Sunday proved to be quite an interesting occasion at the NVR, when no less than three visiting locomotives turned up and presented us with the opportunity to hold a mini Diesel Gala. In truth, we were expecting a visiting GBRf class 66, which we got – what wasn’t anticipated was a pair of class 73’s attached to it! It transpired that the class 73’s were ‘in the way’ to use highly technical railway jargon, so rather than move them, they were tacked onto the 66 and sent down to Wansford.
It was all part of a GBRf Gala Day, which offered a carboot sale at Wansford and, er, some other stuff I didn’t really notice. The carboot sale was pitiful; four cars selling tat and a man punting wicker baskets seems a little underwhelming to me, although I’m no expert in this field. Perhaps it was all part of the ‘less is more’ way of thinking. So let me assure you that less is definitely less in this case.
Fortunately the visiting locos provided recompense for the dismal attractions not on offer. They did, however, bring their own particular brand of problems – notably contemporary diesel fans. These people are a totally different breed to your average railway enthusiast, and cause so many behavioural problems that a lot of regular volunteers won’t work at the Diesel Galas. Indeed, I recounted my own experiences at the last gala in March. Different loco classes attract different fans, and whilst some – notably the class 31 followers – are the most laid back, friendly and down to earth group you could hope to meet, the class 66 followers are often bullish, arrogant and downright rude. They carry a couple of grand’s worth of camera kit around, but will jump a fence to avoid paying the £12 fare to ride behind their dream loco.
To even the score up a bit, the NVR relied on its secret weapon – THOMAS! Yes, Thomas was in steam as booked, hauling the Yarwell shuttle. The same coaches then worked the Wansford – Peterborough section behind a diesel with our resident class 14 on the first train; the 73’s on the second, class 66 on the third and back to the 14 for the last train. The coaches were our Danish (DSB) open vehicles that added to the pot pourri nature of the day.
Now I have to say that when a train’s passenger list consists of 50% Thomas kids and parents having a day out, and 50% diehard class 66 groupies waving Nikons around, the atmosphere onboard the trains was interesting to say the least! Some of the 66 group got into the spirit of the day, to be fair, and were quite laid back about Thomas’ haunted tunnel. But later on at Wansford I was trying to herd passengers onto the already late running afternoon service when I was told, “We’re not getting on this train until that bloody kettle thing is removed!” This lot were all in their late 40’s / early 50’s, so I can only assume that with the level of maturity on display, they must work for Elf n’ Safety. Or a Town Council. Or the Highways Agency. And I'm sure some of them must have designed the new junction on Grantham's High Street.
I also got another telling off by one irate idiot, sorry, passenger, who bemoaned the fact that he hadn’t been issued with an authentic Edmondson style card ticket. These tickets were extremely important, he informed me at length, because he logs every detail of the trip and then attaches the ticket to the relevant page. Printed till receipts don’t cut a lot of ice, it would seem. I tried the sensible and rational explanation, which got me nowhere – so I turned the argument on its head. “Sir, you’re travelling in a Danish carriage behind Thomas The Tank Engine through a haunted tunnel in the middle of Cambridgeshire. Just how much authenticity can you take in one day?” He didn’t seem to like that much, although the family in seating bay opposite certainly did!
More daft comments were heard by a colleague, Old Arkwright, who works at Orton Mere Station. You can read his accounts about the day here.
The event was not particularly well publicised by the organisers so passenger numbers were relatively low, which as far as being on duty on the trains went was a good thing. We were able to keep control of the coaches and do full ticket inspections – during Diesel Galas you simply can’t get from one end of the train to the other, and two or three TTI’s are required on each train.
Overall it was an interesting, albeit hard day to be on duty. It made a nice change to ride behind different locos and get some novel photos. Although I have to say that I dropped an almighty clanger here, and set up the camera with ridiculous settings that resulted in enough noise on the photos to make them look as if they were from 1926. It took a fair bit of editing to get a set suitable for publication. Normally I’d just delete them and try again, but as this was such a unique event I just had to bite the bullet and sort them out.