Issue 145    Dec 1st   to   March 1st   2020

Steam railways update – by Tony Bartlett

There have been seven steam specials to be seen in our area since my previous report and, better than expected, three of them travelled on our local line! The second trip to Minehead duly ran on 17th August with the Duchess again in fine form. More of a surprise was the appearance of Flying Scotsman on a Sunday 25th August circular trip from Oxford through Westbury and Swindon, which itself was an add-on to a Steam Dreams return trip from Paddington. I was able to issue an Alert for this which brought out a number of local fans of the loco.

Nice as it is to see these big Pacific locos on our line, the more modest 4-6-0 Mayflower always looks good in its LNER apple green livery. Even on a rather gloomy day on 5th October the loco made a fine sight crossing the Common with 9 carriages in tow. As a less powerful Class 5MT (mixed traffic) loco, it has to work visibly rather harder than the big express locos, especially as in this case it was being chased down by one of the latest GWR bi-mode express trains on its 125mph schedule to Penzance.

Elsewhere there was an opportunity on 5th September at Basingstoke to see another ‘farewell to steam’ run by the Gresley A4 Pacific Union of South Africa. A recent TV programme had it making its farewell in Aberdeen earlier this year, but reports of its imminent withdrawal seem to be premature. In fact no. 60009 is due to be seen crossing the Vale of White Horse on 23rd November for the Christmas Fair at Ludlow, and there is even a plan for it to be in charge of a Cotswold Venturer on 22nd February next year.

Those who follow steam train activity will know that we use the UK Steam Info web-site to provide you with advance warning of steam workings. This is no longer being updated, so we will be using the enthusiasts’ on-line magazine Railway Herald in future. As well as a subscription service for their weekly Herald publication they provide information on railtours, both steam-hauled and with modern traction, and a gallery facility on which you will find several hundred of your contributor’s railway photographs.

The latest local plan through to March 2020 from this new source is now available on the CHAIN web-site. As well as another ‘last chance’ viewing of no. 60009 we are due to have a return visit by the big LMS Pacific Duchess of Sutherland on 10th December on a trip for the Railway Touring Co to Bath and Cardiff Christmas markets, with an opportunity to join the train at Newbury. The seasonal theme is also taken up by Steam Dreams with a number of festive specials with Mayflower as their loco of choice. Tornado can be seen crossing the Vale of White Horse on a couple of occasions and there is similarly a rare outing of an (original) GWR locomotive when Clun Castle heads for the market at Bath.

The new year starts with Clan Line on a St Valentines Day Pullman in the Thames Valley.