The Loss Of A Friend.

Greg Burrows

I have known for the last couple of months that I would have to write this blog at some stage, but that does not make it any easier to do and it is far sooner than I would wish.

Last Saturday December 17th 2016 the Nene Valley Railway lost a Member. Orton Mere Station lost a regular customer and I lost a friend.

Greg is the person who helped me develop an interest in local history regarding the railway, especially the social history and impact the railway had on the area.

I was privileged that he gave me access to his collection of railway memorabilia, much of which is unique. For that I will always be grateful to him. He allowed me to photograph and record it for my personal use, and to enhance my knowledge.

Now I could sit here and write line after line about Greg, but I think to appreciate Greg you had to know him, you had to talk to him and you had to be trusted by him. Those who were privileged to be in that position will know exactly what I mean.

I have lost a friend who was supportive, helpful, kind, generous of his time and his knowledge.

In life you occasionally meet people and you know they are going to enhance your life and your knowledge. For me Greg was such a person.

Thank you Greg, in 2017 and beyond my life will be poorer without your friendship, support and help.



I did something different last Saturday.

Last Saturday I did something different, I did a day in Wansford Office, and I enjoyed it.

Working at Wansford showed me how hard they all work on the Santa trains, they were going round at full speed all day, it was like watching a well oiled machine with the odd small leak.

Answering the telephones proved to me what I have always thought, people don’t read! A good example was a woman who told me what she had read on the website then asked me if it was correct, I informed her it was. I was amazed at how many also thought we would still have first class compartments available. They were genuinely surprised when I sad they were sold out.

I was also witness to the disappearing poly cup of coffee, it decided it liked the stairs and wanted to spread itself all over them rather than make it to the office. You had to be there to witness the casual exchange between the intended recipient of the coffee and the fetcher of the coffee explaining that it did not survive the journey from the cafe. I await more from the Paul and Mark show at some time in the future!!!

Ah well it’s been a fun year and no doubt next year all being well will be more of the same…..



The Santa special and a dog with two trees.

Today Tom and I spent a couple of hours at the station doing some maintenance, tidying up and replacing bits.

Our work was interrupted a couple of times by the Santa Special. Here are a couple of pictures of it.

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As always it had steam on one end and diesel on the other.

It was nice to see it full of happy passengers, the Santa trains provide a good portion of the railways income and profit, so nice to not see an empty seat.

Tom was in a happy mood today, actually like a dog with two trees!!

Recently the microwave the staff use at the station was failed when tested, I am not sure if that was due to old age, dodgy curries that have been heated in it over the years or some other factor.

Anyway Tom who is a regular user was like a child who has just found out the burger they just enjoyed was made from meat off their favourite pony when he found he could not heat his lunch. I should point out at this stage that Tom likes pots of indescribable stuff that looks as bad cold as it does hot.

So he took the bull by the horns, or in this case the microwave by it’s mains lead and bought us a new one. Here is a picture of the said device after Tom had unboxed it, hugged it and switched it on.


Ignore the phone on the top it’s there because we can’t decide where to put it, it’s not there to order a takeaway when whats in the oven gets cremated. The new oven also has a grill so heaven knows what concoctions the staff will cook in it.

Still it’s very kind of Tom to buy it so we would not have to loose sleep over his Saturday concoctions having to be cold.

So there you have it, an exciting couple of hours at Orton Mere, which is not so much the heart of the railway, look on it more as a dodgy leg!

Before anybody asks yes it was a bit cool down there as always in the winter.


The end of the year, well not really.

Last weekend saw the last public steam service until the end of December. Traditionally we don’t run public services during November but this year we are running the Swedish Railcar on the middle two weekends, I await with interest to see how busy we are. Hopefully we will be but it will depend very much on the weather.

The last weekend was a series of fits and starts with a number of people about, including those who had been given vouchers last Christmas for a steam ride who realised they ran out at the end of the year.

Now this is where I give my thoughts on the past year, please note these are my thoughts as a working member they are not my thoughts as a director/trustee of the railway.

All in all it’s been an interesting year with the good bits far outweighing the bad.

As in previous years the visitors have been a mixed bunch ranging from really interesting to downright socially challenged! But that said we have had some really nice visitors this year from all over the world and it’s always nice to see them enjoy themselves during their visit.

The main problems at the station are as always the lack of toilets and the lack of a train every five minutes to photograph. It’s fair to say that often this year the ones who have spent the least have caused the most work. Some people just enjoy their visit and we enjoy having them as visitors, but some are a challenge. One asked me the difference between a customer and a visitor. I explained that a customer is a visitor who has actually bought something. He went away having spent Zero.

In difficult economic times it has to be realised by the non-paying public that their viewing of the trains is subsidised by the people on the train who have actually dipped into their pockets and coughed up some cash.

