by Cliff Thomas

September feast of narrow gauge action reviewed

Published: 1st October 2015

Autumn steam spectaculars in the narrow gauge world

As the main summer season draws to a close it is gala time – and September 2015 was a vintage month for superb events as this round-up shows.

Visiting star for Welshpool & Llanfair gala

Guest locomotives at a Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway gala are a comparative rarity – the last such being an appearance by (then) newly overhauled Manning Wardle 0-6-2T Chevallier in 2010 before it moved on to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.

W&LLR’s September 5-6 Steam Gala was different from those of recent times with much effort expended on raising the profile of the event, crowned by a guest appearance by Statfold Barn Railway’s O&K 0-4-4-0T Mallet (1473/1905) Pakis Baru No. 5. The visitor worked demonstration freight shuttles between Llanfair and Cyfronydd.

W&L’s original Beyer Peacock 0-6-0Ts The Earl and Countess handled most passenger trains, supported by Kerr Stuart 0-6-2T Joan. The upgraded event also featured a night photo shoot at Llanfair, daytime displays at both of W&LLR’s termini and Barclay 0-4-0T Dougal (2207/1946) on a trailer, initially at Raven Square then hauled to Castle Caereinion by Fowler traction engine Foremost on the Saturday and delivered to Llanfair Caereinion yard, also by Foremost, on the Sunday.

Nine steam for LBR showpiece

Leighton Buzzard Railway’s September 12-13 Steam-Up Weekend featured no less than three visiting steam locos: Statfold Barn Railway’s Corpet-Louvet 0-6-0PT Minas de Aller No. 2 (439/1884), O&K 0-6-0WT Sao Domingos (11784/1928) from Great Bush Railway and privately owned ex-Granton gasworks, Edinburgh, Andrew Barclay 0-4-0T Jack.

Sao Domingos, making its first ever visit to a railway away from its Tinkers Park home, worked double-headed with LBR’s O&K 0-4-0WT P C Allen (5834/1912) – something of an Iberian Peninsular combination since the former originally worked in the coalfields of northern Portugal while the latter hailed from a chemical plant in northern Spain.

Minas de Aller No. 2 continued the theme having at one time worked in the Asturias coalfield in northern Spain. To round off these one-time links, LBR resident O&K 0-6-0WT Pedemoura, in the latter stages of restoration and in Page’s Park shed, also used to work in northern Portugal.

In addition to P C Allen, LBR-based locos in steam comprised De Winton 0-4-0VBT Chaloner, Baguley 0-4-0T Rishra, Graham Morris’ Kerr Stuart 0-4-0ST ‘Wren’ Peter Pan, O&K 0-6-0WT Elf and Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR No. 778. The WDLR Baldwin was making its final appearances before withdrawal for overhaul.

The innovative timetable involved regular locomotive changes at each end of the line, plus shuttles from each terminus. A sand skip train top-and-tailed by Motor Rail Simplexes ran between Stonehenge Works and Shenley Hill Road, while a ‘Military Train’ (normally comprising WW1 D wagons) ran over the Page’s Park to Leedon section.

Some passenger services from Page’s Park even featured a ‘parallel departure’ with a top-and-tailed freight leaving the old platform line to run over the yard connecting road parallel to the main line alongside a passenger departure from the main platform

The gala closed with a freight composed of log and D wagons running from Page’s Park to Stonehenge Works behind Minas de Aller No. 2 and Jack.

Superpower Great and Small at Welsh Highland

Over the same weekend (September 11-13) as the Bedfordshire sand lines annual bash, Welsh Highland Railway’s Superpower event took place. Tagged ‘Great and Small II’ (it followed a similar format to the 2013 edition at WHR) the main focus was on Dinas and the northern end of the line.

An intensive shuttle involving small locomotives and short trains ran between Caernarfon and Rhyd Ddu while Dinas yard featured three locos in steam, including Statfold Barn Railway’s visiting Hunslet 0-4-0ST Jack Lane which provided footplate rides and a mini slate shunt challenge.

In total the event saw 11 locomotives in action comprising Beyer-Garratt NG/G16 Nos. 87 and 138, Hunslet 2-4-0STTs Linda and Blanche, new-build Manning Wardle 2-6-2T Lyd, Hunslet 0-4-0STs Lilla, Britomart (privately owned, Ffestiniog Railway based) Hugh Napier (National Trust) and Jack Lane (Statfold Barn), England 0-4-0STT Prince and Funkey B-B DH Castell Caernarfon.

