Sunday 20 September 2015

Bridges and Brian

Bridges are one thing, locks another. But sometimes you come across them in close proximity. Yesterday we met a swing bridge in the middle of a lock! Fortunately it's left open most of the time.

Today's pairing was at Thorne, where the bridge is just before the lock (unless you're going the other way, of course). The bridge is manually operated, in that you have to close the barriers by hand and push it open, but electrically controlled, in that it will only open when the lock is full. We were just working all this out, when CRT's Brian appeared.

He'd been fetched from Rotherham, 40 minutes drive away, on an emergency call, because a boat had reported being stuck in the lock. He wasn't well pleased that they'd not phoned again to say they'd escaped. However, he helped us through very willingly. Later on we had reason to be glad that he'd been brought across.

We hooked up with a couple on NB Two Can, who were also going to Keadby. Working in tandem speeds everything up – you do one bridge, they go through and get a head start to open the next. So we opened Moores Swing Bridge and they duly went on to open the next, a mile further on. When my best beloved pressed the close button on the controller, the bridge began to close, but ever so slowly. After four or five minutes it had finally got round, while several car drivers practised patience, but then the console showed an error message, telling us that we had to phone CRT. The road barriers had not been released, so the cars weren't going anywhere – except back where they had come from.

We rang CRT and, within just a few minutes, Brian appeared in his van. Oh yes, he said, it did this last time. We went on our way while he sorted it out, and caught up NB Two Can a couple of bridges later.

The trip to Keadby presents some wonders. The carpet of duckweed got thicker and thicker, the wind farms created the only vertical interest across this flat, fertile countryside, and we got a view of a tractor trailer which had an amazing (to me) mechanism for stacking bales of straw.

When it reached the 20 foot high stacks of bales in the field, the trailer tipped its load backwards – they were supported by a couple of large prongs – and raised them to a vertical position against the bales already stacked. Then a quick withdrawal, fork-lift truck style,  and the deed was done. So simple, but I'd never seen it before.

The greatest wonder was the Vazon sliding railway bridge, just beyond the last swing bridge.

Nicholson's guide says to sound your horn as you approach. The couple on NB Two Can said the guy in the control room would see you coming anyway.

This is where quite a busy railway line crosses the canal.

The controller presses his buttons, and the bridge begins to slide back…

until there's room for the boat to get through.

We were followed through by our companions…

and the controller shut the bridge behind them.

So that's a first, and possibly a last, since there are not many of these things in the world.

Tomorrow we're going to have a rest day, not because today we travelled for over five hours instead of observing the Sabbath, but because the Met Office says it's going to pelt with rain, and we want our first experience of going up the tidal Trent to be bathed in sunshine.


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