Kent’s Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway made a late decision to hold an October 30 Autumn Steam Gala with pre-event publicity anticipated steaming at least five locomotives.
Six were actually in action at this gem of a railway plus cameo appearances by two of the 2ft gauge line’s diesel locos to add interest to an event squarely aimed at the enthusiast.
Built on private property it holds around seven public opening days each year. In many respects the B&WLR is a narrow gauge locomotive collection with a short, but nevertheless interesting, running line around the perimeter of the property.
This encompasses impeccable stations in the woods, a sharp climb to ensure the steam locos have work to do and a running shed/museum building (with turntable outside its doors) which is the envy of many a public railway.
The regularity, and quality, of the restorations turned out by what amounts to a small group of friends in the workshops never ceases to amaze. In the 36 years the railway has existed, this small team has restored 10 steam locomotives and three diesels, built six bogie carriages from scratch and renovated a small fleet of ex-War Department goods wagons.
The 2ft gauge collection includes 9 steam locomotives (eight of which are presently in ticket) and three diesels. There are locos of other gauges, including miniature, in the museum along with tractors, traction engines and road vehicles plus a substantial G scale model railway.
Three locos returned to full operation since the start of this year were in action for the October 30 event: Fowler 0-4-2T 13573/1912 Zambezi and O&K 0-4-0WT 12722/1936 Helga (following long and painstaking restorations) and Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0DM Wormshill (an extensive reconstruction of a one-time mines locomotive).
Also in steam were Fowler 0-6-0WT 18800/1930 Limpopo, O&K 0-4-0WT 5668/1912 Eigiau, Decauville 0-4-2T 246/1897 Victory (all based at the B&WLR) plus a visiting loco, Andrew Barclay 0-4-0T 984/1903 Darent from the private Eynsford Light Railway. Resident Baguley Drewry 4wDM Bredgar made up the final loco in action for this event.
Many of the locomotives originally worked in industry and did not carry names. All the restorations are now named, with the policy following themes such as locations (in the vicinity of the B&WLR or African rivers) and ladies (Germanic or British, broadly appropriate to the country of manufacture).
The 2ft gauge locos not running on the day were 0-4-0WT Bronhilde (a companion for Helga!), 0-4-0ST Armistice (a match for Victory!) 0-6-0WT Katie and 0-4-0ST Lady Joan, while recently restored Simplex Bicknor was displayed with an appropriate train of skip wagons.
Sun was in limited supply for this event, organised at rather short notice, but there was a reasonably full car park and enjoyment in abundance for those ‘in the know’, which included a group of French enthusiasts who came over for the day.
Try to visit one of next year’s Open Days if you can – see for more details of what may well be one of the most underrated narrow gauge lines in the country.