Wings and Wheels Society.

Spa Valley Scottish Steam Up Gala 2-4-2022.

The enterprising events team at the Spa Valley are planning a number of high profile galas to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The Scottish gala at the end of April promised the first appearance together south of the border of Caledonian Railway duo 0-4-2 tank 413 and 0-6-0 828. My previous visits had been as part of weekend stay in Sussex, but after 2 consecutive weekends away permission from Mrs C was unlikely to be granted for a third one! I didn't really fancy a day trip, but the lure of the two pre grouping visitors plus the opportunity to sample Bullied 34053 Sir Keith Park at its new home before its boiler certificate expired was too strong. Having made the late decision to go I was in London just after nine, and sampling a new piece of line, the Jubilee line from Green Park to London Bridge. London Bridge has changed out of all recognition from the eighties and now resembles an airport so it took a few minutes to get my bearings, but the Uckfield train is easy to spot in a sea of 12 coach EMUS as it is a noisy 4 car DMU. Highlight of the trip was passing 828 on the mile long section where the Spa Valley runs parallel (but separate from) the mainline to Eridge. Bullied 34053 had been customised with the addition of Scottish Region blue smokebox numberplate and the station signs were also similarly treated. The Scottish theme didn't end there as the buffet car had 12 barrels of different Aviemore ales available. The Spa Valley were running their first two train timetable since 2019, and I worked out than I could sit on coaching set B and let all the engines come to me, this also had the advantage of being the train with the ale bar on it! Seats in the buffet were at a premium, but I found a seat at the front to enjoy the Bullied to Tunbridge Wells and back. Then it was the main attraction, a round trip with the Caledonian duo. They looked very colourful in the glorious April sunshine and took the climb to Tunbridge Wells in their stride. Also going smoothly was my consumption of Aviemore Ale. On return to Eridge 828 was paired up with Austerity 2890, which was converted by the Mid Hants from a saddle tank into a 0-6-0 to act as Douglas on Thomas the Tank Engine days. A very tenuous Scottish connection but they looked a good pair. 2890 wasn't the Douglas on display as W&W members Doug Weston and Fred Winter had also travelled up from Gloucestershire for the event! A final round trip was undertaken with more fine Aviemore ale and just to put the tin hat on the Scottish theme the token exchange at Groombridge was conducted by a signalman in a kilt. Tartan-tastic! Then it was time to return via Paddington to pick up the HST home from Parkway in time for a late supper. My thanks to all the volunteers at the Spa Valley and the respective loco groups for a great Gala.

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