Sunday, 16 August 2020

Welcome back!

I wrote back in March that members of the steam department were walking into the yard after winter maintenance and enjoying the sights and smells of steam being raised for the beginning of the 2020 season. Last weekend it was deja vu as the GWSR ran its shakedown trains ready for reopening to the public. 
Dinmore Manor waiting on the shed (Ian Crowder)

Early morning alarms were set, volunteers from across the railway had been offered seats as passengers to test the new safety measures and Dinmore Manor and Foremarke Hall were prepped, ready to bring railway life back to the Cotswolds. 

As you may have noticed, it was a trifle warm last weekend but that didn’t stop people from enjoying their railway for the first time in just under five months, one of the longest shutdown periods ever experienced by the GWSR. I took the liberty of travelling on the afternoon train on Saturday which was then followed by a cleaning turn on Sunday morning. Anyone travelling on their own is assigned a seat in the TSO (open) carriage as the compartments are minimum two people or more. 
The view from the TSO

Travelling solo in the TSO means keeping a mask on at all times, apart from when consuming refreshments. It was definitely more than warm at times but I had brought snacks and drinks with me which meant I could occasionally take my mask off and have a drink to cool down slightly. By the time we reached Gotherington, I was accustomed to the environment and didn’t feel any different to how it would have been without a mask on. 
Sat down at Cheltenham

The run rounds at Cheltenham and Broadway allow time for visitors to alight and see the engine as usual (masks are required) which of course means pictures. I noticed a fair few phones and cameras being pointed in the direction of Dinmore Manor, particularly at Cheltenham as she is currently facing north so this is the only station to get a photo “the right way round”. An opportunity to buy refreshments was also available at Cheltenham and I believe the majority of people travelling made use of it.
7820 bursts out of Greet Tunnel (Ian Crowder)

There was more of a breeze on the return leg and the TSO sits at the north end of the train which meant I could thoroughly enjoy sitting back and listening to 7820 power through a non-stop trip back to Toddington before collecting the staff and heading up to Broadway. I wasn’t exactly surprised to see Saturday’s working group made up of DMLL volunteers in prime viewing spots as we pulled past the shed; it must be nice to see their engine back working again.
Steaming under Three Arch Bridge (Ian Crowder)

Waking up at 05:15 on Sunday hurt, I’m not going to lie. The body clock is very much out of practice and the brain didn’t want to switch off to let me get a proper night’s sleep. The fact that this was only my second cleaning turn had nothing to do with my insomnia, I’m sure.
Starting the day

Cleaning gives you a chance to get to know more of the ins and outs of the locomotives, especially if like me you’re a complete beginner who spends their working days behind a desk and not doing anything related to engineering. As it happens, the prep crews during the week had done an amazing job cleaning 7820 and 7903 already so I spent my time wiping down what little dust and ash had accumulated, as well as the standard fetching wood etc as and when the fireman needed it.
Waiting for coal
In what felt like no time at all, it was time for the engine to move round and prepare for the second of the shakedown days. I did spot a new inspector shining their boots as this was happening but failed to acquire a picture. Said inspector also apparently holds on to Christmas cards as one from 2015 was going to be sacrificed on the fire later that day, much to the disgust of the fireman who upon seeing the bundle of paperwork was heard exclaiming “you aren’t sticking that lot on my fire are you?”
The scaffolding has come off the welfare building

It was nice to have some semblance of normality back again and over the next few weeks the GWSR will settle into its new rhythm. I probably should say that as the purpose of this weekend was to check how things would run, there may be differences if/when you come to visit us. All the information is on the GWSR website, as is the link to pre-book your tickets.
Ben and Clive in the Telegraph (Picture credit Ian Crowder, photo credit Jack Boskett)

I think the smiles above sum it up rather well.



  1. Hello Bryony, thanks for the update, We bet it was wonderful to see the engines runing again after so long! Thanks to all the volunteers who made the test trains and the fare paying trains run, also the support teams from the other departments. A great effort by all.
    Paul & Marion

  2. I add my appreciation too to all who made the return to steam a success. Also nice to see a blog from the loco dept. again.
    Regards, Paul.