Downs Light Railway 90th Anniversary Steam Gala
To celebrate their 90th anniversary, the Downs Light Railway held a steam gala and exhibition over the 30th April and 1st May 2017. Based in the grounds of the Downs Malvern Preparatory School, the DLR is the oldest private railway in the world, originally being constructed to 7 1/4" gauge but subsequently being re-gauged to 9 1/2" upon the acquisition of "Ranmore", a 0-4-2 Class D steam locomotive, built in 1930 and acquired by the then headmaster Geoffrey Hoyland in 1937. The event itself gained unprecedented support and saw the largest ever gathering of 9 1/2" gauge operators, owners, preservers, rolling stock and, of course, locomotives, with in excess of 15 on site from as far away as Switzerland.
"Rockclimber", along with the end tipper, flat bed, portable turntable and two of "new build" "Sapphires" wheelsets, left the railway on Friday 28th April, arriving on Saturday 29th, becoming the first of our locomotives to ever visit another railway. Over the course of the event, "Rockclimber" out performed its owners every expectation and certainly lived up to its name by deadlifting four carriages, a bogie wagon and the two LRR wagons out of the tunnel from a standing start up the 1in28 grade in the rain. The opportunity was also taken to view "James Boyd" in action before its arrival in June for our gala. As a very powerful locomotive, it should handle our trains with ease and provide a rather different sight romping round the lake.
To quote Matt Nunn; "the event provided the "defibrillator shock" the gauge needed, forging relations between the remaining railways and locomotive owners that will in the long term insure its preservation and inevitably cause events similar to this to occur in the future". Our personal thanks go to the DLR Trust and Tim Pennock, without whom such an event would never have been possible.
Photographs: Matt Nunn