Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A few words from Ben about building the route

Route Building Philosophy

To many of us, one of the great things about simulation (of any brand or genre) is the ability to recreate what can’t be experienced any more in real life. The story of the preservation movement is a remarkable one; that in 2013 you could run on the mainline behind a steam locomotive at 90mph is extraordinary, but the recreation of many things – and we all have our favourites – isn’t possible.

SSS’ work to add realism to the steam end of the TS market has been very successful, but there has been a strong tendency for published routes to be set in the present “late privatisation” era which doesn’t suit steam fans. Indeed in many cases it doesn’t suit early diesel, rail blue and sector fans either – but rather than whinge about it, at SSS thought we’d get our hands dirty.

We looked at a number of options, but the qualities we were looking for:
  • A route that would cover a wide era relatively unchanged
  • A challenging drive and plenty of interest
  • Interesting scenery
  • Distinguishing features
  • Well known, but been done
  • Used traction that had not already been built.

Stainmore ticked these boxes very well   it changed little throughout its century of existence, epic climbs of 1 in 59, giving plenty of double heading and banking of coal, limestone, heavy holiday expresses, stopping local and freight turns. At 1368 ft, it was the highest through summit in England (the terminus at Princetown on Dartmoor beats it at 1427ft) and ranks as one of the most challenging routes in the UK.

Bouch and why Stainmore closed and the S&C survived.

Phil mentioned Thomas Bouch particularly in the context of his bridges. The nervousness of engineers in the design of the trestle viaducts (Belah and Deepdale being very similar to Bouch’s Tay Bridge) had a profound impact on traction – Class 2 motive power in the form of LNER J21 and J25s were the workhorses of the route; only later outside cylinder locos without the great hammer blow of a crank axle lead to the Ivatt and Standard 4 locos
giving a much needed dose of power to the line after WW2

Bouch’s career was later in railway mania, and railway companies were wanting more for less and Bouch, having served under Joseph Locke building the Lancaster & Carlisle – the cheap, twisty and steep option for the WCML over Shap – he was the engineer that offered value for money. Stainmore hugged contours, minimalised earthworks, avoided tunnelling and used minimal metal trestle viaducts instead of solid but time consuming masonry for the greatest spans.

Stainmore may have been cheap but it was always a tough and slow road, frequently blocked by snow and heavy on men, maintenance and coal, with no great advantage in time to running via Newcastle and Carlisle, which is what ultimately sealed its fate in 1962.

The Midland took a more conventional approach on the later Settle & Carlisle – much easier grades and several tunnels giving a faster, less restrictive route that may have cost more to build but proved more attractive to keep running.

Some comparison is interesting - whilst Belah was assembled in just 43 days and had very little maintenance in a century; Ribblehead  (or Batty Moss) took the best part of 4 years to build yet became the maintenance liability that nearly shut the route. 

The S&C is once again a valued route and had a fearsome reputation amongst locomotive crews (Terry Essery's account of firing a 9F to Carlisle is well worth a read) but at 1 in 100 it is a pussycat in comparison to its forgotten neighbour, Stainmore at 1 in 59.

p.s. It is rarely cited that the Midland made forceful attempts to abandon the S&C once they made peace with the LNWR and secured running rights via Ingleton and Low Gill to Carlisle, but parliament ensured the Midland made good on its Act and finish the line.

And to Finish, Some New WIP Images:

Progress Around Kirkby Stephen

Development Work Progresses at Barnard Castle:

Lastly, Bowes Station:

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