This year’s Severn Valley Railway’s September 20-23 autumn steam gala has been described as the event of the year, featuring no less than three express passenger locomotives in Royal Scot, Duchess of Sutherland and Britannia. A fortnight later, the GWR cross-county route played host to a fourth generation of raw West Coast Main Line super power, with the October 4-6 diesel gala marking the 50th anniversary of the Class 50s, reports Robin Jones.
Just one of the special guests at the Severn Valley Railway’s autumn steam gala booked for this year’s showpiece event would have been a big crowd puller in itself.
However, the gala featured two iconic locomotives making their comebacks after overhaul and repairs – LMS Princess Coronation Pacific No. 6233 Duchess of Sutherland and BR Standard Pacific No. 70000 Britannia. Add those to LMS Princess Royal 4-6-0 No. 46100 Royal Scot, and you had three generations of West Coast Main Line super power!
Not only that, but the high-profile gala also had a sub plot, with two centenarians showing their worth in the year of their 100th birthdays – NER Q6 0-8-0 No. 63395 from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which had never been this far south before – and home-based GWR 2-8-0 No. 2857.
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Despite some patchy weather, the eagerly-awaited steam gala drew more than 6300 visitors – 20% up on the corresponding event last year – with visitors from all over Britain travelling to the line to see railway heritage at its finest.
Over and above the intensive daytime timetable, Friday and Saturday night’s all-night running gave passengers the chance to experience the sights and sounds of the Severn Valley after dark. Trains ran continuously from the Friday morning until the Sunday evening.
Christopher Vine, author of the Peter’s Railway series, carried out book signings at the Engine House Visitor Centre over the weekend and talked to young enthusiasts.
Britannia was once a resident on the Severn Valley. It returned to steam there and was based on the line until 1981.
Back then, it never made it into Kidderminster Town station, as the line was not extended there until 1984.
Read more and view more images in Issue 247 of HR – on sale now!