Thursday, 7 June 2012

Railfest 2012

"Get fired up at Britain's biggest rail celebration!"

As the National Railway Museum's site proclaims...

I'll be honest, I'm not sure what Railfest is celebrating - the previous event in 2004 was to mark 200 years of railways in the recognisable form which we know and, in many cases, love. But this time? It was more like depot open days used to be - lots of different locos, forms of traction and even a the naming of a locomotive! And in this sense, it's a great event - plenty to see!

Behind all of this we have RAIL Magazine - the magazine which desperately wants to be Modern Railways! And I'll be honest, I can't take Nigel Harris seriously. My view was consolidated when, in a recent issue of RAIL he tried to show that he's 'one of us'. Northern Rail and its drivers were in dispute over changing ends in the dark at Hexham station where no walkway is provided for use where the units do not have corridor connections between all vehicles. Mr Harris tried to tell all he understood their plight from when he had early starts cleaning when he volunteered on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway! He's not one of us, he writes about what we do...

The selection of exhibits was very good indeed - seeing the NRM supported by a wide selection of the industry is wonderful. A sign that the industry cares about its heritage even in these rather uncertain economic times - some of the exhibits were very much off the beaten track.

A highlight for me was a chance to see Synolda very close to its original home. Originally built for Sir Robert Walker for his railway at Sand Hutton Hall, it moved around following the lines rebuilding from a 15" gauge pleasure railway to an 18" gauge estate railway. Now based at the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, it made the trip which coincided with its one hundredth birthday. It also made a private visit to Sand Hutton school - such a shame it couldn't have had a proper 'home coming' as there are a good number of local enthusiasts and miniature railway enthusiasts who would have relished the chance to see the loco in its original surroundings.

Undoubtedly the highlight was a footplate (well, tender!) ride on the Ffestiniog Railway's Palmerston! Thomas and I had a ride and he wasn't at all worried and seemed to relish the opportunity - only problem was he wanted to ride on every loco he saw afterwards! The FR's staff were excellent and very friendly - I certainly hope their attitude will lead to people deciding to visit the railway itself.

Photo courtesy J Griffiths

And finally, the souvenir for a little boy after his day at Railfest...

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