10th March 2015
Well, it turned out that Jan and Glyn had chosen the right day to drive down to Braunston with bright sunshine from early in the morning, lasting all day. We had to take the engine down to Johnno at Union Canal Carriers, Braunston Bottom Lock via Sheet Stores in Long Eaton.
The day began with the van calling at Jan’s house and then setting off through the fag end of the Chesterfield rush hour before being launched on to the M1, then into the patient trundle through the 50 m.p.h. system. Still, never mind, the only thing we could find to complain about was that the sun was too bright!
Sheet Stores was bathed in golden sunlight as we arrived, highlighting the picturesque potholes and the puddles along the approach. Jan quickly found Paul who shuffled a couple of boats about before starting up his Fork Lift and then picking up our engine to take it into the van in the car park. I have dim memories of praising the side loading door in an earlier piece and, once again, I respect the memory of the famous inventor, I.N. Side. Never mind all that; Paul did a high precision steering job to get the engine through the side door and up against the forward bulkhead in the van. All that was left was for the engine to be roped down while Paul and Jan did Planning and Arranging. Then – Off to Braunston!
Another hour on the motorway – but not too boring. One advantage of a 1½ ton van is that you sit significantly higher than the average car and so get a decent view of the scenery. Admittedly, some of the scenery was of giant, steel sheds but, hey, the sun still warmly shone! Jan liked the vista once we had turned off the M1 and got onto the rural bit after DIRFT. That’s Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal and the idea is that European persons can fill a container with whatever they make, drop it on a train, take it to DIRFT, unload the container and distribute their stuff by rail or the M1, or the A5, or the A14, etc. It’s a good idea and would be even better if we had retained the Great Central Railway with its Continental Loading Gauge!
Part of DIRFT sits on the old Rugby radio station site. It was an important site in the forefront of technology in the 1920s. It was built for long wave transmissions to every part of the Empire all round the world. The first Transatlantic telephone service was run from here. By Midlands standards, the ground here is quite high and, until about ten years ago, there were very high radio antennae towers here, 820 feet above ground, if memory serves. If you were going along the Twenty-Mile on the Leicester Line and then on the North Oxford you could see them for two days.
We dropped down from the high ground into the valley where Braunston is hidden. A turn into Dark Lane, then into the little track down to the boatyards, over the bridge at the lock tail and we had arrived at the old pump house with Johnno himself waiting for us. Various discussions first, then vehicle shuffling much like an hour earlier at Sheet Stores and there we were – the engine out of the van and safely delivered as required. Then much talk about engines, boats and people followed by musings on what to do with our engine and the taking of silly photos. Johnno declared that he had to get back to work while Glyn and Jan, faint from lack of sustenance, set off to The Plough where the nice lady made us eat her famous fish and chips lest we fade away like slender wraiths.
And that was it, really. The best part of two hours droning back up the M1 with the merry chatter giving way to zombie-like staring through the windscreen after passing Leicester. Finally, back to Chesterfield.