This afternoon my dad and I took a nice trip on the rails down across the border down to Carlisle to see a rare visitor this far north – a GWR steam loco. Brunel’s Great Western Railway – known fondly as God’s Wonderful Railway because of the quality of the engineering – ran on the southwest of the UK, so unlike the old LMS and LNER locomotives they were not normally seen in the north of the UK. I have seen GWR engines before, but only static, preserved in musuems, never under steam. It’s very different to see a steam engine actually in action. Heat radiates out from it, it breathes smoke and steam, fuelled by fire and water, it’s like a living machine, a steel dragon with fire for a heart. This visitor was one of the famous Castle Class of locos, which inspired all the other railway companies of the era with it’s efficient engineering (a legacy of the early Brunel days which carried on throughout the GWR’s history),the Earl of Mount Edgucmbe.
Firing the powerful tapered boiler on a steam loco is hard work; smoke-blackened firemen take a break before the return leg on the Sett;e-Carlisle line (it must have looked amazing crossing the famous viaduct)
As they added more coal to the fire box in preparation for the departure the smoke blackens and thickens as it pours out of the stack, the air fills with the distinctive scent of burning coal, the hissing reaches a huge, loud pitch and then with a lurch it begins to move slowly, that distinctive chuff, chuff, CHUFF, CHUFF! sound, so evocative. I love the sound of a steam engine powering up, beginning to haul a huge line of carriages out of the station with seeming ease.
I shot a brief bit of video as it was leaving, more to capture that fabulous sound than anything else:
Great day out with dad, see a beautiful bit of living history that makes us both feel like 5 year old boys and a good rail trip into the bargain.