... Journal Entry

The Watercress Line Spring Steam Gala 2024 with guest locomotives LMS Jubilee Class ‘Leander’ no. 45690, ‘Battle of Britain’ Class ‘Manston’ no. 34070 and ‘Lambton’ Tank no. 29. Smoke, steam, nostalgia and one of the locomotives an uncleaned and filthy dirty disappointment.

Manston is kept in "weathered" (read filthy dirty) condition at the insistence of its owners Southern Locomotives Ltd who claim that lots of photographers want it that way to be able to capture it "having an operational look". Well I can vouch for the fact that many of the punters at the Gala thought otherwise, were hugely disappointed with its turn out and very vociferous about it. It seemed sad, neglected and poorly cared for compared to its gleaming cohorts and definitely not at all photogenic.

Now the poor old MHR staff at the Gala were having to keep expounding SLL's requirements to people and explaining that their own volunteers were "queuing up" to clean the engine but had indeed been told by SLL in no uncertain terms that they mustn't or else. So there you had it, the erstwhile star of the show all dowdy, run down, filthy and wretched. Bit of an insult to the RAF, Battle Of Britain and Manston it is meant to honour, to be turned out in this condition at a gala 😡. Poor old "spam can". Anyway on to the good stuff.

Leander as you might expect was beautifully turned out despite the fact she is soon due to go out of service after which she may or may not get another overhaul. Anyway, she was a credit to her owners the Beet family and her operators West Coast Railways from whom she was on loan. It was great to see her in action before she is withdrawn from service when her extended boiler ticket expires in May.

For me the real star of the show was ‘Lambton’ Tank no. 29. Running courtesy of the Lambton Trust and North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Built in 1904 for Lambton Collieries, No. 29 is one of the longest-working steam locomotives in the UK, with 65 years in service. Obviously well cared for and loved by her owners. She was built in 1904 by Kitson of Leeds, Works Number 4263, for Lambton Collieries, No. 29 was the first 0-6-2T to be employed on that system and spent most of her working life hauling coal trucks. Wonderful little engine.

Finally, members of the home fleet were out too, immaculate as ever and here represented by 41312 - LMS IVATT CLASS 2MT, nick named 'Micky Mouse' tanks due to the placing of route indicator discs either side of the smokebox that then looked like ears. An Ivatt LMS design introduced in 1946, 41312 was built in May 1952 at Crewe locomotive works and spent its entire working career on the Southern region. Lovely little locomotive.

Keeping the very best bit till last, I must mention the superb organisation of the event and the great people who run the Waitress Line. Everything was well organised, ran to schedule and went off without a hitch, no mean feat when dealing with ancient machines up to 120 years old in some cases running to a complex timetable. The staff and the many volunteers were helpful, patient and efficient thus creating a very enjoyable day for enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. Plus, despite a forbidding forecast, the rain held off and we even got a bit of sunshine on day we visited (Friday) so we were 'dead jammy' as they say. Such fun!