Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Great Central Railway Museum

A visit to the GCR

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the wonderful museums we have in our town: I hope you’ve managed to visit and experience them for yourselves.

The Charnwood Museum has now got an even lovelier Ladybird corner than before, complete with talking chair. And, incidentally, there’s a Ladybird exhibition in the public library at the moment, until the end of May.

What I missed from that blogpost was mention of the small but perfectly formed museum at the Great Central Railway, this, probably because I’ve never actually been in! When the other half and I decided to go for a walk on May Day, I little thought we’d end up at the GCR, but end up there we did! Splashing out £3 on platform tickets, we excitedly skipped down the steps (only because we weren’t allowed to slide down the luggage ramp!) eager to see what train enthusiasts found so inspiring!

First, we walked along Platform 2. We’d been walking along the canal for nearly two hours, and I’d promised OH a drink, but we walked past the café and headed off towards the engine sheds, passing strategically placed stacks of suitcases and steamer trunks (stacks in which Charles Deeming’s steamer trunk wouldn’t have looked out of place), old metal advertising signs and various other things.


The first thing I noticed when we reached the engine shed, and were greeted by one of the volunteers, was the smell of grease! I don’t know why, but the smell of grease always appeals to me: Maybe it reminds me of events from my childhood. Anyway, the engine shed was full of, ummmm, engines, in various states of repair, and there were tools and bits of stuff everywhere! I was fascinated by the pits too, something that I loved from my Nan’s old cottage and her 1930s house. Lots of voluntary contribution boxes too: Restoration is not cheap.

Outside there were all sorts of wooden carriages, caravans, and piles of indistinguishable things that would probably have meant something to people in the know.

Walking beyond the end of the engine shed, I came to the end of the line. Some of you might know that the GCR are raising money to replace the bridge at this point, and somehow connect the Loughborough line to the Ruddington steam line, so it was good to see where the current line ended and realise what the aspirations were. If I’ve got my bearings right, then I think I saw the horses who graze in that triangular piece of grass opposite the entrance to the Brush, which I think Sid Powell used to use.

Along the way I also think I passed the Jacksons Coachworks place that is on Queen’s Road.

Walking back towards the platforms, I couldn’t help stopping to wonder at the signal box and the signal wires that were operated from the box, and the Grade II listed water tower! I also find red, white and black signals against a blue sky quite stunning! I’m wondering if this is an improvement on taking pictures of electricity pylons?

So, back on the platform, I paid a visit to the “facilities”, mostly because I wanted to see if they were anything like I remembered, and then we went and hunted out the tea. We timed it perfectly, and while we were sitting on the platform-side, supping our cups of tea, a train pulled in, and lots of excited people alighted. It was a joy to see train staff, including the stationmaster and the chef rushing around organising things, to be ready for the next departure.

Tea drunk, we headed off to the museum. Inside was a joy to behold with old railway signs reaching from floor to ceiling, a working model train, display cabinets full of interesting railway memorabilia, pictures of trains on the walls, and train bells and whistles on the window ledges. There were a couple of exhibits that really interested me, one of which was the advert for a journey to Stratford-on-Avon, the home of “England’s greatest poet” - Shakespeare (another subject of a recent blogpost). A friend recently told me of another Shakespeare / Loughborough / GCR connection, which I shall quote in full for you:

“Loughborough GCR is home to the Standard Britannia Class locomotive 70013 Oliver Cromwell. Another member of this Class that did not survive was 70004 William Shakespeare that appeaered at the 1951 Festival of Britain, was one of two locomotives dedicated to working the famous "Golden Arrow" express train and in the 1960s, when based at Newton Heath in Manchester, was a regular performer through Loughborough Midland Station on the Midland Main Line to St Pancras”.

If you want to read more about the Standard Britannia Class locomotive, there’s a decent article over on Wikipedia. But back to my visit to the GCR Museum -

The other thing that really interested me was an account of payments to W.E. Woolley in connection with the purchase of land for the construction of the GCR line. Read more about Mr Woolley in a future blogpost – but you might have to remind me to write it!

So, we visited the engine shed and the museum, and we saw a train come in and go out again. Now all we have to do is ride the GCR sometime …


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