By Geoff Courtney
THE newest resident at the Spa Valley Railway was put to work within days of its arrival in mid-October, handling trains packed with thirsty visitors eager to sample the delights of the line’s popular autumn real ale and cider festival.
On October 14, Class 31 diesel No. 31430 Sister Dora moved from Mangapps Museum in Essex to Tunbridge Wells West, where it joined a fleet of diesels including a trio of Class 33s, Nos. 33063 (D6583), 33065 (D6585) and 33201 (D6586), and Class 73 electro-diesel No. 73140 (E6047).
The following weekend (October 19-21), it ran at the three-day festival, operating over the five-mile line between Tunbridge Wells West and Eridge, where the railway has a direct link with the national network to London Bridge.
Class 31 debut
Spa Valley commercial manager Jonnie Pay said: “We were delighted to welcome Sister Dora to our railway. Its owner, Martin Staniforth, is one of our regular volunteers undertaking repair work on our steam and diesel locomotives, and he and a small team have dedicated thousands of hours at Mangapps restoring No. 31430 to operational condition.”
Jonnie said that the diesel was the first Class 31 to become a resident on the Spa Valley, although two other members of the class had visited on short-term hires. The locomotive, he said, worked faultlessly throughout the festival, which attracted a record 1763 passengers – “which didn’t include the hundreds who entered our shed for just the beer!”
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