Locomotive with Tom Rolt Connections

On Sunday we had a special day on the Severn Valley Railway celebrating the 70th birthday of Mike Corbett a friend who was involved in the recent restoration of the Flying Scotsman. This involved a leisurely lunch onboard a train pulled by a Great Western 0-6-0 pannier tank. Having lived in Cardiff during the last days of steam, these little engines are very familiar to me since they even carried me to school.

GWR 0-6-0 pannier tank 7714 on the Severn Valley Railway at Kidderminster

The engine on duty to pull our train was 7714. It looked smart in its British Railways black livery, but I was particularly struck by the shiny brass plate on its frame. The plate indicated that the loco was built in 1930 by Kerr, Stuart & Co Ltd., of Stoke-on-Trent. This rang bells with me since I knew that Tom Rolt had been apprentice at Kerr Stuart and his uncle Kyrle Willans was chief development engineer. Willans was at that time also the owner of Cressy the boat Rolt was later to own and make famous in his book Narrow Boat. 

Makers plate

The next stage was to check the chronology to see if 7714 was being built when Rolt was working for Kerr Stuart. A quick check of Rolt's autobiography Landscape with Machines revealed that he was indeed working at the Stoke factory in 1930. Rolt reports that "twenty-five new six-coupled pannier tanks were being built for the Great Western Railway" and points out that the paint shop were not happy with the specification in the contract set by GWR and that it caused "head-shaking".

So there we have it - a preserved locomotive built in the Kerr Stuart factory (California Works) whilst Tom Rolt was serving his apprenticeship. I am sure given Rolt's connections with both railway preservation and canals, he would have been pleased.

GWR 2-8-0 locomotive 2857 crossing the Victoria Bridge over the River Severn near Arley
(courtesy Mike Corbett)

What a shame the River Severn is not navigable up this way. However, it is still possible to navigate under the Severn Valley Railway on the Staffs & Worcestershire Canal near Kidderminster where the railway crosses via the Falling Sands viaduct.

The Falling Sands viaduct
Falling Sands Viaduct 
(courtesy Severn Valley Railway)

Cosgrove for an Oil Change

I like to get the sump on the Ruston nice and warm when changing the oil and often carry out changes of an evening when cruising. On our last trip up the Ashby there were a few things to sort out following the boat painting and bathroom refurb so I never got around to changing the oil. With yesterday being a sunny warm day we decided to take a trip to Cosgrove to change the oil and do few other jobs.

A quiet Sunday in Cosgrove

It was quiet on the canal with only the occasional boat passing, mostly hire craft from Wyvern Shipping or Alvechurch.

Cans and Rag Mop on the Roof

After changing the oil using the brass hand pump attached to the engine, I cleaned out the sump below and replaced the oil-absorbent pads. It was a very messy job made worse by a recent diesel leak. The pipework from the twin fuel filters to the injector pumps has numerous copper washer seals and one joint had an intermittent leak. I manage to realign the filter and replace the washers and that appears to have solved the problem. The sump now looks respectable which is more than can be said for my overalls.


I went for a walk today as part of my local walking group. The group has been walking once a month for over a decade and visits areas of Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. We occasionally go further afield. Since I organise some of the routes we have visited canals and even sometimes Albert when on a cruise.

Today we didn't go near a canal and yet the walk had a canal theme threading through it. We walked around the Ashridge estate, close to Berkhamsted, and enjoyed the woods which were carpeted in bluebells. The weather, unlike yesterday, was sunny and we had clear blue skies throughout the morning.

The walk started and ended with lunch at the Bridgewater Arms in Little Gaddesden. We have walked from this popular pub a few times. The inn is, of course, named after Francis Egerton, Third Duke of Bridgewater who owned the Ashridge Estate. The "Canal Duke" is commemorated not only in the name of the pub but his first canal is now commemorated on the wall of the inn with a mural.

Mural commemorating the Bridgewater Canal

However, the most significant memorial to the Duke lies on the other side of the estate overlooking Aldbury. It is the Bridgewater Monument which credits him as being the "Father of the Inland Navigation".

The Bridgwater Monument

The monument lies close to the Brownlow cafe which this morning was very busy with walkers, dog walkers and cyclists, all enjoying the weather.

There's lot to enjoy on the estate but today the pièce de résistance was the bluebells. They were truly magnificent, particularly in Dockey Wood.

Bluebells in Dockey Wood

I wondered about access to this area from the Grand Union Canal. You can just see Cowroast from one of the vantage points on the estate but a walk to the the Bridgewater Arms from the canal is a healthy 4.5 miles and with a 300 ft climb. It's about half that to the Bridgewater Monument but that would still include the climb. Maybe one of these days we might come through Berkhamsted and feel enthusiastic(?). Today's walk was just around the 6 mile mark but with only a modest change in elevation. 

Getting to the Bridgewater Arms from Cowroast