Published: 28th November 2014
‘Steel, Steam & Stars’ (SSS) super-galas are held every few years to raise money towards construction of new-build No. 6880 Betton Grange, which is being built at Llangollen. These gala events are organised by the society, which in effect hires the Llangollen Railway as the venue.
In many respects the ‘SSS’ gala concept introduced a new form of standard gauge steam event to the heritage railway scene – the theory was that if you sign up a mouth watering array of visiting locomotives and produce a spectacular show you will be rewarded by large visitor numbers.
Being expensive to produce they represent a not inconsiderable gamble, but have thus far reaped the appropriate reward by producing profits which boost construction of No. 6880 Betton Grange. Other heritage lines have adopted the ‘speculate to accumulate’ principle and run extended events, but for huge numbers of enthusiasts, ‘Steel, Steam & Stars’ events remain a ‘must’ on the visits calendar – if only for the awesome finale which involves every participating steam locomotive being hooked together at Deeside Loop to make a thunderous ground-shaking late afternoon arrival at Carrog.
The first batch of locomotives to visit the 2015 event have been announced. These comprise newly-overhauled ‘West Country’ No. 34092 City of Wells (for the time being known simply as Wells pending an official re-dedication) from the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, Mid-Hants Railway-based 9F 2-10-0 No. 92212 (owned by Jeremy Hosking), GWR 2251 class 0-6-0 No. 3205 from the South Devon Railway and Mike Little’s ever-popular GWR 0-4-2T No. 1450.
As in past events, evening trains will feature and there will be a beer festival at Llangollen. A steady stream of announcements concerning additional visiting locomotives and other attractions can be anticipated over the coming months.
‘Steel, Steam & Stars I’ in 2007 was a three-day event over April 20-22. ‘Steel, Steam & Stars II’ in 2009 expanded to cover nine days (April 18-26) and the 2012 ‘Steel, Steam & Stars III’ gala followed a similar format (April 21-29). The three editions thus far have featured around ten locomotives in action on the standard gauge line, supplemented in the last two events by narrow gauge (on temporary 2ft gauge track at Carrog) and miniature locos in operation.
The format for the 2015 event is slightly different comprising six days of operating over two long weekends. The 2012 mega-gala saw trains work over the then-new Carrog to Bonwm extension. With the extension to Corwen now completed (the first passenger trains worked to Corwen – for donors to the extension project – on October 22 2014) operations to Corwen can be anticipated during ‘Steel, Steam & Stars IV’.
Although the Llangollen Railway runs its own annual galas, the ‘Steel, Steam & Stars’ events are by a wide margin the biggest steam extravaganzas to run on the line which parallels the River Dee along the valley from Llangollen to Carrog, and now Corwen.