I have not managed to get to the Bluebell Railway since October 2019, so this was a very special time for me. On Saturday 8th October I drove up to Sheffield Park station to attend the ‘Giants of Steam’ event at which three visiting engines were present. This year the event took place over the weekend of 8th-10th October 2021.
The first visiting locomotive was SR Merchant Navy Class 35028 Clan Line. This loco made a non-operative appearance on the line in 2019 for some maintenance due to major bridge works on the Mid Hants Railway which meant they were unable to accept her. The Bluebell Railway was the next place for the work to be completed.
In exchange for the work that the Bluebell Railway crew undertook, the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society, the owners of Clan Line, made an agreement with the Bluebell Railway that the locomotive would take part in the next ‘Giants of Steam’ event, and here it was.
Clan Line sits ready for the next timetabled departure.
Currently there are 11 examples of the Merchant Navy Class locomotives still surviving, all in different stages of preservation.
The second visitor was SR Schools Class Cheltenham, an NRM Collection loco which joined the Bluebell Railway event from the Watercress Line. Only three of this class of locomotives survive in preservation; 926 ‘Repton’ based at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, 928 ‘Stowe’ based at the Bluebell Railway, and 925 ‘Cheltenham’.
Schools Class Cheltenham is seen here in full steam.
The third and final visitor for this event was USATC S160 ‘6046’ from the Churnet Valley Railway. Unfortunately, due to leaking tubes this locomotive could not take part in the timetabled services but, instead, posed as a static display at Sheffield Park station.
USATC Sadly sits as a static display in Sheffield Park's bay platform.
Of course, these locomotives were also joined on the line by some of Bluebell's own locomotives which were in steam and operating. This year featured BR Standard Class 5 73082 Camelot, LSWR S15 Class ‘847’ and SECR H Class 263.
LSWR S15 is seen in steam in the Sheffield Park locomotive shed.
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