Following on from the success of its June 18/19 gala that brought three operational Lancashire & Yorkshire locomotives together with one from the LNWR for the first time in preservation to celebrate the centenary of the merger of the two companies, the East Lancashire Railway did not let up – and outdid itself by going one step further for its end-of-year steam event.
A three-day weekend of steam for its October 14-16 autumn gala saw another preservation first – with no less than five Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway locomotives present, as well as the London North Western Railway Webb 0-6-2T Coal Tank No. 1054 capping off the centenary year in style.
The National Trust-owned No. 1054 has remained on the ELR since returning to steam earlier this year, making its post-overhaul passenger-hauling debut at the June gala, and it is the sole-surviving operational LNWR locomotive.
Representing the L&YR company again were 1881-built 0-6-0ST No. 51456, 1895-built 0-6-0 No. 52322 and 1910-built 0-4-0ST ‘Pug’ No. 19 that had all appeared at the first event, but this time being joined by 0-6-0 No. 52044, built in 1887 and visiting courtesy of the Bowers 957 Trust and the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. It was not just the ‘Ironclad’ that was visiting from the Valley, with gala organisers fully committed to celebrating all things L&YR and bringing across a second ‘Pug’ in the shape of Class 21 No. 51218, supported by its owner, the L&Y Trust.
No. 51218 is presently out of ticket and has not steamed since 2005 but was on static display at Bury Bolton Street station throughout the event and is set to remain on the ELR until January 2023. Classmate No. 19 never made it to BR service, having been sold into industrial use sometime around 1931. For the weekend, however, it assumed the identity of Goole Docks-based shunter No. 51241. This was the first time the two diminutive 0-4-0s had been together since 1998.
One absentee that very nearly made the event was the National Railway Museum’s L&YR 2-4-2T No. 1008. An agreement had been reached for it to move to the ELR on loan, which would have resulted in the gathering of all surviving standard gauge L&YR locomotives in one place. Unfortunately No. 1008 was unable to be extracted in time, however discussions were still underway to see it move to Bury later this year.
In the evening of October 13, all of the L&YR locomotives were lined up for a photographic shoot at Baron Street sheds, likely to be the last such event with the old wooden doors on the shed building in situ, as these are set to be replaced by modern roller shutter doors to improve security.
The timetable offered plenty of movement each day, with double-headed services featuring tender locomotives Nos. 52044 and 52322 paired together, as well tank engines Nos. 1054 and 51456. A short goods train was operated on the Friday and Saturday, with shunting taking place around Castlecroft Yard outside the Bury Transport Museum on the Friday and Sunday.
A further gala first for the ELR was a viewing area next to the goods sidings at Ramsbottom that allowed people to get up close and witness shunting demonstrations there during the Saturday. This proved an incredible draw – not just for passengers and enthusiasts, but also the local community, with nearby residents (some with toddlers in prams) making visits to witness the activity for themselves.
Friday’s shunts were undertaken by 0-4-0VBGT No. 7232 Anne, while the duties for the following two days fell to No. 51241. These shunting demonstrations have perhaps become one of the biggest attractions for those visiting the ELR galas, as not only is there always something happening with such movements, but a vital part of history is also recreated and gives purpose to overhauling and utilising locomotives such as the Pugs.
The three remaining operational locomotives from ELR home fleet operated in rotation throughout, with BR 2-6-4T Standard 4MT No.80097 running on the Friday, GWR 0-6-2T 56XX class No. 5643 appearing on the Sunday, and SR 4-6-2 West Country class No. 34092 City of Wells operating for all three days at what was its last steam event before withdrawal for overhaul.
Liam Barnes, one of the event organisers, said: “What started off as me and Callum Porter (co-organiser) writing countless pencil notes on a timetable one night after work back in the summer turned into what we delivered over the three days. Keeping something interesting and different each day enticed everyone to enjoy what we had to offer.
“A highlight for us and also our passengers was the viewing area we created at Rambsbottom sidings – a totally new aspect for a steam gala, and it went down a storm with enthusiasts and families alike as we shunted wagons just as they used to do with the Pug in steam days.”
Focus now shifts to 2023, the centenary of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, which was formed on January 1, 1923.
Although yet to be confirmed, it has been proposed that the L&YR locomotives on the line will be turned out in LMS liveries for the occasion – another exciting prospect to look forward to?
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