On the subject of trains I never cease to wonder why those who are not travelling and don’t intend for any of their cash to see daylight are the ones who moan the most if we run late. Those who have paid normally make some comment along the lines that by running late we are being authentic then sit back to read the visitor guide. The non-paying public are the ones most likely to read the time board outside then come in and ask when the next train is.

Dog walkers don’t get any better with most having just a vocabulary of two words, and those are dog & bowl, they have not been on the advanced course in manners where they would have learnt such words as please, thank you and do you have? They are a regular irritation, especially those who butt in when I am chatting to a paying visitor or I am in the middle of selling tickets. Still at least I get rid of them some poor soul is looking forward to them getting home!

Their is no award this year for the idiot of the year or the best visitor of the year, there are too many contenders for both.

Special mention must be made of some of the non-working members of the railway. Please remember if you come into Orton Mere and want to travel the following things.

  1. We are not psychic, just because you look strange does not mean we will automatically assume you’re a member.
  2. The best way to start a transaction is not to just throw your membership card on the counter and stare at me.
  3. Just because you’re a member does not give you the right to walk in front of others waiting to spend money.
  4. In the case one one chap please remember we need to see your current membership card not one three years old. Because if you think that’s acceptable all that’s going to happen is that you won’t travel at members rate and I will think you’re an idiot.
  5. Also please remember please and thank you go a long way. In fact they will go further than you will if you have left your card at home.

Finally my thanks to the volunteers who have helped me run the station with special thanks to my ever suffering wife who has worked many more Sunday’s than she should have had to, mainly down to others who could not be bothered to get out of their beds during the cold and wet weekends. Special mention also to Tom without whose help I could not have opened most Saturdays this year. Also of course Rosemary who maintains the station garden and also nags me from time to time. To all the volunteers who have helped me in the past year you are appreciated.

I would also like to that the other working members who have through their actions made my year easier, even if in some cases their only action has been to stay away as much as possible. For those who do as little as possible but still call yourself a working member please give a thought to S&T, the civils, that chap who sorts out the phones and all the others who do the less glamorous jobs on the railway, without them you would not have somewhere to play at the weekends.

We will see you all next year no doubt.

Almost there…..

Well this coming weekend sees the final normal services of the year, except for a couple of weekends in November where we are running the Swedish Railcar normal services will resume just after Christmas, with of course the Santa Trains from the end of November up to Christmas eve.

So what’s this year been like then from the perspective of the station.

Well, I think it’s fair to say it won’t go down as the busiest! But that’s due to may factors out the control of the railway. But to end the normal running season on a positive note I have enjoyed the year and a full report will appear on here sometime next week.

You watch it rain this weekend!!!!!



Branching out, Railcam Invasion, A load of drips and a little ray of sunshine

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday saw the railways autumn diesel gala. It was a mixed weekend with the weather and extra activities all playing their part.

From the point of view of my station Orton Mere Friday was the busiest day of the three. We ran brake van rides up the Fletton Branch with two brake vans hauled by the Deltic. It was extremely popular with the visitors, I almost got cramp from writing out all the tickets for each of the eight runs we did. We did not have one complaint, just comments about how they had enjoyed it. All in all a success I think.

Now Saturday saw an invasion by some of the Railcam crowd, and it was nice to put faces to peoples names and chat with them in person. Here is a picture of some of them awaiting the arrival of a service to Peterborough on my platform 2. I will not say who looks as though they are having a doze vertically, I will leave that to your imagination.


If you want to learn more about Railcam then please have a look at their website at you can spend hours there being an anorak in the comfort of your own home. It is very addictive, you just ask Tom who was one of my helpers on Saturday, as soon as he was set up he gave his iPad battery a hammering.

Sunday was a day of two halves with the morning being very wet and the afternoon having some really nice bursts of sunshine. Here are a few pictures from Sunday, you can see how the weather changed through the day.

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Overall we had a good weekend at the station, and there were a nice number of passengers on most trains on all three days.

Certainly one of the most enjoyable ones I have experienced in my twelve years running the station. I only had three people all weekend ask why there was no steam running, that’s an all time low.

One other trend that continued was the lower number of visitors who wanted a copy of the timetable, most seemed to have it on either their table or their smartphone. Technology is overtaking the need for bits of paper, and I am sure the number wanting timetables on paper will drop each year, who know’s we may one day go paper free!!!!


Wot no blog?

The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that there was no blog last week, well there is this week so stop moaning!!

We are coming rapidly to the end of the running season at the railway. It all normally winds down at the end of October. But this year we are running a couple of weekends in November with the Swedish Railcar, it will be interesting to see how busy we are.

