Ricket

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Blanche is also known as Ricket. Here is the origin of the nickname, as told by by Blanche's minder


Back in 1980 at Bold Colliery they did a recreation of the Rainhill Trials using replicas of the originals. They proved to be as temperamental as the originals. Of note was the replica of Rocket, it really didn't like the colliery track and parted company with it more than once.

At that time, before computers had really taken over typesetting the national newspapers one in particular was noted for its spelling mistakes to the extent it was often referred to as the Grauniad. In reporting the Bold Colliery carry on it said that the Ricket had fallen off the track.

Now teleport yourself to Wales, around the same time. Blanche is working trains on the Sunday and whilst running round in Port the tender decided on a little off roading. At the time Blanche had plain bearing axle boxes on the tender and no one noticed when putting her back on the track that the actual bearing had become displaced which meant the tender was only sitting on three bearings.

Fast forward to the beer train. [Quick note - at that time the area pubs were closed on Sunday but that didn't apply to the trains so we ran the Sunday evening beer train which was sometimes re-marshalled to include two buffet cars, one for the staff and vols and one for the public] Blanche made it up the line with the beer train OK and about half way down again before, on whistling curve, the three point suspension showed its design flaw and on a left hand bend the tender went straight on and hit the wall. The beer train was late home that night and with nothing better to do than drink beer whilst awaiting rescue the similarity hit someone's probably not very clear mind and Blanche became Ricket in FR nicknames. Naturally her sister was automatically called Nivelty.

Fast forward again to around 1991. Ricket is out of service pending overhaul, her 100th Birthday is approaching and someone thinking they were making good use of available labour had got a bunch of charlies with little or no steam engine experience to take it to bits. Sure they labelled the parts but when you are faced with a truck load of bits of pipe all labelled "a bit of Blanche" or "more Blanche" it's not too helpful.

Anyway about this time we were having one of those regular bright ideas about getting footplate staff more involved in mending them and I was being volunteered to get a gang to do a boiler lift on Prince. I left for a days driving thinking that one over and when I got back the CME wanted to take me for a beer. I should have known better, when I sobered up I found I was leading an as yet non existent team to get Ricket back together in time for the biggest gala North Wales has seen - the Hunslet 100.

Given the engine was completely stripped and knackered this was a tall order. We clearly needed a rallying call and as Ricket needed rescuing we became RicketRescue. As well as badges, tee shirts etc we had our own headed note paper spoofing the FR Co paper but with a silhouette of Blanche instead of a Fairlie and showing our registered office as the bar of the Australia.

It is a matter of record that we made it in time for the event and generally it is known that it was a bit in the nick of time at the end as it was fully documented in the society magazine. I would say that this didn't really convey the ridiculous hours a completely voluntary team put in to the detriment of family life, relationships, wallet, careers etc. What it did do was cement the existence of RicketRescue as the bunch of people who look after Ricket. The personnel have changed over the years but the core group remain the same. The goals are the same and the most recent success has been managing the acquisition of the new boiler and raising the majority of the money for it even if it is the society claiming to have done this.

The engine also has a support site, aptly entitled Ricket Rescue, which detailed her return to active service. Click here (external site)

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