Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All steamed up in the cold.

On the 7th October 1927 a new steam railway engine was born at the Derby Works. Her working number was 4422, but after several years of hard work up and down various tracks, she was promoted to 44422. After many further years of faithful service, she was scrapped in 1965 and languished in rusting and unappreciated despair until being rescued by conservationists and lovingly restored.

On Sunday 27th December 2009, the weather was beautiful as I drove my son to a friend's house. After dropping him off, I thought it was a perfect day to go for a cycle ride with my wife, but after discussion and concerns of icy conditions and possibly getting killed in a hideous peddling accident, we settled for a walk in one of our favourite walking spots - Ferry Meadows in Peterborough.

As we drove nearer Peterborough, the sky suddenly had a sheet of angry battleship grey clouds - and some more - drawn across it. Then rain spots appeared on the windscreen and I began to fear our walk was doomed. However, persevering onwards and keeping a good British stiff upper lip, we arrived at Ferry Meadows with no rain descending. It was just bitterly cold and the ice on the car park was treacherously slippery. "Be careful how you tread or you'll slip arse over head" sagely advised a fellow walker as he returned with his wife to their car. As neither I or my wife take any pleasure in, or had any desire to slip arse over head, we decided to take his advice.

After a while my wife had wrapped her scarf so many times around her face and neck that it was like walking with a half wrapped mummy. She told me she wasn't cold. Of course she wasn't - she was frozen! I, however was not cold at all. I had wrapped up with extra layers and felt warm while the cold air on my face was nothing short of refreshing.

Deciding independently that we should keep it to a short walk rather than an ice-trek lest I end up having to carry an ice-corpse, I guided our steps in a large circuit designed to take us back, eventually, to the car park.

Suddenly, we heard a sound of something I never expected to hear, and that was the "chuffing" and whistle of a steam train as it made its way along the Nene Valley Railway which cuts through the park. Indeed, there are a series of footpaths which allow the walker to follow the route of the steam railway until it arrives at it's terminal station in Peterborough. The railway begins at Wansford Station which is easily accessed from the A1 which runs straight past. I gave up on any hope of getting a photo of the steaming loco as it was too far away and I could only watch in frustration the smoke rising in the distance marking out its progress along the track.

Presently, we came upon a lake with lots of gulls in a commotion over a feeding frenzy. Realizing there was a photo opportunity here, I quickly trudged gingerly and very carefully to the waters' edge and took a series of shots.

A short distance further on we came to the sailing club cafe and restaurant. Deciding to get a coffee we grabbed each other's hand and pigeon toed warily over the ice towards the door, lest we should slip arse over head and have a spoiled day. Now you might think that on such a dark, cold and miserable day there would be very few people walking in the park. Well, you'd be wrong. The cafe was packed and it was only the fact that a family vacated their table just as we got served, that we were able to "bag" it tout-suite. The coffee was hot and very welcome. The cafe was very noisy as everybody seemed to chatting very enthusiastically about goodness only knows what. We didn't stay for long but strode purposely on our way again in our quest to be re-united with the car. I had some photos which I never expected as well as being warmed and refreshed by the coffee, so what else could I expect or want?

As we walked along, we heard again the sound of an approaching steam engine on the Nene Valley track. This time, it was returning in the opposite direction and even better, I had time to get the the hump-back bridge ahead of us from which I could get a photo. However, there was only just time so I had to be quick and try not to slip arse over head on the skating rink slippery ice! I managed to get a good spot, a little to one side of where it was headed under the bridge. And there it was, No. 44422, proudly pulling a whole load of carriages carrying a whole load of steam enthusiasts on a special excursion. I snapped away taking several shots, as I only had the one chance, although I suppose I could have photographed it from the other side of the bridge steaming away from me, but it didn't appeal so I didn't bother. My wife, somewhat wisely had stayed off the bridge as it was extremely slippery with ice, to say the least. Before I knew what was happening, I demonstrated how slippery it was when both feet simultaneously lost their grip and I began an accelerating slide down the bridge shouting "aaahhhgggg" as I went while my wife nearly doubled up in hysterical laughter. Nonetheless, I finally managed to steady myself without crashing to the ground, my main concern being to protect the camera from harm rather than myself.

We made our way the final few hundred yards back to the car. I was really pleased that I had added another steam loco picture to my ever growing collection, but be assured, I'm not an anorak, no....really I'm not. It was good to get home and read up on some more steam railway history............, but not in an anorakish way of course!


Poshboatz Boat Trips said...

Hi Steve. Your latest blog came to me via a Google Alert - I read anything to do with Ferry Meadows! And very interesting yours was too.

If you are into locos etc you may find Martin Vos's blog interesting, http://grumpysgrump.blogspot.com/ and especially his video collection http://www.youtube.com/user/sluggsworld which has lots of NVR footage.

Well, at last it's 2010, so not long until the Spring and I can get the boat out again! Maybe see you in the Park some time.

Happy New Year.

Capt Bob

Mr. Stupid said...

Have always loved these trains. I even wanted to be a train driver :)
Want to be one now too, but only if I get to drive these trains...

Anyways, wanted to wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

baili said...

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baili said...

hello your write so beautifully i was feeling along with you guys it was wonderful day for such beautiful walk ,thanks for sharing and dropping by have a amazing life take care