Saturday, 31 January 2015

GCR: The Freeze To Death Gala...

Hi everyone. Today saw the annual jaunt to the Great Central Railway for their Winter Gala which was, undoubtedly, colder than ever. I arrived at the Edwardian gas-lit station of Rothley at around 9am, just before the first train. Upon my arrival a large snow storm had set in. The signalman was probably the only person in the warm...
The first departure of the day was the 9am Loughborough - Leicester service, leaving Rothley at around 9:18am. This service was double-headed by the two visiting engines: BR (W) Pannier No1501 and No7820 "Dinmore Manor". Through the snow they came...
The pair approach having shut-off for Rothley Station...
The two BR black liveried loco's looked great as they hissed in under the road bridge. 1501 was built in 1949 whilst the slightly older Manor dates from November 1950...
I boarded the sparsely steam heated stock behind the pair, though 1501 was duly detached in order to work another move. 7820 continued the working up through Rothley Brook and on to Leicester North. She sounded in good voice as she got the weight moving and hauled the train up the gradient away from the station. At Leicester North the adoring gaggle of enthusiasts poured from the coaches and trotted over to the usual vantage point of the bay platform...
7820 worked on the BR Western region and was retired at only 15 years old in 1965. She then became one of the many engines sent to Woodham's scrapyard in Barry. In 1979 the funds had been gathered by the Gwilli Railway to save the locomotive and she was duly purchased. Unfortunately the new owners simply could not restore the engine due to a lack of funds and undercover storage, resulting in a resale in 1983. The locomotive was then restored at Tyseley with the West Somerset Railway providing financial support in return for the locomotive operating there once complete. She made her WSR debut in 1995, working there regularly from then on. With the loco's ticket having run out in 2004, she was overhauled at Tyseley with the work being completed in April 2014. The locomotive is now based at the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway and was on her first visit to the GCR. Here she is seen running round...
At this point my camera died so I opted to catch the train back to Loughborough in order to purchase some more batteries. The Manor gave a good run back passing many other locomotives on route. New batteries purchased, the first snap at Loughborough was of 1501. 1501 is based on the Severn Valley Railway and is the sole survivor of a class of only 10 outside cylindered pannier tanks that made up the 15XX class. When her BR life ended she worked at Coventry Colliery before being saved for preservation. I like this engine. It seems to have great advantages over the 57XX and is hugely powerful for its size...
Having snapped the wonderful 1501, I had to have a cup of tea. So frozen were my hands that I dropped half of my stuff all over the floor in the tea room: my fingers were numb! I don't understand how certain visitors much older than me were walking around as if it was a summers day: it was bloody freezing! Tea in hand, I wandered down to the locomotive shed where 1926-built Fowler 3F No47406 (a Jinty) was simmering away ready to perform a freight shunt...
Unusually, the locomotive shed was open for viewing. The GCR has had a spate of thefts over the years so the shed is now only open when railway members are available to staff it. Its a shame that it has come to this as certain ridiculous individuals spoil it for everyone else. Oh well, at least it was open today. The chassis of 1948-built Modified Hall "Witherslack Hall" is coming along...
One gem in the GCR fleet, though no longer operational unfortunately, is GCR 8K/LNER 04 Class 2-8-0 No63601; one of three NRM engines based on the GCR. The engine's 10-year ticket ran out not long ago but its nice to see her stored inside rather than outside like the operational engines. She's a lovely thing: lets hope she runs again one day...
Whilst meandering my way around the shed there were rumblings and whistles outside. The 3F had been shunting and the freight wagons she had moved were to become a train for 78019. Part of the BR Standard range, 2-6-0 Standard 2 Mogul No78019 was built in 1954...
Having made my way back onto the crowded platform of rivet counters, I enjoyed another cup of tea whilst awaiting a departure. The station was a hive of activity with engines coming in and out at regular intervals, as well as the trusty DMU. It was soon time for a defrost so I boarded the Midday departure behind another NRM engine: 4-6-0 N15 Class No777 "Sir Lamiel". This engine is quite a beast and, in the hands of regular driver Tom Tighe, put in a cracking performance on the run up to Quorn. The noise was fantastic and the pull on the drawbar from her acceleration is amazing considering the size of her wheels. I got a quick snap of her at Quorn before she roared away...
At Quorn it was, would you believe, even colder! The temperature was just above freezing I reckon, but the cross-wind and the chill in the air made things almost unbearable. After yet another cup of tea I watched the charming Ivatt Class 2 Mogul No46521 arrive from Loughborough...
In a positioning move came the huge bulk of the GCR's third NRM engine: BR Britannia Pacific No70013 "Oliver Cromwell". The locomotive was on her way to Swithland to collect waiting freight wagons...
The Pannier soon turned up again...
A capture of the Pannier showing her attractive BR Mixed Traffic livery...
Whilst waiting for the Pannier to pull away, a rather irate gentleman brandishing a camera was attempting to start a row with one of the crossing staff. The man was fretting that he would miss the train on the opposite platform, hauled by the 9F, and threatened to become "very annoyed" with the crossing keeper if he missed it. The moral here is, if you are aware of a 300-ton obstruction about to block the route to your waiting train, always ensure that you are the opposite side of it before the obstruction arrives. I don't care for people abusing volunteer staff. Anyway, 1501 looked nice...
1501 got away sharply, as did the 9F. Following the 9F to Loughborough was the N15 again. Lovely "Lamiel" is captured awaiting departure before almost blowing the bridge down...
By now it was gone 1pm and the cold had really set in. I could hardly take it anymore and I'd drank enough tea to sink a battleship. Across the way in Quorn's Platform 1 stood the DMU about to depart for Rothley. It looked so warm on there that the windows were steaming up and there were, did my eyes deceive me(?), seats free! I boarded the DMU and immediately settled into my seat. I think this has to be the first time I've ever not had to struggle to find a seat at a Winter Gala. Departing Quorn I was thankful for the brilliant under seat heating, a far cry from standing room only behind steam. The DMU is captured here in a 1950s scene, about to depart Rothley for Loughborough...
All in all, with eight locomotives in steam and an overly intensive timetable, the 2015 GCR Winter Gala was well worth a look, despite the cold. One thing I will say though is that it won't be to everyone's taste. Almost every train is standing room only and the Adult fare has now risen to £25 a ticket with no short journey tickets or single round trip tickets available. That's fine for the enthusiast but a bit dear on the families I feel. I only tend to do one round trip and then just dawdle around each station looking at various bits & bobs so £25 for a single round trip is a bit much, but that's just me. I do however appreciate how much this cracking event must cost to put on so its all in the view of steam preservation. Thanks for reading folks. As I write the fire is stoked up and the kettle is boiling and I'm still bloody cold! Best Regards, Sam...

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