I was not the only one keeping an eye on the ever changing forecast for the weekend (27, 28 and 29 July). After 7 weeks of blistering temperatures and wall to wall sunshine, all forecasts pointed to a marked change with rain, thunder and wind all on offer. On Friday as we all got together, a sense of impending doom was never far away as all talk was on the weather and how would it affect numbers.
27/07 - Friday was, luckily, a nice, pleasant and warm day. Our guest locomotives had all arrived earlier in the week and a collective sigh of relief was exhaled when D832 passed its Fitness to Run exam. Just a week prior, the BR Type 4 Hydraulic had been having its tyres turned at Tyseley and it was touch and go as to whether she would make it. But, as I arrived at 8am, the yard was already coming to life as locos were placed in the right places and vendors had started to arrive. In the yard, Class 73, E6036, was on the unloading road as a static exhibit offering cab visits and a general view of the size of one of the smaller locos in the home fleet.
|E6036 sits in the early morning sun in the car park at Toddington.|
Due to a lack of 'available' volunteers, I had offered to help out in the Car Park field as we were short and I wasn't rostered on until mid-day. Considering we have 900+ volunteers at the railway, its somewhat frustrating that on diesel events we always struggle to get volunteers to cover the required support roles - but that isn't a gripe for this blog! As I was slowly broiling in the car park, I wasn't able to get out and photo the various 'moves' that were occurring at Toddington. I did, however, manage to get round the shed to see the static exhibits before heading to the field.
Inside the diesel shed, on Road 10, Class 24, 5081, was joined by Class 47, 1693, as well as shunters DES and Class 04, D2280.
|DES, it is hoped that the centre axle will be ready in the next few weeks.|
|Our newest shunter Class 04, D2280.|
|1693 takes a break from its restoration offering cab visits to those in attendance.|
|5081, on show in the shed. The newly refurbished No. 1 Bogie in clear view. No. 2 bogie is just to the left out of shot.|
All locos on display had information boards attached so that the public could see what is going on and to highlight some of the mechanical elements. Below are on the Class 24's bogie.
After finishing in the car park, a stroll back to the mess room took in one of the 'drag' arivals at Toddington. Class 20, D8137 arrived from Broadway with the Class 117 in tow. What proved to be a bit of a master stroke was the addition of the DMU as a 4th rake of stock - effectively giving us DMU drags. George and the DMU team had disabled the direct drive meaning that 3 days of dragging the set wouldn't damage the engines. Haulage duties would be shared amongst the Class 20, the Class 26 and the ED.
|D8137 whistles its way into P2 at Toddington with the DMU.|
Later in the day Class 26, D5343, was utilised on the DMU drag.
|D5343 heads off towards Winchcombe.|
Back in the yard, it was time to prep the blue EE Type 3, 37215 ready for her round trip of the day. I was rostered with the Gala's Chief Organiser, Peter Smith.
|The Growler Group's pride and joy celebrating 20 years in operation.|
As we headed off shed, Class 47, 47376 'Freightliner 1995' had arrived back on from her exhertions in the Cotswolds.
|47376 rests in siding 2 at the end of its exhertions.|
We were due to replace the 'Warship' on a service from Broadway. I had been waiting to come face to face with this beast of the Hydraulic world. Having driven then during his days at Bristol Bath Road, my Grandfather would wax lyrical about his love of the 'Westerns' and 'Hymeks' and his loathing of the 'Warships'...not because of their stature or the mechanics, but purely down to not being very 'Crew-friendly'! When you are up close they are certainly something different and, on both engines, they make a pleasing racket.
|D832 'Onslaught' heads away onto siding 1. The DEPG's Bob Clegg catches a lift.|
On passing Winchcombe, it gave me the opportunity to photograph perhaps the railways busiest shunter, but one that rarely gets a mention - outside of the C & W Blog. Carriage and Wagon's resident Class 03, D2182, has recently had a new, much needed repaint into BR Green - complete with white wheels and copper capped chimney! Whether the copper capped chimney is your thing or not the loco certainly looks smart in its new colours.
