austin Cambridge, Daimler Dart, Jensen Interceptor, Austin Healey Sprite, Rover 10, Rolls Royce and a Jaguar XK12.

 

Frederick Hawksworth CME

BR 2-6-0 1501pt

The last Great Western Railway Chief Mechanical Engineer Frederick William Hawksworth sadly died 13 July 1976. He was born 10 February 1884 in Swindon, and he joined the GWR in 1898, aged 15 where he worked Under George Churchward and C.B.  Collett before becoming Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway when he was 57, in 1941. Having been at the forefront of steam locomotive development under George Jackson Churchward, ideas at Swindon Works had somewhat stagnated under the later years of his successor C. B. Collett, whose reluctance to give up the CME’s post resulted in Hawksworth’s lateness in taking up this position. Hawksworth had been one of Churchward’s “Bright Young Men”, and was involved in Churchward’s designs: he worked on, for example, the general arrangement drawings for “The Great Bear”.

Hawksworth continued in the design tradition which he had been involved in throughout his career, but made some important improvements. In particular increased superheat started to be fitted to the larger classes under his regime, and the works started to make much more use of welded construction. Another prominent new concept was a tender with slab sides, using welded construction, giving a much smoother appearance than the traditional design with stepped sides and riveted plates. His first design to be built, from 1944, was the Modified Hall, a significant development of the Collett design with increased superheat and very different cylinder and frame construction.After the war there were four more new designs, mostly improvements of earlier types. The ‘County’ Class 4-6-0 was the last and most powerful GWR 2-cylinder 4-6-0, the culmination of a line that began with the ‘Saints’ 42 years before. The chassis was similar to the modified Hall, but the boilers were to a new design, larger in diameter than the Std 1 (Hall) boiler but smaller in diameter and appreciably shorter than the Castle boiler. This boiler used tooling which was available from LMS 8F 2-8-0 boilers which Swindon had built for the Railway Executive during World War II and was pressed to 280psi, higher pressure than any previous GWR boiler.

They used some of the names from the vanished Churchward County Class 4-4-0s. He also designed The taper boilered 9400 Class 0-6-0 pannier tank, which were similar to the 5700 class under the footplate but had a much larger boiler giving them more power and adhesive weight – and thus braking capacity. Only the first ten, built by the Swindon, appeared under the GWR. The last two designs were only seen in British Railways livery. Arguably his most radical design was the 1500 Class. This had the same boiler as the 9400 but an all new short wheelbase chassis with outside Walschaerts valve gear and no running plate, and made considerable use of welded construction, the only remaining 15xx class left, no.1501, can currently be seen on the Severn Valley Railway. They were designed for easy maintenance by the trackside. The last Hawksworth design was a very light conventional 0-6-0 pannier tank, the 1600 Class. This was a modernisation of the 2021 Class.

Hawksworth remained Chief Mechanical Engineer through the formation of the Western Region of British Railways in 1948, continuing to work on locomotive design until retiring at the end of 1949. He died in Swindon 27 years later in July 1976. His ashes are buried in St. Mark’s Church, adjacent to the former site of Swindon Works.

Sir William Stanier

Stanier Black Five 45110

Railway engineer Sir William Stanier was Born 27th May 1876 in Swindon. His father worked for the Great Western Railway (GWR) as William Dean’s Chief Clerk, and educated at Swindon High School and also, for a single year, at Wycliffe College. In 1891 he followed his father into a career with the GWR, initially as an office boy and then for five years as an apprentice in the workshops. Between 1897 and 1900 he worked in the Drawing Office as a draughtsman, before becoming Inspector of Materials in 1900. In 1904, George Jackson Churchward appointed him as Assistant to the Divisional Locomotive Superintendent in London. In 1912 he returned to Swindon to become the Assistant Works Manager and in 1920 was promoted to the post of Works Manager.In late 1931, he was “headhunted” by Sir Josiah Stamp, chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) to become the Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of that railway from 1 January 1932. He was charged with introducing modern and more powerful locomotive designs, using his knowledge gained at Swindon with the GWR. Stanier built many other very successful designs for the LMS, especially the “Black 5″ mixed traffic 4-6-0, and the 8F 2-8-0 freight locomotives.

His Coronation Scot set a new British record of 114 mph, beating the previous record set by a Gresley A4, but this was eclipsed by another Gresley A4 “Mallard”, which set a new record of 126 mph for Steam Engines which still stands to this day During WWII he worked as a consultant for the Ministry of Supply and retired in 1944. He was knighted on 9 February 1943 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on his retirement, the only railway engineer other than George Stephenson to receive that honour. He was also president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for 1944. William Stanier, with the backing of Sir Josiah Stamp, Chairman of the Company, reversed the small engine policy, which the LMS had inherited from the Midland Railway, with beneficial results. William Stanier, sadly passed away 27 September 1965. Happily many of Stanier’s locomotives can still be seen working on Heritage lines throughout the United Kingdom. Including LMS 6201 Princess Elizabeth, the Stanier “Black Five” 45110 (which was used for the Fifteen Guineas Special in 1968) and the Stanier Mogul No. 42968. Among Stanier’s Best designs are:

LMS Class 2P 0-4-4T (designed in the Midland Railway design office),
LMS Class 3MT 2-6-2T,
LMS Class 4MT 2-6-4T (3-cyl),
LMS Class 4MT 2-6-4T (2-cyl),
LMS Class 5MT 2-6-0 ”Mogul”,
LMS Class 5MT “Black Five” 4-6-0,
LMS Class 6P “Jubilee” 4-6-0,
LMS Class 8P “Princess Royal” 4-6-2,
LMS Class 8P “Princess Coronation” 4-6-2,
LMS Class 8F 2-8-0, LMS Turbomotive