Yet another fantastic steam gala was held at the Watercress Line this weekend. The whole line was constant hive of activity, with seven locomotives (and one crane) in steam; working a variety of services, some double-headed plus demonstration freight services. There was also plenty on static display too; including a visitor from the National Railway Museum and a freshly repainted N class in Southern wartime black livery.
The line-up has been reported on in a previous post; tonight we will look at some of the trains that were running on the day. Arguably, the star of the show was Schools class 925 Cheltenham. For me it was a first to see a schools class in steam and fittingly it was the first locomotive I saw on the day, double heading with it’s larger cousin; 850 Lord Nelson. No less than seven cylinders were at work pulling that train! These locomotives are two of the National Collection trio that were to be seen on the Railway for the gala. Moving away from Ropley I wanted to see the two locomotives in action and this time facing smokebox door first and I caught them further along the line at Bighton Lane on the return trip.
Also at Bighton Lane, I captured West Country class 34007 Wadebridge with a demonstration goods train, this time with the sun behind me.
Returning to Ropley I caught the train west to Alresford, where I got a good chance to look at Cheltenham, although the bright light and shade made getting a decent exposure when taking these pictures tricky to say the least!
Alresford was host to the third National Collection visitor, a rather forlorn and tired looking Battle of Britain class 34051 Sir Winston Churchill. I will go into a little more detail about this locomotive in a future blog post, but for now here’s a picture (below). The National Railway Museum had a stand adjacent to 34051, which provided a good chance to see some of their limited edition models. I have to confess that their model of LMS Compound 1000 looked amazing!
Whilst at Alresford I also had some time to view the locomotive that hauled my train, ex-GWR 43xx 5322. This locomotive was visiting from Didcot Railway Centre and was looking very smart indeed. I’ll also write a separate piece on this locomotive in the future, but have included a picture (below) to whet your appetite! This picture was taken after I had returned to Ropley.
I spent the remainder of the day at Ropley, taking in the sites and sounds of passing trains. Having had a tiring week at work, it was nice to sit in the shade on a hot sunny day and watch the trains go by! Exploring Ropley loco yard, the N class was on display in wartime black with sunshine lettering. It was nice to see her in “real” colours, a vast improvement on the previous viewing when she was red!
Until a few days ago, it was hoped that S15 class 825 would be attending the gala. Unfortunately this was cancelled at the last minute. On a more positive note, two the line’s three resident S15 class locomotives (30828 and 30506) were on display; their overhaul’s both clearly progressing slowly but surely towards having them work again. 30828’s frames are shown below.
Another “attraction” in the yard was a steam powered crane. I found it quite mesmerizing! So much so that I will write a full blog post feature about this at a later date!
Later in the day, 850 Lord Nelson is pictured below at a crowded Ropley station. It was good to see so many visitors and I hope the event proves to be a real success for the line’s finances.
Another double-header that proved to be yet another highlight of the day, were the U class 31806 and BR standard 9F 92212 with a demonstration goods. It was great to see this BR black duo in action in an impressive display of steam power!
My final view of the day is of Stanier Black 5 45379 running around its train at Alresford. The reliability and dependability of these machines led to no less than 842 of them being built. And here fittingly, it was filling-in for an older Southern machine!