Monday, 14 April 2014

Back to Black

No, nothing to do with Amy Winehouse, 'Back to Black' is the theme for this year's steam gala.  

Gala artwork courtesy of Andy Beale
 The Back to Black gala is less than six weeks away now, and frantic activity has been taking place behind the scenes to bring forth a cornucopia of delights for you to enjoy.  What can you expect should you choose to pay us a visit during the gala?  Well lets start off with the locomotives that all being well we will have in steam (the usual caveats apply; steam locos are very old and do sometimes fail, your house may be repossessed if you don't keep up your mortgage repayments etc):

From the home fleet we expect/hope to have (in numerical order):


2807 at Gotherington
Wheel arrangement: 2-8-0
Origin: Great Western Railway
Introduced: 1903
Working weight: 116 tons (locomotive 76 tons, tender 40 tons)
Water capacity: 3,500 gallons
Purpose: Heavy, long-distance freight.

2807 is currently away at Tyseley having attention paid to her horn guides.  It is very much hoped that she will be back in time for the gala.

4270 in the David Page shed at Toddington
Wheel arrangement: 2-8-0T
Origin: Great Western Railway
Introduced: 1910
Working weight: 82 tons
Water capacity: 1,800 gallons
Purpose: Heavy freight

This locomotive's restoration from Barry scrapyard condition is nearing the end now and is again very much hoped to be in steam in time for the gala.

Wheel arrangement: 2-6-2T.
Origin: Great Western Railway.
Introduced: 1927
Working weight: 61 tons
Water capacity: 1,300 gallons
Purpose: Light Branch passenger.

The more observant amongst you will have noticed that in spite of my best efforts to put you off the scent with a black and white photo of 5542, so far all of the locos listed are in GWR green of one form or another.  The rest of our line up from here on are in black livery to conform with our 'Back to Black' theme:

7820, Dinmore Manor
Dinmore Manor departing Winchcombe
Wheel arrangement: 4-6-0
Origin: Great Western Railway
Introduced: 1938
Working weight: 69 tons (loco) plus 40 tons (tender)
Water capacity: 3,500 galls
Purpose: Mixed traffic on rural routes of the GWR.

Dinmore Manor is now in regular service on the GWSR, having only entered traffic in early April after a 10 year rebuild.

8274 (running as WD348 last year) in Dixton cutting
Wheel arrangement: 2-8-0
Origin: LMS
Introduced: 1935
Working weight: 126 tons
Water capacity: 4,000 gallons
Purpose: Freight locomotive

For the visiting locomotives we will have (in numerical order):

1501 on a demonstration goods train
Wheel arrangement: 0-6-0PT 
Origin: Designed for the GWR, built by BR
Introduced: 1949
Working weight: 58 tons, 4 CWT
Water capacity: 1,300 gallons
Purpose: Shunting empty coaching stock in and out of Paddington station

1501 is coming to us courtesy of the Severn Valley Railway and the 1501 Pannier Tank Association..

Wheel arrangement: 2-8-0
Origin: GWR (Collett rework of Churchward's 28XX class)
Introduced: 1938
Working weight: 116 tons, 5 CWT
Water capacity: 3,500 gallons
Purpose: Heavy freight

3850 comes to us courtesy of the West Somerset Railway and her owning group Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD (DMLL).  At some point over the gala weekend it is intended to double head the two DMLL locos.  This will be the first occasion that DMLL will have had two locos in steam at the same time and place.

45379 - Black Five
45379 at home on the Mid-Hants Railway
Wheel arrangement: 4-6-0
Origin: LMS
Introduced: 1934
Working weight: 129 tons
Water capacity: 4,000 gallons
Purpose: Mixed Traffic

 45379 comes to us courtesy of the Mid-Hants Railway.

So there you have it, with a bit of luck that will be 8 mainline steam locos in action and the majority of them in black.  For the DMLL group, it will be an event to remember as for the first time they will have two of their locos in steam at the same time and place.  They'll also have a three of their four locos present, 2874 (sister loco to 2807) is one of theirs too:
2874 patiently awaits her turn for some TLC at Toddington
This will also mark the first gala for 7820 during her current boiler ticket and of course, for 4270 it will be the first gala appearance ever, which will be quite an event in its own right.  

Our active restoration projects will be on display too.  Like last year 35006, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company will be shunted out into the car park at Toddington.
35006 in the David Page shed.
Note the shiny, newly painted smoke deflectors in the foreground, they will hopefully be fitted shortly.  Her tender has been lowered back down again after work on the brakes. It is hoped that the painting of the tender will have finished in time for the gala.

Last year we opened the David Page shed to allow visitors to see what was in there that might be of interest.  This year, the only mainline steam loco that applies to is the NRM's 4F, 44027.
44027, some while ago in the David Page shed
Rather than open the David Page shed every day to let people in just to see 44027, it is currently proposed that the last loco to go off shed each day should pull her out so that she can be seen from the viewing area which is open to the public on the west side of the yard.

Whilst the timetable is yet to be published, I can inform you that it will involve evening running on the Saturday and Sunday, finishing at 10pm. Crews and passengers alike will be pleased to learn that the final service will terminate at Toddington and not Laverton as is shown on my advance copy. 

As if that isn't enough, like last year, the North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway will be open and running on all three gala days.  Their timetable can be found online by clicking on this linkI am informed that Justine and 1091 should both be in steam, possibly one or other double heading with Sena No. 15, which currently has no power brake.

