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Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Major Award and My First Selfie (not for the faint hearted)

I'm not talking about the National Railway Heritage Awards where we were beaten by York City Council's £32,000,000 scheme, about which no hard feelings.   Not much.

No, I was yesterday awarded a sticker by grandson Ben (5) for 'excellence at farting'.   For a grandpa, that is praise indeed and it is way up there with the Oscars.   Beats a National Railway Heritage award by any stretch.

Today, in total contrast grandson Ben gave me another sticker, pressed neatly onto my sweat shirt.   I thanked him and asked what it was for.  'Not farting' apparently:

click to enlarge my first 'selfie'

We can but hope for some consistency in these award decisions if confusion is to be avoided.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Train Track in the Tank Revealed

There has been no mention of the following on this Blog in order to keep it a surprise for grandchildren James and Ben who arrived here today.

For the past few weeks the Best Grandpa in the World has been building a railway track all round the inside of the tank.   00 gauge and 144 feet long.   Please understand this is for James and Ben - not for BGitW himself.  Ahem.  The track runs on a 4" wide shelf right round the tank.

Here we see James (9) showing Ben (5) how things are done.
 click to enlarge
BGitW has been giving E-bay some hammer for track and our first locomotive - Flying Scotsman.   The controller came from Settle's Saturday car boot sale.   Lo and behold, everything worked first time.  The entire 144 feet of track was powered from a single pair of inputs, showing astonishingly good electrical connectivity between the dozens of track sections.   Nonetheless BGitW will run bus wires below the track and connect each track section to them via drop wires.

Enough of such techno twaddle.   Main thing is that two little boys think BGitW is wonderful.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Water Tight

There is a gap between the cast iron water tank on top of the tower and the stonework below.   The weight of the tank is taken by iron girders the ends of which rest on the walls.   Cast iron and stone expand and contract differently so the gap needs to be filled with a sealant which allows for this movement.   The size of the gap varies between 1mm and 30mm.

The gap had once been filled with cement, the failure of which let in a great deal of water which inevitably soaked in to the tower walls or ran down the inside of the building.

When restoring the tower we filled the gap with builders silicone which worked for a while but that too failed as it hardened and could not cope with the movement between the iron and the stone.

We needed a sealant which could bridge wide gaps and had much more elasticity than silicone.  Enquiries led us to ArboMeric MP20 - a one part high modulus modified polymer sealant which cures on exposure to moisture vapour to form a tough but elastic rubber.

Super gloop, it seems to have done the trick.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Himalayan Blues and the Barren Bank

The Rev Ruth Kershaw is one of our best on-train-guides and a very lovely lady too.   When she saw our barren plot of sloping garden she decided to give it her green fingered touch.   Frequently she comes down from Carlisle bearing gifts of plants, either from her garden or from gardening friends.

This April she presented us with three Himalayan Blue Poppy plants from a grower she knows.   These plants can be tricky and people have waited for years for them to flower.   Ruth must have blessed them for they established themselves straight away and are in flower already with masses of buds waiting to burst open.

click to enlarge
Another of Rev Ruth's miracles is London Pride:

Our barren bank is really coming on spectacularly well:

Flying Tits

For some while we have had a pair of blue tits nesting in a hole in the tower wall, about ten feet from the ground.   Purrcy the cat has spent fruitless hours sitting on the path below gazing upwards.   Both the nest hole and our bird feeders are visible from the kitchen so we have been able to see the comings and goings.

Pat announced this morning that the chicks were about to fly.   Women know about such things.

Later, I was at the top of the tower when a baby blue tit landed inelegantly on the tank edge.   There it stood (just) and looked me straight in the eye, clearly confused.   "Well, that was interesting.   Any idea what I'm supposed to do now?   Looks a long way down to me."

Indecision.   A couple of turns.  Fluffing of feathers.  Head turn.  Look down.  "You must be joking".

Claws outstretched BBT eases  slowly over the edge, gripping the lip.   Small head reappeared and looked at me again.   "Fat lot of use you are" the eyes said.

And away.

PS  apologies to those who have been enticed to this Blog entry and whose expectations are disappointed.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Flying Saucers Over Settle

This was the view to the north around 7pm this evening.   Flying Saucer clouds.   "We're doomed, Captain Mainwaring, we're doomed."

click to enlarge if you dare

Australia Calling

A busy day with visitors today - all from Australia.

1. A very nice chap came to the door this morning whilst I was still in my pyjamas.   He had seen the Restoration Man programmes in Australia and was determined to see the two buildings that fascinated him the  most - the Crinan Ferry Ice House and our Settle Water Tower.   He had 'done' the ice house so here he was!

2.  Later I was sitting in the sunshine reading the paper when a vaguely familiar voice called out "Hello Mr Rand".   Former PC Martin Stow and his wife Sue had forsaken Bradford for Australia 27 years ago (must've been mad).   They too had seen us on Restoration Man and have been following this Blog.   The lift came in handy and we had a very pleasant chin-wag on top of the tower in glorious sunshine with a wind-speed of zero.

