4th - 6th October 2002
Severn Valley Railway Diesel Gala

A review of the Friday and Saturday.

The Severn Valley Railway - my "home" railway - OK it's actually about 70 miles from home but I regard it as my home preserved line as it's the one I am a working member on (the distance being useful to ensure I am not there every weekend!). This years diesel gala was held over three days as per the norm and featured quite a few visiting locos as well as the railways own serviceable fleet of diesels.

Here are some photos taken during the weekend, by myself and others.

 For me this year was to see me on the railway for two of the three days, Friday would be a travelling day whilst Saturday would find me working Hampton Loade Signalbox.

I set off early on the Friday without any idea where I'd be spending the night as I'd not got round to organising any accommodation...but somewhere would be found I was sure, else as a last resort a night on the floor of the 'box could be considered (not done it myself but have heard other signalmen have!).

With three "Westerns" and three "Deltics" out to play I decided I had to travel behind them all just because...well because how often can you travel behind three Westerns and three Deltics on the same day!?! 37906 and 37175 (required for me for haulage!) were my other "targets".

Won't bore you with a blow-by-blow account suffice to say I achieved what I wanted with D1013 "Western Ranger", D1015 "Western Champion", D1023 "Western Fusilier", D9009 "Alycidon", D9016 "Gordon Highlander" and 55019 "Royal Highland Fusilier" all caned in.

37906 put up the usual mega-show of clag and noise, 37175 was likewise somewhat noisy and air-polluting. 50035 "Ark Royal" and 50049 "Defiance" were also about, I missed 50035 (though it was on the rear of one train I caught from Hampton Loade to Kidderminster) but did have 50049 on a piloting turn between Bewdley and Kidderminster.

Friday night was spent in the staff coach at Hampton Loade - an ideal location as I rolled out of my bunk at 8am, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and still had half an hour to spare before signing on at 09.00!

Working a 'crossing-box like Hampton Loade on a gala is actually relatively boring. After "switching-in" I had fourteen crossing moves to make before "switching-out" and going home, a day which...if things went to plan...would see me on-duty for 10 hours 50 minutes.

First train away from Bridgnorth was 37906 at 09.35 - even though it's 4.5 miles to Hampton Loade, 37906 was clearly audible about a minute after I received "on-line" from Bridgnorth signalman i.e. such is the volume of "Slug 6" that I was hearing it slogging up from Bridgnorth to Eardington Summit some four miles away!! Was amusing to watch the station staff preparing for its arrival, even though it was still almost 15 minutes away from actually arriving!

The day went pretty well to plan...until mid afternoon. By then I'd exchanged tokens with;

50035 "Ark Royal"
50049 "Defiance"
D1013 "Western Ranger"
D1015 "Western Champion"
D1023 "Western Fusilier"
D9009 "Alycidon"
55019 "Royal Highland Fusilier"

...plus "kettles" 46443 & 6233 "Duchess of Sutherland". Whatever you think of steam operating during a diesel gala, the "Duchess" can't fail to impress.

Highlight for me (in fact almost an ambition) was to have two Deltic-hauled service trains crossing at a signalbox I was working - that was achieved just after noon when D9009 & 55019 both arrived at my home signals almost at the same moment. Hearing them both power away together was superb (stereo - one to the left, the other to the right!).

Things went a bit awry mid-afternoon when the visiting Virgin Voyager made a trip to Arley, a delay putting it into the siding put about 10 - 15 minutes delay into the timetable. (Webmasters note: the following comments were later received from the Arley Signalman ~ "part of the delay suffered by the Voyager on Saturday was caused by a class-37 not being able to release the brakes on a down train, getting in the way of the Voyager's departure from the front siding" ~ so there you have it, not all the "shops" fault!)

We should have caught that back, except that by around 5.45pm to 6pm I'd got the 5.05pm ex-Bridgnorth arriving but hadn't yet been "offered" the 5.15pm from Kidderminster. That meant it hadn't yet left Arley. After a bit of a wait I rang Highley signalman to check progress only be told the train hadn't even left Bewdley...turns out they were having to shunt off a defective coach.

As with all jobs, whether paid or voluntary, when things go wrong the world and his dog seem to try and get in on the action. This was no exception and I ended up fielding calls from various members of staff all over the railway, all of whom had their own solution as to how to minimise the delay (not surprisingly most involved sending the 5.15pm ex-Bridgnorth train onwards to cross the other train further south). Unfortunately none of the people concerned was the one person who could actually order a change of plan, the Duty Officer. He was probably trying to call me as all the "I think you should..." brigade were calling up to offer their advice, none of which I had any intention of acting upon unless instructed so by the Duty Officer!

...As a result the 5.15 ex-Bridgnorth sat 20 minutes outside my 'box until finally I received the official instruction (via Bridgnorth signalman) to sent it on to cross the late-running service at Arley. This put us bout 50 minutes behind on the timetable and so it stayed until the end of my shift - I signed-off at 8.55pm, five minutes shy of 12 hours since booking-on. It was also interesting to see some of the wildlife soon after it got dark - several spiders (one of which was extremely large) legged it across the signalbox floor - and there had been me debating sleeping on the floor the previous night had I not found any accommodation!

My last good memory of the working day (as it was an enjoyable day, despite the end-of-day delays) was listening to D9009 "Alycidon" power away towards northwards....and then hearing her passage virtually all the way to Bridgnorth 4.5 miles away....that brought back memories of overnights on Doncaster station when Deltics could be heard under power for many miles.

After "switching out" the train service was not finished for the day, but as nothing had to cross at Hampton Loade trains could run on "long section" Highley to Bridgnorth tokens. I waited a few minutes to witness 55019 pass towards Bridgnorth and that train too was audible long after leaving Hampton Loade.

Gary Thornton.

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