|D2182 in its new coat of BR Green.|
28/07 - Dinah Washington said it best with 'What a Diff'rence a Day Makes'! Saturday was wet and wild. The wind had been howling all night and didn't let up all day, the rain was intermittent but heavy with the odd rumble of thunder. This bleak outlook was a worry that visitor numbers would take a nose dive. However, that seemed not to happen too much and all trains were well patronised and the car parks full. I was given a day on our second visitor, Hymek, D7017, on loan from our good friends at the DEPG. I had been impressed with the locos performance the last time she had visited and was glad to be able to experience it first hand. A proper Western Region scene was to greet me as I strolled into the yard. D7017 was dragging GWR Modified Hall 7093 'Foremarke Hall' from Road 9 as 'Warship' D832 'Onslaught' slumbered on Road 10.
|D832 slumbers outside the shed as, behind, D7017 hauls 'Foremarke Hall' from Road 9.|
On getting into the cab I was very surprised at how well set out it was.....they had even been built with a cooker, complete with oven!!
|The compact cab layout of D7017.|
|How many other locos were fitted with an oven???|
The 'Warship' was off shed first with us closely following. As we headed off shed D832 was heading off towards Winchcombe. I was sat in the back cab as we had a full cab up front - Driver Paul Tucker from the DEPG was joined by Neil Carr as Conductor/Driver as well as DES owners Paul Jones and his father, who came along for a ride into Toddington.
|Twin Maybach's scream down towards Didbrook.|
|10 minutes later D5343 heads into Toddington from Winchcombe. We would slip onto the back to give the McRat a workout upto Broadway.|
After we arrived a Broadway we were accosted by 'Bert Ferrule' from the P-Way Department who had 'enjoyed' a nice leisurely walk from Toddington with one of his P-Way colleagues to check on a number of track anomolies that had been reported over the previous week. The hot weather had caused a number of issues - some less serious - and, after walking the 4 miles to Broadway, the chaps needed to view the track from the cab - either that or they couldn't be bothered to walk back! I probably wouldn't blame them for blagging a lift! Other issues had been reported down at Stanley Pontlarge (beyond Winchcombe) which resulted in P-Way putting a 10 mph slack in place for a half a mile.
|D7017 in a rare break in the rain at Broadway.|
On arrival at Toddington, another Western Region scene was too good to miss up as we parked up adjacent to Class 37, D6948, which had just pulled up and coupled to the back of the train in Platform 1. The ED, that had been in the car park on Friday, was now hauling the DMU around. Its place in the car park was taken by 'Peak' 45149. The 'Peak' was on restricted duties after suffering a partial traction motor failure in June as it was heading into Greet Tunnel. Although damage was minimal it has meant that the traction motor has failed and will require replacement. Until a time that the damage can be easily accessed and assessed the loco is able to run on 5 of its 6 motors as they are in series and can be individually isolated. Not ideal but it allows the loco to operate.
|Green is the colour! Paul Tucker reposes in the Secondman's seat of D7017 as D6948 runs onto the back of the arrival from Cheltenham. 45149 photobombs from the car park.|
Being out and about meant that I couldn't get many pictures of anything else. Luckily, we have a lot of very talented photographers that are associated with the railway. The next few are courtesy of Malcolm Ranieri and are all from the Saturday.....
|D5343 heads towards Gotherington with a down service to Cheltenham.|
|ED, E6036 leads the Class 117 set away from Gotherington towards Stanley Pontlarge.|
|37215 heads past Gotherington's distant signal on its way to Cheltenham.|
|Visiting 'Warship' Class 42, D832 'Onslaught' approaches Three Arch Bridge.|
|D6948 heads away from Broadway under a rare patch of blue sky.|
|D832 heads towards Toddington as the clouds gather once again.|
|D7017 pulls into Toddington with an up train as the Class 117 set waits for its loco change before heading back to Winchcombe.|
Thanks Malcolm for allowing me to share them.
