Friday, 29 January 2016

Great Central Winter Gala: A U-Boat Off Loughborough...

Evening all. Today was the annual pilgrimage to the main event of the out of season calendar: the GCR's Winter Steam Gala. Due to the amassed hoards of bobble-hatted enthusiasts that normally descend upon the railway during the weekend, we felt that the Friday would be a better choice this year. Though a slightly quieter timetable: five loco's instead of eight: it would also be a quieter day passenger-wise so all the better for us. I left work at 11am as usual for a Friday day-shift before having a blustery run over to Quorn station. Eddie & John had arrived a little earlier and were on route back towards me behind one of the visiting engines. For me, this one was the one to tick-off: U Class No31806. The engine's 12:22pm departure was drawing near and soon enough she was spotted from a distance chugging happily along the double-track away from Woodthorpe...
31806 has shut-off steam on the approach to Quorn and coasts easily towards the road bridge for the station stop...
I boarded the rearmost coach where I found Eddie and John casually chatting about the merits of various steam locomotive designs. Discussion then turned to the chunky engine at the front: the U Class. What is now No31806 entered service in 1926 as a K-Class 2-6-4 Tank. The K-Class became a scapegoat for a serious accident that occurred in 1927, in which 13 people lost their lives. Following that all 20 K-Class engines were immediately withdrawn before being rebuilt as 2-6-0 Mogul tender engines under the U Class design. 31806 was rebuilt as a U in 1928 and is the only survivor of the K-Class rebuilds. The U Class eventually numbered 50 examples and were classified as 4P, with 6ft driving wheels and a 200psi boiler. I like these engines; there is really something about them. Anyway, the U Class (known affectionately as a U-Boat) took us easily up to Leicester North where she was captured running round - the Fireman is just pulling the points to allow the Mogul to set-back into the loop...
Having not lunched yet due to heading straight to the GCR, I decided to board the Gresley Buffet Car for a Bacon Cob and a nice cup of tea. The welcome surroundings of 24278, built at York in 1937, were very pleasant on this chilly Winter afternoon. I must admit, it was very pleasing "Taking Tea In The Teak", as I later described to Eddie, as you don't see many Teak's around in comparison to other coaching stock...
"A Rather Civilised Journey"
The Mogul steamed tender-first to Rothley where we alighted to watch her departure. I don't know if they were having trouble with it, but the Fireman was just refilling the hydrostatic lubricator with cylinder oil...
31806 barked out of Rothley leaving her voice on the breeze. I suppose we must have the obligatory ridiculous picture of local forgetter of the alarm clock 'Eddie the Late' who seems to be doing his best Flamingo impression when snapped...
Eddie and John went off to have a look at the pretty G-Scale Garden Railway whilst I chatted to a couple who bring their engines to my miniature steam rallies - I always find someone I know! Just then, clanking in from Loughborough, came 34053 "Sir Keith Park". She was the other visitor, attending from the Severn Valley Railway...
A Local set soon arrived behind the BR Black Eight-Freight, clanking non-stop through the station with snifters rattling. Having halted under the protection of the Outer Home, the 8F was relieved by recently restored Modified Hall No6990 "Witherslack Hall". We duly boarded the Hall's train and enjoyed a pleasant run back to Loughborough in very comfortable seats. Once there, I was treated once again to the sight of No34053. An unusual typo in the GC's Gala Guide billed the Pacific as being a two-cylinder machine: Mr Bulleid would not be amused...
A lovely thing about the GCR is the shed area, as it just has the atmosphere of a working steam shed. Wandering cautiously down the ash pathway, I came towards the beautiful Black Five No45305. The remaining engines for the weekend portion of the gala were dotted around with warming fires already lit. The 5MT was sitting quietly, crackling away to herself with just a light plume of smoke drifting half-heartedly skyward...
On the shed front stood the smallest and largest members of the GCR Steam Fleet: Standard Shunt ('Jinty') No47406 and BR Standard Class 9F No92214. Due to her livery, double chimney and copper cap, 92214 is masquerading as the very last steam engine built for BR - No92220 "Evening Star", now preserved at the NRM...
"David & Goliath" - 47406 and the 9F"
The massive bulk of the Nine Freight was soon moved forward to begin shunting. 777 "Sir Lamiel" was smoking up a storm in the shed and so I'm guessing the move was to eventually result in getting the King Arthur outside. The 9F is well kept...
Having wandered around the shed for a spell in the stiff breeze, soaking up the atmosphere of soot, oil and grime on a damp Friday afternoon, I headed off back towards the platforms. Having seen a good few more people I know (from various railways - including Shack!) I boarded the 3:15pm train behind 31806. The boarding of this train involved bumping into two more people I know - I seem to spend half my days out just nattering to people I know: its such a small world! I alighted from the U-Boat's train at Quorn and was immediately met with the sight of immaculate Modified Hall No6990, which was tailing the Local train hauled by the Mickey Mouse (Ivatt 2)...
"Recently Restored 6990 'Witherslack Hall' Tailing The Local"
31806 was just about to make an audible departure and is captured beginning to pull away. I like this engine and am very glad that I've ticked her off the list. The U-Boat's were clearly a useful and powerful tool which leads me to question their 3F capacity. I guess the 3F is due to her big legs as the 4P is a little more encouraging. Another nice old gal' this is...
Having watched in awe as Driver Tom Tighe took the U away in fine form, it wasn't long before she was pounding away into the distance. I decided to wait around to see the next train pass through - this just happened to be the 8F on the Windcutter Minerals...
Once the 8F had clanked through (it looked a picture) I began my short walk back to the car. The welcome heat upon my commencement of the journey home was something I was very much looking forward to! As I got to my car I saw the Bullied pass by one last time, thinking about how Southern men must have felt to be presented with such a spaceship of an engine after life on classes such as the U's, the Nelson's and the Arthur's. Anyway, it had been another very pleasant day and another worthwhile visit to the GCR's Winter Steam Gala. I've been coming to this do for years and its always been very good, not to mention it being a welcome settler for my steam craving during the winter months! Cheers all, and thanks to Ed and John for their company. Good Evening...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just remember it's Mr Bulleid, not Mr Bullied. That is of course unless you know something about him that I don't!

Eddie The Fairly Punctual

Sam Brandist said...

Well Sir that is not in altogether good taste is it! ;) All the best, Sam