The Watercress Line’s Autumn Steam Gala 2016 was an excellent three days for those who love to see a lot of steam engines in action. There were three visitors to the railway, with the headliner being 46100 Royal Scot on its first visit to the line. It was joined by the only surviving Ivatt 4MT, no. 43106 from the Severn Valley Railway and ex-S&DJR 7F 53809. Unfortunately the latter failed and was unable to perform, but sat in the yard in Ropley where visitors could get up close and even explore the cab.
During the three days, myself and the rest of the Canadian Pacific team conducted yard tours at Ropley, tours that were in far more depth than is usually the case, with the manager of the Machine Shop present for extended talks and the wheel drop in operation for demonstrations.
Other than meeting many like-minded individuals, I was particularly looking forward to seeing the Royal Scot. The locomotive in my eyes just looks “right”. I have a vague memory of seeing a big red locomotive at Bressingham when I was a child, which may well be a memory of this machine, but other than that, this was a first sighting for me. It was well worth getting up early to get a good look at it before the tours started in earnest! However, despite this tick off the list, the highlight for me was a spectacular display by two home-based machines…
Watching the recreation of the Pines Express bellowing through Ropley was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had on a heritage railway. 76017 and 92212 double headed an eight-carriage long train on one trip from Alresford to Alton on each day!
Of course, we must not forget the visit from the “flying pig” (aka 43106). This was very well received, perhaps especially because it is a very rare sight in southern England. With that being said, 43106 did have a visit to nearby Eastleigh in 1963 (see SEMG page here for more).
A lot of effort was put in by my colleagues on the Mid Hants Railway to make the Autumn Steam Gala 2016 a very special event and it showed. Everyone I met were having a great time and there was non-stop steam action. So roll on the next gala in February 2017!Thanks for reading!