Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A Very British Gala

In what passed for "normal" seemingly an age ago now, most wives of volunteers in the steam dept complained that their husbands spent far too much time at the railway and that they would like to see them at home more often (a euphemism for getting on with myriad chores & DIY tasks).  Their wish has been granted and now that they have had their husbands under their feet for all this time, they have come to see the error of their ways and can't wait for the GWSR to reopen so that they can pack their husbands off again. Ladies, we provide an invaluable community service for which we make no charge at all aside from the very reasonable GWSR membership fee.

Last weekend would have been the "Cotswold Festival of Steam", which promised to be the usual unmissable event with a fabulous selection of guest locos (only 2 of which we had announced).  Sadly, that along with so much else fell by the wayside in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.  It is hoped that we will be able to resurrect the gala next year in its usual late May bank holiday weekend slot assuming that the current social distancing restrictions have been sufficiently lifted by then.

Suffering withdrawal symptoms and desperately in need of a steam fix, one of my correspondents in the steam dept who has requested anonymity decided to run his own gala at home over the weekend, he has furnished me with a plethora of photos and a long description of what transpired along with some background information.

The story started some years ago after an attic conversion in his bungalow left a small area free for non-domestic purposes.  He was more than a little surprised when he broached the subject of installing a model railway in the free space, that his wife suggested that he creates a layout of Toddington.  His plans had hitherto been somewhat less ambitious, but given a green light to start on Toddington, it would have been churlish to have said no.  The space available wasn't exactly huge and had the disadvantage of having no floor boards, or lighting... in fact nothing but a roof over head.  Progress has stepped up a gear since the lockdown started, though in his own words, the gears concerned were tectonic speeding up to glacial.  Nonetheless, there is now a floor, electricity, plasterboard around the walls from a certain height upwards and a base on which to build a OO scaled layout of Toddington.  Toddington as it would have been somewhere in the 1950's, rather than current day Toddington.  He wanted to model from the road bridge at the north end of the station, as far as the south headshunt.  Some measuring of scale diagrams and calculations later suggested it wouldn't all fit into the space available... unless he was prepared to put up with the various sidings at the south end of Toddington curving round a corner.  Sometimes in life you have to compromise.  The big achievement over the lockdown period is that all the track (including two single slips and one double slip) has been laid, electric points wired up and made to work.  He was at pains to point out that none of the buildings or platforms scattered around in the photos that follow will feature in the finished layout, they just happened to be left lying around from previous projects and dropped in to give an indication of where things will be.  The back scene does exist, but the PVA glue hadn't set in time for it for be set up for this gala.  The track is only spot glued in place and as yet has no ballast... he is very much hoping that the ORR don't turn up for a spot check of the permanent way.
Toddington sometime in the 1950's
 Where do you start when running your own gala? With the home fleet of course, first off the blocks was 4270 on a pick up goods.
 To the untutored eye, the signal box is a very close approximation to the signal box at Toddington, however it is slightly too narrow, the centre window section at Toddington is the same width as the ones on each side of it.  This model also lacks the rear window on the Winchcombe end of the box and the locking room door on the Broadway side.   The goods shed isn't even close, it's a much smaller Metcalfe kit.  My correspondent has only seen photos of the north side of the goods shed, where there wasn't a loading gauge.  Was there one in the position shown here?

Next up in the home fleet is Foremarke Hall... well, not quite yet.  The recent model of Foremarke Hall is in black, and it has only run in lined green in preservation.  This is another modified hall in the right livery, waiting patiently for my correspondent to finally get round to applying the replacement name & number plates that he has had for some years now.
7903, Foremarke Hall
 Foremarke Hall has been paired in this instance with a nice rake of five maroon Hawksworth coaches.  

This Toddington can only muster four BR MK1's, which have been put behind 7820, Dinmore Manor for this photo. 
7820, Dinmore Manor
 No station buildings at all, or road bridge yet... one day.  The "James Taylor & Co" coal wagons parked up where the coal staithe will be built is a nice touch, even if two of them are number 24.

Dinmore Manor is shown here in lined green.  There will soon be a lined black variant by Dapol, my correspondent has one on order.  You too can order one via the shop at Toddington station (the real one of course... the OO gauge one hasn't even started construction yet)

Last, but not least for the home fleet, we have 35006, which has a rake of 8 Pullman carriages  (best not let the GWSR finance director know how much it cost to hire that lot in).
35006 approaches from Winchcombe
 My correspondent apologised that his budget hadn't yet stretched to a model of 9466 or 76077, however they (along with a number of other items) are on his shopping list.  He did say though that an advantage of this kind of event is that it is comparatively easy to get in a few ex-home fleet locos. Turning up on the morning milk train consisting of a couple of suburban coaches and a milk tanker was 5542... OK, not in the large shirt button livery that it currently carries amd without the stainless steel hand rails or hydraulically operated grate come to that, but still 5542.
5542, stopping to take on water and drop off milk
 Another ex-home fleet member making a visit is Stanier 8F, 8274, seen passing the signal box on a long coal train.  I think we may have a few more James Taylor & co wagons, numbered 23 & 24 mixed up in this little lot. 
Taking coal towards South Wales?
 My correspondent was at pains to point out that although the renumbering has been done, he has yet to be brave enough to try and move the reverser arm from the left side to the right.   

