OTPPG - 68030 - The Liberation

22 December 2004

OTPPG - 68030 - The Liberation

The plan somehow came together up in Stranraer on Monday December 20th - at times I thought it wasn't going to and the preceding Saturday and Sunday turned into long days of waiting around and not much happening!

I met Billy McCulloch on Sunday for a couple of drinks to discuss our battle plans and he seemed calm enough about the whole thing but I was still worried about what he had told me on the phone the day before while I was standing on Ayr station on my way down to Stranraer! He said that while walking the yard on Friday he had found a clamp around one of the points near the entrance to the yard - typically this was one of the points that we would need to change in order to get the machine to the level crossing area for loading. He said it didn't have a padlock on the clamp and therefore shouldn't be a problem getting it taken off by Network Rail. Apparently if it had been padlocked we would have had a paperwork nightmare on our hands and that I might as well have packed my bags and gone back home there and then! However the guy from NR wasn't around all weekend so this was never going to be resolved until the Monday morning anyway.

So Monday morning arrives - I check out of the B&B and wander up to the yard with my bags. Billy & Co. are just passing in the Unimog and a van so I hop in and we go for tea and bacon rolls (of course!) before heading down to the yard. First good sign is that NR had already been in, taken the clamps off the point and put a warning Stop sign on the track into the yard - we had our T4 possession! Excellent.

I then call my contact at Heanors to see where the guys were with the lorry - I phone one of the drivers who tells me they are on the A75 about an hour away! Could it get any better?! However we still had a small problem in the fact 68030 was still in the shed at this point!

So the guys prised open the shed doors to reveal our new baby in all her (ok slightly tatty) glory! Billy was up at the level crossing with the 'mog putting it into rail mode and then he headed down the yard edging slowly over the weeds and small trees! Some of the points needed a little bit of attention with an iron bar (!) to ensure the blades were in the right position but Billy had sorted most of them out on his Friday visit. Bear in mind these tracks hadn't seen any use for probably 12 years or more!

Meanwhile I remembered some pieces of 68030 were lying on the track inside the shed from when the gearbox was removed so I went to recover those and any other bits that may have belonged to the machine. We also had a bit of a tidy up - returning engine panels to their correct location etc and getting rid of some of the broken glass.

The Unimog was attached with a rigid bar to the coupling and finally it looked like we were ready to roll! Before I knew it 68030 was dragged just clear of the shed where we paused for a moment to have a proper look over her in daylight and check again the track in the shed one last time. Even the sun came out briefly!

It was at this point that Billy told me he had phoned one of the local free newspapers who were sending a journalist down to get some photos for the big story of the day! I thought he was joking but no - by the time we had the machine up the top end of the yard a guy with a notepad had appeared! I've never done a press interview before!! He also took a shot of me and the McCullochs guys standing on the machine with cheesy grins!

By now its raining and blowing a gale - as to be expected up there I suppose at this time of year but I had been quite lucky all weekend up to this point! Billy decides he needs more tea so off they go while I stay in the Unimog and wait for Heanors. I've never sat in a RoadRailer before - let alone one sitting on the rails AND while attached to an item of OTP that I had just bought! A very surreal and also quite a special moment for me! Doubtful it will happen again!

Billy and the guys return just as I see the Heanors low loader entering the yard.

Despite the fact the yard is now disused we chose a great day to block the access road level crossing into the old Stockton Haulage area! Apparently it was getting a tidy up that day and there were lorries, cars, tractors all coming in and out via the access road shuttling scrap metal to the yard down the road! Oh well they would just have to wait!

The low loader was carefully manoeuvred into position on the slippery sleepers and the guys did their stuff quickly and efficiently as I expected. They were worried it wasn't going to fit on the trailer when they arrived but it did (thank God!) with a few inches to spare!

There were a couple of guys from Network Rail on site too - the older of the two told me he used to drive 68030! So it was interesting hearing what he had to say! I think he was quite sad to see it go - like an old friend! He said it had been in the shed 15 years but think this is a bit of an exaggeration because the picture on OTPPG website taken at Slateford is from 1990. I suspect it has been there since the early 90s though. He also said that it wasn't until recently that it had been vandalised - which was quite annoying to hear.

So that was that - 68030 on a low loader, heading off for its Christmas holiday in Heanor's yard! Again this was another surreal moment where I had to pinch myself - I never thought when we came to have a look at it back in August that it was ever going to happen due to the number of obstacles (physical and otherwise!) to get in our way, but it has - thanks to the co-operation of lots of people from different companies.

Nick Wilkinson at First Engineering for taking us down there in the first place and getting the ball rolling and putting up with my almost daily emails or phone calls since the summer!

Ian Taylor at Network Rail and Billy McCulloch for working together to get the track possession sorted out, clearing the track inside the shed and positioning the machine down the top end of the yard.

Andrew Goodman at Heanor Haulage and of course the two drivers on the day - for loading quickly, efficiently and on time.

And finally Dick Hymas at the Colne Valley Railway for being accommodating to our needs and giving our first two machines a safe new home!

Its turning into a bit of an Oscars speech here but thanks also to all the enthusiasts who have shown support for this project in its first 6 months - here's to a successful 2005!

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