Mixed traction for Perrygrove gala

Perrygrove Railway’s annual gala (September 19-20 this year) normally coincides with an Open Day at the nearby narrow gauge engineering works of Alan Keef Ltd. With Keef’s having decided to rest their event this year (it will be back in 2016) Perrygrove anticipated a reduction in enthusiast visitor numbers so opted not to sign up a high-profile visiting steam loco.

Maybe not high-profile, but nevertheless interesting in its own right, the 15in gauge line’s 2015 gala guest was Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway’s p/way inspection vehicle Scooter. Technically, Baldwin 0-4-0 tender loco Soony was also a visitor since it is not part of the Perrygrove fleet. That said, Soony appears to have become a semi-resident in Perrygrove’s shed so it rather depends how one counts these things!

Scooter and Soony shared Perrygrove station - Rookwood shuttle duties, while Perrygrove’s Exmoor 0-4-2T Spirit of Adventure, Keef 2-6-2T Lydia and ex-Bush Mill Railway (Tasmania) 0-4-0+0-4-0 Garratt Tasmania handled full-line passenger trains. Also in periodic action was Lister 40407/1954 Pylon.

With the Alan Keef Ltd event back on the calendar in 2016 Perrygrove is planning to hold a high profile gala over the same weekend centred on Exmoor Steam Railway-built locomotives. Four visiting Exmoor locos are already booked to join resident Spirit of Adventure and ex-Longleat 0-6-2T 323/2004 John Hayton. The latter, currently out of ticket, was acquired from Longleat earlier this year by a private owner who will base it at Perrygrove. It will be overhauled and - renamed Ann – back in steam by next years’ event.

Industrial visitors demonstrated at Lea Bailey

The fledgling 2ft gauge Lea Bailey Light Railway, capturing the feel of a small Dean Forest industrial line serving a mine, is at the opposite end of the scale from the big events at established narrow gauge lines. In recent years the project has held open days concurrent with Alan Keef Ltd and Perrygrove Railway’s events. This year Lea Bailey’s September 19-20 contribution to the ‘Forest Narrow Gauge 2015’ weekend included visits by two appropriate internal combustion locomotives.

Brian Faulkner brought his ex-HMP North Sea Camp, Lincolnshire, petrol Lister Autotruck (33650/1949) from his private line in Gloucester, while Alan Keef’s AK2/1976 Skippy – effectively a self-propelled V-skip - made the short trip from Alan Keef Ltd’s Lealine works to provide demonstrations of what it was designed to do, deliver ballast to newly laid track. In this instance, the visit helped LBLR volunteers by dropping stone around a new siding laid behind the main shed at the Gold Mine site.

‘Joffre’ reunion at WLLR

West Lancashire Light Railway’s September 19-20 ‘Joffre 100’ event was not billed as a conventional gala, but was highly significant – not only did it celebrate the 100th anniversary of WLLR’s own Kerr Stuart ‘Joffre’ 0-6-0T+WT No. 2045 Joffre, but with fellow ‘Joffre’ 0-6-0T+WT No. 3014 visiting from the Moseley Railway Trust’s collection at the Apedale Valley Light Railway represented the first time in the preservation era two WW1 ‘Joffre’ class locos had ever been in steam together.

Steam at Felin Fawr

The 50th anniversary of the last locomotive to work in Penrhyn slate quarry near Bethesda, North Wales, and closure of Penrhyn’s Coed-y-Parc works site was marked by visits to the short section of line now revived by Penrhyn Quarry Railway at the Felin Fawr site by one-time Penrhyn locos on September 19-20.

Statfold Barn Railway’s Hunslet 0-4-0ST Sybil Mary and Avonside 0-4-0T Marchlyn were in steam, while Martyn Ashworth’s as-yet unrestored ex-Penrhyn Avonside 0-4-0ST Ogwen (repatriated from USA in May 2012) was also present to be reunited with Marchlyn – exactly 50 years after the Arnette auction in Tennessee when the Avonside pair (Marchlyn 2064/1933 and Ogwen 2066/1933) were sold to go their respective ways.

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