 Although is doesn't currently say so anywhere that I could see on the main GWSR website, the cost of travel on the narrow gauge railway is included in the Back to Black gala ticket price.  Note that if you turn up for the evening running only, then a £12 ticket is all you need to ride on the late trains from 15:45 onwards (other prices for families/senior citizens/children).  Advance tickets represent not only a significant saving, but saves you from having to stand in the queue to buy tickets on the day.

Following on from the success of last year's event, we'll be doing brake van rides again, with the subtle variation that you'll now be able to buy a return ticket rather than just a one way ticket. At a £5 supplementary price in addition to the gala ticket for a one way trip and £10 for a return trip, these are excellent value for money.
The view from the Queen Mary brake van as 2807 and the freight train is about to enter Greet tunnel
Greet tunnel is 693 yards long (over a third of a mile) and curves inside, so in the middle of the tunnel,  is pitch black. You should be able to see the cosy glow of the fire from the locomotive up ahead of you though.

Again, following on from a successful start at last year's gala, we will be offering a limited number of footplate rides on the larger of our home fleet locos.  An experience not to be missed.  When last I heard, half the available slots had already been booked, so if you are thinking about it, best get your act together sharpish.
A happy customer on the footplate of Foremarke Hall last year
 If non-rail bound steam is your thing, then once again we will have a selection of traction engines at Winchcombe, with some making the occasional foray as far as Toddington.
A traction engine making its way to Toddington last year
 If you don't have a car, then for the first time, we'll be able to help you get you to us by public transport.  We will be operating a shuttle bus from the mainline Cheltenham Spa Railway station to our own Cheltenham Race Course station. Details should be appearing on the main GWSR website in the fairly near future.  Roll on the day when mainline visitors will be able to board a train at their local station and change trains at Honeybourne for the GWSR.  Again like last year, we hope to have heritage buses conveying passengers to Broadway station to inspect the excellent progress being made towards recreating the station and signal box there.

If you do have a car, then parking at Toddington will be relatively limited (best arrive early) or alternatively there is plenty of parking at Cheltenham Race Course station.  There will be no parking at Winchcombe unless you turn up driving a traction engine.  I'll make exceptions for anybody who arrives on a Vincent Black Shadow or BSA Gold Star as long as they leave the keys with me.  Needless to say, they won't see them again.

Mortons media group which publishes amongst other titles, Heritage Railway Magazine are sponsoring this year's gala. They will have a stand in the marquee in the car park at Toddington along with many other organisations and locomotive owning groups, which includes crafts, railwayana, prints, photos, model railways and projects such as The Patriot Project, Betton Grange , 81371000 and of course 44901.

I had intended to leave it at just mentioning the gala this week.  At short notice I found myself working at the day job on Saturday.  I arranged with the crew that I'd pop in on Friday evening and clean the 8F ready for them in the morning and then call back in towards the end of the day on Saturday to help with disposal, which is exactly what I did.  Just as I was about to leave on Friday evening though, I found George and Mark's wife Michelle in the car park preparing to surprise Tina with a birthday cake.  In yet another display of dedication above and beyond the call of duty, Tina had gone along to the steam loco dept's management meeting on her birthday.  Before anybody asks, I did a bit of investigating and discovered that Tina has now reached the grand old age of 21.
Michelle & George with the cake.  Note, George appears to be sporting an interesting new hairdo
As a fireman, Tina should be keeping fires going rather than putting them out.
For somebody who had been through the grade of fireman before becoming a driver on our railway, George experienced a great deal of difficulty in getting the candles lit.

Whilst kicking about in the car park before the management meeting had drawn to a close and it was time to appear with the cake, for some reason or other the topic of conversation drifted round to the topic of death.  When his time comes, George doesn't care which chimney he goes up, but he is keen that it's while which ever loco it turns out to be is being given some "second valve treatment" up towards Greet tunnel, the idea being that his ashes would land in the pub.  Michelle volunteered that Mark would not care where it was as long as it was one of his (ok DMLL's) locos.  Personally, I'm rather torn.  As somebody who views the Lake District as his own personal adventure playground, joining Alfred Wainwright by Innominate Tarn on Haystacks appeals, as does Westmoreland cairn on Great Gable.  
Wasdale as seen from Westmoreland Cairn
If it's a case of going up a chimney, then I'd settle for 6000, King George V being thrashed driven in a spirited fashion southbound up towards Ais Gill summit on the Settle and Carlisle line, with my ashes coming to rest upon Wild Boar Fell.  It will never happen of course, KGV is stuffed and mounted in the NRM and is highly unlikely to turn a wheel under her own steam again. She was the first steam loco that I ever stood on the footplate of, more years ago than I'd care to admit to at Bulmers sidings in Hereford.  4079, Pendennis Castle was there at the same time, which would be a much more likely alternative.

6000, King George V (and 7819, Hinton Manor) in 1985 near Bristol
I know it's a bit morbid, but feel free to comment on which chimney you'd like to go up and where, when the time comes.  Feel free to ask questions about the gala too. I will of course add more details/announcements regarding the gala over the coming weeks. Most of all, do come along to the gala and hopefully you'll have a very good time indeed. 


  1. When will the timetable be going up for the event?

    1. I'm not sure exactly when it will happen, but it will be linked to from this web page when it is: