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entry 13 Sep 2008, 21:32
Approaching it's tenth birthday and having travelled 135,000 miles, the trusty family Galaxy decided it was time to spring a leak in the cooling system. Nothing terminal, but a water consumption rate of about 3/4 litre every 50 miles meant taking No. 2 son on his annual migration to St. Andrews Fife was a non starter.

"Fix it!" you say, but for reasons too long, complex and boring, ferrying the possessions of young car less adults about is all it is used for; even our garden waste gets collected these days. With the recent departure of No. 1 son and the imminent departure of No 2 child and only daughter, No. 2 son is the only one in need of bulk transportation twice a year. Taxing, insuring and maintaining the Galaxy is more expensive than hiring a reasonable sized family estate for a long weekend.

Now there are two things that hiring said reasonable sized family estate doesn't do. It cannot accommodate the necessities of life to sustain your modern student for 9 months away from home unless the back seat is folded down, on both sides. In fact I do wonder if such a solution would have worked for our daughter. In our experience, girls have even more "stuff".

The other short coming is "dog care". I'm not sure that car hire companies welcome dogs in their cars (hair on the seats, etc). So not only was there not enough seating capacity for three, the dogs were definitely not going to make it and the resident dog sitter had just moved out.

It was now apparent that only one parent could accompany No. 2 son on the annual migration. This was a tough call. The drive as far as the point where the M6 crosses the M62 is not something to wish on anyone. It doesn't start to get really interesting for me until the drive along side Beattock. The interest subsides for the passage of the central lowlands but picks up once more with the A91 at Stirling. St. Andrews itself is a very pleasant place. Mother is particularly fond of St. Andrews and is more tolerant of the drive than I, so it was agreed I would do the dog minding. As I had spotted an advertisement in the local free newspaper for the Mid Hants Railway "Big Four" Steam Gala, I knew I wouldn't be stuck for something to do.

So once the hire car had been stuffed almost to the gunnels with the essentials of student life (I don't know what these are, I daren't look in the boxes but it seems to require a lot of DVDs) and the appropriate farewells said, I gave them a ten minute start and headed for Alresford in Hampshire, the southern terminus of the Mid Hants Railway. I have forgotten quite how I discovered it, but I know a cross country route from the A33 down some very narrow lanes. About three miles from Alresford, the road descends steeply from a ridge and as I did so, I saw my first steam locomotive smoke of the day rising in the distance. About half an hour later I was walking on to the platform at Alresford and saw my first steam locomotive of the day:-



which was a bit of a shock because I thought the theme was "Big Four". However 34007 Wadebridge was also in the station waiting to head tender first up the line to Ropley. I boarded the train which proceeded to Ropley where it terminated in the Down platform. This fitted in with my plans as I intended to spend time there in any case. Wadebridge moved off into the shed area where it took on water. A black liveried diesel shunter took the coaches away from the platform:-



Having taken on water and blown off, Wadebridge reversed away from the water column and waited:-



As this was a steam gala, there were quite a few things going on. A steam crane was being demonstrated in the shed area:-



The class 5 arrived in the Up platform with some empty ballast wagons. 60019 Bittern arrived tender first on the Down line with a train for Alresford.

Once Bittern had departed for Alresford, Wadebridge pulled into the Down platform with another passenger train:-



After a brief wait, Bittern's chime whistle could be heard approaching from Alresford and soon came into view as it rounded the curve a few hundred yards from the station:-



I joined this train and for the first time in many years I was travelling behind a Gresley A4. I enjoyed every minute of it. We passed a pair of Ivatts at Medstead & Four Marks. We were held up outside Alton while we waited for one of the GWR hauled trains to leave. On arrival at Alton the Class 5 which had backed its ballast train into a headshunt, came down to take over the coaches of our arriving train.

At this point I left the station and walked the few minutes into Alton town centre to visit the Alton Model Shop. I have always been able to buy newly released locomotives off the shelf here and today was no exception. The lightness of my wallet was balanced by the weight of the bag containing a Bachmann Super D (BR early crest), the October edition of Hornby Magazine and a Bachmann black liveried diesel shunter.

On my return to Alton station I found Bittern coupled up to coaches which had been brought up by Nunney Castle. I took this train back to Ropley. Apart from a brief climb out of Alton, most of the journey is downhill, so the locomotive is coasting most of the time. During my second visit to Ropley, the double headed Ivatts returned. They waited for Wadebridge to clear the section to Medstead & Four Marks. I was in the right place to be able to get this very busy steam scene at the Up end of the station:-



Bodmin may not be in steam but it does help to fill in the picture.

On my return to the Down platform I found 33053 waiting for the right of way to return the now silent steam crane back to Alresford:-



I guessed I might catch Bittern one more time on a trip to Alton and sure enough I did. I got several shots, this is my favourite which is why it is a little larger than the others wink.gif



The timetable was starting to wind itself down and in doing so was creating some interesting motive power combinations. The first surprise was that the GWR headed train arriving to take me back to Alresford was in fact double headed - Kinlet Hall was piloting Nunney Castle. I got an even bigger surprise when I saw that Wadebridge had been acting as a banker for Bittern!

At Alresford I got a couple of photos of the double headed GWR locomotives as they waited for the right of way to Ropley:-



I waited to see them leave because the gradient out of Alresford is steep and challenging. They left with very sharp barks which were not quite in time. It was quite an experience. As they disappeared into the cutting, I took this shot:-



I don't think I've ever been to a preserved railway where there has been so many locomotives in steam. I counted seven, Wadebridge, Bittern, Nunney Hall, Kinlet Hall, the two Ivatts and the Class 5. In addition to that I saw the shunter and the 33, not forgetting the steam crane either.

All in all, I had a very good day out.

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Comments

post 13 Sep 2008, 22:19
Comment #1


Minister of Transport
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Excellent blog entry David. This is very timely for me as I and a couple of fellow BRMA members are considering using Ropely as the basis for an exhibition layout. Because of it being a preserved railway we can pretty much run whatever we like on it. Great pictures. It must have been a great day out.

QUOTE
St. Andrews itself is a very pleasant place.


It certainly is and where I intend to stay when I return home.


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dwb
post 14 Sep 2008, 09:52
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Station cat
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QUOTE
Excellent blog entry David


Thanks. As I am sure you know these things take a bit of work to complete, so it's nice to get some feedback.

David


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post 15 Sep 2008, 01:59
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Minister of Transport
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QUOTE (dwb @ 14 Sep 2008, 19:52)
Thanks. As I am sure you know these things take a bit of work to complete, so it's nice to get some feedback.

David

Well I certainly appreciate your blog entries. I particularly like your excursions. One of the things I miss most about being overseas.


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