A visit to the Stoomtram (Steam Train) at Hoorn in Holland

This is a story of serendipity. I was trolling through Haarlem when I came upon this print in a printer’s shop window.

Print found in Haarlem shop window

Print found in Haarlem shop window

I had reconciled myself to a holiday without a visit to a model railroad or a historic steam train so I was chuffed when I gazed upon this large beautifully executed drawing of a steam engine. A couple of days later the Tulip Parade – floats covered in spring flowers which starts in Keukenhof came into Haarlem. Because it was so cold we did not go and see it come into town late in the evening. The floats stay in Haarlem overnight and the whole world comes to see them the next day.

When we went to see the floats it was cold and clear. As I roamed through the crowd admiring the floats I couldn’t believe my eyes – a Gauge 1 (G Scale) loco and a couple of coaches were running to and fro in a stall. It also had a fab model of a steam loco made out of wood:

Stall at the Haarlem Flower Parade advertising the Stoomtam at Hoorn

Stall at the Haarlem Flower Parade advertising the Stoomtam at Hoorn

One of the guys manning the stall spoke english and he and I had a jolly old chinwag. He told me he was one of 330 volunteers who worked on the historic train at Hoorn. He gave me a couple of pamphlets and wife Sarah and I went back to our wee house to see whether it was “doable.”

We are staying in Haarlem and we determined that Hoorn was about an hour away from Harlem on an inter-city train. A visit was “doable.” When we arrived at Hoorn we looked at the poster below and decided to “do” the train and take the boat trip.

Poster showing the steam train and and museum ship

Poster showing the steam train and and museum ship

We weren’t the only ones taking the trip. The train was packed. The wooden seats shone with many coats of lacquer. We were on the late side and didn’t have time to inspect our loco. When we got to the end of the line I did manage to pop off a few shots:

The museum ship we we were due to ride didn’t leave for  an hour so we  traipsed into town to get a bite. Over lunch I had a bolt of lightening strike me – the loco that had pulled us was the one I had seen the print of in the shop window in Haarlem. Serendipity.

The museum ship like the train had been lovingly restored, The trip along the coast was smooth and enjoyable.

Our steamer - the Friesland - built in 1955 - she was originally a ferry

Our steamer – the Friesland – built in 1955 – she was originally a ferry

The town we landed at was called Enkhuizen, In the port was this beautiful old sailing barge.

 An old fashioned Dutch sailing vessel

An old fashioned Dutch sailing vessel

The town also had some interesting architecture and some feathered fowl:

This last photo you have to look at carefully. When an inter-city train stopped on the line opposite track two birds promptly jumped on the coupler and started pecking away. It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. As usual lightening struck my feeble brain in  the  middle of the night whilst visiting – the birds were searching for insects killed by the train !!!!!!

An inter-city train comes into the station and look who hops on - never seen the likes of that before

An inter-city train comes into the station and look who hops on – never seen the likes of that before

A great day out!

Here are links to two vids of the Stoomtram. The first shows you the tulip fields that the train passes through. The second shows different locos that have been restored.

Skookum – The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad Recently restored Steam Locomotive

Skookum is the world’s only operating 2-4-4-2. Skookum returned to operating service this year after a 15-year overhaul at the Oregon railroad on the former Southern Pacific Tillamook Branch. The 1909 locomotive has an amazing story that starts with its rejection by a Tennessee logging railroad, its acceptance in the Pacific Northwest, and its tragic derailment that left it abandoned in the woods. Enthusiasts saved the locomotive and over more than 60 years moved it to safety and eventual restoration.  Here is a photo of the “Skookum” unloading logs at a mill pond in 1953.

Skookum a 2-4-4-2 Loco

Skookum a 2-4-4-2 Loco

These two pictures which were posted in a Facebook page entitled Logging Railroads of the Pacific Northwest. The first shows her when she was wrecked and the second after her restoration.

The wreck of the Skookum

The wreck of the Skookum

The Skookum after resroration

The Skookum after restoration

On my bucket list? You betcha!


