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Published 16th April 2012
WORCESTERSHIRE - Ten locos were in action during the Severn Valley Railway’s March 23-25 Spring Gala – no less than five being guest attractions. Which was the star turn? Frankly, it all rather depends on one’s personal viewpoint.
Certainly the appearance of A4 Bittern was a star turn. Latterly the A4 has been running as No. 4492 Dominion of New Zealand in blue livery with full streamlined valances fitted. The livery and valances were present when the loco arrived from its Southall base, but it was back carrying its Bittern nameplates and running as No. 4464. Naturally it was matched up with the SVR’s rake of Gresley teak carriages.
Strathspey Railway-based Caledonian Railway 0-6-0 No. 828 took the SVR by storm when it appeared for the first time outside its native Scotland at last year’s Autumn Gala. The loco stayed on at the SVR for work to be undertaken at Bridgnorth MPD through the winter which including removing its wheelsets, which went to Riley and Sons (E) Ltd in Bury for new tyres to be fitted. There was a point when doubts crept in over whether No. 828 would be reassembled in time for the spring event, but it was – and it looked fantastic.
Many had been looking forward to seeing the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group’s lovely J72 No. 69023 Joem, but there was a bit of a pre-event scare here as well. The loco commenced working Grosmont - Goathland steam shuttles as part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s February 12-19 Branch Line Week as planned (these trains connecting with a DMU service between Pickering and Goathland) but had to be pulled out of the final two days of these operations with steam leaking from the joint between the two halves of the cylinder block. A high-tech repair involving injecting a new sealant into the joint face (a technique apparently employed in industry to seal leaks on steam turbines) was tried. Initially this seemed not to have worked, but a second attempt during the first week of March resulted in the NYMR giving clearance to run. Joem therefore made the show, and looked a treat!
Fortunately, no pre-event alarm bells rang concerning the visit of The Gresley Society’s Great Central Railway-based LNER N2 0-6-2T No. 1744 which also shone in the spring sunshine. However, amid the various concerns over other intended guests the SVR hedged its bets and signed up Roger Hibbert's Great Central Railway-based LMS 3F No. 47406 for the gala roster.
As things transpired, all intended guests appeared, gala visitors got some extra steam treats and the pressure was off the home fleet. Well, when you have five guest locos you may as well put them to full use! The SVR-based locos in action comprised Stanier Mogul No. 42968, Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0 No. 43106, No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor and Prairies Nos. 4566 and 5164.
The event featured all-line and ‘local’ (part-line) trains, early and late freight operations and additional variety with the turning of some locos on the ‘table at Kidderminster on the Saturday evening.
Early indications were that the attractive line-up for the event drew very satisfying visitor numbers, doubtless boosted not only by the warm sunny weather (which was maybe a shade frustrating for photographers after spectacular exhaust effects but hey, you cannot have everything!) but also the extra daylight on the Sunday following the change to BST in the middle of the weekend.
Locomotives inevitably catch all the attention during gala events, but the teak set included something rather special, LNER Kitchen Car No. 7960 making its post-restoration debut as a passenger vehicle – in fact, probably its first use as a passenger vehicle since circa 1960.
Originally brought to the SVR as a private project, its owner spent some £40,000 over several years while the vehicle was at Bewdley. Following his death 18 months ago it was gifted to the SVR Rolling Stock Trust and work continued at Kidderminster. It is mechanically complete, enabling its use for the first time in 21 years during the gala. For a supplementary fare passengers were able to ride in the completed 1st and 3rd class saloons and view the largely completed pantry. The kitchen area still has to be restored.