Despite fears of bad weather and two hiccups, the Severn Valley Railway’s tank engine-dominated, three-day spring steam gala in mid-March brought in the crowds, reports Robin Jones and Gareth Evans.
Dubbed a ‘Great Western tank fest’, 10 locomotives steamed for the Welsh-themed Severn Valley Railway March 15-17 spring steam gala, guests including LNWR Webb 0-6-2T Coal Tank No. 1054, which worked on the Western Region from Abergavenny shed in the 1950s.
The Keighley & Worth Valley-based locomotive was failed on the Friday (March 15) with leaking tubes and was towed back to Bridgnorth on the rear of a service train, where it was repaired in time for the following day’s operations. There had been initial concern it could not be fixed until Sunday, and the failure led to a small number of cancelled services, but late running was kept to a minimum.
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The other guests included a GWR trio in pannier No. 6430 from Llangollen, Large Prairie No. 4144 from Didcot and 0-6-2T No. 5619, which is owned by the Telford Steam Railway. All three also have strong links with the South Wales Valleys.
Also in action were home-based Port Talbot Railway/GWR 0-6-0ST No. 813; Hawksworth 0-6-0PT No. 1501; GWR heavy freight 2-8-0 No. 2857; 0-6-0PT No. 7714, which worked for the NCB at Penallta Colliery; GWR 4-6-0 No. 7802 Bradley Manor; and recently-outshopped BR Standard 4MT 4-6-0 No. 75069, making its gala debut following its February 16 return to steam following overhaul.
Trains were well loaded throughout the event, despite a poor weather forecast for the Saturday, although the rain did not fall until 3pm. Overall, more than 3000 visitors travelled on the trains.
Another issue arose when operational problems with the points controlling Platform 1 and Engine Line 1 (the run round) occurred at Kidderminster Town station during the Saturday afternoon, leading to the cancellation of two services while the locomotive, No. 4144, and accompanying set were trapped. No. 4144 and the GWR carriage set were out and about on the Sunday as scheduled.
The defective pointwork could not be repaired before Sunday, so Platform 1 arrivals had to be shunt released to allow the inbound service engine to escape. Despite this, only one service ran late – by just 12 minutes.
Engine House reshuffle
Preceding the gala, the Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley underwent its biggest-ever stock reshuffle.
Over four days, a small team carried out more than 70 movements and repositioned 11 of the 12 locomotives, some of which needed to be hauled along the railway by a diesel to Kidderminster and turned before being taken back to Highley to be reinstalled.
GWR 4-6-0 No. 7819 Hinton Manor, which returned to the SVR last August after being on display for over 11 years at the McArthurGlen shopping centre in Swindon, was moved into the Engine House as part of the shunting. Hinton Manor replaces GWR No. 7325 as the railway’s ‘wedding locomotive’ – enabling couples to tie the knot in civil ceremonies on its footplate.
Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Davey Paxman 4-6-2 No. 7 Typhoon was also delivered and installed as part of the work. Operational but not needed for services this season, No. 7 is visiting the SVR as a
part of a promotional exercise for the RHDR.
SVR operations manager Matt Robinson said: “This was quite a challenge for us, which involved many hours of detailed planning. Everything went smoothly in the end.”
No. 1501 was a late booking for the South Devon Railway’s April 6-14 50th anniversary gala. Another last-minute guest booked for that event was Barclay 0-4-0ST No. 1219 of 1910, which was delivered new to Stewarts & Lloyds’ Clydesdale Works in Mossend near Motherwell. Returned to steam three years ago by an apprentice at Williton on the West Somerset Railway, it subsequently returned on loan to the Pontypool & Blaenavon.