My news today is that I’ve witnessed the real start of steam trains as theme park tourism. As I arrived at Kidderminster station, the large booking hall was arrayed with all the paraphernalia for hundreds of people to queue in line for the big ride in the Pacific Power event, haulage by Flying Scotsman and Tornado. The latter is not used to playing second fiddle, so let’s call it a double A side event.
With their customary politeness and good humour, the SVR volunteers guided, cajoled and shepherded the multitudes gathering for the second train of the day, brought into Platform 1 by Tornado. From our queue we could only see the top of its smokebox but when we were guided towards our seats on the train, we were delighted to note that the rake comprised nine of the magnificent Gresley teak coaches which the SVR has nurtured so well. A complete LNER experience awaited, and as we were herded into our coaches we had struck lucky, a magnificently restored GNR corridor composite coach, No 2701 from 1922. Sadly our allocated compartment was third class.
Tornado took us away on time and we began to notice the huge crowds gathered all along the line to admire us, including three elephants and a rhinoceros in the theme park. In the second coach we heard Tornado manage her load competently, with the occasional pleasing turn of speed. We stopped at no intermediate stations but the crowds at each of them were even greater than those arrayed across the countryside. The two Bulleids and two Manors were passed on service trains.
At Bridgnorth I elbowed my way through the crowds for some photos, but the directional bright sun did not help these. On the return run we could not hear Scotsman so clearly, but enjoyed a beautiful day in the Valley on the journey back to Kidder. Hundreds more people were queued ready for the third of four runs today - around 7000 people being expected during the long weekend. It had been a great day out, and the prospects for even more public interest in steam seemed good.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures