True giant Union of South Africa wows Bluebell crowds

Deep in Southern Railway territory, there seems to be nothing like an LNER Pacific for drawing the crowds.

That fact was brought home big time to the Bluebell Railway when Flying Scotsman visited last year.

The crowds for the line’s October 12-14 Giants of Steam event were equally as rapturous when Gresley A4 No. 60009 Union of South Africa was the star guest, adding a decided touch of main line glamour to a rural cross-country route.

A4 No. 60009 climbs Freshfield Bank with the 12.45pm from Sheffield Park on October 12. NICK GILLIAM

A total of 5188 visitors attended over the three days, of which 4307 travelled on the trains.

Half of those started their journey at Sheffield Park, with 28% at East Grinstead and 21% at Horsted Keynes.

Around 45% of the visitors attended on the Saturday, while 48% of the tickets for all three days were sold online.

The line’s catering and shop outlets reported takings on a par with the visit of No. 60103, while the line’s total revenue for the event was around £150,000.

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