THE Bodmin & Wenford Railway – Cornwall’s only full size (standard gauge) railway still regularly operated by steam locomotives – is eagerly looking forward to its annual Steam Gala & Real Ale Festival.
The Gala will be held in its traditional slot over the first weekend of September, but this year the event has been extended to four days and will run from Thursday-Sunday 2-5 September 2010.
The September Steam Gala & Real Ale Festival will have a distinct Southern Railway theme, and the principal feature – perhaps a first in railway preservation – will be an impressive quartet of locomotives from the Victorian era built by the London & South Western Railway, the youngest of which was built in 1905!
The undoubted highlight for many will be the return to steam of the only surviving LSWR T9 Class 4-4-0 locomotive No 30120. Owned by the National Railway Museum, and entrusted to the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, the September Gala will be the locomotive’s first public appearance in steam in Cornwall for almost 50 years. Once a regular sight in North Cornwall, on trains between Okehampton to Bude, Wadebridge and Padstow, the last few survivors of this iconic class of locomotive were withdrawn in the early 1960s.
No (30)120 is now the only survivor of the T9 class of express passenger locomotives built by the London & South Western Railway to the design of Dugald Drummond, an eminent late Victorian locomotive engineer, and upon entry into service were soon nicknamed “Greyhounds” on account of their fine turn of speed and smoothness of running.
The T9 is currently receiving the receiving the finishing touches following an extensive overhaul at The Flour Mill workshop in the Forest of Dean, and is expected to be delivered back to Bodmin shortly. The engine and tender then will be re-united, whereupon No 30120 will start a period of running-in and crew training/familiarisation, prior to the work on lining the paintwork – in British Railways lined black livery – will be completed. The iconic locomotive will be formally launched back into public service at a special ceremony at 12.30pm on Thursday 2 September, the first day of the Railway’s Steam Gala & Real Ale Festival.
At the Gala, No 30120 will also be joined by the only surviving pair of LSWR Beattie well tanks, Nos 30585 and 30587. These two veterans of the Victorian age were originally built in 1874 and survived until September 1962. For over sixty years they were based at nearby Wadebridge shed hauling china clay trains on the freight only line to Wenfordbridge, for which they were ideally suited. Like the T9, No 30587 is also owned by the National Railway Museum and based on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, where it has been a regular and popular sight since its return to steam in 2002. No 30585 is based at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre and has made a number of previous visits to the BWR for special events.
Completing the line-up of LSWR locomotives will be M7 0-4-4T No 53 (BR No 30053) from the Swanage Railway. Designed by Dugald Drummond, the M7 Class was originally designed to work suburban trains on LSWR metals in the London area, 105 locomotives being built between 1897 and 1911. Many of the class were fitted with the necessary gear to operate trains in “push-and-pull” fashion. In later years, with the increased availability of newer, standard locomotive designs, many members of the class became a regular sight on branch lines in Southern England, including the Plymouth area.
After spending its later years based at Bournemouth shed, it was withdrawn by British Railways in May 1964 and spent its early years in preservation on static display at a private museum in the USA, before being repatriated for use on the Swanage Railway, where it returned to steam in 1992 and has been a regular performer there ever since.
There will be an intensive timetable of trains over the 6½-mile line between Bodmin Parkway and Boscarne Junction via Bodmin General. A special timetable will operate on the Thursday, based around the Re-launch Ceremony for No 30120, whilst on the following three days there will be passenger train departures from Bodmin General at 10.00, 10.50, 11.40, 12.30, 13.20, 14.10, 15.00, 15.50 and 16.40, with an additional departure at 09.00 on the Saturday.
On the Friday and Saturday, there will also be a demonstration goods train, departing at 08.45 from Bodmin General, which will convey a small number of passengers in the brakevan. Accommodation is limited and advance booking is highly recommended for these trains.
All the main passenger trains will have an on-train Buffet & Bar Car serving hot and cold drinks, snacks and light refreshments. There is also a Refreshment Room at Bodmin General Station and a Café in the old signalbox at Bodmin Parkway Station, both serving a range of home made food, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. The Railway’s Giftshop at Bodmin General will also be open throughout the weekend, offering a good range of souvenirs, gifts, books, models, postcards etc.
There will also be the opportunity for visitors to extend their day – or savour the action over the whole weekend – by enjoying some or all of the special evening events that are being run as part of the Gala.
On the Thursday there will be a special “Night Shoot” for photographers from 8pm to 10pm, with various ‘cameos’ arranged at Bodmin General station and outside the locomotive shed featuring all four LSWR engines, including the T9. On the Friday there will be an evening Brake Van Special, offering the opportunity to enjoy the special atmosphere of riding in a Goods Brake Van for a whole line trip. The cost is £12.50, which includes a Cornish Pasty supper (50% reduction for Rover Ticket holders).
On the Saturday, there will be another of the Railway’s extremely popular evening Steam, Beer & Jazz specials. Passengers are able to enjoy the sound of jazz music, perhaps whilst supping a pint of real ale, with the sight and smell of a steam loco. The jazz band plays on the platform from 6pm, with the train departing at 7pm as the band plays on board the train during the course of the evening. An all-inclusive ticket—which includes the train ride and a Fish & Chip Supper – costs £21.50, £10 or £55 (for Adult, Child and Family respectively). This really is a great evening out!
Advance booking is required for all the evening events – telephone 0845 125 9678 or see the booking form on line at www.bodminandwenfordrailway.co.uk.
In addition to the host of activities on the railway itself, there will also be a Real Ale Festival at Bodmin General Station throughout the weekend, run by local members of the Cornish Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Over ten different real ales, plus cider, will be on sale to enjoy, with the bar open from 11.00-11.00 on Friday & Saturday, and 11.00-16.00 on the Sunday.
Bodmin General Station is well signposted from the A30/A38/A389 (follow the brown tourist signs) and there is a free car park directly adjacent to the station. For those who may like to come by train, main line train services operate to Bodmin Parkway, where there is easy cross-platform interchange with Bodmin & Wenford Railway services.
By far the best way to enjoy the Steam Gala & Real Ale Festival is to purchase a Rover Ticket, which gives complete freedom to travel on the line for the validity of the ticket. An Adult Day Rover, for example, costs just £15, whilst an Adult Rover valid for all four days of the event is available for a bargain £38, which works out at a little more than £9 per day.
Our September Steam Gala & Real Ale Festival is already shaping up to be a potentially memorable event,” comments Richard Jones, General Manager of the BWR, “and is already generating a tremendous amount of interest amongst both local people and railway enthusiasts. The return to steam of the popular LSWR T9 No 30120 after so many years, coupled with a fantastic line-up of four ex-LSWR steam locomotives built between 1874 and 1905 – the first time this has occurred on any heritage railway – will undoubtedly be a very impressive sight that should draw visitors to Bodmin from far and wide. We are really looking forward to seeing these four iconic steam veterans of the Victorian and Edwardian age working again in Cornwall, and are very grateful to colleagues at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Swanage Railway and the National Railway Museum for their support.”