Find details here on how to visit the biggest and best steam gala events by rail.
The Severn Valley Railway’s big event of the year, its September 23-25 Autumn Gala, has a cracking line-up of motive power headed by two stunning blue liveried locomotives. Which of the pair is the star will depend on individual preferences, but both are going to present a stunning sight on the Kidderminster to Bridgnorth line.
In no particular order, beautiful blue-painted 1899-vintage Caledonian Railway 0-6-0 No. 828 is visiting the gala from Scotland. In fact, this will be the first appearance of No. 828 on any heritage line other than its Strathspey Railway home. Owned by the Scottish Locomotive Preservation Trust Fund it is the only surviving locomotive of pure John F McIntosh design in Britain. No. 828 returned to steam following an overhaul in October 2009 and was unveiled in its full CR lined blue livery in June 2010.
The rival for top honours will be the Great Western Society’s GWR ‘King’ No. 6023 King Edward II in its breathtaking BR blue livery. Withdrawn by BR on June 19 1962 restoration was widely considered ‘mission impossible’ after a driving wheelset was cut apart at Barry scrapyard. The GWS proved the contrary, unveiling the double-chimney ‘King’ at Didcot on March 31 this year when it hauled its first passenger trains for some 49 years.
That is not all. Also visiting the gala will be new-build A1 No. 60163 Tornado which has wowed the crowds everywhere it has appeared, No. 5029 Nunney Castle from Tyseley and Mid-Hants Railway-based 9F 2-10-0 No. 92212 which is spending three months at the Severn Valley to boost its summer steam fleet.
The five big guest locomotives will be supported by the SVR’s own fleet to produce what promises to be a spectacular event.
The SVR is easily reached from the national network, the heritage line’s own Kidderminster Town station being adjacent to the national network station.
Autumn is a good time to be visiting big heritage steam events. The West Somerset Railway, Britain’s longest standard gauge steam line, is holding its Autumn Steam Gala over September 20-October 2.
The WSR is a railway noted for bringing in visiting locos to produce big events, but for this autumn spectacular it is able to take a slightly different approach – unveiling two freshly overhauled locomotives to provide the headline attractions.
The West Somerset’s own ‘Manor’ No. 7828 Odney Manor ran on the WSR from 1995 (following restoration from ex-Barry condition by its then owner) until withdrawal in the autumn of 2002. The railway purchased it in 2004 and set about a ‘down to the last nut and bolt’ overhaul at Minehead which carried an estimated £600,000 price tag – without including labour!
No. 7828 was ceremonially named Norton Manor 40 Commando at Minehead in June. The name, which No. 7828 will carry for an undefined period, is in honour of 40 Commando whose Norton Manor base backs on to the WSR line at Norton Fitzwarren and recognises the contribution and sacrifice made by the unit in Afghanistan combat service.
The gala should also feature privately owned GWR ‘Modified Hall’ No. 6960 Raveningham Hall back in steam following an overhaul which has been largely undertaken in the works at Williton alongside the WSR.
Although very much a Great Western line, the gala will also feature rebuilt SR ‘West Country’ No. 34046 Braunton, currently based at Williton where it was restored and shortly to make its main line debut, plus a guest appearance by LNER N2 0-6-2T No. 1744 from its Great Central Railway base.
Locomotive 5542 Ltd’s GWR Small Prairie No. 5542, a loco long associated with the WSR, will also visit, joining five home-fleet locos; the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Fund’s GWR No. 3850, Prairies Nos. 4160 and 5553, WSR Mogul No. 9351 and S&DJR 7F No. 88. It is possible a further large guest loco will be added to the line-up, potentially raising the total to 11 steam locomotives.
The West Somerset Railway has a main line connection at Norton Fitzwarren although does not run regular passengers trains over this link – but is likely to do so for this gala.
Plans are still being finalised but it is anticipated that First Great Western will run a shuttle service between Taunton main line station and the WSR’s Bishops Lydeard terminus during the event enabling visitors to travel to the event by rail. It is possible (but at this stage not confirmed) that the first train on each day might provide a through service from Bristol.
First Great Western and Arriva Cross Country trains serve Taunton from as far away as Penzance, London Paddington, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds.