A look at a selection of forthcoming special steam events at Britain’s heritage lines.
The Kent & East Sussex Railway has signed up two visiting locomotives for its May 5-7 Gala. Bodmin & Wenford Railway-based GWR 2-8-0 No. 4247 will give a feeling for what the future holds on the K&ESR since The 4253 Locomotive Company’s ex-Barry condition GWR 2-8-0T No. 4253 is presently being restored at Rolvenden with the objective of it running over the Tenterden to Bodiam line, and potentially on to Robertsbridge at some future stage as the Rother Valley Railway continues to acquire and restore that section of the old line.
The second guest loco is the Gresley Society’s Great Central Railway-based LNER N2 0-6-2T No. 1744, which is looking at something of a continuing tour of British heritage lines this year. It is also confirmed as appearing at the Severn Valley Railway’s March 23-25 Spring Gala and Llangollen’s April 21-29 2012 ‘Steel, Steam & Stars III’ gala and expected to run at seven lines during the coming year.
The Ribble Steam Railway expects to present four locos at its February 18-19 Steam Gala: the Furness Railway Trust’s 0-4-0 FR No. 20, Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST 1147/1908 John Howe, Hunslet ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST 3155/1944 Walkden and the latest completed overhaul at Chain Caul Road, Dave Watkins’ Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST No. 6 (2261/1949).
A new arrival at the RSR to take its turn for restoration to steam is former Niddrie & Benhar Coal Co Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST Niddrie (1833/1924) which has been bought by RSR stalwart, Dave Watkins. After being saved at the end of its days in colliery service, this loco has been stored out of use at the Strathspey Railway for many years but there was little prospect of it being restored for Strathspey service.
THE Warwickshire Industrial Locomotive Preservation Group’s Hunslet 0-6-0T HE686/1898 The Lady Armaghdale – out of ticket and an exhibit in the Severn Valley Railway’s Engine House at Highley - will appear at the NEC over March 14-15 representing the SVR and partner Shropshire attractions during the ‘Best of British and Ireland’ travel show.
GWR No. 4936 Kinlet Hall will arrive at the North Norfolk Railway from the national network over Sheringham crossing to appear in the heritage line’s March 9-11 Spring Steam Gala.
The ‘Hall’ is a new addition to the spring gala line up and will join ‘Black Five’ No. 45337, J15 No. 65421, the M&GNJR Society’s B12 No. 8572 (back from overhaul and carrying apple green livery again), 9F No. 92203 Black Prince and GWR 0-6-2T No. 5619 for the spring event. At present, it is unclear whether Pannier No. L99 (GWR No. 7715) will also participate in the gala.
The NNR also says there could be a ‘surprise’ for its March 9-11 gala. The smart money (if it happens, remember you read it here!) must be on an appearance by the M&GNJR Society’s Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST Wissington (1700/1938). This loco has never steamed in preservation and a lengthy overhaul aimed at achieving just that has been progressing well. Wissington is at Weybourne (much of the earlier overhaul work was done away from the NNR) and appears very close to completion, so maybe it will be in steam – just possibly pulling a short train...
The North Norfolk Railway, cementing its place in the premier league of British heritage railways, has landed a visit by A1 No. 60163 Tornado for its August 31-September 1-2 Grand Steam Gala. The new-build loco which goes down a storm everywhere it appears is expected to arrive at Sheringham off the main line on August 29.
The rest of the line up for the ‘Poppy Line’s’ autumn gala is also pretty well in place and should comprise ‘Black Five’ No. 44767 George Stephenson, 9F No. 92203 Black Prince, B12 No. 8572, GWR 0-6-2T No. 5619 and J15 No. 65421. A seventh loco is also expected to participate and will be confirmed closer to the event. The slot could be filled by Pannier No. L99 (GWR No. 7715) although the possibility of another visitor is being discussed.
The Bodmin & Wenford Railway has announced two significant guest steam attractions for this season.
First up is a visit by The Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s LSWR 02 0-4-4T No. W24 Calbourne to Bodmin’s April 20-22 Spring Steam Spectacular. Not only were LSWR 02s once regularly performers on local passenger services between Padstow and Bodmin North over the original Bodmin & Wadebridge line and even seen on the GWR branch at Bodmin General and Bodmin Road, but this will be the first time Calbourne, built in 1891 and shipped to the Isle of Wight in April 1925, has been seen in action on the British mainland in 87 years!
This Spring Steam Spectacular will live up to its name with Calbourne enabling the B&WR to present a triumvirate of LSWR motive power at Bodmin. The 02 will join T9 4-4-0 No. 30120 and Beattie 2-4-0WT No. 30587 – the first time such a trio has been seen in steam together for around 50 years.
The spring event launches a year of celebrations to mark the 125th anniversary of the Bodmin branch, the actual anniversary being marked by the line’s May 25-27 ‘Bodmin Branch 125’ gala celebration.
This big year for Bodmin will continue with a July 14-15 China Clay Weekend, the September 7-9 Steam Gala & Real Ale Festival, and an October 12-14 ‘Railmotor Weekend’ featuring a visit by GWR Steam Railmotor No. 93 from Didcot. Other than its initial trail runs at Llangollen following completion, this will be the first time the Railmotor has run anywhere away from its Didcot home.
The Bodmin & Wenford Railway is a line progressing in leaps and bounds. Its signalling project at Bodmin General which re-introduced semaphore signals at the station after a gap of 44 years was recognised by presentation of a ‘Highly Commended’ certificate at the National Railway Heritage Awards on December 10.
The West Somerset Railway has confirmed three visiting locomotives for its March 17-18 and 22-25 ‘double weekend’ Spring Gala.
Joint top billing goes to No. 6024 King Edward I (making its final gala appearance before withdrawal for overhaul) and No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester. The guest trio is completed by the gorgeous GWR 0-4-2T No. 1450 combined with auto-trailer No. 178.
The auto train will work Minehead - Dunster shuttle services on the Thursday and Friday and, if no WSR main line shuttles are scheduled, between Bishops Lydeard and Norton Fitzwarren at the weekends.
March 23-25 is an awkward weekend for motive power this year since it features not only part of the WSR event but also the dates for spring galas at the Severn Valley and Mid-Hants Railways, thus limiting availability of big steam locos. The WSR may secure another loco but is making no promises at this stage. That said, the Minehead/Williton based fleet will present quite a show supported by the three guests so there will be no shortage of steam on the Minehead branch.
The Severn Valley Railway has also pretty well firmed up the steam attractions for its March 23-25 Spring Gala. The latest confirmations are visits by the Gresley Society’s LNER N2 0-6-2T No. 1744 and NELPG’s J72 No. 69023 Joem.
The N2 will commence its SVR visit on March 20 and stay on after the gala until April 10. As things stand it is likely to steam on March 1, 6-7, 8-9 as well as the three gala days. Joem was initially going to appear at the SVR’s autumn 2011 event but plans changed and now result in this spring appearance – for the gala only.
The N2 and J72 join previously announced visiting locomotives A4 No. 4492 Dominion of New Zealand (a.k.a. No. 60019 Bittern) and Strathspey Railway-based Caledonian Railway 0-6-0 No. 828 (currently receiving attention in Bridgnorth works after wowing the crowds during the SVR’s autumn event – its first appearance outside Scotland).
Close followers of the steam scene will have realised plans for the SVR’s spring gala have been modified, this event originally being billed as a ‘big engines’ gala, to be followed by a ‘small engines’ approach to the SVR’s autumn gala. Indeed so, but themes and line ups for gala events can become something of a moving feast at times as circumstances and availability alter the best laid ideas.
Quite simply, the Severn Valley encountered difficulty signing up a suitable large LNER loco to promote such a theme in partnership with the A4, not to mention No. 4492 accounting for a not inconsiderable chunk of the budget available for the event. The result is a modified theme, a pair of large locos with known people pulling power, a couple of very attractive smaller engines and, of course, the SVR home fleet. Historically, the spring event does not attract the same numbers as the Severn Valley’s September gala – it will be interesting to see if this attractive line up bucks the trend!
For film buffs - Titfield Thunderbolt Weekend
The North Norfolk Railway is holding a June 22-24 Titfield Thunderbolt Weekend in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Ealing Studios comedy being filmed. The special attraction will be a visit by GWR 0-4-2T No. 1450 and matching auto trailer, with the event also to feature the recently restored North Norfolk-based Wisbech and Upwell Tramcar (the sister vehicle to that used in the film) plus a GWR ‘Toad’ brake van. Sheringham will ‘become’ Mallingford and Holt will be Titfield for the weekend.
For music fans – a Midnight train to…. no, not Georgia
Gladys Knight & the Pips hit the top of the charts in 1973 with the record ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ – and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is picking up on this theme with a ‘Midnight Train to Smallbrook’ in July.
The idea follows up the IOWSR’s 40 hours of continuous operation last June as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations. The popularity of those evening trains will be repeated on July 7 when the last operation will be, you guessed, at midnight and heading for, indeed, Smallbrook Junction.