by Phil Marsh

Winter steam operations on Britain’s heritage lines

Published: 26th January 2015

Santa has gone but a winter feast of steam remains to be enjoyed around the country

Great Central Railway - January 30-February 1

The Great Central Railway’s Winter Gala is always a major steam bash. Headline guests for the January 30-February 1 event are Dinmore Manor Locomotive Ltd’s No. 7820 Dinmore Manor (visiting from its Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway base) and Severn Valley Railway-based Hawksworth Pannier No. 1501. For added interest, the non-authentic ‘red 8F’ No. 48624 will appear in its new weathered BR black guise for the first time and the NRM’s No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell is also expected to be in action.

The event promises to turn out five steam locos on the Friday and a full eight-strong fleet for the weekend dates.

The Saturday evening features the return of the GCR Twilight Show at Quorn & Woodhouse station, starting from 16.30. As dusk falls, there will be an intense period of activity including freight trains and a night time non-stop mail drop by the TPO train – all fully narrated and accompanied by the sounds of the block bells from the signal box relayed over speakers. Locomotives will be turned on the turntable with the Butler Henderson café staying open to provide refreshments.

Full details can be found at http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/special-events/winter-gala-30th-31st-jan-1st-feb/ .

Mid-Hants Railway - February 13-15

Streamlined LNER A4 No. 4464 Bittern and ‘Britannia’ No. 70000 Britannia are the headline acts for the Mid-Hants Railway’s February 13-15 Spring Steam Gala – a date moved forward from its more traditional March slot to ensure it is clear of other events. The two stars of the Jeremy Hosking stable will join an impressive home fleet comprising NRM-owned SR ‘Schools’ No. 925 Cheltenham and SR No. 850 Lord Nelson, ‘West Country’ No. 34007 Wadebridge, 9F No. 92212 (MHR-based, owned by Jeremy Hosking) and Stanier ‘Black Five’ No.45379.

The three-day event features an intensive timetable, demonstration freight train in addition to passenger services plus behind the scenes shed tours and viewing galleries.

Get to the event by national rail to Alton station, which is also the Watercress Line’s terminus, or if arriving by car Ropley is probably the best bet with free parking in the field adjacent to the station.

Locomotion - February 14-15

The NRM’s Shildon outstation is holding a steam event themed around Edith Nesbit's classic 'The Railway Children' story. A central feature is the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway’s out of ticket ‘57xx’ Pannier No. 5775, displayed in the (fictitious!) Great Northern & Southern Railway ochre/brown livery it carried when staring in the 1970 film adaptation of ‘The Railway Children’.

Steam on the running line will be provided by the North East Locomotive Preservation Group’s J72 No. 69023 Joem.

South Devon Railway - February 14-22

The South Devon Railway anticipates two showcase locomotives taking centre stage for its February 14-22 Branch Line gala week event. Booked as a guest locomotive is the Severn Valley’s BR black liveried Small Prairie No. 4566. Vying with the visiting attraction should be the long-awaited appearance of the SDR’s own Pannier No. 6412.

Purchased in dismantled form from the West Somerset Railway Association in late 2008, overhauling No. 6412 has taken far longer than anticipated with steps forward seemingly uncovering further issues needing to be addressed. The end really does seem to be in sight with the SDR anticipating the 0-6-0PT appearing in steam on the branch after a 35 year absence (it hauled the reopening special train over the Buckfastleigh-Totnes branch in 1969, but under the line’s previous Dart Valley ownership) and making its debut in revenue earning service under the ownership of today’s SDR.

Finished in a BR green livery and auto-fitted, No. 6412 is expected to work auto trains with trailers W225 (which is being repainted maroon) and W228, already maroon, to produce an alluring, quite probably unique in preservation, BR (WR) branch cameo scene. While not guaranteed, a third auto coach might be available, in GWR colours, if ongoing restoration is completed.

Also to appear at the Branch Line event after an absence, albeit much shorter, is the SDR’s GWR 0-6-0PT No. 1369 which has returned to Buckfastleigh after a hire spell at the Chinnor and Princess Risborough Railway. Following its annual examination the opportunity has been taken to replace the chimney, the new chimney being the same as that fitted to No. 6412, both having been produced at the same time.

Also set to steam for the event are SDR stalwarts GWR 2251 class 0-6-0 No. 3205 (BR green livery) and London Transport liveried 57xx Pannier No. L92 (nee GWR No. 5786) supported by Railcar W55000. As may be expected given the nature of the event, auto trains, passenger services, mixed traffic trains and ‘Bubblecar’ railcar operations, all orientated to portray typical branch line traffic through the years, will feature - with the odd freight thrown in to top off the package.

What more could you want? Well, maybe the Real Ale festival at Staverton with supporting late trains in the evenings might be the icing on the cake!

Nearest main line station is Totnes with access by foot (including a pedestrian bridge over the River Dart) to SDR’s Totnes Littlehempston station.

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