15th June 2002
Dean Forest Railway
"Branchline Diesel Gala 2002"

I've always thought the Dean Forest Railway to be a little bit "quirky" from what I've read and, still waiting for the Parkend extension to open,  I'd never actually bothered to come along and visit the line. With the prospect of two ex-BR locos for haulage (class 08 D3937 & class 14 D9555) and the chance to scratch all the track currently open I decided however it was high time to pay this railway a visit.

Here are some photos taken on the day.

Their Website was helpful in covering plans for the gala event, but not helpful in that it didn't give a timetable for the day. Arriving at Norchard station about 9am the first three members of staff spoken to gave three different answers - 11am was the first train, 10 am was the first train (the DMU) and 10am was the first train (the class 14). Hmmm....

Although we obtained a timetable for the day with the ticket, a small slip of paper with it confirmed it wasn't accurate any more! Plans to have top-and-tail loco hauled over the line to Tufts Junction having been abandoned due to technical difficulties. The DMU would cover that line with the locos operating the Norchard to Lydney Junction "shuttle".

To be fair the gen was there and correct - 10am proved to be the first departure, it being the 14 towing the DMU dead! Myself and colleague (Jonathan) did this to St Mary's Halt, yes a most bizarre place to leap but as the lines other class 08, 13308 (ex-08238), was following 15 minutes behind it was a case of enacting the first rule of doing gronks on preserved railways - "get 'em in before they fail". I personally didn't need 13308 but Jonathan did. We got on to be met the gripper who found it quite amusing we'd made such a move to get the 14 and 08 in the book early.

Arriving at Lydney Jn D3937 (ex-08769) dropped on to the stock. We did this back to Norchard (Low Level) with the plan to catch the DMU from the High Level platform to Tufts Junction....that plan however backfired when we noticed the ramp to the high level platform was still being built...as it turned out building of the platform itself had yet to even be started! Bit misleading then to show a time for "Norchard H/L" in the days public timetable!! Listening to others onthe platform it seems we weren't alone in being caught out. Never mind, we spent a pleasant few minutes talking to the gripper we'd met earlier, it turned out he was a top diesel man having been actively bashing since 1962!

D3937 back to Lydney then for a round trip to Norchard L/L and back behind 13308 - just a time killing exercise until the next DMU out to Tufts Junction. The DMU was then taken and I duly cleared all the currently available passenger track the railway has to offer.

D3937 took us back to Norchard Low Level then a short wait got the days "joker" - after the shuttle left the railway were offering brake van rides out to the starting signal and back (about 1/4 mile round trip) using their (very small) "Planet" shunter. Almost dwarfed by the brake van, the diminutive little beast was quite noisy, doing a very creditable tractor impression...no, not EE type 3 class 37 "tractor" type noises, but farmer Giles Massey Ferguson type tractor thrash!!

At this point having covered all the locos and track we decided to call it a day. In all a pleasant day out, and reasonable value for 6.50 for the days unlimited travel. I began regarding the railway as "quirky" and ended up thinking that, whilst it is a little quaint, it is definitely one I will go back to visit again sometime.

Gary Thornton.

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