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.
This is a relatively difficult blog to write, because I must confess my note-making about the volunteers at the LMLR is pitiful: I focused much more on the trains and the running of trains to make notes or even remember the names of everybody who helped. There were plenty! We had Little Melton residents, the spouses and partners and relatives of the drivers, and the few youngsters and parents who’d be there.
I never ever thought I’d be in agreement with the late film director Michael Winner, but in his Radio 4 account of his youthful trip to America in ‘My Teenage Diary’, he said, if I recall correctly, that there was regret that he didn’t photograph his companions as much: he’d photograph a bridge or some other object rather than those with whom he shared the journey. As for my time at the LMLR, I think I understand Mr Winner’s sentiments and wish I’d taken better pictures and more video, but then I had no plans to publish these memories. Thank heavens I took as much video as I did.
However, it’s with gratitude that the ‘recreational railways’ team acknowledge the work of the Ashmanhaugh Light Railway, both in providing home for LMLR rolling stock, but in this case for their blog. Last year, they published a blog entry summarising the LMLR History: we have referred to this original document in earlier blog entries and yes, that we lost our copies (we had two over the years: an early and then a revised copy). You can read their summary by clicking HERE, or use a search engine for ‘Ashmanhaugh Light Railway’ and finding the blog entry for “16th September 2015”. ‘Recreational railways’ wishes to emphasise that in the following paragraphs where needed to refer to the ALR blog entry for a correct name, we make the comment “thanks ALR”, and we mean that. We remain embarrassed about our memory and also lack of making notes. But, importantly, “thanks, ALR”.
Again, if you can help rectify many other oversights, please contact us using the ‘Contacts’ tab above, scroll to the top and look top right.
The LMLR was on Bob Brett’s land. Here’s Bob. We met Bob earlier, and I’m sure would want to share the limelight with all of his LMLR volunteers.
Norman Duffield and Reg Ives were friends, whose two locos were ‘The General’ and ‘Hotspur’. Above is Norman driving ‘Hotspur’ – named after his father-in-law’s regular loco from Norwich shed (70011 Hotspur), and then there’s Reg, in the background having shunted ‘The General’ so that ‘Hotspur’ could perform haulage over the Paddock line.
Edwin Peck built ‘Sir Mathew’, the gazebo and plenty of other wooden structures.
Norman’s and Reg’s and Edwin’s wives all helped out too. They would guard, – and if my memory is correct, I spoke to Norman’s wife Margaret (thanks ALR) when she was guard on the Old Piggeries line back in September 1995 when I first visited the railway – they would run the ticket office and I dare say helped run all the additional things that enhanced the visit, because, as my late dad (who I think was slightly jealous in the few months he saw me at the LMLR and whose cap I used) would say, people always like a cup of tea. Too right, particularly at close of play in the darker months.
Memory jogger – I think Mrs Peck was Christine – can anyone confirm?
I am so sorry that I didn’t collect or remember names -please forgive me.
Peter, again if my memory is correct, was usually Edwin’s guard. His wife too visited the railway, as I remember her at close of play in the tearoom when everybody gathered for a brew and a chat, and maybe a warm-up and dry-up after particularly poor weather. She also helped out in the grotto at Christmas, as there was a rumour that the real Santa was unavailable, and that Peter would substitute, although I wouldn’t put it past the real Santa to turn up and play trains … (he smiled).
Sid ran the model railway. His wife (sorry again) ran the souvenir stall on Melton Wood Junction.
Mike was our electronics wizard and ‘the bobby’ (signalman). Sometimes he came out to play as a guard, but mainly Mike ensured the correct train went into the correct route or platform, and that all of the signals worked – yes, we were track circuited and had colour light signals.
Again I apologise for the lack of names or surnames: this is entirely my youthful ignorance, my jackdaw-like selective re-call and my now middle-aged memory. If you can help with names, please contact us.
On one occasional I was driver – I can’t remember if it was Thunderbox or The General. My very efficient young guard should have been fire cadetting that day, but instead helped us out. I’ve forgotten her name. Again I’ve forgotten the name of the local lad who ran the bug and also appears as Bob’s guard on occasion: you can see him on duty in the picture at the top of this blog entry.
But I remember James, and I remember Alex. Both regular attenders and volunteers. Like me, both railway mad. Like me, both learning how to run a railway.
Alex came from Hethersett, I think, and I am pretty sure it was his dad Malcolm (thanks ALR) who built ‘Ben’. I was away from the railway for much of 1997 until revisiting in the summer of 1999, when Bob told me the sad news about Alex, which I won’t discuss here. Alex was unfailingly enthusiastic about the railway, and in the picture of Ben below, it’s Alex at the controls for the Saturday morning maintenance routine. Alex may also have been one of Santa’s elves.
Here is Malcolm (thanks ALR) in charge of Ben.
James was local, but too young to be a full volunteer. After the last passenger train, James at times would, under supervision, drive ‘The General’ back to the shed. When Anglia Railways (remember them?!) sold some of their turquoise hats, or gave them to preservationists to sell on, I bought myself an Inter City conductor’s hat, and a spare Anglia one which I gave to James.
It is important to look as if you belong, and there’s something much more authoritative about a cap than a fluorescent bib. James’s mum would bring him to the railway and stay, and I hope note the pleasure he derived and, let’s not forget this, gain early experience of team-work.
There were also those from charities who came along with stalls and entertainment.
Please don’t be too critical of my lack of recall or memory of names. I hope that over the years you the reader can help with completing the blanks to create the account of the Little Melton Light Railway and the people who made it happen.
Oh yes. There was one other, a part-timer. Me. I still have the cap, the badge (a blue Hymek) and the fluorescent jacket; I may even still have the shirt. The fluorescent jacket is serviceable and utilised, as I wear it when I use a bicycle. It didn’t have LMLR on it; perhaps I should have rescued one? I still have the LMS Greatcoat worn on occasions, somewhere in a wardrobe.
Hello to any former LMLR volunteers reading this. I hope this tribute website is doing justice to the railway: please help me complete the names?
(And once again, thanks ALR for the summary of the history which has helped with some of the details in this blog entry.)