By CleanSteve

Are we going the right way, boss?

EDIT: (I've now changed the photo to one of the last I took, when the engine was waiting at Toddington station, for its next trip south)

Last week I blipped a special steam train tour which came through our town, Stroud  and up our Golden Valley en route back to Paddington Station in London. Whilst waiting on a railway bridge down at the bottom  of our valley, I chatted to a man who said he was a regular though voluntary driver of the steam engines on our relatively local heritage railway line, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway. It runs on the route of the former Honeybourne Railway that ran north from Cheltenham to Evesham and the midlands before it was closed in the 1960s.

It is now one of the longest heritage railway lines in Britain and is very successful. They’ve managed to re-open despite the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and on four days a week they run two separate steam engines and carriages backwards and forwards between the Racecourse and Broadway at its northernmost point. It is now a single track line so only one train operates at a time with a crossover point at Winchcombe station. 

I thought I’d go to the railway today as the fine warm weather was said to be ending imminently, with a sharp drop in temperature to the more normal autumnal levels. I prevaricated until about 10am when I decided to go to see the northbound train arriving at Winchcombe and then try to catch other views. The stations are all still closed except for the main Toddington depot which is the only place visitors can get on and off the train.

I couldn’t get on to the platforms at Winchcombe so headed to the road bridge over the railway just outside the station. I’d hoped to see the engine 35006 – ‘Peninsular &Orient Line’, one of the Merchant Navy Class, which I remember was the main type of express steam engine passing through the town I lived in as a child in Surrey just outside London. The engine I blipped at Stroud recently was its slightly junior relation also hauling express trains but not as fast or as powerful, and designed by the same engineer, Oliver Bulleid. The Merchant Navy Class were first built in 1941 and ceased main line running in 1967. Several of the thirty engines have been preserved like this one.

Today I saw it appear and immediately whistle loudly as it left Greet tunnel just outside Winchcombe station. I was very disappointed to see it was reversing  and pulling the carriages. When I took the picture I was amused by the body language of the fireman who seems to be questioning whether they are going in the right direction, as the signals indicate otherwise. 

I followed the train as it went north and I did manage to photograph it several more times including when it was pulling a southbound train from the front. But I found this picture had more interest and close-up detail. As I was taking the last pictures I turned around and saw huge dark clouds approaching from the south, and they soon arrived bringing a drop in temperature and short period of thin drizzle. I fear worse is to come. Autumn is here right on time on the day of the Autumn Equinox.

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