3.  To cap it all, fellow on-train-guide Alan Glover arrived from Carlisle on the 1330 with an entire coach load of Australians, many of whom had also seen Restoration man.   They hit the cafes and restaurants of Settle for their lunch but not before having a look around.

The visitors book today has a distinctly Antipodean feel to it!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Water Tower Garden Flourishes

Here are a couple of pictures of the water tower garden on the knoll.   It was created by the lovely Michelle of Briar Plants and it is really coming good.   The pictures show it from its least spectacular angle - from above.   This entire bed of excellent planting is tilted at 45 degrees so that people arriving at Settle Station see it in all its glory.   Michelle took great care to balance its winter and summer appearance and to make good use of the foliage colours as well as the flowers.

The Freschini Oak and Other Trees

Trees around the water tower have been a source of slight planning difficulties and of concern to neighbours - either too many of them or too few.

Since being here we have planted some trees in the hope that they will flourish in places that suit the site.

Atop the banking near to the summer house we have planted a willow tree which is making excellent progress.   At the north east end of the site, near to our rear wall we have planted two Scots pines.   These should resolve privacy problems perceived by some neighbours.   These two arrived as seedlings growing inside the coal truck from Aviemore so they are indeed Scottish Scots pines.

Then, on top of the northern knoll we planted a Jubilee Oak to mark the Queen's Jubilee year.

Last week I was returning from Carlisle and was surprised to be met on Settle station by Tony Freschini.   He had brought with him an oak tree that he had grown from an acorn.   He had asked me a couple of years ago if I thought the water tower would be a good home for it.

Tony Freschini was British Rail's senior engineer who investigated, reported on and finally rescued the Ribblehead Viaduct which had been declared 'life expired' by less visionary people who thought the viaduct needing to be replaced - or the Settle-Carlisle line closed.   Happily, the politicians did not want to see the line closed - nor did Tony Freschini.

The Freschini oak now has a place of honour in front of the tower, alongside the station approach drive - and a brass plaque explaining its significance:

click to enlarge

I once had the unnerving experience of visiting Network Rail's offices in Preston with Tony Freschini.   We (FoSCL) wanted to raise money by holding a public walk across the Ribblehead Viaduct, under cover of a planned track replacement closure of the line the following year.   Tony was a good man to have on side for such an odd request.

It was as though the Pope had paid an unannounced visit to a parish church in Poland.   The older people in the office stood up in respectful acknowledgement of Freschini's arrival.   The younger ones stopped playing on their computers and texted their colleagues.   "O.M.G. who's that f.f.s.?"   Word spread.

We got our public walk OK'd.   From little acorns eh?

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Stunning Picture of a Spinner

A welcome surprise visitor today was David Moorehouse - a retired West Yorkshire fireman and a one-time locomotive fireman.   David used to work out of London St Pancras - the southern terminus of the Midland Railway.
click to enlarge
David had brought with him this lovely original painting by renowned railway artist Alan Fearnley.  It shows a Midland Railway 'spinner' locomotive at St Pancras, about to depart with a train typical of those which would have gone to Scotland via the S&C in the early days of the line.

The 'spinners' were an SW Johnson design - so called because their massive single driving wheels were prone to spinning when under starting loads.   Johnson it was whose signature is on the plans of our water tower.

Alan Fearnley is right up there among the very best railway artists and it was a privilege to be in the presence of the picture, right here in our home.

I have David's permission to use his picture on this Blog, for others to see and enjoy.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A Settle-Carlisle saw bench?

A while ago, Robert Bell of Langcliffe Hall asked me if I would like a saw bench.   He cautioned that it was big - very big -  and no longer complied with 'elf n' safety' -  indeed it was positively frightening (think James Bond!).

In fact it weighs in at 1.3 tonnes - not the sort of thing you buy at B&Q.   As soon as I saw (sorry) it I wondered about its age - and location at Langcliffe Hall.   It was originally a steam driven saw - very much the sort of thing that would have been used in the building of the railway.   The makers, WB Haigh of Oldham were in business at the time the line was being built.

Steam saw benches of this size would have been needed in the line's construction.   The viaducts, Ribblehead specifically, were wooden structures, encased with stone.   This required these massive saw benches - far in excess of the needs of the Langcliffe Estate.   This bench could have been bought at the huge sale of railway equipment at Settle after the line was built.

The steam engine has long gone, replaced by a 12 1/2 horsepower electric motor.

Anyway, it was today removed from Langliffe Hall and now nestles in the navvy hut at Settle:

 click to enlarge
From Google research I believe this may be a real discovery - very rare, complete but for the steam engine, and in the fullness of time it may find a place of honour at Ribblehead, where it may well have seen service.   Meanwhile I shall restore it and cherish it.