BRANCH LINE GALA WEEKEND 2023
Thank you to everyone who attended this year’s Branch Line Gala Weekend 2023. A huge thank you must also go to those who made the gala possible, both behind the scenes and those who brought their guest engines to the event. We look forward to hosting this event again in 2024!
BRANCH LINE GALA WEEKEND TIMETABLE
Please click HERE to view the gala timetable.
TICKET PRICES- BRANCH LINE GALA WEEKEND
Tickets are now available for the Gala weekend. Advance and on-the-day prices are now available to view.
Please click HERE to view our prices.
HUNSLET NO.15 “HASTINGS”
The third and final visitor is a very unique locomotive, one we are delighted to be able to add to our Branch Line Gala Weekend. No. 15 “Hastings” is the oldest surviving 0-6-0 Hunslet in the UK and a worthy addition to our other visiting engines!
Built in 1888 for the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, the loco was originally named “Liverpool” before being renamed “Hastings” in 1898 when purchased by Price Wills & Reeves.
The locomotive would have a varied career. “Hastings” worked on a number projects, ranging from the construction of Golders Green Depot on the Northern Line, Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit and Immingham Docks before being sold again to Parkgate Iron & Steel Company in 1915. “Hastings” would serve 20 years here when in 1935, the locomotive would be transferred to the Sproxton Ironstone Quarry in Lincolnshire to work quarry trains.
Withdrawal came around 1957 and in 1963, the locomotive was purchased by the Kent & East Sussex Railway. Sadly the locomotive would only steam once in 1965 when it was established that a complete overhaul was required. Despite dedicated work being carried out after this, it wouldn’t be until 2017 and under the ownership of its current owner, Mike Hart O.B.E, that the overhaul would move up another gear via the Elsecar Heritage Railway. In collaboration with the teams at the North Norfolk & Statfold Barn Railways, the engine would finally steam again.
In 2021, the engine steamed once more at Statfold Barn Railway before being moved to The Chasewater Railway for running in and commissioning. In 2022, “Hastings” returned to its spiritual home, The Kent & East Sussex Railway and will be back once again pulling trains on their railway this year, as well as being one of the stars of our Branch Line Gala Weekend.
We would like to thank Mike Hart O.B.E and The Kent & East Sussex Railway for allowing this locomotive to take part in this year’s gala.
LANCASHIRE AND YORKSHIRE A CLASS NO. 52322
Our second gala visitor to The Bluebell Railway’s Branch Line Gala Weekend is Lancashire & Yorkshire A Class No. 52322 from The East Lancashire Railway!
Being the sole survivor of 484 of its class mates built between 1889 and 1918, 52322 was built in December 1895 at the Lancashire & Yorkshire’s Horwich works, outshopped as No. 1300. The principle role for the class was as a standard freight locomotive for the Lancashire & Yorkshire railway, being designed by John Aspinall.
The locomotive would spend its entire working life in the North of England. Passing into BR ownership in 1948 and would last in service until withdrawal in August 1960 at Lees Oldham shed.
Its preservation life would see the locomotive based at a number of locations, firstly as a static exhibit at White Bear station on the St Helens-Blackburn line before being on display at Steamtown at Carnforth. The locomotive would return to working order in 1982 and would eventually move to its current home, The East Lancashire Railway, in 1995.
Its time in active working order would see 52322 visit a number of different preserved lines including the Ribble Valley Railway, Keighley & Worth Valley and more recently, The Spa Valley Railway in 2018.
Alongside fellow Lancashire & Yorkshire “Pug” No. 19, it will certainly bring a flavour of the north to The Bluebell Railway during our Branch Line Gala Weekend.
The Bluebell Railway must extend our thanks to Andy Booth & The East Lancashire Railway for allowing this superb locomotive to visit our railway and take part in this year’s event.
LANCASHIRE & YORKSHIRE “PUG” NO. 19
Joining the A Class at our Branch Line Gala Weekend is Lancashire & Yorkshire “Pug” No. 19.
