Cotswold Festival of Steam: 2018

“Give my regards to Broadway” was the theme chosen by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway for their Cotswold Festival of Steam this year.
It might sound a rather odd choice of theme if you’ve not been following the GWSR’s major project to reopen the line from Toddington to Broadway, a project that has involved extensive repair work to the bridges between the two stations and the total reconstruction of the station at Broadway, British Railways having totally demolished the original after the line closed.



The reopening of the extension at Easter this year was the culmination of many years hard work by a dedicated band of volunteers. So it was only natural that the 2018 Festival of Steam celebrated the achievement.

For the event the railway lined up an impressive cast of guest performers:

GWR King class no.6023 King Edward II
BR M7 class no.70013 Oliver Cromwell
GWR 64xx class no.6430
USATC S160 class no.5197
Along with resident performers:
GWR 28xx class no.2807
GWR Modified Hall class no.7903 Foremarke Hall
GWR Manor class no.7820 Dinmore Manor
SR Merchant Navy class no.35006 Peninsular and Oriental S.N. Co.

Without doubt the star of the show had to be the King resplendent in its early British Railways blue express passenger livery. Which was the co-star would be a matter of some debate as each of the locos would have their admirers, but for many the choice would be the S160.



S160’s are a bit like Marmite, you either like them or you don’t, these large American no-nonsense Second World War austerity designs were built to haul heavy freight trains not to win beauty contests. The majority of them were shipped to Europe and beyond but some 800 of them worked on railways in Britain. Like them or not, the S160’s are impressive locomotives and provide an interesting contrast to British locos.



Unusually for an English Bank Holiday weekend the weather was quite decent, if you ignore the very misty start of the day and a short shower of rain on Saturday morning, but by mid-afternoon the temperature had increased to give us a pleasantly warm afternoon.



The first gala featuring Broadway station was clearly a big draw as nearly every train on Saturday, and quite a few on Monday, was full and standing even though there were two eight coach rakes and one 7 coach rake in use. The railway appeared to have every serviceable coach they had in use even to the extent of using their three car DMU, with its drive disconnected, as an additional train which was in the charge of GWR pannier no.6430.



The timetable worked well on the two days I was there with no serious delays or late running. During a gap in the timetable at Winchcombe the GWR 28xx no.2807 kept everyone entertained by shunting up and down the station with a couple of wagons.



The North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway was also operating, but there was so much happening on the main line that I didn’t get the opportunity to ride on that this year. At Toddington there were several traction and showman’s engines on display, both full size and miniature, there was also an impressive fairground organ.



A lot of planning and organising clearly went into the gala and all those involved in the planning and operation should be congratulated for putting on such an enjoyable event.




Some more of my photographs of the gala can be found on my website here.

Bluebell Railway Branch Line Gala 2018.

While it’s always good to go to a steam gala and see the big impressive main line locos strut their stuff we shouldn’t loose sight of the little engines. The tank engines that hauled passenger and freight trains on Britain’s myriad of branch lines, the unsung heroes, if you will, of our railway network.



It was these little engines that the Bluebell Railway choose to feature at their Branch Line Gala, better yet, it wasn’t the well known locomotives of the Big Four that were action, no, it was Locomotives from the pre-grouping companies resplendent in their original liveries that were in action.



The locomotives taking part were:

SER O1 class no.65
SR Q class no.30541
SECR H class no.263
SECR P class no.323
and special visitor GWR no.813. (Originally Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company no.26)



In keeping with the branch line theme the Bluebell Railway marshalled several short rakes of beautifully restored vintage carriages, some dating back to the 1900’s along with some slightly more modern stock. Riding in a four wheel coach with only basic suspension you felt almost every rail joint, but it was all part of the authentic branch line experience, rail travel as it was at the start of the last century.



I went on the Friday and Saturday, on the Friday there were three locos in action running a standard timetable with each train running the whole length of the line. On Saturday the timetable was very different with most trains terminating at Horsted Keynes and then returning to where they’d come from which created a busy branch line junction atmosphere at the station with loco changes and coach rakes being combined and split.



On two occasions trains terminated at Kingscote which led to the interesting spectacle of three trains being at the station at the same time. This meant a bit of shunting with the loco on the terminated service having to run round its train and then shunt it into a siding to make way for the two through services to pass each other.

Congratulations and thanks to all the staff and volunteers at the Bluebell Railway for the time and effort they all put in to make this such an excellent and enjoyable gala.



Here’s my video of the gala, it looks best in full screen mode (click the little X at the right of the player bar) and don’t forget to turn your computer’s speakers on.



You can see more of my photos of the gala on my website  here.

Kempton Steam Museum

In April this year I visited the Kempton Steam Museum, this isn’t the first time I’ve visited it’s my third, but each time I never fail to be amazed by the size of the impressive pumping engines.



The museum has two of these fantastic machines which can be enjoyed in their original surroundings, indeed, at 62 feet high and weighing 1000 tons each there is no way they could ever be seen anywhere but their original location and that location, a magnificent Art Deco building, is worth a visit in its own right.



One of the engines has been restored to working order and is the world’s largest working triple-expansion steam pumping engine, the other engine is kept as a static exhibit and on open days the museum arranges guided tours to enable visitors to get a closer look at the engineering than would be possible on a working engine.



I have no head for heights whatsoever, but on my first visit I went right up to the top of the static engine and got some nice photos, while keeping a very firm hold of the railing with one hand and holding the camera with the other. It was an interesting experience, but not one I’d want to repeat!



The engines were built by Worthington Simpson Ltd at their works near Nottingham and were installed in 1927. They were finally decommissioned in 1980, during their working lives apart from down-time for maintenance they worked 24 hours a day seven days a week pumping millions of gallons of water to homes and businesses in North London.



Coal for the pumping engines was delivered to a wharf on the river Themes at Hampton and transported to the Kempton site by a 2ft gauge railway which was completed in 1915 and dismantled in 1947. However, parts of the track bed still exist and there are plans to reopen part of the route as a passenger carrying heritage railway. To this end the Hamton & Kempton Waterworks Railway has opened a circular track to give rides behind their narrow gauge steam locomotive and no visit to the pumping engines is complete without a ride on the railway.



Watch the pumping engine in action.



This is the railway.