Friday, 9 June 2017

The Gala Event - Workhorses of Steam

The Spring Bank Holiday weekend saw the culmination of a year's hard work come into fruition for the Steam Dept Gala Committee. After a difficult final week of preparations, Saturday morning came along as it inevitably would do and delivered a lovely sunrise over the yard to herald the start of what would be a great weekend of steam.

2807 and her shedmates bask in the pinky-orange glow of the late spring sunrise
Photo by Jeremy Booth

On the Friday afternoon before the Gala, it was a blisteringly hot day. It didn't stop a gang of volunteers coming in to do some loco cleaning, however, to give the rest of the cleaners over the weekend a head start. Myself, Graham and Alex were there to name just three and we decided to start on the BR Standard Class 4 76017. She had not long come out of overhaul so she was a pleasure to clean, and as you can see she came up beautifully. Many thanks to the Watercress Line for such a nice engine. 

76017 shines in the sun

Of course it's not just the locos that need to keep up our reputation for well-presented stock - from time to time the carriages require some attention, particularly the 'spare set' used for busy times such as this. If anyone has an older red car (or anything red, really) that's ungaraged the sun can bleach the paintwork and make it appear pink. Not always the desired look! So someone had to break out the polish and get to work on that paintwork and as you can see it was really coming up well.

A bit of a polish = a vast improvement!

35006 was also out on the line, double-heading with Dinmore Manor for a pre-Gala test run to check some repairs:

35006 on test with the Manor
(Photo courtesy of Ray)
I'm glad to say that she passed and was allowed to start her duties during the busiest weekend of the year.

There were some more final touches to apply to Dinmore Manor's new tender - everyone's favourite - more water-slide transfers! 

Andy (l) and Sam preparing for the transfers - the essential washing up liquid in-hand
(photo courtesy of Ray)

The transfer ready to go on, with holes to allow for the rivets in the side of the tender
(photo courtesy of Ray)
Throughout the Gala weekend, there featured many double-headed trains on the timetable, which of course attracted a lot of photographers to capture these iron horses working together and using their enormous power. It was quite a sight... 

Foremarke Hall and Dinmore Manor create quite a show when leaving Toddington on the Saturday morning

Carriages full of excited passengers travelling behind 35006 and 76017
Photo by Leonard Wisbey

A close-up of a gleaming Dinmore

On Saturday Ray was firing on 35006 which was double-heading with 76017 with Dan W on the shovel.  

35006 waiting at Gotherington Loop for Dinmore Manor

On Saturday, it was the opposite for both of them, Ray on 76017 and Dan on 35006.
Here 76017 waits next to the mess coach as 4270 and the freight train comes by

76017 at Winchcombe, while Dinmore pulls into the platform

The highlight of the weekend, as with last year's Gala, was a 14-coach special top-and-tailed with Foremarke Hall and 35006, which departed on the evening of 27th June. It was a very pleasant evening after some very changeable weather. During the trip, 7903 worked Toddington to Cheltenham Racecourse, while 35006 worked Cheltenham Racecourse to Little Buckland, then 7903 was leading once again from Little Buckland back to base at Toddington. 

Amongst the various attractions of the weekend there were some Footplate Experiences (which were fully sold out), enabling members of the public to book up a slot and enjoy the sights and smells of the footplate, plus to see the driver and the fireman at work, for a single trip between Toddington and Cheltenham.

Additionally there was the opportunity to ride in one of our brake vans on the authentic looking freight-train, seen here at Cheltenham waiting for its next load of excited passengers:

Freight Train at Cheltenham

A gleaming Foremarke sits at Cheltenham with the freight.
John proudly stands in the background with a guard

Always popular, the brake van rides offer almost panoramic views of the line to the rear and an up-close-and-personal look at whichever locomotive is pulling it. Of course it also means being at-one with the weather - and if it's raining, you get wet. Still, all in the name of fun. 

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noted that the Starfish was not to be found amongst the wagons - this is because it was, in fact, on display in the main car park at Toddington, itself displaying a model of The Flying Scotsman.

Shunter 11230 sits with the Starfish... it displays a miniature Flying Scotsman

However this wasn't the only model on display - Dinmore Manor Group had been kindly loaned an impressive example of a model of 3850 for their stand in the marquee. Being new to these fully operational models, I was taken aback by the detail of all the parts, in particular the miniature gauges, and the fact that it generally still functions in much the same way as the full size versions.

A fully operational model of 3850. This is what we are aiming for with the real 3850 just on a bigger scale!
Another unique attraction of the gala was the opening of the privately owned platform and gardens of Gotherington station to the public - many thanks to owners Bryan and Savita for the privilege, and also for supplying food and drink to those attending.

It was also possible to take a ride on the handcar - a very different way of experiencing rail travel!

Eleanor on the handcar
For myself in particular it wasn't until the Monday of the gala that I could get my camera out and be creative - the weather was shocking in the afternoon, what felt like torrential downpours, but finally in the closing stages of the gala the clouds broke, making way for some sunshine and some interesting photo opportunities. 

A romantic shot of 76017 in the (rare) golden sunshine 

Vintage-style 4270 and the freight train at Winchcombe

1450 and the Chaffinch attract a crowd

BR logo on 1450

A moody-looking 76017 pulls into Toddington

Sam surveys the scene out of the cab of the BR Standard Class 4

Goliath and David

Sam and Mark discuss something important

Aaron (l) and Phil take a breather. Almost the end of a long day

Reflections of 1450

The Toddington station sign reflected in a glassy puddle

35006 thunders in to Platform 1 to unload her last passengers of the day

Engines await their turn for disposal. Dinmore Manor is in the foreground with 35006 wearing her 'Canberra'
board towards the rear

76017 on Platform 1, Toddington

Yes. They might bite. 

7:30pm on the last day of the gala. All is silent... and awaiting the whistle
of the next arrival...

So as another Gala comes to an end, planning for the next one will be be starting again before you know it. The most exciting thing about the next one so far will be that by then, Broadway will have already opened... 

Broadway Beckons

Having 76017 here at the GWSR has got a lot of volunteers thinking about our own (albeit privately owned) 76007, currently residing along one of the sidings, dismantled, and waiting for her turn to shine once again like her sister. Maybe one day...

Finally I'd like to say, and I'm sure you will all agree, that the team had done a fantastic job this year against all the odds to deliver yet another fantastic Gala. Also well done to the cleaners who kept up the condition of the locos during the event - they all looked fabulous and while carrying out my chaperoning duties I received a number of compliments on how nice the fleet looked.

Lastly, I know how you all like your facts and trivia about all things GWSR, so I thought I'd add that on the Saturday we had rostered the youngest steam locomotive here (Dinmore Manor), with the oldest crew here at our railway - Driver Jeff Madge and Fireman Clive Norton!

Driver Jeff(r) and Fireman Clive show the youngsters how it is done
If you were here at the weekend and enjoyed your visit, why not leave a comment in the comments section below? We would love to hear from you.

On a separate note, there is an update to the 'A Look Back to 1996' blog - a report and photos kindly sent in by ex-steam dept member Dave Scott, recalling the time when the Goods Shed floor was being put in. If you'd like to see this, click here and scroll to the end of the 1996 feature!

1 comment:

  1. I was a Saturday visitor and it was worth every penny of the entrance fee. Steam trains and good beer in the garden at Winchcombe. What's not to like?