This year has been a quiet year at Orton Mere, one of the factors has been the parking charges introduced in the main park area. Although the car parking at Orton Mere is free I think many don’t realise that and think that if they have to pay then they may as well pay at the main park where there are facilities.

The other big problem this year has been staffing, with some of the previous regulars either being ill, moving away or not being as committed to the railway for whatever reason we have at times been hard pressed to staff the station at weekends. With no chance of being able to open in the week.

As I have often said in the past I have better things to do than spend a chunk of my week finding staff, contrary to what many may think I do work in the week running my business and I don’t just sit playing with a computer all day!

Over the winter I will be looking at how we can rectify the problem, but it is not one that can be allowed to continue. I can’t staff a station with fresh air, though it must be said that with the pumping station across the carpark the air is not always fresh!

At some stage in the next three months, most likely when we are not running at weekends I will be looking for volunteers to help with a one day major clean of the station, it is starting to look a bit unloved. This will be on a Saturday or a Sunday, this is advanced warning I will be looking for volunteers!

Right a busy week ahead then we will see what next weekend brings!



Getting all steamed up.

Last weekend saw the steam gala, and whilst not one of the biggest we have done, it was most enjoyable. Despite the rain on Saturday.

Comments received from visitors were good as well, and the two guest locomotives were popular.

Saturday was almost dead visitor wise at my station, the locals don’t come out in the wet. Sunday saw some people travelling but we had more of the none paying public than we have had in a long time, at one time the numbers along the fence made it look like last night of the proms, minus the flags and the smiling faces. It’s a problem that we have at Orton in as much as people can get good pictures from the other side of the fence rather than come on the station where they can be approached and relieved of money.

This coming weekend sees a Diesel service with the Deltic and the class 31, seven services each way with the middle one going up the Fletton branch to Fletton Junction, hopefully that will be popular on both days.

Here are a few pics from the weekend, the dull wet ones are from Saturday, the others are from Sunday!!

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An interesting Bank Holiday.

Well that’s August Bank Holiday out of the way, and most enjoyable it was too.

Largely all services ran on time and the weather across the three days was shall we say variable!

The main services were hauled by Tornado and a Deltic, so there was something to bring in both the steam and the diesel fans, though certainly at Orton Mere we got the impression that there were more visitors for the Deltic than Tornado.

Saturday was for the station the best of the three days, and by the time the heavy rains arrived the visitors were already with us.

At the time of final service it threw it down with rain, here is a picture of the clouds. Not what we expect in August.


But looking on the bright side at least the rain was warm. One passenger passing on last service commented that the water was good for the station hanging baskets, their face was a gem when I pointed out they were plastic!!


This picture of the front of the Deltic shows we were not exactly bathed in sunshine.

Sunday was a tad better weather wise and at least we had the previous days weather to talk about.

Here are a few pictures from Sunday and Tornado grace of Sue my wife.




As you can see the weather was at least drier!!

Monday was the best of the three days with some really nice sunshine. I even managed to take a picture of the first service with Tornado arriving first service from Wansford.

Tornado 29 Aug 2016

So overall how did the weekend go I hear you asking…

Well the answer is that it was excellent especially for the railway overall, and successful weekends certainly boost the funds of the railway which is what it’s all about after all.

It was also nice to meet almost a dozen users of Railcam, some were seen clutching their phones looking at the streaming action at both Wansford and Orton Mere. It also meant that we could see when the services left Wansford.

Grabbing the staff

Above is a picture from the Railcam showing the exchange of the staff when the Deltic arrived at Wansford last Thursday from the NYMR. Details of Railcam can be found at


Finally my thanks to Sue, Tom, Paddy and Rosemary for helping at the station over the weekend. Plus of course thanks to the many others across the railway for working together to ensure the weekend was a success for the railway.



It all depends on the weather.

Now one thing tourism generally always relies on and that’s the weather.

You can organise a super weekend event and if it rains all weekend then you wonder why you bothered. Then on the other hand you can have beautiful sunshine and the visitors come flocking in.

But of course the one thing we can’t control is the weather, and the one thing you can safely say in the UK in the summer and that is it’s a brave person who forecasts the weather a week ahead.

This weekend will be a bit of a lull before the excitement next weekend of August bank holiday. For some strange reason we always remember bank holidays where it’s rained rather than ones where the sun has shone for all three days.

This year we have two guest locomotives pulling the bank holiday services. They are the steam locomotive Tornado and a Deltic which of course is a diesel. So we have something worth looking at for both the steam and the diesel enthusiasts. All we need is the sun to shine. If we do then it will be a cracking three days, if it’s wet then how successful the weekend is will be in the lap of the gods.

Anybody fancy placing a bet on us having sunshine?