Steam Special

photos  by

Tony Bartlett

We were lucky enough to have the first steam special of the year passing through Hungerford last weekend in fine weather (after a vicious hailstorm had threatened to spoil the party), and some people may have seen the return working in the Vale of White Horse or Thames Valley. That was after most of us will have missed two others earlier in the year in our area, due to the appalling weather associated with the named storms at the time.

Well that seems to be that for the foreseeable future. Most of the planned trains are now being either cancelled or postponed to later in the year – in response to the government recommendations designed to slow the spread of the virus outbreak. The particular details are available from our reference web-site at Railway Herald – Railtours which supersedes (as usual) the Local Schedule issued alongside the recent publication of CHAIN Mail. The Railway Herald site also details on their home page how the restrictions on movement and meeting are affecting preserved railways – useful in case you had to be near a local preservation centre. Again the story is mostly one of shutting down operations, including special events like steam galas, to protect staff and visitors, and importantly to avoid expenditure which will not be recovered in takings. The financing of steam preservation is difficult under normal circumstances, let alone in the challenging conditions while the virus measures are in place.

So as in all other aspects of the virus emergency we shall have to “tough it out” and hope for a speedy return to normality once the virus threat has passed. Also to hope that the companies who operate mainline steam trains survive to ply their trade later in the year.

Upcoming Trains

updated 10.09.2020

Next advised steam train(s) to stop in Hungerford, but do check before you go.………….
……see also …Steam Tours March to July 2020′ timetable click here

Do please visit Photo Gallery for 2019 and previous years
This is the first of two pages for your enjoyment. Do scroll down there maybe more than one!


Saturday 12th September 2020 ***Alert*** – Bulleid SR Pacific no. 34046 Braunton on a Cotswold Explorer from Paddington for Saphos Trains

While most of the bigger players have cancelled their steam-hauled excursions for the rest of 2020, Saphos is one of the newer operators who have already been able to run one-day trains which comply with virus-safety requirements. This one has been on the Railway Herald schedule for some time, but it is only today that new information suggests that it will actually run. Firstly the loco for the trip travelled down from the North to the Southall steam depot today, and also the paths have now appeared on Real Time Trains.

The train is due to depart from Paddington at 09:36, travels through Reading (10:45), Didcot PW (11:10) and Oxford (12:15), then takes the north Cotswold line to Worcester. Return from Worcester is via the route over Sapperton to Swindon (19:23), crossing the Vale of White Horse to Didcot PW (20:13) and back to Paddington on the GW main line. So no visit to the Berks & Hants line this time but you may wish to take the opportunity to see the train given the rarity of such events currently. With the latest news on restrictions on group sizes it may be just as well to check on the day on the internet before setting out. (Make sure that the paths have been activated on RTT and that intermediate times are being registered).

The links on RTT for train watchers are outbound 1Z71 and return 1Z72. You may also find it useful to refer to Open Train Times Maps for the Didcot area here

for a visual check on where the train is. Usually you would expect to find a block labelled with the relevant 1Z reporting code, although by the vagaries of railway systems identifiers it may be a numeric code which can be established by cross-checking with RTT. Good luck!

I don’t expect to be travelling to see the train so any offers of photographs on the day would be welcome for a possible Sighting report.

The Help for Heroes bridge restoration project at Bridge 99 on the Kennet & Avon canal has been completed and the viewing platform over the canal is now available for public use. The area has been used unofficially for many years by railway photographers because of the grandstand view it provides of the railway as it climbs up the valley through Crofton to Savernake Summit. The final touches include a flight of steps providing safe access up the steep bank to the viewing area and an interpretation panel describing the history of the bridge. I was pleased to contribute a photograph of a passing steam train to illustrate this facet of the site.

I was present at the site this morning and the cement was not yet dry on the installation of the panel when the first steam train passed by! And by coincidence it was the same British Pullman train as featured on the panel, albeit with Tornado in charge rather than Clan Line. So I took the opportunity to capture the moment – same train, same photographer, same camera and lens three years later: