Yes I am a grown man, no I’m not old enough to remember when steam trains were the norm on the UK’s railways but yes I have a love for them nonetheless. I’m putting this partly down to my dad but mainly down to growing up opposite a shed housing a preserved steam loco – the Union of South Africa (see previous blog for more on that).
Anyone not wanting to read much and just wanting to see what photos I’ve taken – here’s a link for background information or you can just skip to the photos.
For those wanting a bit more context, please keep reading.
The streamlined A4 Pacific class locos designed and built by LNER were the pinnacle of express steam locomotives, built for high speed travel and also for heavy pulling. Only 35 were built and only 6 now survive, 3 of which are still used on mainline excursions and the other 3 are display pieces at different museums.
What’s so interesting about that you may well be thinking? Well 2 of the remaining 6 engines were shipped over to North America many years ago (1 to the USA and the other to Canada) so they have never been together, until now. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Mallard breaking the speed record for a steam loco they decided to get all 6 remaining A4’s together. This involved shipping back the 2 from North America along with getting the other 3 working engines in the UK to York. An event that will never be repeated (the North America engines will be shipped back next year) so I needed to make it along to see them all together.
Here’s some images I got during my visit:
Today was a bit of a special day for me and one I’ve waiting on for a long time. Yes you might think I’m sad but I don’t care, why? I’ll tell you why.
I grew up in a house that overlooks the main East Coast mainline (that’s the railway for those that don’t know) but more specifically overlooked a big shed that housed an express passenger steam locomotive – the Union of South Africa (60009). So for years everytime the engine was being taken out it sat where I could see it from the living room window for a couple of hours heating the water in the boiler until it was up to steam. Of course being a kid watching from a window wasn’t good enough when I could be out there over the road watching it up close. And that is what I did many times during my childhood. Until one sad day, the day I watched this loco being loaded onto a flatbed truck and driven down south, that day way sometime in May 1994 and I haven’t seen that engine since…..
That was until today. Today was the first time she has come north of Fife, today was the day she hauled a train from back from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and today the first time I’ve seen her in almost 20 years.
Unfortunately she wasn’t hauling the tour up to Aberdeen but I thought she was still going up with it. It turned out that she got hauled up an hour before by a diesel loco so sadly at lunchtime I had to make do with a Class 5 loco pulling the Great Britain VI:
But I did know that later the Union of South Africa was hauling the train on the return trip so I took position at the south end of the Tay Rail Bridge and waited. First to appear was the diesel loco that went north with the Class 5 earlier:
Then a little while later I heard the distinct whistle of the A4 class locos before seeing her in the distance making the approach to the north end of the bridge. Robert (Robert Garside Photography) who was with me managed to get a good spot looking right along the bridge:
Meanwhile I was on higher ground and balancing one foot on a stepladder the other on a very shoogly fence post:
After this we jumped in the car and made the most of the 20minute stop at Leuchars so found a position towards Dairsie further down the line so we could get another pass:
Ok so some of you might still think I’m sad, but I don’t care as I’m happy 🙂