Thirlmere Festival of Steam 2023 – Part two


Continuing last weeks entry on my trip to the Thirlmere Festival of Steam 2023, this week I share my photos and discuss things in Thirlmere itself. The photos are all related to the Festival of Steam, but I do include a few other observations on getting coeliac-friendly food in Thirlmere. See Part One here.

Other things at the Museum – the “display” engines

There was far more happening than just the steam train rides. In the museum itself they had two steam engines steamed up, although they weren’t going anywhere. 6029 – the enormous Bayer-Garrett engine – was steamed up and open for cab visits all weekend. There were long queues to get in, so we didn’t bother. There were also lots of people around and I couldn’t get a decent shot without people in the way, so no photographs.

In addition, R766 and 3801 alternated spending time “in the yard” (but still fenced off) where you could get up (moderately) close to them. Last year I managed to get some half-way decent shots of 6029 in that position, but there were more people there this year, and the sunlight was far more intense. I figured I was not going to get a decent shot in the conditions, so I didn’t really try. I got a couple of shots of R766 as it came into the yard as it swapped with 3801 during the middle of the day, but that was it.

R766 engine trading places with 6801 in the viewing position at the museum.
R766 about to go into the museum yard for “up close” viewing, replacing 6801, which has left the yard and can be seen at the far end of the train. Please excuse the hedge – getting a clear shot of this proved to be challenging.

As mentioned last week, at the end of the day, they brought R766 out of the yard again and attached it to the train. To do this, they de-coupled 3801 and moved it forward from the train to give R766 room to come out and attach between 3801 and the carriages. The double locos then backed back and re-coupled to the carriages. Getting a clear shot of both engines wasn’t possible, but I did manage a couple of good shots of 6801 as it sat waiting for R766 to come up behind.

A green engine numbered 6801 waiting under steam
3801 waits for R766 to link up to make the double-header for the last trip of the day.

Other things at the museum – 1064 steam coal grab crane

This year they again had the self-propelled steam coal grab crane, number 1064, trundling around the museum tracks… and occasionally down to the road crossing. I should have noted more about this nifty little beasty, but essentially it is a “steam shovel” on rails – I gather it saw service putting coal in the tenders for locomotives as the big depots. I confess I don’t know why a fixed crane would not have been more efficient, but perhaps the idea is that it can deliver a load of coal anywhere in the yard, rather than requiring the engine to come to the crane? It trundled past us at one point while we were in the good shed, where it was literally only 50cm or less away from us! I managed to get a detail shot of the firebox as it went past. I haven’t got many photos of it, as I took lots of photos last year – although it has occurred to me that I never put up a post with last year’s photos. I should probably look at doing that.

Close up of the firebox for the steam crane, as it trundled past us…

Other steam vehicles on Thirlmere’s streets

Outside of the museum, on both days, there were other things to see. Most notably, a number of steam traction engines or steam tractors were on display. On the Sunday the streets were definitely packed with people, and it wasn’t possible for these to move. On the Saturday, hoowever, with less people around, these engines were out and about driving around. I regret I don’t have any information on these, including who owns them, but if you see them around, thank them for me!

The first appears to be an early interpretation of the “ute”. In this instance, it appears to have been a work vehicle for a local council? From what we observed, the steering on this was… a lot of hard work. It definitely wasn’t the sort of vehicle you chucked donuts in to impress your mates. Although if you managed, I’d certainly be impressed!

A steam ute! An early form of a council work truck?

The Hewson’s Animated Pictures traction engine(?) appears to have been a bit of an all-purpose beast. Apart from its capacity to pull things, it included the flywheel arrangement that would allow the attaching of a belt to drive other equipment. The gadget at the very front with the two meters on it appears to be an electricity generator – presumably a belt was attached between the flywheel and the generator to provide electricity for the theatre, or whatever that it belonged to. It was very ornate and polished! It made several trips around Thirlmere during the day on Saturday.

The Hewson’s Animated Pictures traction engine (or whatever it’s official name is!) was very ornate and polished.

And what do you do with your steam tractor/traction engine at the end of a day at Thirlmere Steam Festival? Well, apparently, given we saw two doing this, you drive them home… I didn’t manage to get a picture of the second one, which you can see in the background of this picture, because I tried to change lenses and realised belatedly that the 70-200mm lens wasn’t working. I managed to get a photo of it on my phone, which I posted to my Facebook page, and included as the post image on my first post in this series here.

One of the steam tractors going home for the evening.

And, last of all…

You cannot spend a weekend photographing trains without at least thinking of photographing some of the railway infrastructure. I actually took remarkably few infrastructure shots this time around, but this old signal had a particular appeal. I’m not sure it is still operational.

An old railway signal.

I still have video from the weekend to download and edit. I’m hopeful I got some halfway-decent footage from that, in which case I’ll put it up on your YouTube channel and post a link to it from this blog. That will be a few weeks away though – it’s not a high priority right at the moment, sorry!

Final thoughts

Thirlmere is a pretty amazing little place to visit. I’m not sure anyone would even know it existed if it wasn’t for the Railway Museum. However, as with many little places, eating options for coeliac’s were VERY seriously limited. Neither the fish and chip shop, the bakery (not that this is a surprise), nor the kebab place could offer me anything to eat. The Chinese restaurant didn’t include any indication of whether any of their food was gluten free or not and my experience with Chinese restaurants generally has been that they’re more miss than hit (“we can do you a boiled rice?”), so I didn’t even go in and ask. The pizza shop didn’t indicate if they had gluten free bases, but even if they did, pizza can be a bit risky for coeliacs, since the handling and cutting utensils are generally not thoroughly washed between pizzas and have probably been used on a glutenous pizza prior to cutting the gluten-free one, thus contaminating my pizza with gluten.

But all is not lost! There is a very good cafe a little bit further up the road from the shops nearest the station, called, appropriately enough “Off the Rails”, who were very happy to provide me with a range of options from salads, sandwiches, through to burgers (done with gluten free bread instead of bun) – and when I asked for the bread not toasted for my burger (they would almost certainly have been toasted in the same place that glutenous bread was toasted), they didn’t bat an eyelid and obliged. And a big shout-out to the cake and ice-cream shop “DeliciousLeigh Cakes”, who have a separate mini-cabinet with a number of gluten free sweet things to enjoy. And I must not fail to mention O.M.G. donuts – ALL their donuts are gluten free (and free of most other allergens as well) – who had a stall at the market day on Sunday.

All these shout-outs are unsolicited and unpaid. They get a shout-out because I appreciated their services.

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