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Two days of steam in the UK

While not chronologically the latest recordings, its taken me a while to get through and process the tracks below.  Back in August and September 2008, I was fortunate enough to travel to the UK for work.  As most of you may know, the UK has more preserved railways than probably any other country, and during summer, the mainline steam specials are on every day, and usually more than that.  To give you an idea as to how lucky they are with regards to travelling behind steam, in one week in August, there were 31 different steam specials on the mainline.  Well, since I was over there, I just had to experience some of it.

I met up with my good friend and fellow sound recordist David Bailey (see David's website here) in York, and after visiting the National Railway Museum, we were booked on the Scarborough Spa Express on its "evening circle".  This is an approximately two and a half hour loop from York, through Leeds and Harrogate, returning back to York.  One of the advantages of this particular run is that it features a couple of spirited climbs, but more of that later.  The loco in charge of this particular run was ex British Railways Black 5 No. 45231 Sherwood Forester.  Now I knew roughly what to expect of a Black 5, as David has recorded many an excellent outing behind many of them, and they are some of my favourite recordings, especially of another example, 5305.  Well, my trip behind 45231 was even better than I anticipated.  Even though the loco sounded a little off beat, it performed brilliantly, as you will hear if you listen to the recordings below.

Please note, some of these recordings are considerably longer than most of the others on this site as they will probably not make it onto CD (unless I get requests for it).  This is for a few reasons as in only two days, I didn't get that much variety, and second, I would not want to compete with all the other UK recordists out there, especially "The Master" (hello David!).  So given that, I thought I would share them as much as possible with you rather than saving the longer sequences for a CD.  Now ain't that generous!!

Given that the chance to record steam traction in the UK was rather a momentous occasion (OK, well it was for me!), we better start at the start...  Here is 45231 departing York, home of the National Railway Museum, major station on the East Coast Main Line, and having a brilliant covered roof which I had only previously seen in pictures.    You can hear the train manager asking for tickets, while the Black 5 continues to accelerate south on the Leeds line.  (photo by my patient wife Kellie-ann - I was too busy trying to get car 1 seat 1!))

                      (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 5.3MB 5 min 46 secs)
A bit further south, the line to Leeds and Harrogate branches off from the line to Sheffield around a broad sweeping curve near Church Fenton and the climb up Leeds Bank begins soon after.  The York, Leeds, Harrogate loop has become a favourite amongst those who appreciate locomotive performance, as the crews usually get into the spirit of things and attack the bank with gusto, usually making a spirited run at it around the Church Fenton curve.  Now this can be spoiled by speed restrictions and signal checks, but after passing a temporary speed restriction a little earlier at Colton Junction, nothing stood in our way of achieving a good run at the bank.  The crew expertly wind the 4-6-0 up to a maximum of 63 mph with little fuss, and this was with 11 coaches behind the tender, but when the climb was on in earnest, they really got stuck into it.  Needless to say, I was mightily impressed with the way we ascended the bank with the speed only dropping to 42 mph after Micklefield.  We join the train doing close to 60 mph.

                      (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 7.2MB 7 min 55 secs)
After Church Fenton, I thought that was my lot for the day, but no, we still had the climb out of Leeds Station towards Horsforth.  We catch up with 45231 just after departure.  (The picture below was shot departing Leeds, showing the railway viaduct that ran into Leeds Central station (closed in 1967), again taken by Kellie-ann)

                      (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 4.7MB 5 min 8 secs)
The very next day saw us head off to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which runs between Grosmont and Pickering, with extended services on the main line to Whitby and Battersby.  It is also home to the TV series "Heartbeat" which is filmed at and around the station and village at Goathland.  The line is very picturesque and features some quite steep (by UK standards) gradients. 
Our first point of call on the railway was a nice field at Moorgates.  We first saw ex GWR 56xx 6619 coasting down grade into Goathland, which crossed ex SR S15 4-6-0 No. 825 there.  This clip is of 825 working steadily up Goathland Bank towards Pickering.

                     (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 1.8MB 2 min 5 secs)
We then headed back to the hire car and headed for Beck Hole, a bit of a "must see" or should I say "must hear" for me.  Both David and Jörg have made some excellent recordings here, so I really wanted to see what it was like.  The actual recording spot is just near a road overbridge and the engines are working very hard on the 1 in 49 from Grosmont to Goathland.  On this day, BR Standard 4MT 4-6-0 75029 sounds splendid working hard up the hill.  The whining noise at the end is a noisy dynamo on the rear coach, but David said it was trying to do bagpipe impressions as the week before it was hauled behind a Scottish loco (ex LNER K4 The Great Marquess)!

                     (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 1.8MB 2 min 0 secs)
After Beck Hole, David and I said farewell to my wife who wanted to explore Goathland and Whitby (now why didn't she want to record trains with us I'll just never know...) and the two sound recordists walked down a nice country path towards Grosmont.  This lane actually follows the formation of the original Whitby to Pickering Railway which was one of the first railways in Britain and featured a cable worked incline on the last mile to Goathland.  About 1/2 a mile further down the path is an area on the line called Green End, and on the opposite side of the valley is Dowson Garth, a beautiful open field sloping down towards the bottom of the valley).  This is one of David's favourite recording spots, and after spending a couple of hours here, I can totally see why (OK, the weather was good, so that might've had something to do with it!).  It is a fantastic spot where you can just sit down and watch the trains work hard up the hill to Goathland or trundle slowly downgrade towards Grosmont.  Throw in a 3-cylinder pacific like A4 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and I reckon it was pretty close to heaven on earth.  Here is No. 7 working upgrade with 7 coaches.

                     (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.7MB 2 min 54 secs)

After watching another train head down hill behind S15 No. 825, we then recorded GWR 56xx 0-6-0T 6619 heading back up hill.  Now this engine has been modified with a Kylchap blastpipe which gives it an unusual (for a GWR engine) exhaust note.   When riding behind it later in the day, it was a little grating, but she sounded good heading up the hill from the lineside.

                     (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 4.3MB 4 min 40 secs)

We then headed down to Grosmont and after getting a bacon buttie (yum!) at the station, we boarded the next train to Pickering.   This was headed by S15 No. 825 and we hear her just after departing Goathland, the next station after Grosmont.

                     (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 4.3MB 4 min 40 secs)
If you have never been to the UK, I suggest you start saving your pennies now, as from my two days of steam, I am thoroughly hooked and just can't wait to head back.  Both the main line tour and the NYMR were professionally run, with the latter being very well preserved.  I still can't believe I rode and/or saw 5 working steam locos in two days, and this wasn't any gala or other special event, just a typical summer offering of steam.  In Australia, such a thing is just about impossible without some major event, or perhaps the Puffing Billy at Belgrave might come close, but still, I think every rail enthusiast should experience the UK preserved scene at least once (and in my case, a lot more than once I hope) in their lifetime.
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