Wings and Wheels Society.

Mid Hampshire Railway Spring Gala 29-4-2023.

The 2023 Mid Hants Spring Gala was in tune with this spring's fashion for a GWR theme and was the latest gig in Pendennis Castle's comeback UK tour. My connections worked so well that following a brisk walk between North Camp and Ash Vale, I arrived in Alton 30 minutes later than planned, along with loads of other keen punters for the first train south. Despite the (doubtless welcome) surge in customers, good work by the volunteers saw everybody sorted out with just a five-minute delay to the train. The crew of Ivatt 2-6-2T 41312 obviously saw this as a challenge and it belied its class 2 status by fairly charging over the Alps to Medstead, where I switched to Pendennis Castle. 4079 wasn't about to be upstaged by the Ivatt and gave everybody a sparkling trip back over the Alps hauling the six coach Real Ale Train. With 11 o'clock approaching it was time for an ale before alighting at Alresford to snap the Castle crossing the S&D 7F on the goods train. However, as I queued for my ale it became apparent that this plan was doomed. 4079 had been checked at Ropley's home signal and couldn't release the brakes. As a result, it was removed for repairs, and a class 47 diesel used in the Thunderbird role to drag the RAT train 200 yards or so into the station. Most alighted to see the stricken Castle on shed, I scrambled over the bridge to return north with the Ivatt, and the hardened Ale drinkers just carried merrily on their way behind the Duff! After a sunny interval snapping the Ivatt at Medstead, I took the second GWR guest 2-8-0T 5239 down to Alresford, well nearly, as it too was removed from the train outside the station, this time to allow it to take over the goods train. Rescue engine was S&D 7F 53808 and I spent the rest of day riding behind it with a break to tour the surprisingly quiet shed & works at Ropley. Although described by those in the know as “tired”, the old S&D warhorse put up a fine display of hill-climbing (just a shame it couldn't be over the Mendips). Superb work by the GWS and Mid Hants fitters saw Pendennis Castle returned quickly to action, although there was a further problem with it mid-afternoon which was more easily overcome. As consequence timekeeping was slipping badly, and I checked out early and compensated with a few pints of Fuller's refreshing Oliver's Island IPA in the Three Guineas pub helpfully located in the old Reading station building. I then caught IET trains all the way home, the second from Parkway to Cam & Dursley was an unexpected substitution for a HST and a sign of the ever-moving times. My thanks to all at Mid Hants and the loco groups for an eventful and exciting Gala.

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