GCR Class 8K/LNER 04 2-8-0 No63601 is my favourite GCR based locomotive and, happily, was operating at the event! Built in 1911 at Gorton Works, 63601 worked with other 8K's on freight work. The 8K's later became the main MOD engine for the first world world, being built under the Railway Operating Department, giving them the nickname "ROD"s. After the war, most engines returned to Britain and were distributed between the "Big Four" companies. Modifications by the LNER made the Class 8K a Class 04. Owned by the National Railway Musuem, a full restoration of the locomotive by Craig Stinchcombe and his team took place at Loughborough. After many years of faithful service, 63601 has now entered the final year of its boiler ticket and is due to be retired this autumn. 63601 was another of the big engines featured in the gala. She increased the number of heavy freight engines in use to "3"! What a gala! Not just for big engines, the gala's 4th engine was BR Standard Class 2 Mogul No78019. One of the GCR's regularly used workhorses, 78019 was built in 1954 and was withdrawn at Crewe in 1966. She then moved to Barry in 1967. Not yet life expired, 78019 was purchased for preservation and is owned by the Loughborough Standard Locomotive Group.
GWR 41XX 2-6-2 Large Prairie No4141 was also in steam but was advertised not to be pulling services as she was to be station pilot at Loughborough. However, there seemed to have been some changes as the full timetable saw her doing one round trip per day. Saturday saw her hauling a 3-coach "Local" rake (shown above at Rothley) whilst Sunday saw her hauling the Dining Train. For the rest of the time however she remained at Rothley. This locomotive is owned by Dr John Kennedy, who also owns Tyseley-based Hall Class 4-6-0 No4953 "Pitchford Hall". She is one of the Large Prairie types, designed for suburban passenger work and able to start and stop regularly with quick acceleration in between. 4141 has been a regular GCR workhorse and she will be withdrawn following expiry of her boiler ticket in March. (Correct me if I'm wrong). Even though the 5305 Association's Black 5 No45305 is still out of service, the group still turned out the lovely N15 Class 4-6-0 No30777 "Sir Lamiel". 30777 is currently main line certified and is of course an NRM engine. She worked many services back & forth between Loughborough & Leicester during the gala but I also filmed her on the 4:22pm Postal at Quorn on the Saturday. I've placed the video below this text for your enjoyment! The bark is fantastic. I didn't film the drop but you can see the mail bags drop out from the train on the approach.
BR Standard Class 7 Britannia No70013 "Oliver Cromwell" completed the 7 locomotive line-up in style. She is, without doubt, massive! I rode behind her for 14 miles or so on the 9:15am Loughborough-Leicester & the 10:00am Leicester-Loughborough (I got off at Quorn). She did however run without nameplates, probably something to do with the 1968 theme as, afterall, 70013 did run until the end of BR steam and was involved in the infamous "15 Guinea Special". She is a joy to see running and the bark that she can put out is fantastic! Seeing her and 30777 pass on the double track is an inspiring sight but also gives a feeling of sorrow as we realise that we may never see it's like on the real main line ever again. Anyway, not to lower the tone to a dissapointed one, the gala was fantastic. The freight engines did most of the freight work (obviously!) but 70013 was also seen on the occasional rake of minerals...And why not?!. 70013 was withdrawn in 1968 and was preserved at another location. However her steaming days in early preservation were short lived and she was soon back in store. Happily the engine was moved to Loughborough where restoration took place, being completed in Spring 2008. She is now a fully main line certified locomotive and you will no doubt see her rushing up along Britain's main line metals at 75mph some time in the near future!
An engine that was to perform during the gala but didn't quite make it in the end was LMS Fairburn 2-6-4 Tank No42085. I went to see her in the locomotive shed at Loughborough and she does look almost finished! The new tanks are fitted and the engine seems to be awaiting painting. What a hansome engine she is. 42085 is one of only two Fairburn Tanks left in the world. The other one, sister No42073, shares the same home as "85", the Lakeside & Havertwaite Railway near Windemere. The engine is due to steam at Easter alongside the railway's N2 Class 0-6-2 which is also nearing completion. At Quorn were engine's a little more my size(!): 0-6-0 Side Tank "Gothernburg" (as "Thomas"), 0-4-0 "Toby the Tram" (diesel) & 0-6-0 NCB Austerity "Robert" (awaiting restoration).
In conclusion, the event was very very enjoyable AND, as usual, I will definately be back again next year! Can they make it any better? Well they usually do!! Can't wait! Well done once again GCR and thank you to all the loco crews for an enjoyable performance. For any GCR information their website is http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/ ! If you want that extra special doubletrack main line experience then you have to go! And, without doubt, the best event, is the Winter Gala! Cheers everyone! New post coming soon!