Wings and Wheels Society.

Bluebell Railway 22-4-2023.

The Bluebell 2023 Branch Line Gala stood out among the 7 Galas I was lucky enough to visit this Spring as it didn't feature any GW locos. It did feature two LYR locos one of which was the diminutive 0-4-0 Pug which I had only previously encountered in Airfix kit form! In addition, “celebrity” industrial 0-6-0 Hastings (built by Hunslet in 1888) was visiting from the Kent & East Sussex. To add the icing on the cake Terrier Fenchurch would be in action too. So, I left foggy Dursley on a ridiculously early train to arrive in sunny Sussex on time as tight connections came good. The timetable was imaginatively geared around local trains showcasing the Tank engines in various double-headed and top & tail permutations, with a “mainline” connection to East Grinstead in the hands generally of the bigger engines. I started with SECR O1 class 0-6-0 No 65 to Horstead Keynes for the Terrier & Pug double-headed, but guess what, everybody had the same idea. The SECR Birdcage rake of four coaches was packed to the point that some poor punters were left on the platform. Luckily, I got a seat (1st class) and with bonus of two new engines for haulage in one fell swoop. At Sheffield Park I looked in on the Brighton Atlantic project and Beachy Head really does look ready to go now but the Team were understandably cagey about dates, but a return to steam at next year's event following testing over the winter seems on the cards. Then back to Horstead Keynes tail and tail with the Terrier & Pug, with Terrier proceeding alone to terminate at Kingscote and then unusually berth the stock in the siding beyond the Signal box. Nice for photos - but of course it meant a large number of passengers then boarded the next train south double-headed by the odd couple of Hastings & LYR Class 27 52322. On route one of the water gauges on the LYR veteran broke but it was quickly replaced at Sheffield Park so we were only 12 minutes or so late leaving. 52322 tackled the initial part of the journey solo to Horstead Keynes where the LYR Pug was added as pilot. However, before our dynamic duo could head north the Pug needed water, and with the column on the water tower blocked this meant a hose pipe from the buffet! Even though Pugs have small tanks to fill we were still 45 minutes late away, but a rousing run finished off the day nicely with the duo posing for pictures in the setting Spring sun at East Grinstead. I bailed out early at this point planning to invest the time saved in a few beers in London but horrendous congestion on the Victoria line scuppered this, so I had to settle for a couple of quick pints of London Pride in Fuller's handily located Mad Bishop & Bear on Paddington station. Then the last train home from the Smoke. A very long but enjoyable day. My thanks as ever to the Bluebell and all the loco groups involved in putting on a colourful show with a real difference.

Copyright of all pictures in this gallery belong to N Clarke.