Some days the first cow of the day turns out to be a rhino.

You may wonder why we haven’t been posting recently. Remember when I wrote

…in fact the Stratford Tourist Board will do almost anything to stop this information from coming to light. If I am pecked to death by swans in the next few days you know who to blame.

Well, it wasn’t that. But nobody bothered to ask! You people just don’t understand the threat of swan attack.

We were in fact waiting around for the gearbox to be rebuilt. Happily we were staying with my brother and his wife, so we were well looked after. Thanks Ant and Carol. There was a delay getting parts, so we finally set out with the reinstalled gearbox yesterday. However, after a couple of miles it became clear that something was wrong. We were only getting about half the thrust that we used to get. So, we turned around, and are heading back to Stourport tomorrow. Today being Sunday, we could not get any work done on the boat, so we unloaded the bikes, cycled into Kidderminster, and took the Severn Valley Railway to Bridgnorth.
Steam Train

Yep, another vintage steam railway, kept running by steam fanatics, with which Britain is exceedingly well endowed. The carriages were vintage too, and Paula and I chose a delightful 1930s coach with a corridor and separate compartments. As the train lurched into motion we were, as usual, watching for the first cows of the day, but those turned out to be two stations away. Instead we got a rhino and some elephants from the local safari park.

The Severn Valley Railway has lots of rolling stock.
Rolling Stock
Rolling Stock
Rolling Stock
That last one is a “Heritage Diesel” which is something like an heirloom rutabaga – sure it’s kind of interesting but it’s still ugly as sin. Not one of the fun sins, like lust or lethargy, but one of those grotesque medieval sins like semipelagianism or sheepbuggering.

There were lots more engines, but Bridgnorth has an even more interesting railway to ride, an insanely steep funicular that climbs a sandstone cliff from the river to the center of town.
Funicular Railway
The original 1891 version was water powered. The two cars had large water tanks underneath them. The water from the bottom car would be emptied out while the top one was filled, until the weight of the top one was enough to send it down the rails, pulling the bottom car up. The water was continually being pumped from the bottom of the system to a cistern at the top for future use. The current version is from a 1950s rebuild, and standing the test of time very well.

After lunch we found ourselves in the Bridgnorth Northgate Museum, one of those wonderful small town museums jam packed with stuff that someone at some time had thought interesting. A 12th century gold ring…
12th century gold ring
the spurs from a fighting cock (cock fighting was popular in the industrial revolution)…
Spurs from fighting cock
late bronze age axe heads…
Bronze age axe heads
a 17th century clock mechanism, and a collection of fire insurance company house plaques, so the firemen would know if you had paid to have your home saved…
17th century clock
and an enormous but chipped ruby.
Let’s not forget the scold’s bridle and the penal cat o’nine tails
Scold's Bridle
Cat o'nine tails

Bridgnorth suffered badly in the Civil War. The castle and walled town were held by royalists, but the parliamentarians started tunneling up through the soft sandstone cliff. The royalists heard them coming, and afraid that the whole cliff might collapse, burned the town and surrendered. The parliamentarians destroyed the castle and used most of the stone to rebuild the damaged buildings, but part of the castle tower remains, leaning at a precarious fifteen degrees, four times the slope of the leaning tower of Pisa.
Bridgnorth castle

On the way back we found another charming carriage with seats all around the inside of the compartment…
… and instructions for ordering lunch or tea from the guard.
Ordering Tea
Tea for two for one shilling and sixpence. Those were the days.

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