Saturday, 31 January 2009

Great Central Railway Winter Steam Gala 2009!

Hello everyone. Today I made my annual outing to the Great Central Railway's Winter Steam Gala 2009. Every year I go, along with a few thousand other enthusiasts(!), to savour the atmosphere of real main line steam. As the years pass, the gala's seem to get better and better, as was proven today! This years gala was held from Friday January 30th-Sunday February 1st with no less than 7 steam locomotives in steam & running! Trains of course began from Loughborough Station with Passenger, Freight, Mineral, Parcels & Postal Trains all running in a mixed fashion! There were also some light engine moves and much shunting at both Rothley & Loughborough Stations. If you forgot where you were you could be led to believe you were in 1968...not 2009! I will give a brief section of information about each locomotive that took part as well as a few assorted pics of the event and of course a description of my day. I left home at 7:10am to head to my local station, Bedworth, to catch the 7:25am to Nuneaton. At Nuneaton I had to change to the 7:53am to Leicester before changing again at Leicester onto the 8:30am to Loughborough! After the 10-minute or so walk from the main line station to the GCR and a 10-minute queue for my Day Rover Ticket, I caught the day's first train, the 9:15am, behind No70013 "Oliver Cromwell". I took this train all the way to the end of the line before returning to Quorn, also behind 70013. I then decided to hang around and watch the action at Quorn for a while. Now I will begin with the locomotive descriptions. The locomotive that topped the gala's bill was LNER 0-8-0 Q6 No63395 which is normally based at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and is owned by the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group. This engine was built in 1918 at Darlington Works. For the first 25 years of her life her home shed was Blaydon. She did however grace other locations including Selby & Hull. By 1967, 63395 was of only two Q6's remaining at work. 63395 was withdrawn on 9/9/1967 and went into storage before a new life in preservation was found. Following her 2nd overhaul in preservation, the 0-8-0 returned to service in 2007 on the NYMR and was turned out in her BR Black livery. During the gala she was seen many times on Mineral trains but I managed to get about 4 miles of passenger haulage in behind her. A very attractive and powerful lady! LMS 8F 2-8-0 No48305 is one of the bigger GCR residents that took part. Privately owned, 48305 was built in November 1943. After a hard life working heavy freight trains the 8F was withdrawn in January 1968, only 7 months before the end of main line steam in Britain. However her fate seemed sealed as by September that year she had joined many of her classmates in the large scrapyard at Barry. But, even at Barry 48305 had a claim to fame: the words "please don't let me die" were written on the smokebox door with a "crying face". It was bought for preservation from Barry in 1985 and after a few different moves between GCR and other railway's she returned to Loughborough in 2006. During the gala she was seen many times hauling many different types of trains. She was renumbered 48773 (the SVR's out-of-ticket 8F) for the event. This was done to remember 48773 which ran until the last day of steam on BR. 48773's fireman on that day in 1968 was riding on the footplate at the event! What a fitting way to remember the end of BR steam! The engine also wore a wreath at different times during the event with the headboard "Goodbye To Rose Grove Steam".

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 ! 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!

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