Wings and Wheels Society.

Mid Hampshire Railway Branch Line Spectacular, Friday 6th Oct 2023.

The Mid Hants Railway (MHR) is steeply graded, so railwaymen dubbed it going “over the Alps” when diverted onto it in BR days. MHR Galas have therefore usually employed larger engines, but this year a Branch Line theme saw the focus on tank engines over the usual 3 days. What a spectrum they assembled a red one, a yellow(ish) one, two green ones and two black ones! As well as being colourful they spanned the development of the British tank engines from 1872 to 1950. Terrier Fenchurch was the oldest, with 1888 LNWR Coal Tank not far behind. The home fleet's Ivatt tank gave a post war example of a branch line engine, while the GWR weighed in (literally) with the aptly named Goliath 2-8-0T on loan from Paignton & Dartmouth. Two differing industrials were involved, Peckett 0-4-0T Kilmersdon, and Bagnell 0-6-0T 401. The latter was built in 1950 to demonstrate that contemporary steam could still match diesels for efficiency, but we all know how that ended……. Only three were built and two ended up at British Leyland Longbridge named after RAF V-bombers, more appropriate than the cars they made I suppose! So, a Gala not to be missed. Rich Kelsey's Mercedes powered magic carpet ride had us there with true Teutonic efficiency, and while Rich & Rob Stopford tucked into the bacon rolls on arrival, I grabbed a snap of the Bagnell departing making more smoke than an Austin Allego! Many, including us, expected star visitor Fenchurch to be used sedately on shuttles on the flatter part of the line, but no. It was also used once a day on a full line service. Given the gradients involved this was limited to 2 coaches, so the MHR sold tickets at a supplementary fare of £2 return to control numbers. Effectively a rail tour within a Gala; to reinforce this Fenchurch carried a replica of the LCGB headboard used on their Terrier hauled tour to Hayling Island upon closure of that branch in Nov 1963. Rich and Rob also met Mid Hants Fireman and Driver Dave, who tutored them on an Engine driving course on the line back in 2016. After a memorable run over the Alps, the Bluebell railway rep advised that while they had factored in the load and water capacity, they were consuming more of the Welsh coal than Fenchurch's small bunker could hold. Good improvisation saw three wheelbarrows waiting so re-coaling could take place on the platform at Ropley which made for a great photo op. After that excitement it was Beer O'Clock, and on cue we boarded the MHR's famed Real Ale Train hauled by the combination of the LNWR Coal Tank and S&D 7F. Rich and Rob settled for an Eastleigh brewery ale while I indulged in a Triple fff brewery Sundowner (strong but very quaffable). Then after a look round the various stalls, it was time to depart home. My thanks to Rich for driving us and the accompanying photos, and of course the volunteers of the MHR and loco groups who make this imaginative event run so smoothly.

Copyright of all pictures in this gallery belong to R Kelsey and R Stopford.