Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dartmouth Steam Railway: An Old Friend...

Hi all. This week we were on our annual week away to South Devon and no visit to Torbay would be complete without a trip on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. We arrived at the line's Paignton base at around 10:15am and immediately joined the fairly strong queue for the 10:45am departure. I couldn't believe how busy it was, particularly as a previous train at 10am had already departed. Sat alongside the water tower, straight in our sights, was GWR Heavy Tank No4277 "Hercules". The crew were just buffing her up for the days work...
We were still in the queue at 10:40am and I can't tell you how much nail-biting was going on behind us! 4277 soon gave a shrill whistle and hissed gently away to take up her place at the head of the train, thus fuelling the worry in the assembled hoards. Luckily we made it to the front of the queue and to our amazement not only found our way onto the train before it pulled out but also found a seat! Maisie was far more interested in the views than my chats about the life of Heavy Tanks in South Wales...
4277 departed on time and took us easily through to Goodrington before attacking the stiff climb along the sea towards Churston. This 6.7-mile long railway stretches along one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the country and I think you'd be hard pressed to find any preserved railway with better views. The sea is in evidence from the moment you leave Goodrington...
4277 was built in 1920 at Swindon and is a 42XX type 2-8-0 tank. These engines are extremely strong and the 4200 class eventually numbered 105 engines, with later developments of the 2-8-0T also appearing on the Great Western region, such as the 5205 class. 4277 spent most of its life in the South Wales valleys and was retired from BR service in 1963. After changing hands a few times she was bought by the DSR in 2008, joining another resident Heavy Tank: No5239. The DSR, with their tradition of naming locomotives and coaches, dubbed 4277 as "Hercules". They really are masters of the job here and, despite the strong gradients, will quite happily take a 12-coach train without much fuss...
After a pleasant run uphill to Churston, "Hercules" dropped down through Greenway Tunnel and onto the banks of the River Dart. Arrival at the DSR's terminus of Kingswear came soon after and the slick manoeuvre of uncoupling the loco and running round was soon under way. 4277 chugged gently past us as she negotiated the point work. She still retains the original inside steam pipes...
Having watched "Hercules" run round, we followed the rabble down the pontoon and onto the Ferry for our short crossing to Dartmouth. Its a splendid little day on the DSR, bringing both rail and river into play. We had a pleasant little work around the beautiful riverside town of Dartmouth and a trip on the splendid "Kingswear Castle" Paddle Steamer before returning via the Ferry back to Kingswear. The locomotive for the 2:10pm departure for Paignton was stood 'on lunch' in the headshunt. She was none other than an old friend: 5542. Visiting from her home just up the road at Buckfastleigh, 5542 is on loan to the DSR for a couple of months to fill in the gaps where the recently withdrawn 5239 would have worked. I believe 7820 "Dinmore Manor" is also coming to visit again for the summer. It was a great pleasure to see 5542 again, having driven and fired her at Shackerstone...
We boarded the train and managed to grab a seat in the lovely 'Devon Belle' observation saloon, remodelled in 1947 from a previous vehicle. 5542 took up her place at the head of the train before making a prompt departure. The 'Devon Belle' offers unrivalled views and is always a pleasure to travel aboard...
Small Prairie tanks such as the 1928-built No5542 are no stranger to the Paignton - Kingswear line. The DSR had two until recently when No4588 "Trojan" was sold for a new life at Peak Rail, though she needs an overhaul. No4555 "Warrior" still lives at Churston and is under overhaul, with a new boiler being built for her at Tyseley. 5542 impressed me greatly with its performance. Indeed, 7-coaches isn't an incredibly heavy load but from a standing start on the daunting climb out of Greenway Halt towards Churston, the 2-6-2 put on a great show! It must be remembered that the DSR is no flat railway. She just walked away, barking loudly for all to hear and rocking from side to side in typical Prairie fashion. As we departed Churston, having passed 4277, we were treated to the sight of the boiler of the DSR's Standard Class 4 No75014 which was having a test steaming. 75014 has been under overhaul for some years now and is hopefully going to make a return to traffic in the not too distant future...
"The Boiler For BR Standard Class 4 No75014 In Steam"
After Churston, views of the sea opened up once again...
We were very lucky that the weather was so lovely today: it was grand. 5542 took us easily back down into Paignton before running backwards in order to reach the water column. She looked completely immaculate and is a credit to the DSR and of course her loving owners. The 5542 website can be found here and one of my exploits with her can be found here. It was very nice to see the Small Prairie again and to see one back at work on the DSR...
"An Old Friend - 5542"
Having looked in the gift shop, we wandered out into the car park towards the High Street after a very pleasant day on both rail and river at the Dartmouth Steam Railway. I'll always recommend this very popular line and it is a must do whilst in the area. Below I've also included a shot I took from Salturn Cove, just above Goodrington, on Tuesday. We were sitting on the rocks watching the waves come in when suddenly the tranquillity was shattered by No7827 "Lydham Manor", then on duty, as she stormed up the climb. She sounded an absolute treat...
Thanks For Reading All. Cheers, Sam

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