Some attractions closed their doors because of the second March freak wintry spell, but not so the Severn Valley Railway. When snow and ice covered much of the West Midlands during the third day of the line’s star-studded spring steam gala, staff and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and made sure that the trains ran, report Robin Jones and John Titlow.
The weather phenomenon dubbed the “mini Beast from the East” had all the ingredients to ruin the eagerly-awaited Severn Valley Railway spring steam gala.
Far from it. A mixture of sunshine and blue skies, blizzards and howling gales, saw 1000 people turn out to see nine locomotives in action amidst a traditional Shropshire winter setting on the third day of the March 16-18 event, which overall attracted 4537 visitors.
There was a late change to the gala line up, with the Thompson B1 Locomotive Trust announcing that B1 4-6-0 No. 1264, which was recently repainted in LNER livery, would not be attending the gala, due to delays in winter maintenance at its North Yorkshire Moors Railway home. A last-ditch replacement was found in the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust’s 7F 2-8-0 No. 53808 from Minehead.
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As reported in News, page 44, it was touch and go as to whether Peppercorn A1 Pacific No. 60163 Tornado would appear at the gala, 18 months after the hugely-successful Pacific Power event, when it ran alongside A1 No. 60103 Flying Scotsman. The A1 became marooned on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway when a skip lorry struck and damaged a rail overbridge on the connecting Esk Valley Line, but owner The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust agreed for it to be moved to Bridgnorth by low loader rather than the preferred option of rail.
An unusual and particularly eye-catching guest engine was Haydock Foundry 0-6-0WT Bellerophon, Built in 1874, it was by far and away the oldest locomotive in steam over the weekend. Normally to be found nowadays at the Foxfield Railway, it is owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust based at Ingrow West on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.
The North Norfolk Railway-based B12 4-6-0 No. 8572, which previously starred in the Great Central Railway’s winter steam gala at the end of January, ran with the line’s famous rake of Gresley teak coaches.
BR Standard 4MT 2-6-4T No. 80072, loaned from the Llangollen Railway for the Christmas services, stayed on to take part in the gala.
From the home fleet, panniers Nos. 7714 and 1501 and Collett auto tank No. 1450 entered the fray. A 10th locomtive, Ivatt 2-6-0 No. 43106, made only one trip, on the Friday.
However, one of the biggest draws was GWR ‘Blue King’ No. 6023 King Edward II, which had arrived at the line on February 22 to have its new draughting arrangement tested under load on weekdays between normal spring weekend passenger operations. Its owner, the Great Western Society, gave the green light for it to take part in the gala.
On Tuesday, February 27 and Wednesday the 28th, the King ran several trains of empty stock from Highley towing seven coaches and a Class 50 diesel behind to test the new draughting arrangements. The tests were obviously successful as the scheduled Thursday test trains did not run.
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