During my weekend away with working volunteers from the Somerset and Dorset at Midsomer Norton, we visited the Nene Valley Railway at Wansford.
The star attraction was the 100mph A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado which was on a short visit. It is truly a magnificent piece of engineering and is a credit to all involved in its construction and maintenance.
As we arrived, Tornado had just brought a train into the platform at Wansford. Coupled to BR carriages, some in maroon livery, and with the railway staff attired in period uniform, it was a scene of a time long past. Clearly the visitors’ attire gave the game away. Spot the somersault starting signal on the gantry above.
Tornado was working ‘The Fenman’ as shown by the carriage board. Introduced in 1949, the train had two portions which came together in the morning or divided in the evening at Cambridge. One portion served stations from or to Hunstanton and the other one from or to Bury St Edmunds.
B17 Locomotive Trust
Usual haulage of ‘The Fenman’ in the 1950s was a Sandringham B17 or an ex Great Eastern B12/3 such as 8572 (BR 61572). The sole survivor of the class is currently operating on the North Norfolk Railway and was seen the day before in our visit. The B17 Locomotive Trust is constructing a new locomotive to recreate the magic of one of these marvelous engines. It will be called Spirit of Sandringham and numbered 61673.
34081 92 Squadron Bulleid Pacific
34081 92 Squadron on the turntable at Wansford
After the departure of Tornado our attention turned to the recently overhauled 34081 92 Squadron Bulleid Pacific. It was positioned on the shed turntable and looked splendid in its Southern malachite green. At the time it was shorn of name plates as it was due to be rededicated in the coming days.
One of the stalwarts in the preservation of this loco is friend and Stevenage Locomotive Society member, Kevin Wilkins. I had arranged to meet him at Wansford station but before I could speak to him I noticed him with some other members of 34081 group giving their all, attempting to turn the locomotive on the turntable. Kevin introduced us to some of his fellow 34081 team members. The enthusiasm for their loco is very apparent and they take great pride in their work. The Bulleid looked splendid in its ex-works displaying the marvelous work undertaken by the group. They are doing a fantastic job and I can’t wait to see the loco in steam!
We spoke about the one recorded time that 34081 ran over the Somerset and Dorset. 34006 Bude was towing 34081 along with two other classmates on their way to Barry scrapyard. Kevin had seen a picture by Ivo Peters of this sad sight taken I believe near Midsomer Norton. I hope that in the future 34081 it might re-visit Midsomer Norton, in steam this time.
Stevenage Locomotive Society
In the 1970s, Kevin and I travelled many hundreds of miles on Stevenage Locomotive Society tours visiting railway establishments all over the country. Kevin is still an active member of the Society although tours are not generally run these days. Monthly meetings held with an interesting and varied programme of speakers on various railway related subjects. If you live locally why not go along to one of their meetings you will be sure of a warm welcome.
Wansford Signal Box
It was a glorious afternoon just right for wandering around Wansford station. The 1907 built signal box controls not only signals and points but the crossing gates over the former Great North Road. In the photo you can just see the operating wheel in the window of the box.
As we made our way back along the platform Deltic D9000 (currently running as long-scrapped sister 55018 Ballymoss) started up in readiness to work the last train of the day.
55018 gently hummed in the background while we conversed. Then suddenly with a warning note of the distinctive Deltic horn it moved off to position itself ready for working its train. We decided to position ourselves too and take photographs of the Deltic’s departure. The sound of these locomotives takes me back to my childhood when I could hear them on a clear Summer’s evening pass through Stevenage on the East Coast Main Line from my house nearly a mile away. Wonderful memory!
We had a most enjoyable day for which I have to thank the volunteers and staff of the Nene Valley Railway. Heritage railways are just amazing in my view.