By Cliff Thomas

Last chance for big steam action in the south of England

Published: 8th October 2016

Big locos feature in end of season events

Looking for late season steam? Missed Great Central Railway’s Autumn Gala featuring 10 ten locos in steam and around 80 movements daily, or perhaps needing a further steam fix after such a spectacular show?

With easy access by rail from London and the south coast, the Mid-Hants Railway and Bluebell Railway have upcoming events which could fit the bill before heritage lines take a break from intensive action before hitting the tracks again for the Santa season.

Mid-Hants Autumn Steam Gala

Getting to the Mid-Hants Railway’s October 21-23 Autumn Steam Gala by rail could not be easier – the heritage line’s Alton station is right alongside the national network terminus. Trains run direct from London Waterloo half-hourly via Woking and Aldershot taking just over an hour.

The Mid-Hants gala line-up includes no less than three guest engines. The visitors comprise LMS No. 46100 Royal Scot , S&DJR 7F No. 53809 and Severn Valley Railway’s Ivatt 2-6-0 No. 43106 a.k.a. ‘The Flying Pig’.

The home fleet will be drawn from LMS ‘Black Five’ No. 45379, BR 9F No. 92212, SR Schools Class No. 925 Cheltenham and LMS Ivatt 2MT No. 41312.

Giants of Steam at Bluebell Railway

A week later, over October 28-30, the Bluebell Railway is holding its annual Giants of Steam event. Again, there is easy access by rail with main line trains serving East Grinstead station with direct trains from London.

Naturally, the Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, via Horsted Keynes and Kingscote, heritage line will be offering an intensive timetable with the star guest locomotive being The M&GN Society’s North Norfolk Railway-based B12 4-6-0 No. 8572. As the event approached, the Bluebell also hoped to firm up a projected additional visitor, the NRM’s No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell.

The Giants of Steam concept does what it says on the tin, presenting an event featuring large steam locomotives. Bluebell residents BR Standard 5MT No. 73082 Camelot, Maunsell Q Class 0-6-0 No. 30541 and S15 2-6-0 No. 847 are therefore expected to feature. That said, one of the Bluebell’s smaller locomotives may well be steamed to work as station pilot at Sheffield Park station.

A special attraction at Sheffield Park will be public access to Atlantic House to view progress on The Brighton Atlantic project’s construction of LBSCR H2 No. 32424 Beachy Head . A stand promoting the project to convert ex-Barry BR standard class 2 Mogul No. 78059 into BR standard ‘2’ 2-6-2T No. 84030 will be adjacent to Atlantic House. Stop off at Horsted Keynes Station where there will be tours of the carriage shed.

In the works at Bluebell’s Sheffield Park

A Bluebell loco not expected to feature is SECR H class 0-4-4T No. 263. Although nominally available for traffic it is presently in the works receiving some remedial attention.

Other current works attention is currently focussed on overhauling SECR 0-6-0 01 class No. 65 and BR 4MT 2-6-4T No. 80151. No. 65 is the sole surviving member of its class and last ran in 2009. The loco is rated as being in good overall condition with work focussed on re-boring and fitting new valve faces to the cylinder block, fitting new piston heads and ‘D’ valves, replacing life-expired pipework, re-bushing the valve gear and fitting new springs. The boiler is receiving attention off-site.

The chassis of No. 80151 is almost ready for re-wheeling following replacement of life-expired frame stretchers. The 4MT has also received a full piston and valve overhaul, re-metalled axleboxes etc. The boiler has been dismantled with removed door and tube plates ready for specialist welding and insertion of new lap seams. A new throat plate section has been ordered, the existing plate having internal cracking in the corners as BR standard boilers are prone to encounter.

While visiting Sheffield Park look out for ‘Schools’ No. 928 Stowe which is being worked on in the yard. The chassis has been stripped, cleaned, and painted while the boiler has recently been high-pressure cleaned to remove the scale around the crown sheet girders. A new throat plate and backhead are being fitted following the welding into place of new outer firebox sides.

After these events, it’s the Santa steaming season!

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