SVR rolls out new steam debutants for three-day Autumn Steam Gala
14th September 2012
SPURRED by the chance to see and ride behind steam locomotives never before seen on the Kidderminster-to-Bridgnorth ‘heritage’ line, railway enthusiasts in their thousands will once again make a bee-line for the Severn Valley Railway next weekend for the railway’s three-day Autumn Steam Gala (Friday September 21st - Sunday September 23rd).
Heading a ‘cast’ of steam power which this year has a distinct and unusual 1950s/1960s ‘Southern’ flavour to it, will be the elegant 1899-built LSWR Drummond T9 ‘Greyhound’ 4-4-0 No. 30120, which makes the 215-mile journey by road transporter from the Bodmin & Wenford Railway in Cornwall.
Confined to the lines of the former London & South Western Railway between London, Exeter and the North Cornwall coast in its working days before preservation, the ‘Greyhound’ - only survivor of its type and a ‘must see’ engine for countless enthusiasts - will be making what is almost certainly its most northerly appearance in its 113-years.
Supporting the T9, and also making what will be a ‘first ever’ appearance on Severn Valley Railway metals, will be another ‘Southern’ engine – Maunsell ‘U’ Class ‘Mogul’ No.31806, which makes the journey (also by road) to the West Midlands, from Ropley, on the Mid-Hants Railway.
They will be joined by a third ‘Southern’ engine making its Severn Valley Railway gala debut – the newly-restored ‘Battle of Britain’ class ‘Pacific’ No.34053 Sir Keith Park – a fast express engine which has recently joined the railway’s resident fleet, and which only nine weeks ago made its first in-steam movements for 47 years.
And the event which is expected to attract upwards of 7,000 visitors over the three days, will also provide a ‘welcome back’ for a little tank engine last seen at a Severn Valley Railway gala more than 25 years ago – the former London & North Western Railway 0-6-2T ‘Coal Tank’ No.1054, which makes its first appearance for 65 years as LMS No.7799 – an identity which it lost when the railways were Nationalised back in 1948.
Ringing the changes and ‘importing’ celebrity guest steam locomotives has been one of the key elements of the SVR’s Autumn Gala success down the years, but as Visitor Services Manager David Mee admits, it doesn’t get any easier to keep finding ‘new’ celebrities from the finite pool of guest engines.
“It’s a little ironic in a way” says David. “Nostalgia is obviously a large part of what we do, but when it comes to the Autumn Steam Gala, ‘same old same old’ just won’t do.
‘New and different’ is what is required. The enthusiasts who come here in their thousands and who have made the SVR Autumn Gala the biggest event of its type in the country, expect to see new engines and new initiatives each September, and that necessarily ensures we stay on our toes.”
With around 200 steam train departures crammed into just 56 hours, including passenger trains all through the night on Friday and Saturday, goods trains, breakfast, brunch and afternoon cream tea trains, fast expresses and slow stopping trains – almost 5,000 miles of running in all – plus a railway book fair, sales stands, and boasting two pubs AND a real ale tent, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that the SVR’s three-day steam spectacular is held as ‘ the big one’ in the steam enthusiasts’ calendar.
The steam fleet is further boosted by the return to steam of GWR Hawksworth pannier tank No.1501 -- resplendent in its new ‘lined-out’ BR black livery - after overhaul and an absence of five and a half years, and by the return to the SVR of GWR ‘Manor’ No.7812 Erlestoke Manor, after a period on loan to the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.
There’s also the bonus appearance of pannier tank No.3650, whose return to the Great Western Society at Didcot after spending the summer on loan to the SVR was postponed by the need to repair a cracked cylinder.
The gala action begins next Friday, September 21st, with the 09.00 passenger departure from Kidderminster and the 09.36 from Bridgnorth, and ends with the last gasp arrival of the 17.25 from Bridgnorth, at Kidderminster at around 18.30 on Sunday night.
Sponsored by Morris Lubricants of Shrewsbury, the Autumn Steam Gala is accessed by the purchase of ‘Freedom of the Line’ all-day ‘rover’ tickets, covering one, two or all three days.
Typically a one-day adult ticket costs £22.50, two-day £33.50 and three-day £44.50, but tickets bought in advance, either online or by phone, are discounted to £20, £30 and £40 respectively. A one-day child ticket cost £14.00 (£12.50 if bought in advance), and seniors £20 (£18).
Copies of the 32-page Working Time Table, detailing every locomotive and train movement and locomotive diagrams, can be bought in advance for £5.
Further information: www.svr.co.uk , or telephone 01299-403816.