Monday, 1 June 2020

Inspiration Railways and a woven band

Earlier in the month it was my birthday, another significant one.  Ten years ago I had a significant birthday and I wanted to do something unusual so I decide upon a days experience on a steam railway.  This year I had thought to take the other experience which is driving a diesel locomotive but at the moment that is not possible.
We had stayed on a camp site in Bury on a number of occasions and the East Lancashire Railway runs alongside the site. The company renovate, rebuild and run steam and diesel locomotives and have lots of volunteers.

A Steam Footplate Experience seemed a wonderful ideas.  Eight people can pay to go on the same day and also are allowed to bring a few friends  and relatives. Of course, I was the only woman amongst the seven men.  They were all railway enthusiasts and had lots of stories about heritage railways around the UK.

Meeting the train and the real drivers!

We were given boiler suits to wear - it was a cold March day. Health and safety was stressed and we were off. We were divided into two groups of four and the other group went to spend the morning driving the train. My group had a tour of the whole site, including a visit to the signal box.

the signal box

Salvaged goods waiting to be used.

My husband took lots of photographs of the day. Here is my first sight of the train with the other part of the group having a drive.
My first glimpse of the moving train.

We met up for lunch in the railway pub and then it was my turn to get into the train.

We took turns in feeding the firebox, driving the train, being a guide on the train and checking the train when it stopped in stations to allow a change of driver. Our passengers in the carriages were our friends and relatives.

I enjoyed being the guard. It was fun to wave the flag and then get back onto the train.

Waving the flag and blowing the whistle,

Two of the group finally got to go into the drivers cab.  I was the fireman and had to learn the intricacies of  feeding the fire with coal.  Not as straightforward as you might think.  The coal has to be flung into a particular spot to keep the boiler steaming. It was also hard work, but the warmth from the firebox was welcome.

My turn to be stoker

The glowing firebox - very welcome on a cold day.

At last it was my turn to drive.  I was thrilled that my portion of the driving involved stopping the train at a level crossing and waiting for the traffic to go through at Ramsbottom Station. See the Facebook page for the Ramsbottom Heritage Society to find out more about this Lancashire town.  
I had to drive over the level crossing and then reverse the train to connect with the coaches for the return journey. I had another short stretch of driving and then it was time to relinquish the controls.

Here are the controls.

I have found the brake!


I think I had a broad grin on my face the whole day.

Designing a woven band

The online workshop that I ran for the Braid Society has just finished although there is still lots of lovely weaving on show.  The final booklet asked everyone to become inspired and design and weave a 'promise band'. This is a band which is exclusive to a person or group.  I decided to design a band to celebrate my footplate experience 10 years ago.  It was really lovely to relive the experience through looking at my photographs and designing this blog.  Hopefully, I will be able to book my diesel experience to celebrate later this year. 

If you are a weaver and would like to follow the workshop, go to the Braids and Bands io site  
or download the booklets from

So here is my design process for a bookmark to celebrate the East Lancashire Railway footplate experience. 

First design.

Now, my blog is about weaving so I thought that after the workshop on stripes I would design a band using my experience as inspiration.

Warp ends: 53
Warp:16/2 cotton in five colours with grey silk
Weft:16/2 cotton in black
Width:  12 mm

The grey thread is 16/2 cotton with a grey silk thread to give some sparkle and represents the railway lines.  The brown and white in the centre represents the wooden line supports and the white stones in between the rails.

The black and red are the colours of the ex LMS Black 5 Number 44871

drawdown for band 1

And here is the woven band.

I was not entirely happy when I saw the band as I realised that I had overlooked the position of the railway sleepers.

Second design

Railway tracks showing the sleepers

Warp ends: 65
Warp:16/2 cotton in five colours with grey silk
Weft:16/2 cotton in black
Width: 14 mm

Here is the woven band:

version 2
Drawdown for version  2

I prefer this version.  The extended area of the ladder pattern gives an improved impression of railway tracks.

I made a couple of bookmarks from the bands.

If, like me, you are a fan of Terry Pratchett, you will have read this book. I read it with my own experience in mind.  After his visit to the Watercress Line, Terry writes: 'they showed me everything, including their workshops, the footplate and the fire box of a travelling locomotive and, wonder of wonder, the signal box : a treasure in mahogany and brass. Champion!

And here is my certificate.  Champion!  A Wonderful Experience.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes    June 2020