Marked in red on the map is the route of “The Piggeries Return” route. There are a few thumbnail pictures to show what you might see on the route. All images on this page and this blog, unless marked otherwise, are copyright ‘recreational railways’.
Thunderbox returns to the shed, day’s work over, with empty stock, heading back to the carriage sheds, over the Trestle Bridge. Bob drives.
Do you remember those wet days, brollies up, as Thunderbox charged towards Point Cottage, sometimes running parallel with Hotspur on the adjacent route? Can you remember the ‘parp parp’ of Thunderbox’s antique motor horn, the clang of the bell, the roar of the engine, the wait on those busy busy days when the charity attending really marketed the event to their members, and when our regular visitors came out in their numbers, particularly on the days when the sun shone? Does anyone remember Meg? Do you remember the sound as Ben drew a packed train over the Trestle bridge, or the thrilling descent from the junction down through the wood? Did anyone use ‘The Bug’ to chase the train? Does the LMLR remind you of childhood in Norfolk? Wasn’t Thunderbox a funny looking thing, and did you ever ask why he was named ‘Thunderbox’?
If you do, then you remember “The Piggeries” route on the now long closed LMLR.
The nearest car park to the entrance would lead you to the out and back run of ‘The Piggeries’. This was usually Thunderbox’s run, although Ben, the huge yellow hydraulic, would occasionally substitute. There were times when we were so busy, two trains would operate the route, The General and his shorter train arriving to assist.
Thunderbox arrives at The Old Piggeries.
The first train of the day would be empty stock from the sheds, past Melton Wood Junction and taking the left hand route underneath the footbridge. Thunderbox would be run round the stock, the guard would chock the wheels of the coaches, move the cushion, guard’s seat notice and, as I always tried to do, tail-lamp to the correct end. Bob, or the driver that day, would shackle the loco to the train, and unchock the wheels.
Thunderbox could drive in either direction, similarly ‘The General’ or ‘Ben’, although Ben’s revering visibility didn’t appear to be great, although I never ever drove it. These three engines worked the Piggeries route, but it is always Thunderbox’s route to me.
Thunderbox runs round: Ticket Office for the route is to the right.
Tickets for the route were sold on a per journey basis form the ticket office. When the train was ready, after the guard had clipped the tickets and advised keeping seated and hands within the train, the guard informed the signal box by pressing the start button on the ticket office wall. This set the light on the bug’s shelter to green. The guard gave the right-away, Bob gave Thunderbox’s horn a good ‘parp’, or tugged the chord to the bell, engaged forward gear, perhaps a touch of throttle, released the handbrake and the engine roared away.
“All fares and tickets please.” A yellow Piggeries ticket from 1997.
On the left was the hand pumped ‘bug’ – a 20p-a-go hand cranked trolley on a separate isolated track, mainly for children (or when I had a camera for tracking shots of Thunderbox) to be their own driver. The main line bore to the right, and over the Trestle bridge, where the observant could see the gnomes fishing. The track turned left, and joined the main circuit, shared with the Melton Wood Junction trains.
Thunderbox, tool box first, with a well-loaded train, starts the descent.
The main circuit was one way, track-circuited and mainly signal controlled. After joining the main circuit, the line descended quite quickly, so sensible drivers chose to coast through the woods as there was a sharp right hand curve at the culmination of the descent.
The approach to the tunnel.
The driver would open the throttle on the bend, as the line started the climb again, passing through the tunnel. ‘Moinde yaar hid!” was really a storage shed for timber, but was once an intermediate block section during Santa Specials where there was musical entertainment, but more on that in later blogs.
Thunderbox heads away from the tunnel and towards Point Cottage.
The line continued to climb, coming within sight of Green Lane, and then up to Point Cottage. This was the junction where the Piggeries line took the “Lost Line” short cut back, whereas the Melton Wood “First Class Circular Tour” headed higher, past Vine Cottage, through the carriage shed and re-joined the “Lost Line” just before the signal box. “Point Cottage” housed the driver operated point, which was biased against the Vine Cottage route: the “Lost Line” meant pushing the lever forwards, so Thunderbox which, let’s be honest, sometimes struggled with a full, heavy train in poor rail conditions, could take the rising right hand exit of the turnout whilst moving: Sir Mathew Pilgrim, with power to spare, often had to stop, draw back the shaft operating the point, and then romp away – or that’s how it sounded – up hill towards Vine Cottage.
Thunderbox takes the Lost Line away from Point Cottage.
One of the gnomes stands sentinel at the junction post beyond Point Cottage.
The signalman knew what was coming, and had a signal to hold either line as it approached Melton Wood Junction. The “Lost Line” had a photo-electric sensor, which ran a bell as a train approached, and there was a colour light signal protecting the approach junction: “Vine Cottage” line had a cable operated semaphore signal just after the Santa Special excursion platform.
The view from the signal box: Ben is held at the signal on the Lost Line, the bell continuing to ring in the signal box.
Depending on if there was a train in Melton Wood Junction, and sometimes when there wasn’t, the Piggeries train used the loop line next to the fence. This re-joined the platform road immediately before the junction. The left hand signal on the footbridge had a route indicator to show whether the train took the left hand curve for the Piggeries line, or the main circuit.
Ben has the signal and the route indicator for Piggeries, and takes the loop around Sir Mathew Pilgrim at Melton Wood Junction.
The Piggeries train passed behind the exhibition shed, then bore right to a colour light signal controlled junction at the Trestle bridge: as there were times when The Piggeries had two trains in action, this signal protected anything between the bridge and The Old Piggeries, operated on a one strain in steam principle, and track circuited.
“All change please.” The Bug route is on the right.
The train stopped just before the station on most occasions, to allow passengers to disembark, rather than cause congestion of The Old Piggeries station itself. I recall on many occasions that the station was packed, so allowing families off first was a very sensible decision. A sensible guard moved the cushion, guard seat notice. As if it was the first train of the day, but with greater haste, we’d draw to a halt alongside the platform, chock the wheels and prepare to load, quickly, as some of those normal running days were very popular.
It’s Saturday morning: track walk the day before a running day. Memory says it is the Alex at the controls of Ben for the track checking run.
We had fun on some of those hills! True modern railway fans would love the ‘thrash’ as Thunderbox charged that hill, revving away in that high pitch, struggling for grip, particularly on days when the weather was against us. All that, and it was a decent length of ride, for 50p per passenger.
Long closed, the Little Melton Light Railway. But there were other routes too.