Leas Lift, (a funicular railway) Folkstone, Kent, England

Folkstone isn’t one of the better known holiday towns in England. It’s very close to Dover although it doesn’t have white cliffs.  It is is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent, south-east England. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Folkestone was a very important port in the First World War with approximately 10 million troops and others, including nurses, passing through the harbour. Some were troops embarking to serve on the Western Front and others were troops returning home because they had leave or were wounded.

There was a strong international presence in Folkestone, with Canadians based at Shornecliffe Camp and the Chinese Labour Corp camped at the bottom of Sugar Loaf Hill in addition to all the different nationalities who embarked and disembarked or were nursed at local hospitals.

However, Folkestone’s story is about far more than troop movements. It also encompasses the arrival of thousands of Belgian refugees who first landed at the harbour from September 1914. They were assisted by the people of Folkestone town, and then some remained in the local area, whilst others dispersed around the country.

The civilian population of Folkestone felt the War from the air with raids from Zeppelins and the German Air Force, and especially with the Tontine Street bombing on 25th May 1917. Lives were lost in different locations across the town as a result of this air raid, but Tontine Street had the greatest casualties with it being estimated that one device killed 71 people and injured at least 94.

So why am I telling you all this? The reason is that my Grandmother took me there in the period 1949 to 1955. She took me there to stay with her sister and Canadian husband. My grandfather had three horses shot from under him in WWI. The third one severely broke his leg and he was shipped to a hospital in Folkstone. I am not sure if Grandma and Grandad were engaged at that time but she visited him on a regular basis in the hospital there. In the bed next to Grandad was a badly injured Canadian who had no visitors at all. Grandma persuaded her sister to come with her to Folkstone and visit with Johnny in the next bed. Ultimately Grandma’s sister (Emily) and Johnny were married and settled in Folkstone where he continued to be an outpatient at the hospital. During the period of his lengthy convalescence Grandma visited Auntie Em taking me with her.

The great excitement of each trip was a visit and ride to Leas lift. Originally installed in 1885, in Folkestone, Leas Lift is a funicular railway which carries passengers between the seafront and the promenade. It is one of the oldest water powered lifts in the UK. The lift operates using water and gravity and is controlled from a small cabin at the top of the cliff. It has carried more than 50 million people since it opened, in a process that is especially energy efficient. The lift has a very small carbon footprint, as it emits no pollution and recycles all of the water used to drive the cars.

After Auntie Em and Johnny went to Canada I only ever saw her once more – when I emigrated to Canada in 1968. Remarkably Grandma and Auntie Em exchanged an airmail letter once every two weeks during Auntie Em’s entire lifetime.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway in England

As is my wont I was yammering to a bunch of visitors to our layout here in Fort Bragg last Saturday. One visitor cornered me and in a German accent asked me if I had ridden the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. I politely told him, “No.” He explained that his wife was from Whitby (in Yorkshire) and that they had recently visited said railway and had had a great time. He explained that once he’d had a couple of beers he had no trouble with the (broad) Yorkshire accent!!! He gave me a card and scribbled the words, “North Yorkshire Moors Railway” on the back. My conclusion having poked around the net a bit is that I have missed out on a great heritage railway.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) is a heritage railway in North YorkshireEngland running through the North York Moors National Park. First opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway, the railway was planned in 1831 by George Stephenson as a means of opening up trade routes inland from the then important seaport of Whitby. The line closed in 1965 and was reopened in 1973 by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust Ltd. The preserved line is now a significant tourist attraction and has been awarded many industry accolades.

The NYMR carries more passengers than any other heritage railway in the UK and may be the busiest steam heritage line in the world, carrying 355,000 passengers in 2010. The 18-mile railway is the third-longest standard gauge heritage line in the United Kingdom, after the West Somerset Railway (22.75 miles) and the Wensleydale Railway (22 miles), and runs across the North York Moors from Pickering via LevishamNewton DaleGoathland and terminates at Grosmont.

The NYMR is owned by the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust Ltd and is operated by its wholly owned subsidiary North Yorkshire Moors Railway Enterprises Plc. It is operated and staffed by some 500 volunteers. Trains are mostly steam-hauled. At the height of the running timetable, trains depart hourly from each station. As well as the normal passenger trains running, there are dining services on some evenings and weekends. The extension of steam operated services to the seaside town of Whitby has proved extremely popular.

