Run it and they will come

THERE have been mixed fortunes for diesel galas on heritage railways in recent years.

Run it and they will come
Some of them, such as the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, have done away with a dedicated gala, making do instead with occasional running days for its home fleet locos.

On the other hand, the once firmly steam-only Bluebell Railway has now successfully introduced an annual diesel event, backed up with visiting railtours throughout the year.

This year’s diesel gala at the Severn Valley Railway in May, however, offered a gold-standard template which showed that, given the right mix of attractions, people would flock to take part. Its three-day event featured more than 20 locos, the majority of which were visitors from main line operators and other heritage lines, leading to most trains being full and standing throughout the day.

All heritage lines have to be run as a business, of course, and so any event has to at least break even. But in the SVR’s case the efforts paid off, as a record 4000 people attended – up some 1500 on last year’s event.

No doubt the prospect of haulage by the pair of Network Rail ‘Ultra 73s’ was a big part of the attraction, and getting them was a major coup for the line.

Sadly, one of them failed halfway through the event, but the crowds waiting for them at Bewdley (see page 14) – and the resultant crush on board – must surely be unprecedented at a diesel gala.

The SVR is one of a growing number of lines that have recognised diesels are a key part of the heritage future.

As steam ended on British Railways nearly 50 years ago now, the vast majority of enthusiasts have grown up with diesels and electrics.

And, with nostalgia being a key part of the heritage movement, there is a demand there that needs to be served.

In something of a surprise move, TransPennine Express has ordered 13 five-car loco-hauled sets for its services from Liverpool to Newcastle, Scarborough and other destinations.

This recalls the former loco-hauled operations that ended in 1991, and gives the mouth-watering prospect of regular long-distance haulage behind DRS Class 68s.

These locos have already proved their worth with Chiltern Railways and ScotRail, and are fast gaining a reputation amongst enthusiasts as a modern classic in terms of looks, sound and performance.

I am sure the decision was made on purely business grounds. But the spin-off benefit for diesel loco fans has to be acknowledged: well done TPE!

Paul Bickerdyke

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