20th May 2005
Churnet Valley & Barrow Hill Galas

Stuart Chapman visits two galas the same day.

The original plan had been a visit to Barrow Hill's 'Real Ale' beer event with the chance of some haulage behind some rare loco's, in particular those owned by Harry Needle.

With the event not starting until mid day the question mark had always been what to do with the morning and the original plan had been to spend it at Peak Forest photographing the stone trains. However while constant checking of the always excellent PLEG website revealed the 20905 wouldn't be taking part at Barrow Hill as it was still awaiting spares, it did reveal that the Churnet Valley diesel Gala featured a full timetable on Friday featuring D5054, 33102 and 47192 in action.

The first stop of the day was Birmingham International in the hope of catching an 87 on 7:10AM service to Euston. With a anxious delay of 10 minutes, wondering whether I was wasting my time a DVT was soon seen approaching in the distance. At the rear of the train 87012 in glorious Network South East livery. I took a few photo's as this was the first (and possibly last?) I'd see the repaint.

Next stop was Bescot with the hope of seeing a class 37 on the 8:10 PW train to Washwood Heath. The good news was the train was dead on time, the bad news was it was only a class 66. Now onto the Churnet Valley.

I was aiming to catch the second departure of the day from Cheddleton behind visiting class 24 D5054 but as it turned out this came in behind the class 33. I decided to bide my time and take some shots of the 33 departing (in full sun) I then had half an hour to kill so got permission to take some photographs around the shed yard which featured: D3991, D2334, D7672, 33056, 37211 and 73110. Back to the station and the 24 came into view and headed up towards Leekbrook Junction. After about 15 minutes the train came back into Cheddleton. I think this was my first haulage behind a class 24 and the loco sounded great as it threaded it's way through the beautiful and remote Churnet Valley. One of the advantages of this line is the lovely scenery through which it passes and the plan was to spend the morning at Consall station  photographing trains as they headed past the pub and canal.  I got good photographs of the 47 resplendent in it's new green livery as D1842 and a 24 + 33 combination. All too soon it was time head back to the station and await the 47 on it's return run. Sure enough it was soon heard approaching up the valley. The station at Consall has recently had a second platform added overhanging the canal allowing not just an increased timetable but increased photographic opportunities allowing an excellent approaching shot. The run round at Leekbrook Junction took slightly longer than it should but I finally departed Cheddleton just before 1PM.

A quick drive across the Pennines and I was approaching Barrow Hill by 2:30PM. The depot is well sign posted and it wasn't long before I'd paid my 5 and been presented with my souvenir beer glass. I have to say I think the idea of a joint beer/rail festival is a great one and the roundhouse at Barrow Hill really lends itself to the event. What I did find frustrating is the fact that the majority of the yard had been roped off with little opportunity for photographs. Having said that where there's a will there's a way and I soon tracked down someone who worked at Barrow Hill (who actually turned out to be the Chairman) who was more than willing to show me around the yard and allow me to take a few photographs. This included a visit to the paint shop where two HNRC 37's were being overhauled for DRS. Certainly photographic opportunities from the end of the yard were much better than those near to the round house. Having said my goodbye's I thought it was time for a trip on the shuttle behind 31110 and 20066. I have to say despite only being a short run those driving were going for maximum sound effects, only the B1 on the other end sound muted. As the B1 pulled back into the station I, along with others noticed 03066 scurrying along the yard (it had been in the roundhouse). Sure enough after not too long a wait the 20 and 31 were uncoupled and 03066 appeared coupled to 03094 in grey undercoat. This was excellent news as neither loco had been booked to run on the Friday but shows Barrow Hills willingness to change things on demand. The two made a good out and back run but 03094 looked to have sort of issue as the engine compartments were soon opened on return. With a long journey back and a few bottles of beer it was time to be on my way.

All in all one of the best all round days I've had in ages and I'd certainly visit both locations again

Stuart Chapman

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