Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

Yesterday followed the more-or-less traditional weather pattern here in the dale - dawned bright and sunny, clouded over and got cold and drippy in short order, and cleared again by late afternoon. Looks mostly cloudy out this morning so I guess we're in for much the same today.

During our equipment buying frenzy last Monday we were given permission to go up to the Groverake site and see if there was anything left of interest, so at 1000 we gathered up Dave and headed up to his old alma mater. It was a cold windy day in upper Rookhopeburn, and we spent a couple hours wandering about poking through piles of scrap. Sadly, much of the place has been thoroughly trashed by the dismantling crews who have been working there. Evidently, since closure in 1999 thieves and vandals have done quite a job up there so the owner - the fellow we got out stuff from on Monday decided to scrap the site and pull everything out. He is resisting pulling down the headframes, however, as this is the last evidence of a centuries-old industry that dominated the dale until just recently. Today's photo is of the mine site from up the access road.

Our main objective of the visit was to look for a battery charger for our new old loco. We found some things that were probably battery chargers in some former life, but nothing that had a ghost of a chance on a resurrection. Byron and Dave did manage to scrounge up a pile of old rail ties (known in the trade as "sleepers") so the trip was a bit more that sight-seeing after all. The sleepers looked old, rusted, and thoroughly abused but Dave assured me that they were quite useful, and much better than the alternative of using wood. As we have yet to pick up the company cars, we are still going everywhere in the rental car. I figured the rental company would not appreciate their new vehicles hauling piles of scrap so we made a few heaps about the yard and will retrieve the stuff shortly with our little white Peugot, which should be serviced and ready to go today.

Dropped Dave off back home after our scavenging trip and Byron and I went to the mine to install the water line. This procedure invariably leaves one a bit cold and wet, and given that it was a cold windy day to begin with I think Byron really enjoyed the nice coal fire going at the Grey Bull afterwards. Jonina stayed at the cottage to try and contact the myriad of people we need to speak with in order to get the season underway. The big frustration of the day for her was the compressor rental firm. They seem to have just moved offices and are in complete chaos. Fortunately, the person she spoke with actually remembered us from last year so hopefully we can get one delivered soon.

Back at the cottage, the chef du jour was trying to get supper on when David Rennison pulled up. The "bush telegraph" works with marvelous efficiency in these parts and even though we are here a week earlier than normal he knew. He always seems to have a load of minerals in the back of his van so while catching up on recent events there were flats laid out on the table for everyone to paw through. Jonina managed to find a few things of interest but as I'm still going through the systemic shock of laying out the cash for the recent equipment frenzy I resisted.

This morning we're all traveling down to Wolsingham to pick up the cars from Watson's garage. Byron and I will probably then go to pick up some of the bits we purchased on Monday and haul them off to the mine. The locos, however, are considerably beyond the capacity of any vehicle we have and will await professional transport. Afterwards, Byron and I plan to spend some time poking around at the mine and Jonina will likely continue her telephone hide-and-seek with the compressor rental company.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Headframes at the Groverake Mine.

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