A final ex-home fleet loco that ran on the gala was the Peckett, John.  Well OK, this one is an 0-6-0ST Peckett rather than an 0-4-0ST, I am assured that something more suitable will be sourced and treated to a GWR green paint job along with shirt button logo that John carried when last in service.
OK, not quite John
The Peckett is shown alongside the fruit packing shed (in reality in this photo, another Metcalfe kit, this time of an engine shed), which is a source of concern for my correspondent, he has seen just the one photo of it in the far distance and would like to have more detail on which to model it.  If you have any photos of the fruit packing shed, or photos of the yard in general, please do forward them via this blog.

 Another advantage of ths format of gala is that you can reinvite past guests and nobody complains... well they can if they like, but my correspondent really doesn't care about that.
3850 on the sort of length of freight train that I wish we could emulate in 12" to the foot scale
 As you may be aware, 3850 is currently under overhaul on site at Toddington and there are no small number of people who are looking forward to the day that we can light a fire in her once more:
Counting down the days
 Other ex-gala guests present included 6023, King Edward II, this time on a handsome rake of half a dozen blood and custard Hawksworth coaches.
KEII back for the 3rd time on the trot
 925, Cheltenham was in the line up for the big four gala a few years back
Cheltenham on the blood & custard rake
 1450 has been with us a few times over the years, most recently for the gala that coincided with the opening of Hayles Abbey Halt
1450 & Autocoach arrives at platform 1 from Winchcombe
 There was even a visit from a loco that was once booked and announced, but ultimately never made it to us, black five, 45305.
45305 on the blood and custard's.
 One day a "Cheltenham Flyer" headboard will be sourced and placed on the smokebox door of 4098 Kidwelly Castle which will look rather appropriate.  Here on a rake of 10 chocolate & cream Collett coaches.
No headboard on the Cheltenham Flyer... yet.
 Of course, if it's your own gala, you can invite any loco you like, regardless of whether or not you have a main line connection.
Apparently my correspondent's wife preferred Tornado in the blue livery
 The same rake of teak carriages also looks rather good behind an A4, even one that is in reality many decades out of ticket and stuffed & mounted on the far side of the Atlantic
60010, Dominion of Canada arriving from Winchcombe.
My correspondent also appears to have a soft spot for the Beattie well tanks
30585 on a china clay empties
30587 with more china clay empties
30586, the one that eluded preservation  with 3 china clay hoods
 After that, things went from the sublime to the ridiculous, having one 2807 running, even though the real thing is out of ticket and in the early stages of its 10 year heavy general overhaul is one thing.  Having two of them is quite another thing altogether.
2807 passing 2807
 The one on the left was obtained some years ago from a member of the 2807 group and is highly detailed, it was even painted with paint from the same tin as the loco itself.  The one on the right is a more rececnt release.

My correspondent had obtained a DCC sound/light fitted Merchant Navy to run as 35006, and once again, although he has the transfers and nameplates has yet to fit them.  Meanwhile a kind soul gave him a DCC fitted Merchant Navy already renumbered as 35006... so he now effectively has two of those.
Double headed Merchant Navy on the Pullman rake
 Becoming rather more sensible for a while, as you probably know, 2874 is on site at Toddington for restoration from Barry scrapyard condition, it was sent out with a long milk train of Cotteswold Dairy tankers
2874 with the milk tankers passing 3850
 3850 is owned by Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD, and 2874 used to be, until a charitable trust was set up to oversee its restoration.  It seemed obvious to get all three locos running together.
One day the dream will be a reality
 And finally, if you thought that two of 2807 or two of 35006 was just a bit silly, it gets worse, the long train (14 chocolate & cream carriages of mixed Collett & BR MK1 design) was hauled by no less than three Dinmore Manors.
Not something that you see every day!

My correspondent very much hopes that he will be able to enjoy next year's gala on the footplate rather than in his attic.


  1. 3 Dinmore Manors, 2 P&Os -- This sounds very much like a Christmas carol. Now where did I put my Christmas presents want list?
    Excellent blog.
    Regards, Paul.

    1. Santa will have trouble getting 3 manors and 2 merchant navies down your chimney :-)

  2. great layout and so many Locos from the GWSR , looks as if you've taken over the Terry Cresswell room upstairs at Winchcombe ,sadly only available for training and GWSR dept meetings.

    Where does the track come from , wooden sleepers effect is so authentic John M Pway

    1. I have enquired of my correspondent, it's Peco Finescale Code 75 (Other OO gauge track vendors do exist), available from many model railway stockists.