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Thursday 12th March 2020 ***Sighting*** –
LMS Black Five 4-6-0 no. 45212 on a Steam Dreams excursion to Bath
This train from Clapham Jcn to Bath via the Surrey Hills south of London on paper seemed likely to give our area a wide berth, judged by recent precedents – so was not included in the Local Schedule. However my contact at Steam Dreams advises that it will be travelling out from Reading via the Berks & Hants route and we will thus get a much earlier than expected opportunity to see steam in action on the main line. There is already a plan for the outbound journey on Realtime Trains from which we can expect to see the train passing through Hungerford at about 11:25 after a water stop at Newbury Racecourse from 11:01-16. The return journey is via the GW main line to Reading – with for example a water stop at Milton Jcn at 18:01-39
On the day: two steam specials were called off yesterday but a check on Realtime Trains this morning revealed that this one was taking place, albeit over 30 mins late getting underway. Due observance for water stops confirmed that steam haulage was involved, but the train was having difficulty not losing further time running out of its planned path. Certainly being allowed to precede a late-running West Country IET service out of Reading helped in this cause! (Thoughts of a car driver having to mark time behind a cyclist on a narrow country lane come to mind). To avoid further such situations the special made a lively start from its water stop at the Racecourse, and was still putting up an impressive show as it came into sight rounding the curve off the Common and blasting through the station:
I had taken a challenging position on the opposite platform, keeping a careful eye on two stone trains which were threatening to block my view. An opportune shovelful of coal on the fire has added to the already well delineated back-lit steam exhaust, and there is enough reflected light to bring out the detail in the shadows. The train required such vigorous running to maintain the schedule up the valley and over Savernake summit – by way of contingency in the latter part of the run it was able to reach Bath just about on time. No doubt passengers at the front of the train near the loco had an exciting experience of steam hard at work.