Thanks to local photographer and train enthusiast Tony Bartlett for keeping us apprised of any steam trains passing through our area. Here is his Introduction to Local Heritage Railways.
Upcoming Sighting Opportunities
Bear in mind that the steam (water vapour) is more visible in cooler months. By the time the warmer weather arrives the steam exhausts no longer look as attractive, and disappear completely in mid summer.
Thursday 1 August 2019 – a Steam Dreams excursion to Cardiff double-headed by the LNER and the LMS
Late last year we had the unusual spectacle of such a pairing when the LNER Pacific Flying Scotsman and an LMS Black Five 4-6-0 worked a train to the West Country across the Common. The prospect of two 4-6-0s, one of each, working today’s special to Cardiff via Gloucester was too good to miss and I chose the healthy option to the reach the Vale of White Horse rather than a rather inconvenient trip on the GWR to get ahead of the special in the Thames Valley.
I was uncertain that the trip would go ahead steam-hauled after the problem of lineside fires at the weekend, but was cheered on arriving south of Shrivenham to hear that two fire engines (acting as water bowsers) had been seen earlier at the watering point in Challow loop. The special left the loop after the service train had cleared the main line section and it was just a matter of waiting for the tell-tale sight of smoke and steam appearing above the distant horizon. The sound of a shrill LNER whistle to an orange-suited gang round the curve indicated what most had hoped for – that no. 61306 Mayflower was in the lead, with Black Five no. 44871 (the same one as with FS last year) following.
Some youthful spectators were starting to get noisily excited as the more senior of us tried to concentrate on getting a good record of the event. Everything went to plan (except that the sun shining on the top of the Ridgeway stayed there) and my calculation that both locos and their tenders would fit in the gap between the electrification masts proved to be correct:
Saturday 27 July 2019 – LMS Duchess Pacific no. (4)6233 on a West Somerset Steam Express picking up at Newbury
At last our first steam-hauled special for the year – the Railway Touring Company are expecting to run two of their specials to Minehead on the preserved WSR. The first one is due to be hauled by the big LMS Pacifics Duchess of Sutherland – it should make a grand sight in the green and pleasant surroundings of West Berks and Wiltshire.
On the day:
it’s a sad irony that after a run of blisteringly hot days with glorious sunshine today is dull grey with steady rain falling since I became aware of the daylight hours. So either side of the track is fair game for today and I choose my local Hungerford station which affords cover from the persisting rain and a clear shot of the train as it passes through the platforms, which are clear of rampant vegetation.
After the havoc to schedules caused by the recent exceptionally hot weather the WSSE is running on time out of Paddington and through the electrified section to Newbury, where a booked stop provides a degree of assurance against early running.
There is a risk that an up express from Penzance may interfere with my plan – and I keep a nervous check on the two trains as they start out from their respective Newbury and Pewsey stops and head for a meeting, hopefully not in Hungerford station where neither stops!
The Duchess manages to cover the slightly rising nine miles from Newbury faster than the IET express does its 14 miles over Savernake Summit from Pewsey and I get my intended shot, the best I could manage in the conditions with the individual raindrops showing clearly on the enlarged image. The cooler temperature today has unusually for a summertime shot produced a distinctive steam plume, although my low angle of view has conspired to camouflage it against the similarly-coloured sky.
Past Sightings – 2018
The first steamer through our area in 2018 was a UK Railtours excursion to Minehead on Saturday 26 May, Merchant Navy Pacific no. 35028 Clan Line on the The Quantock Intruder to the West Somerset Steam Railway
On the day report from Tony Bartlett:
Grey skies and raining at Hungerford ready for the GWR trip up the valley, and conditions not improved much by the time I arrived at Bridge 99 near Crofton. A small group of 9 photographers were assembled, waiting for the train and tracking its progress among the extra services which were being diverted this way today. The train arrived only a few minutes late, delayed by the extra traffic, and was clearly determined not to cause any delays itself by tackling the climb to Savernake Summit beyond Crofton with evident vigour. At first sight, this may appear to be a Pullman special but only the first carriage behind the loco (for its support team) is used in the Pullman formation. However the rest of the stock (Riviera Trains’ Royal Duchy set) is turned out in a consistent and attractive chocolate and cream.
One of the Bruce Trust canal boats was passing along the canal at the time, but unfortunately declined the invitation to wait to be photographed with the steamer. However I do have a montage version of the two together in case the need arises. To confirm the arrangement for diesel haulage on the return trip, the special was followed very closely by a Class 67 also en route for Bishops Lydeard, leaving the assembled company to wonder why it wasn’t coupled up to the rear, as is often the case with other excursion trains.
Many thanks to Tony Bartlett for the above info and above photograph.