THE RAILWAY BEARS RIDE THE EAST LANCASHIRE RAILWAY
15th MARCH 2020

 



Preamble

Hi, my name is Summer.

I have been asked to write and narrate this story. This is both an honour and a surprise as when Dad and my pals set out, I had not even been adopted, never mind a member of the Hug Railway Society.

The trip was precipitated by Uncle Paul and Aunt Sheila treating Dad to lunch while riding the train. The first Dad properly knew about this was when on the 1st March, Dad's birthday, he opened his card from them to find a ticket for the Dining with Distinction Service for the 15th March. You might wonder why he did not actually go on his birthday? Well this was because he was on holiday at his favourite hotel, Armathwaite Hall, referred to as his second home by friends.

Since first going in 2009, Dad had been many times, and until last year with Uncle Brian. Friends for nearly 50 years, sadly Uncle Brian died last September. My pals have told me all about him and how dear he was to Dad and how much they all miss him. I will never get to know him, but he has been brought alive to me through the memories my pals have and the stories they have told me. Here he is at Armathwaite Hall in 2013. He was forever referred to as Lord Brian after this.

Before we move on to the day in question, I thought it best that I introduce my Railway Bear pals.

From the left -

Chuffer - He was adopted on 14th February 1999, from the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway. Dad joined him as an official member in 2010.

Scooter - He is one of the very first bears in the Hug, being adopted on 11th June 1983. With Higson he is the joint Chair of the Hug Railway Society. He has been a member of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society since October 1991.

Dunstan - He was adopted on 22nd August 1992, from Deborah Hamilton, who had initially rescued him in Northumberland. In 1995 the Aln Valley Railway Society was formed. This is dedicated to reopening the branch line between Alnwick and Alnmouth in Northumberland. It was in 1997 that Dunstan became a member of this society.

Dale - He was adopted in Hawes, North Yorkshire on 15th August 1997. In 2001 he joined the Wensleydale Railway Society. This is dedicated to reopening passenger services in Wensleydale. Currently these operate between Leeming Bar and Redmire.

Higson - He too is an early member of the Hug, being adopted on 2nd June 1985. With his best pal Scooter he is the other joint Chair of the Hug Railway Society. He has been a member of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway since late 1994.

You will see that they all wear badges. These represent the different railways they have travelled on over the years.

There is just one other Hug Railway Society member to introduce. This is Leander. He is not actually a member of a specific railway, having been adopted on 28th July 2010 on the Fellsman Steam special from Lancaster to Carlisle over the famous Settle-Carlisle line. That day the train was hauled by LMS Jubilee Class 5690 locomotive that is named Leander. Hence his name. This is an early picture hence the absence of badges. Now he has badges from the Bluebell Railway, North Yorkshire Moors and Wensleydale, following having travelled on these lines.

Well, all that done, here is the story.

 

RIDE ON EAST LANCASHIRE RAILWAY - 15th MARCH 2020

Sunday dawned and there was an air of excitement as my pals waited for Dad to get ready. They gathered in the kitchen chatting about what to expect.

"Are you sure Dad knows the way", said Chuffer.

"Pretty much", replied Higson. "When he and my Dad used to go to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, they came off the M60 motorway at Prestwich. Here they went right to park and use the tram, but today we will go left and it is just a few miles to Bury and Bolton Street station, where the journey will start." [I should clarify that Higson's dad was Uncle Brian]

Scooter added, "just in case, he has programmed the Satnav to guide us on the last section."

Or so Dad thought........

As well as my railway pals, two other hug members were having a day out. They had sat outside on the bench, patiently waiting to settle in the car.

So, meet Rigbye and Snowdon. Rigbye was a gift from Uncle Paul and Aunt Sheila, to Dad for Christmas, to cheer Dad up after Uncle Brian's death. Snowdon was adopted a long time ago in 1987, and is a particular favourite of Aunt Sheila. They were going to meet up with Huggie bear, who lives with Uncle Paul and Aunt Sheila, with whom they are special friends. They were staying in the car, to have fun and a nice picnic.

Soon Dad called out, "time to go."

So my pals got comfortable in the car for the journey.

Activating the Satnav, which Dad and Uncle Brian had named Brünnhilde, she directed them on their way.

All went well as they joined the M6 heading south and then as expected turned onto the M61.

"So far so good", said Dad. "I now expect us follow this to its end."

This is where, however things got interesting, as almost immediately the next instruction was to exit on to the M65 at the next junction.

"Oh well", said Dad, "perhaps this is a shorter route.

Continuing to follow directions, the route now took them over the West Pennine Moors along the Haslingden Grane road.

After a few more miles, Dunstan commented, "the Satnav shows we are nearing our destination, but we have yet to see a sign for Bury."

In fact it was taking them to Ramsbottom. "I am flummoxed", said Dad. "I definitely input Bolton Street, Bury."

By now my pals, and to be honest Dad were panicking a bit and wondering if they would get there in time. Dad asked passers by the way and after a few more miles they arrived at Bury, where signs directed them to the station. Phew!