After getting D7017 back to the MPD we had a 3 hour wait until heading out on the evening 'Beerex' with D832. After another deluge of rain I went for a wander around the stalls. It was good to see a nice mix of owning groups, model demonstrators and sellers, railwayana stalls and general interest exhibitors. However, another sharp shower had everyone diving for cover.
|Certainly not the pot of gold I was expecting!|
Eventually, time came to go and re-awaken the Type 3 hydraulic. A headboard had been attached bearing the 'Cheltenham Spa Express' monicker. Although this named train was synonymous with Hymeks, it wouldn't have traversed the Honeyborne Line. But, what difference does it make in pres??!
|Prep complete and headboard in situ.|
As if by magic, the clouds parted and we coupled up to the 'Warship' in P1 for the evening 'Beerex'. However, the 'Beerex' would just be a standard evening run as On Train Catering were unable to crew the Buffet. OTC are one of the departments on the railway struggle for volunteers - if you can spare some time and like working in catering, or just generally with customers, get your name down and come and help out.
|In glorious evening sun. Shame it hadn't been like this all day.|
After travelling down to Cheltenham on the Hymek, I swapped so I could experience the 'Warship'. Well, it would be like describing chalk and cheese. The 'Warship' is a huge, chaotic beast of a locomotive. The cab spaces are HUGE! And, incredibly noisy as the gear box is directly beneath the floor and sounds like someone crunching the gears of a truck! It is an impressive piece of machinery but everything is at arms length from the driving position. Even at a little over 6ft tall, Peter S was having to lean forward to reach some of the controls!
|Although we are sat in the back cab, with Mr Smith in the 'Driving' seat you get an idea of the gargantuan dimensions of the 'Warship' cab.|
On a personal level it was a great privilage to experience both of these locomotives at close quarters and I can't wait to experience them again!
|Hydraulic Heaven at Broadway.|
On arrival back at Toddington shed a strange smell was eminating from the mess room. Mark E had been threatening a BBQ for the last couple of weeks. This time he was going through with it! A quick scoff and then round to the Pheasant for a couple of beers!
|A very welcome spread!|
On the way to the pub, a couple of opportunities to take some night time shots and test the camera on my phone.
|D832 and the skeletal remains of 20035 illuminated by one of the apron lights.|
|With the coal mounds in the foreground, D8137 rests in the coaling road.|
29/07 - Sunday dawned in the same vein as Saturday...windy, sharp showers and grey skies. A recurring thought was that the weather would seriously affect visitor numbers. Sundays are statistically the quietest day of the three and this would be no different. However, the rain didn't affect the numbers nearly as much as was expected. For the final day I was rostered on our green Type 3, D6948 with one of the loco's owners, Kev Jarvis.
|D6948 after arrival at Broadway.|
A strange turn that would see us start early, double head with fellow Class 37, 37215 before topping and tailing a couple of times with a full run Broadway to Cheltenham and finish late. As such, again, I have to rely on another of our photographers (also a Trainee Secondman) Alex Raybould, for pics. Thanks Alex!
|D832 heads away from Gotherington with an up service.|
|D7017 heads through Hayles Abbey Halt with a down service.|
|With yours truly at the helm, D6948 runs light engine to the shed past Hymek, D7017.|
By the time we got back it was time to put all the locos back in the shed. All the stalls had cleared away - many, earlier in the afternoon due to the weather.
At the end of the weekend we had run 81 services over 3 days, covered over 1000 miles total, no services ran more than 5 minutes late and we did not suffer any loco failures. The weather, and a couple of other factors, failed to dampen the atmosphere that was to be enjoyed by over 2000 visitors. This was the benchmark, given the storming start to 2018 across all events, that the organisers had set as a target. Given that 2017 saw in the region of 1600 visitors, 2018 saw a 20% increase. Our biggest gala to date was a rousing success.
Thanks has to be extended to all volunteers from all departments that helped to make the gala a success and allowed it to run very smoothly.
Extra special thanks go to all our friends at the DEPG and West Somerset Railway for allowing D7017 to return again and for all the crewing and prep undertaken in the run up to and over the weekend. Also, to our friends at the Bury Hydraulic Group and the East Lancs Railway for allowing D832 to attend and for crewing and prep undertaken.
Well, how are we going to top that next year??????!