|Sentinel Steam wagon; a frequent visitor to the SDR|
The scenic South Devon Railway is busy gearing itself up for one of the highlights of its 40th anniversary year with the line's ever popular Heritage Transport Gala to be held over the weekend of 12th and 13th September 2009 , plus a planned special preview of heavy freight steam locos on Friday 11th September.
During an action-packed weekend, there will be plenty of interesting things to see and do on the award winning seven-mile line, and visitors can enjoy the sight and sound of two visiting steam engines in a six strong line-up of steam loco giants!
Great Western Railway locos Nos. 4566 from the Severn Valley Railway and 4247 from the Bodmin & Wenford Railway will be in action alongside home-based GWR engines Nos. 1369, 5526, 5786 and 3803.
At Buckfastleigh, around 100 different transport exhibits will be on show ranging from ancient bicycles, motorcycles and old cars to vintage buses, coaches, vans and lorries, including a striking steam-powered Sentinel wagon (above).
Outside the station, vintage buses, including a former London Transport Routemaster, will provide the SDR heritage bus service taking visitors on the ride around the town to visit Buckfast Abbey and the time-warp "Valiant Soldier" pub.
A special train service will be in operation on both days with both steam and heritage diesel locomotives in use, whilst other locomotives will be on show at Buckfastleigh. Passenger services commence at 09.00 from Buckfastleigh and 09.42 from Totnes each day.
The gala will see the railway operate a number of services representing types of train once seen on many West Country branch lines in years gone by and the visit by loco No. 4566 will be particularly poignant as, in July 1960, it was the last steam engine to go through Newton Abbot works before closure.
And loco No. 4566 is of other local interest because it was also very nearly bought from Barry scrapyard for restoration and service on the Dart Valley Railway, but loco No. 4588 was finally picked instead.
Loco No. 4566 is one of just three of the GWR's Prairie "flat top tank" 45xx Class to have survived - the others being 4555 based on the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway and 4561 on the West Somerset Railway -- and it's very fitting that all three engines have now worked on the Buckfastleigh branch over the last 40 years, something which no other heritage railway can boast!
Cornish based visiting engine No. 4247 will be joining fellow former heavy freight tender engine No. 3803, thereby recreating images of freight loco types once common on the old GWR system in the West Country.
On both days, former Great Western 2-6-2 "Prairie" tank No. 5526 will work a number of services between Buckfastleigh and Staverton with the "Auto Train" Using special controls mounted in a driver's cab at the end of the coach, the locomotive remains at one end of the train and propels the coaches - hence the nickname "push pull" trains.
In addition to the passenger services, there will be a variety of freight and engineers trains in operation. Freight was once a very important commodity on the rails, and in many cases kept the branch lines open as the income generated was far greater than that from passenger ticket sales.
During the Gala, it will be possible to see examples of branch line style goods and milk trains formed of just a few wagons, an engineers ballast train, and longer freight working over the full line hauled by freight locos 3803 and 4247.
Throughout the gala, the miniature railway at Buckfastleigh will be running and providing a frequent service with trains departing at regular intervals from the station adjacent to the main car park.
Another interesting survivor that will be on display for the event will be Lee Moor loco No.2 along with other interesting memorabilia from the former 4' 6" gauge Devon tramway line.
Refreshments will be available at both Buckfastleigh, from the main refreshment rooms, and at Totnes from the Rare Breeds Centre. The passenger services will also feature on train buffets serving a range of lighter refreshments, snacks and other souvenirs.
Further souvenirs, together with an extensive range of model railway items and equipment, can also be purchased from Expressway Models at Buckfastleigh. The South Devon Railway will be running trains EVERY day until 1 November.
SDR General Manager Dick Wood comments: "The South Devon Railway's Heritage Transport Gala will be an impressive show and the penultimate main season event of our 40th anniversary year with a huge range of interesting exhibits on show.
"So, we decided to mark it in style with two extra visiting railway engines working along side our four home-based steam locos, plus the many other historic vehicles on display.
"I'd also like to dedicate the first ever visit of steam loco No. 4566 to the South Devon Railway to the memory of my old friend, Severn Valley loco driver and 4566 Locomotive Group stalwart, Martin Wilkins, who sadly died of cancer in July this year at the tragically young age of 51.
Martin visited our railway regularly over the years, so I know he would have really loved to have seen "his 45" working in South Devon. I'm delighted that a number of his close friends from the Severn Valley Railway, where 4566 is normally based, will be visiting us next weekend, and I hope we can do everyone proud."
A number of local specialist groups have been invited including the Western National Preservation Group in Plymouth.
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