Parking Dad immediately saw Uncle Paul and Aunt Sheila, and Huggie went and joined his pals in Dad's car. That was after Snowdon had had a hug from Aunt Sheila.

With my pals tucked in a bag, they all went to see the engine and Dad took Aunt Sheila and Uncle Paul's picture...

...and then this of Dad with Aunt Sheila.

Looking across the platform, Dad pointed, "a shop."

This was in fact a converted carriage selling railway theme items in connection with the restoration of Standard 4 locomotive 80097, that after 34 years had recently been completed, and later we would from our train see this locomotive.

Opposite the entrance is a table, sitting on which was me. "Look", said Dad. "I had hoped to get a bear from here, and my hopes have been fulfilled."

For a donation I was adopted and Dad told the assistants that I would be becoming a member of the East Lancashire Railway. So there we are that is how I became part of the Hug Railway Society, and here I am.

Before we go on, I hope readers won't mind if a tell you a little about myself. I am part of the TLC scheme organised by the Freemasons of England and Wales. TLC stands for Teddies for Loving Care. This scheme provides teddy bears to hospital A&E departments, so that they may comfort children who are suffering. This is what I did, although my memory of exactly when is not clear, then somehow I ended up abandoned on that table in the shop. So having looked after a child, now I have been adopted again and have Dad and all my pals to look after me. I am so lucky to have found such a good home.

There was still some time to go before the departure of the train at 13:00, so Dad went and took this picture of the locomotive hauling our train today. This is LMS class 3F 52345. It was originally built in 1896 for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway at the locomotive works in Horwich. Finally withdrawn by British Rail on 30th September 1962, it is still alive and operational here.

Strolling down the platform and seeing a seat, I called out, "will you take my picture with my new pals, Dad?"

Now it was time to board the train, and a kind gentleman checked the tickets and directed us all to our seats. We were pleased to see that the table was just set for three people, so there was a spare seat that we could sit on for the first past of the journey.

So exactly on time at 13:00 the train pulled out of the station, heading east down to Heywood being one terminus of the line. Here the engine was run round to the other end. A gentleman opposite, must have been having a special celebration as he was able to ride on the footplate and help to drive the train while this manoeuver was accomplished.

Then the whistle sounded and we set off again, and our carriage being near the front of the train we could here the engine working hard to pull the carriages.

So shortly we were back at Bury, where Dad pointed, "look there is Standard 4 80097. By my buying you today Summer it will help to keep the engine running."

Being a special dining train we did not stop at any intermediate stations, so at a gentle pace we proceeded north through the pleasant countryside passing through Burrs Country Park, Summerseat, Ramsbottom and Irwell Vale to the northern terminus at Rawtenstall. And yes, you would have guessed right, Dad decided to name me after the pretty village of Summerseat.

During all this, the delicious lunch was served -

Starter - Red pepper and butternut squash soup
Main - Steak chasseur, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy
Dessert - Sticky toffee pudding with cream

We did not go hungry, as a picnic had been brought. There were sandwiches, cakes and tea.

Higson said, "we have Grizzly and Little Eric to thank for this. They are expert at baking cakes etc. They do them all the time, especially for the Hug Walking Club, when they take a picnic on their adventures in the countryside."

"Well these cherry and ginger scones are scrumptious", enthused Dale.

"As is the chocolate caramel shortbread", said Scooter.

I was to meet them when I got home, and I marvelled at all the adventures they had been on over the years. I thought how intrepid they are to have climbed all the hills and mountains. I will be happy just to travel to different railways, as I am not that brave.

At Rawtenstall there was a long stop, where Dad and Uncle Paul got out. They viewed the engine prior to it being run round for the return journey, Dad snapping this atmospheric shot.

Uncle Paul explained that there is a code related to the position of the lamp. This above is for 'light engine', as that is what it would be on the run round.

Looking along the platform, here are the station buildings at Rawtenstall.

Then Dad got Uncle Paul to pose by the engine.

Soon now it was time for the return journey to Bury. The table was now clear of plates etc.

Chuffer asked, "do you think we can sit looking out of the window?"

"Yes of course", replied Aunt Sheila.

Settled we all enjoyed seeing the scenery and stations along the line. "That was lovely", said Dunstan. "Thank you very much."

At Bury, Dad hopped off to take our picture with Uncle Paul and Aunt Sheila.

After Dad returned to his seat, we were spotted by a couple on the platform. They smiled and gave a thumbs up, which made our day.

So it was back to the car, where we settled for our journey home, after goodbyes to Uncle Paul and Aunt Sheila. It had been a truly super day for us all Dad thanking them and telling them how much he had enjoyed it. I was excited to get home and meet all my new pals. It was a bit overwhelming as there are literally hundreds! They all made me very welcome.

And finally I want to dedicate this story to Uncle Brian. He would have been in his element today as he loves travelling on trains. My pals tell me that unlike Dad who is never camera shy, Uncle Brian did not like having his picture taken. But having trawled the archives we have found this of him taken in 2007 as Sheffield Park Station on the Bluebell Railway.

 

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