On Saturday 25th February 2017, I visited the Nene Valley Railway for their Bulleid 50 event, celebrating the return of Battle of Britain class, 34081 ’92 Squadron’ and commemorating the end of Bulleid Pacifics on the mainline. As their website described;“The summer of 1967 is remembered for many things. We could watch colour television for the first time as well use the UK’s first cashpoint. On the music front Sandie Shaw won the Eurovision Song Contest with Puppet On A String, while The Kinks released their classic hit ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Railway enthusiasts however will remember 1967 for a Waterloo Sunset of a different type. The curtain was falling on steam out of Waterloo and the last steam worked express passenger services in the UK on the line to Bournemouth and Weymouth. Bulleid Pacifics were still in charge of the prestige Pullman service, the Bournemouth Bellle, as well as other crack express trains. Steam mania gripped the south of England as steam went out in a blaze of glory with many 100+ mph runs being recorded. Then on Sunday 9th July 1967 it all came to an end, the steam sheds at Nine Elms, Salisbury, Bournemouth and Weymouth (amongst other) fell silent and steam on the Southern became just a memory.”Starting in Peterborough, visiting locomotive 34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’ had arrived once I had walked from the mainline station to Nene Valley’s station. The museum next to the station is Railworld, where the infamous Hover-train is perched on a piece of track. Alongside there are a couple of continental locomotives. A Danish locomotive, E class no. 996, which has been at the railway since I first visited back in the late 1990s. In 2014, the tender and cab were treated to some cosmetic attention, but from the photo above, more work is needed. The lines of the locomotive show how different it is to a British design.This is an American ALCO locmotive, which in 2009, was stared up for the first time in years. I believe that it is still up for sale, being one of two of these locomotives in Cambridgeshire, having previously worked in Wales. It arrived in Wansford in 1985, and moved to the Railworld site in 1989.
A final image from Railworld is of a heritage coach, which is of LNWR design. Travelling to Wansford, I finally had my first chance to see the restored 92 Squadron, which was through the window of the station shop, so forgive the flash in the reflection on the window. The locomotive was being coupled to rake of six Mark 1 coaches to return to Peterborough. I decided to take a look around the station site, with it being my first visit to railway since the visit of A4 Bittern in 2012. Normally, I arrive to the railway through the car park, so this would have been my first view of the railway yard. Seen in this view is BR 5MT 73050 ‘City of Peterborough’ which is in line for overhaul, and 75% of the funds have been donated from Peterborough City Council, who own the locomotive.A close up of the locomotive on the turntable, and the signature locomotive of the railway. Being the first tender locomotive on the railway, it was originally destined to be plinthed outside the college, to celebrate the city’s history with the railway. ‘Derek Crouch’ is owned by the Small Loco Group, and was cosmetically restored in 2014, which I covered in an article. The group is currently doing the same treatment to tank engine ‘Jacks Green;, and raising funds to restore Norwegian Tank Engine ‘Tinkerbell’ to service. This Swedish B Class, no. 101, is the gate guardian to the railway, and was cosmetically restored in 2011. Looking at bit worse for wear recently, the locomotive was a favourite with crews so hopefully, she will be restored when time and funds allows.I decided to view the yard from the walkway to their heavy overhaul shed. 10 years ago, the shed in the centre of the picture would have been home to LNER B1 No. 1306 ‘Mayflower’, which was the first time I had seen the locomotive. The Heavy Overhaul shed has been home to ’92 Squadron’ and Thomas over the past couple of years, but is now home to another Swedish locomotive, currently undergoing overhaul, but has been put together to tidy up the yard, and its’ overhaul has stalled for the past few years.Two shunting diesels are currently in the shed, undergoing repairs to return them to service.The locomotive above is undergoing more heavy maintenance, but the size of the shed is on show in the picture. The amount of free space allows for flexibility of the space, and more projects to be undertaken.This was my first view of Newstead, a locomotive the Small Loco Group has recently purchased after being discovered in a shed last year, which I covered in this article.This was for an assessment for how much work will be needed in a restoration, and very soon, we will find out how much money will have to be raised before she is traversing the line.The railway’s steam crane was in operation for this, and was a sight to see it in use.After travelling behind ’92’ to Peterborough, I decided to stop at Ferry Meadows, where the International Railway Preservation Society are forming a museum to showcase the railway’s Travelling Post Office coaches, and their Wagon-Lites coaches. The coaches have recently been moved to Ferry Meadows from Wansford, and the group are currently restoring them to operational condition. This is the sleeping car, and when not operating, it will be kept undercover at the new museum. The dining car was open for the first time in years, having had its’ asbestos been removed a few years ago. This is the heaviest coach in Britain, at 55 tons, and was brought by the Nene Valley Railway from Thomas Cook.The interior needs a refresh, but has been preserved really well. The differences between British dining cars, and French dining cars can be seen in the photo above.The royal mail coaches are currently undergoing some conservation work, and will eventually return to a BR Blue livery. There are four at the museum site, and one back at Wansford, undercover in the sheds.This diminutive shunter, Frank, has been undergoing restoration for the past few years. Above is the other ALCO locomotive, which is owned by the IRPS, and is undergoing repairs. The engine has been started up previously, and is a better condition that the one at Railworld.Behind the wagon is the museum shunter, DB Kof II 323 674-2, which arrived at the railway in 2013. Arriving back at Wansford, I climbed the bridge to take a photo of ‘Sir Keith Park’, and of the yard which can be seen below. This is a popular spot for visitors to take photos, and we were ready for 92 to return from Peterborough. The world’s most famous locomotive, and the original Thomas was undercover during my visit, and last year returned from overhaul, ready for another 10 years of delighting children visiting him.
‘92‘ returning to Wansford, was easily the highlight of the event. After hearing about the amount of work that the Battle of Britain society had to undertake while restoring the locomotive, such as;
- New tyres on bogie wheels
- New smokebox
- New blastpipe
- Cylinders re-bored
- New valve gear pins and bushes
- Welding repairs on thermic syphons
- Monel metal firebox stays
- New ashpan
- New BR-style grate
- Cab refurbished
- New cab windows
The amount of work that the small society undertook over the past 7 years, they have done a commendable job. It was touted that the locomotive might have returned to the mainline, but the cost would have exceeded their finances, and would have to restore a support coach, and hire support staff. This was out of their range, but the Nene Valley now has a new ambassador, showing the high quality of work that was undertaken in their yard, and I for one can’t wait to see her gracing the heritage railways across the country. I returned to Peterborough to catch the train back to Norwich, boarding visitor ‘Sir Keith Park’ for the final journey. While walking back, I noticed the ornate bridge, which I had missed after my mad dash from the mainline station!This plaque details the history of the bridge, not only showcasing our industrial heritage, but how a structure which is over 160 years old is still part of the mainline network, with no enhancements apart from strengthening in 1910 and 1914.A juxtaposition of the bridge, as the large brown bridge was constructed in 1924, but to a much different design. It would quite a sight to see some former LNER locomotives crossing the bridge, such as A3 4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’ and A4 4468 ‘Mallard’Thanks for reading.