One of the later additions to the LMLR stud of motive power was Hotspur. Hotspur was a Romulus type. Hotspur was a steam locomotive. Hotspur, as discussed earlier, was named after a Britannia from 32A (Norwich). The ‘Brit’ was Norman’s father-in-law’s loco: the Romulus was Norman’s. There might have been visiting steam locos before, but that was before my time at Little Melton.
Hotspur had a tender, which carried water and coal, and provided a seat for the driver. Hotspur emitted a satisfying “choff choff” sound, and a whistle in proportion to Hotspur’s size. Later on, Hotspur had its own set of maroon liveried coaches (which, if memory serves, at first had a slight clearance problem with their bogies), but it had its own route: the Paddock Line.
The Paddock Line was a figure of eight, with a diamond crossing, with a shorter descent than the mainline, but with two noticeable climbs. At two points, the line ran parallel to the mainline, where locos could exchange ‘toots’, but with a grass verge or fence between tracks. There were no signals, as it was a one engine in steam route.
Firstly, Hotspur needed to raise steam. Norman walked Hotspur from the shed to the right-hand platform road at Melton Wood Junction, ‘clamped’ the spring points (okay, used a rod to counter-act the spring) and pushed the loco into the exit of the Paddock Line. Norman would light the fire, fill the tender with rainwater, and use the blower to encourage the fire. In the meantime, The General would take a set of coaches around the mainline.
Before Hotspur had its own rake of coaches, when ready, Hotspur replaced The General on the two vehicle set, but would operate on the Paddock Line. There were no special tickets, the pink ones issued at the ticket office allowed a ride on either the Melton Wood Junction or the Paddock Line.
The train left the right-hand platform of Melton Wood Junction, took the right hand road from the turnout just beyond the platform, and after passing underneath ‘The Paddock Line’ board, the route started the first descent. Then it curved right, with the ‘Moinde Yaar Hid’ tunnel to the left. After a section of straight track, the line curved right and started to climb, passing over the diamond crossing, before commencing a left hand oval, with the section parallel to the mainline.
The line rattled over the diamond crossing again, continued to the left, then climbed towards Melton Wood Junction, through a section called ‘Noyers de Normandie’. By now Hotspur sounded a little breathless, and Hotspur could slip on occasion, which was no surprise considering loads, weather and rail head conditions. The line turned right, Hotspur regained grip, and chuffed satisfyingly again into the right-hand road of Melton Wood Junction.
At close of play, Hotspur might do a full circuit of the mainline, and with less of a fire, in light steam, worked back tender first to the shed and, once cooler, covered.
I drove Hotspur at close of play. Only once, mind: I wasn’t much good at it. You need real skill and experience to drive a steam locomotive on a line with gradients, as it’s a bit of a shock to see how quickly a gauge glass fills, and then empties: you’re either wrecking the cylinders or heating an empty boiler, and both are bad (except it wasn’t quite that simple). I reiterate my view of a few blogs ago, of my doffing of the cap to practical people. I haven’t attempted to drive a steam loco of any size since.
After closure, Hotspur found a new home at Ashmanhaugh. You can see more about that HERE. Another ALR based site has earlier photos, so try HERE too. Meanwhile, here are some more of our views of Hotspur in action at both railways.
Postscript: Hotspur didn’t work Santa Specials: there were too many people to carry, it was the steep Vine Cottage route and the rail conditions were foul at times. Perhaps this was for the best, as it would ask too much of such a splendid loco.