There are lots of vids of the railway. This one (I think) was the one recommended by the gentleman to whom I was talking:

Please get the impression that the moors are a place you go to sunbathe. Look at the trees and grass ……… bright green huh? Wonder why.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad at Fulton, CA. (a 3 ft narrow-gauge railroad)

When we lived in Kentfield in Marin in the 1990’s one the family’s favorite day trips was down over the Golden Gate Bridge, down the Peninsula and along Route 17 to Felton.  I had never been up close to a Shay loco before let alone ridden behind one.  I’m not sure wife Sarah and the kids were as entranced as was I. Looking at these photos taken some 25 years ago brings back many happy memories.

The Dixian Shay we rode behind was built in 1912.  She was originally owned by the Alaculsy Lumber Company, and was used on the Smokey Mountain Railroad in Tennessee. The Dixiana is named for a small narrow-gauge mining railroad, now abandoned, out of Dixiana,

The tender of Shay #1

The tender of Shay #1

Shay #1

Shay #1

View of the Shay from one of the open air passenger cars

View of the Shay from one of the open air passenger cars

The steam and gears that fascinated me

The steam and gears that fascinated me

These photos were taken before the age of digital cameras. Alas, I didn’t have a movie camera. If I had one I’d like to think I could have taken this vid ……..

Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Ever heard of it? Nope – neither had I until I got a heads up whilst surfing the net recently. Anyway, it looks like a jolly neat ride to visit and its not too far away from us here in Fort Bragg , Northern California.

The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (OCSR) is a steam-powered heritage railroad operating in Oregon, primarily between Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach, with additional special trips to WheelerNehalem River and into the Salmonberry River canyon. The railroad travels on tracks that pass along the edge of Tillamook Bay and the Oregon Coast, and through thick forest along the Nehalem River. The OCSR runs its collection of vintage rail equipment over 46 miles of former Southern Pacific Transportation Company track.

There are a number of vids. I like this one ‘cos of the great photography and music. See what you think ……

This one ain’t bad either – it tells a bit more about the railroad.


Mount Pilatus Cog Railroad in Switzerland

Many, many, many moons ago (as in 1970) I worked in Geneva, Switzerland on assignment from Montreal, Canada. The Swiss value their weekends highly. The client was quite happy to pay for our room and board at weekends and not work. One of the weekend trips we took was to Mount Pilatus and a ride on the famous cog railway that climbs the nearly 7,000 feet mountain. What made me think of Mount Pilatus after all these years was an advert in a newspaper.  The newspaper came to me as souvenir of club member Lonnie Dickson’s recent hols in England.

So I started surfing the ‘net and found, much to my astonishment, the railway was commissioned in 1889, a gradient of up to 48 percent, about 30 minutes travel time. It is the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. This vid gives you an idea of the ride my mate Mike Gunns and I took all those many moons ago.


Swanage Railway located in the County of Devon

Club member Lonnie Dickson and wife Leeann recently spent their hols in good old blighty. Being railroad aficionados (they both worked for the ole SP – it says just that on Lonnie’s truick) a ride on a heritage railroad was a MUST. The one they chose was the Swanage Railway. The Swanage Railway is a railway branch line from near Wareham, Dorset to Swanage, Dorset, England, opened in 1885 and now operated as a heritage railway. Just to orient you here is a map of the line:

Notice that the line has a station at Corfe Castle. Corfe Castle is a fortification standing above the village of the same name on the Isle of Purbeck. Built by William the Conqueror, the castle dates to the 11th century and commands a gap in the Purbeck Hills. The first phase was one of the earliest castles in England to be built at least partly using stone when the majority were built with earth and timber. Lonnie put on his armor, mounted his trusty steed and popped up the hill to pay a visit.

It is hard to believe that the line was closed and taken up in the early 1970s. The restoration of the line was done totally by volunteers of which there are currently some 500. Just to give you an inkling of what the train ride was like I’ve selected two vids. The first on is actually an ad for a dvd. However it’s short and has a smidgen of the line’s history.

This second one is also short.