When our end of season gala started on Saturday 4th October the weather was (as predicted) dismal and wet, so we used the 'all-weather' Polish coach topped with SENA 15 and tailed by STANHOPE. The skies cleared and the sun appeared later, but we stuck with this formation. Meantime JUSTINE chuffed up and down the yard with three skips.
Sena 15 'topping' the Polish coach on Saturday.
For Sunday, with dry weather forecast, we used our usual three coach set with SENA 15, STANHOPE and JUSTINE taking turns. The live steam layouts were also in operation, these create a lot of interest. Come and see for yourself.
Thursday the 16th saw the arrival of our regauged Simplex Diesel along with the arrival of Chaka's boiler, a busy time at the loading spur.
Chaka's frames and Boiler reunited
Chaka's boiler arrived just before the Simplex diesel. However the latter was dealt with first and was started up to assist the unloading process, which went quite quickly, thanks to the experienced lorry driver who transported the loco from Statfold. Then it was the turn of Chaka, which was propelled up the unloading spur to have the boiler placed on the frames by the hi-ab lorry which brought it to Toddington from Allan Prout's yard. Chaka was then towed to the loco shed. The Simplex followed and during the afternoon had a successful test run on the main line to check clearances.
The Simplex and Hunslet on the loading spur
A large quantity of spares for the Simplex diesel arrived Wednesday 15th, thanks are due to Martin Turner and his colleague from the Talylynn who made it easy to unload from their trailer. Thanks also to our volunteers who came to help.
Late August saw the arrival of visiting engine STANHOPE from the Apedale Valley Light Railway. Our Henschel '1091' left us the same day on a reciprocal loan. STANHOPE was built by 'Kerr Stuart' in 1917 works number 2395 and is a 'Tattoo' class 0-4-2 saddle tank engine.
Stanhope hauls a test train, checking clearances. photo M Ranieri
STANHOPE faces down the line, enabling some different pictures to the usual ones and will be in steam for Thomas days in September and our gala in october.
The running season is now well underway, with trains scheduled every Sunday until the beginning of October, plus some other days, see timetable on the website.
Over the three day GWR steam gala between 24 and 26 May, we had plenty of visitors, as a ride on the narrow gauge was included in the all-inclusive day ticket. 1091 and Sena 15 topped and tailed the 'wet weather' set – the Polish coach and the Trecwn carriage.
Steam is scheduled for use on Sunday 15 June, the Classic Vehicles day, in the shape of Justine. The following weekend, 21 and 22 June, is a Thomas weekend, and we intend to use the top and tail train again with 1091 and Sena 15.After that steam will be used, subject to availability, on Sunday 13 July. This will follow a private visit from the Narrow Gauge Railway Society the previous day.
The GWR diesel gala will run on 25,26 and 27 July, we will use one steam loco as well as the diesel.
The model layout is being actively worked on, though we still need more old sleepers to finish off the base.
We are looking at ways to improve our publicity, and an on-train passenger survey has been conducted on certain days to find out what visitors think of our narrow gauge operation. Comments so far have been very positive. We are also investigating the possibility of getting pre-booked groups to ride on our railway.
Maintenance is ongoing, particularly unglamorous jobs like grass cutting and trimming lineside growth.
A further expense these days is the cost of medicals for footplate staff over a certain age. This highlights the need to attract younger volunteers onto the railway for the various duties and maintenance tasks that need to be undertaken.
All seats have now been fitted in the Wembley carriage and a first topcoat of paint has been applied to some of the exterior bodywork. The roof interior has been sanded down ready for painting.
Sena, 1091 and 'Justine' have all passed their annual boiler tests. Sena still needs to be fitted with a power brake so will not be in use until late May at the earliest. Offsite, great progress is being made on Chaka's boiler, with tubes being fitted ready for expanding.
Our Autumn Gala dates are now fixed for Saturday and Sunday 4 and 5 October. It is intended to steam all available resident engines, with the visiting loco being Stanhope.