Built in 1910 at the Lancashire & Yorkshire works at Horwich, No. 19 was one of 60 diminutive Class 21 0-4-0 locomotives designed by John Aspinall. Nicknamed as “Pugs” as a result of their size in comparison to other engines, this class of locomotive weighs just 21 tons! With their size and short wheel base, they were ideal for work around docksides and yards where tight curves were present.
No. 19 has had a very varied career both during L&Y and LMS days (being renumbered No. 11243), as well as time spent in the industrial sector, where the engine was sold to in 1931 . During this time, the engine would be found located in Southern England, working both at Southampton Docks and London (working for the United Glass Bottle Manufacturers) during its industrial career.
Passing into preservation in 1967, No 19 was one of only two of the class to have survived the cutter’s torch, alongside No. 51218 which is based at the KWVR. Since the locomotive has been based at the KWVR, Steamport in Southport and the Ribble Steam Railway (the engine’s current long term home) as a static exhibit. No. 19 has only recently returned to traffic in 2022, hauling its first ever passenger train on June 8th, during the L&Y and L&NWR gala celebrations on the East Lancashire Railway.
We cannot wait to have No. 19 visit our railway for the Branch Line Gala Weekend in 2023!
HOME FLEET LOCOMOTIVES
Completing the motive power line up for the 2023 Branch Line Gala Weekend will be three of our very own home fleet locomotives. Here are the home locomotives taking part (subject to locomotive availability).
BR STANDARD 4MT TANK ENGINE NO 80151
The 4MT tank locomotives were closely linked to the last years of the Bluebell line, and although the last Brighton-built locomotive, 80154, escaped preservation, the Bluebell now plays host to three other members of the class, all one-time residents of Barry scrapyard. 80151 arrived from another preservation site in 1998 and returned to steam after the completion of its overhaul in the Bluebell’s workshops in October 2001. Additional boiler work during early 2011 saw its operational period extended to May 2012.
Its latest overhaul, which cost over half a million pounds saw, along with routine heavy maintenance and boiler work undertaken in-house, new tyres fitted to the driving wheels.
STROUDLEY A1 TERRIER NO. 72 “FENCHURCH”
A very popular locomotive which has recently returned to service during the February half term in 2023, Fenchurch stars in its first gala since overhaul.
Stroudley’s famous Terriers survived for decades after more modern designs had been scrapped, working on lightly laid Branch lines. ‘Fenchurch’ was sold to the Newhaven Harbour Company, being light enough to cross a bridge within the docks. It came back into Southern Railway ownership, and continued to work at Newhaven for many years. It came to the Bluebell in 1964, having been for a number of years a celebrity as the oldest locomotive working on British Railways.
In early December 2019 ‘Fenchurch’ entered the Locomotive works, was dismantled to remove the boiler for assessment, and the remainder of the locomotive reassembled for a return to public display in the locomotive shed. Completed in November 2022, an intensive period of running in and testing followed. It is now painted in its original Stroudley Golden Ochre livery.
SECR STIRLING 0-6-0 O1 No.65
Built at Ashford as an “O” class locomotive, it received a rebuild to class “O1” in 1908, and ran on until finally withdrawn in 1961. In 1963 it was obtained by the late Mr Lewis-Evans and kept at Ashford Steam Centre until its closure. Thereafter its location was something of a mystery until it was brought to the Bluebell Railway for overhaul, and was returned to steam for the centenary of the amalgamation of the SER and the LCDR in August 1999.
0-6-0s were the commonest locomotives in this country, and the Bluebell now hosts a sequence of three unique survivors of this type, demonstrating their development through the first half of the 20th century, from the O1 through the SECR C-class to Maunsell’s Q-class built by the Southern Railway.
The Bluebell’s spare O1/H boiler was overhauled at The Flour Mill workshop, and has now been fitted in place of its previous boiler during the recent overhaul, which took place at Sheffield Park. This engine has put in sterling work since its return in 2017 and is a welcomed addition to the gala weekend.
Photos kindly supplied by Adam Ashford, Liam Barnes, Andy Booth, Dave Bowles, James Corben, Alan Crotty, James Cummins, Phil Edwards, Owen Hayward & Will Hawks.