Quite a few things on offer over this weekend but along with a colleague I decided to spend a quiet Saturday and sample a couple of "new" preserved railways for me - The Churnet Valley Railway and Peak Rail. There was the advantage on each railway of being able to do the line behind a diesel as both had one out working on this particular day.
We met up at Nuneaton (easy place to leave one car) at 9.30am - wow, what an incredibly late start for me on a Saturday! Our drive towards Cheddleton was uneventful until after we took the A522 off the A50 near Uttoxeter then we vanished into the Staffordshire equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. We managed to get somewhat lost thanks to poor road signposts but eventually (after driving through several farmyards and making three U-turns) we found our way to Cheddleton. We anticipated the first train would depart about 11am but on arrival (just on 11am) we found the station deserted - first departure was not until 12! Oh well - time for a coffee. Or not - the buffet didn't open until 11.30....
In the way of most (all?) preserved railways, departure time approached and there was no sign of a loco for our train - the choice was out of Class 25 D7672 (required) and 33102 (not required). The 25 was sitting dead "on shed" but there was no sign of the 33 at all. Just before 12 and it turned up from the Consall direction with an engineers train. A very rapid shunt and it was on our train just a tad after noon. The train runs first to Consall (1.25 miles) then back again through Cheddleton to Leekbrook Junction. In all the journey takes about 50 minutes to cover the 6.5 mile round trip.
The drive to Darley Dale (Peak Rail) took a bit longer - mainly due to what seemed like half the worlds population of Land Rover owners deciding to travel the same way as we were. Not the farmers type of Land Rover though - no, these were the family versions (Father, Mother, 2.2 kids, bike rack on the back etc) - infinitely worse. Presumably these families satisfy themselves that driving through the Peak District National Park is "off road" - compared to the school run and supermarket car park however I suppose it is...
Arrival at Darley Dale was about perfectly timed to allow us a quick look round before the arrival of a train heading for Rowsley South. The timetable alternated between a steam hauled run and one with D8 "Penyghent". I also noted that shunter 03158 was being used to give cab rides around the station and decided to come back later to have a ride in the 03, especially as it was free (just a donation requested).
Our luck was in as D8 turned up on the train a few minutes later. We took it the short distance to Rowsley South where it was removed in favour of a pair of WD Austerity kettles (sorry - steam locomotives) - 68006 (required haulage) and 68012 (not required). We decided to take them back as far as Darley Dale so the 03 could be sampled.
It wasn't - as soon as we turned up it went sick and the cab rides were abandoned! Now my colleague had also noticed a "diesel cab rides" sign during our short stay at Rowsley South and as D8 was the only working diesel there we decided to hop in the car and drive up to see if a cab ride in the big green machine was on the cards.
Again we were in luck and we enjoyed a cab ride of about 1.5 miles up and down the station area before 68006/68012 returned. We then took a full round trip to Matlock Riverside behind D8 - a look out as we passed through Darley Dale both ways confirmed that the crew on 03158 appear to have given up, so no further cab rides were on offer there so once back at Rowsley South we decided it was time to head for home.
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