Super steam power at Bure Valley Railway

Angi Kennedy From train-mad toddlers to the keenest steam fanatics, railway enthusiasts can indulge their passion to their hearts content this weekend when the Super Power Gala comes to Norfolk. ANGI KENNEDY reports.

Angi Kennedy

Fed up with delays on the line, tired of train cancellations? It's time to remind yourself of the romance and power of the railway this weekend.

The Bure Valley Railway (BVR) is hosting the Super Power Gala on Saturday and Sunday with locomotives galore. Although the term “super-power” doesn't seem to fit with a 15-inch gauge heritage railway, the organisers believe it will be an amazing event for anyone who loves trains!

And, in expectation of around 1,000 visitors, the railway is preparing a packed timetable of trips throughout the busy two-day event - far more than ever ran when the line was a regular service!

BVR chairman David Barnes explained: “The timetable will be the most intensive service ever run by the Bure Valley Railway, in terms of both the number of arrivals and departures in one day and the short gap between them!”

All the BVR locomotives will be operating during the weekend, as well as four special “visitors” - locos that are arriving in style at the Aylsham station this week. Being transported across the country by road are the heavyweights Number 24 Sandy River from Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, Douglas Ferreira from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Hercules from Romney Hythe and Dymchurch and, from closer to home, Männertreu of the Waveney Valley Railway at Bressingham Steam Museum.

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The five-ton Number 24 Sandy River is a half-size replica of the prototype two-foot gauge Baldwin 2-6-2 US locomotive from Franklin County in the Eastern state of Maine.

It has visited Norfolk before to work on the Aylsham/Wroxham line in the early days of the BVR but, despite a new boiler, she had to be worked rather harder than was good for her. A spell on the Kirklees Light Railway was followed by another go at the BVR in 1997 before she settled into her present home at Cleethorpes, where loadings and gradients are more suitable.

The powerful diesel locomotive Douglass Ferreira was built by TMS Engineering of Birmingham and delivered in 2005. It is named after the recently-deceased Douglas Ferreira OBE, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway's general manager from 1960-2002. Look out for its headlights which were originally aircraft landing lights and its horn that came from a heavy goods vehicle (the lorry driver's furry dice are usually hanging in one of its cabs.

Männertreu - meaning “true-hearted man” - from Bressingham Steam Museum is a 4-6-2 loco from the German steel engineering firm Krupp of Essen. And Hercules, from Romney Hythe and Dymchurch, has been brought in at the last moment to replace Black Prince which was due to visit for the weekend. Hercules is a two-cylinder Mountain class loco that was commissioned for the opening of the Kent line.

These four will be travelling the track - which runs between Aylsham and Wroxham on an 18-mile round-trip - to the delight of rail enthusiasts who are expected to come from all over the country to enjoy this special weekend event.

Visitors will be able to buy a rover ticket for all-day travel on the railway, which has stops at the county stations serving the villages of Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall.

The various stations, bridges and the footpath running along the railway track will provide ideal locations for the keen photographer, and many younger rail fans are expected to enjoy the day, with lots of chances to see different styles of trains. The Aylsham station also hosts a souvenir shop with steam memorabilia, toys and gifts, as well as the Whistlestop café for refreshments.

BVR Marketing officer Annette Bowler commented: “It is a lovely opportunity for people to see these locomotives and to speak to the drivers, and share with each other their experiences, their enthusiasm and their passion for the railway.”

Saturday's events also includes re-launch at 11am of locomotive Number Eight “Thunder”, a ZB class 2-6-2 tank engine which has recently been converted from oil to coal-firing.

Thunder, which is owned by BVR, first steamed in December 1997 after being specially designed for the BVR by Winson Engineering and assembled in the Aylsham Workshop.

Mr Barnes called the relaunch a demonstration of the railway's behind-the-scenes expertise. “The staff and volunteers have dedicated their time and passion to rebuild this locomotive. As a heritage railway, this is one of many features that attract the enthusiasts,” he said.

“For a family day out, the Bure Valley Railway provides nostalgia for the grandparents, and the novice factor for the younger generation. The Bure Valley Railway would like to encourage this interest and recruit potential volunteers or members of staff in the future to pass on this knowledge to future generations.”

Indeed, volunteers are essential to the life of the railway. Although there are a few paid staff, it is volunteers from around Norfolk and much further afield who provide vital help and support in all aspects of the heritage railway organisation - from driving the locos to maintaining the track, from raising funds to keeping the station grounds neat and tidy.

The Bure Valley Railway follows the route of the old East Norfolk Railway line which opened in 1880. The increase in road transport over the decades that followed meant that in 1952 the passenger services ceased and the whole line eventually closed altogether in 1982.

It was in 1990 that the BVR opened, a railway but without a steam locomotive! The first of these were on loan from other lines, but today the railway operates five steam and three diesel locomotives, and carries up to 130,000 passengers a year.

t The Super Power Gala event starts at 8.50am from Aylsham with its first non-passenger run and 9.15am for passengers on Saturday, with frequent trains running throughout the weekend until Sunday evening. For more information visit www.bvrw.co.uk or telephone 01263 733858.