T&I News 10 2023...

T&I News 10 2023…

After a few weeks away, the regular T&I update returns with this post, the tenth news update of the year.

Puffing Billy returns to steam

Following a protracted winter maintenance programme, which saw Puffing Billy retubed, the tender wheelsets and bearings overhauled, the cladding renewed and some modifications made to the locomotive to improve future maintenance access, the locomotive returned to steam last week and was inspected by our insurance company surveyor, who pronounced it fit for service.

The new lagging/cladding is yet to receive all of it’s stain/preservative coats so is quite bright at present, but this will soon tone down (as did the original lagging/cladding).  With running-in taking place as I write, the aim is to commence regular passenger operation this weekend, and then operate Wednesdays to Sundays for the rest of the season.  Mondays and Tuesdays will be running days on the Colliery narrow and standard gauge lines, to ensure we have steam performance somewhere in the museum, every day of the week.

A great deal of the work was carried out in-house by the Steam and Rolling Stock Technician, assisted by a number of the steam operations team, in particular the work on reassembly following overhaul and then fitting the new pine lagging/cladding – at times a fiddly job and one that has been executed very tidily.  Retaining the locomotive’s colliery appearance is quite a challenge – we don’t want it to be a pastiche of an early engine, with varnished timber and shiny paintwork, but we also don’t want it to appear to be uncared for and devoid of attention!

The future of the blog…

This blog started in 2009, when it was established to record the restoration of Coffee Pot No.1, in part for information and also to satisfy the grant terms, which was funding part of the restoration.  A little later it developed to cover the wider transport (and some industry) activities and share the latest news on the collections and projects undertaken at the museum.  Over 1500 posts and 14 years on, the blog has become a go-to place for information on the transport collection here, and an archive of news and photographs chronicling the progress we’ve made.

Recently we began to discuss what the future for the blog might be, and at this stage I would be interested to hear the views of readers.  There are a number of reasons for considering some changes, and these are covered below:

  1. Maintaining the blog is time consuming and requires quite a lot of input on my part, which I am happy to do but cannot always fit into a busy week.  There is also a need to look at the platform that it is housed on, the format and the IT behind it all, to make sure it remains up to date and viewable on the increasing variety of hardware devices that can access the Internet.
  2. Fashions change!  Blogs were very ‘in’ at one point, but there seems to be a move away from reading, to watching.  And maybe a Vlog would be an appropriate way to take the idea of showing what goes on, forward.  This would be less frequent, and would be more tightly edited, but it would have the benefit of showing video rather than still footage.
  3. A combination of Blog and Vlog, but again, less frequently posting and perhaps with fewer images, to make it snappier.
  4. We could move  to a monthly newsletter format, as has been popular with some heritage railways – though we’d need to look at editing time and software.  The blog currently exists as something of a pet project, but it would be nice to better embed it within the museum’s social-media and online presence, if nothing else, to ensure consistency of messaging and broaden the audience.
  5. Something else entirely, that we haven’t thought of yet!

I am a great admirer of the YouTube channels from the Tank Museum, Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways and the Mid Hants Railway to name but a few.  I think there could be scope for something like this, though the video production is quite resource heavy and the appeal of the Blog as it is, is that I can do all of the creation and editing quite quickly.

So there may be a combination of ideas taken forward – perhaps with fewer posts, but using a variety of media and rather more specific in their content.  We shall see…