Wings and Wheels Society.

Mid Hants Railway Spring Gala 30-4-2021.

The Mid Hants Railway has always put on a cracking day out, and even held an Autumn Gala in 2020 which I enjoyed despite Covid regulations. With Lockdown over but the restrictions still in place they revived the formula for Spring 2021 with two changes - you could switch trains if you wished and LMS Jubilee Bahamas was replaced as VIP visitor by two visiting Great Western tank engines (Pannier 4612 & Prairie 5526). Tickets were limited to avoid any overcrowding and had to be pre booked. While many were understandably reluctant to travel, interest was still high but I managed to secure a ticket. An early start from Cam & Dursley on a crisp morning saw me at a ghost like Reading station by 09.00 for a welcome cup of tea, before catching the Guildford train to North Camp. A six minute walk then got me to Ash Vale in good time for a South Western EMU onto Alton. There the switch from 21st Century German electric technology to 20th Century British Steam power was effected but sadly I couldn't leave the Covid behind as easily! Following booking in at reception I got my waistband (allows socially distanced ticket checks) and followed boarding protocols to start behind BR standard 76017 (which worked these very tracks when shedded at Eastleigh in the 60s). I broke my journey to visit the shed at Ropley, and so did the clouds in an all mighty downpour. Unfortunately I was stranded in the open navigating the socially distanced one way system round the site! Standby Ivatt tank 41213 put on a shunting demo for the benefit of just two of us in the rain. All the Mid Hant's fleet were in action, so Ropley shed was empty bar the S&D 7F and Peckett tank Kilmersdon both recently evicted from their long term base on the West Somerset. Both looked at home though. After that it was time for spin down to Alresford behind Schools class Cheltenham (looking stunning in her new BR lined green paint job). After a quick visit to the famous RAT Ale bar (temporarily relocated due to Covid restrictions into the station buffet) it was time to start back. GWR Prairie 5526 was clearly the centre of attention for many, but it did have stop for a brew up on the fierce gradient out of Alton which didn't help punctuality. This was worrying as I had a tight connection with the Big Railway at Alton. Fortunately S15 30506 stormed along recovering time in tremendous style though, so I made it with 4 minutes to spare (great) with my hair dyed black by coal smuts (nearly as good). Then back like clockwork on a series of trains that actually had a few passengers. My thanks to all at the Mid Hants for putting on such a well-planned out event in challenging times.

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