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NWAG - Towards the Next Stage

Around two-dozen people gathered in central Manchester on Saturday 6 October 2018, in spite of a Northern Rail strike which may have deterred a few others from attending, to hear about the process of specifying and designing Phase 2A of the rebuilt L&B line.

The meeting was organised by the Manchester Centre of the Stephenson Locomotive Society (SLS), who warmly welcomed around ten local L&B members.

 Bob begins his talk

Bob starts his talk - with the new L&B banners put to good use (Photo: Peter Ainley)

In case anyone was unaware of the “story so far”, the speaker Bob Barnard gave a very brief account of the L&B’s construction, operation, closure and sale, as well as the re-birth of part of the line.  This summary culminated with the Phase 2A Planning Approval and the HRA Award for Lyn and the heritage carriages early in 2018.

Bob outlined the planning conditions, and their effect on the specification and engineering process and sequence of events needed before starting on-site work on the extension.

Next he drew on his professional experience of railway projects (Docklands Light Railway, Manchester Metrolink, etc.) to describe key aspects of multi-disciplinary railway systems engineering that apply to any project, whether it is a heritage line, a main line or an urban system.  We need to ‘benchmark’ what we plan to do against the best of other lines, and so examples from a number of standard and narrow gauge heritage railways in the UK were used to illustrate the various discussion points.

Bob then talked about a number of topics that must be carefully considered in planning and specifying a line.  These included determining what is actually where on the Trust’s land and making sure it is brought to a good state of repair, and remains so until needed for construction.

We need to understand clearly who will use the railway, and what they will expect, in terms of information to plan their visit, a welcoming approach when they arrive, the length of journey and the facilities both in stations and on trains.

A particular aspect of a heritage line is the need to re-use surviving structures, and ultimately to re-create the ‘atmosphere’ of the original line, whilst meeting modern-day needs. In this respect, we have a great opportunity to make Blackmoor an attractive location for visitors.

The constraints on passenger-carrying capacity were identified, including train length, gradient, locomotive haulage capacity, the location of passing loops, and the practicalities of moving passengers around safely at rebuilt L&B stations. This includes achieving accessibility for all passengers, which involves everything from parking and signage through carriage design to choice of platform height and the location of foot crossings between platforms.

Bob talked about planning timetables for the line, and the challenges of making them adaptable to suit different levels of demand over the seasons of the year, yet able to accommodate the peak numbers of visitors expected at galas. Staffing levels, the definition of operational principles, and the signalling and telecommunications approach and appropriate technology (Bob’s particular background) were also touched on. A variety of questions were discussed during and after the talk.

SLS Organiser Alasdair Renfrew invites questions from the audience (Photo: Peter Ainley)

The new banners recently provided to area groups by the L&B were used for the first time at the event, and NW member Peter Ainley successfully parted several people from their cash, in return for books, calendars and Christmas cards. The SLS also kindly made a donation to the L&B Trust, and this has been allocated to the ‘All Aboard’ fund.

Advance notice:

The next L&B North West event will be on Saturday 24 November 2018, where we will have an L&B sales and display stand and a model layout (Bob’s new model of the L&B construction site at Raleigh Weir in 1897/8) at the 009 Society Narrow Gauge Railway Modelling Show at Rainhill Village Hall, Weaver Avenue, Rainhill, Merseyside L35 4LU, from 10.00 to 17.00.

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