FINALLY, A WESTERN-STYLE TOUR IN 2018... AND IT’S A PANNIER WITH THREE COACHES
Memorial railtour to Princes Risborough and Chinnor was a delightful novelty, and a tribute to former 9466 owner Dennis Howells.
If anyone had dropped through a wormhole on October 20, they might have found nothing unusual about a pannier tank scampering over Saunderton. For anybody else, the threecoach trip with No. 9466 through the Chiltern hills and suburban lands across Middlesex had to count as perhaps the most unusual railtour this year.
There was plenty that was out of the ordinary about this trip: with the BR(WR) engine stabled at Southall, the public part of the day started not at a terminus or major station – but at unmanned Drayton Green, the southernmost stopping point on the Greenford Branch, just after turning off the Great Western Main Line. From this almost incongruous survivor that was once served by autotrains, it ran via the junction at Greenford, turning left there for West Ruislip, and ultimately Princes Risborough and the preserved line to Chinnor. What a smashing little itinerary.
With Vintage Trains not yet having offered any public trains in its new guise, and no other main line GWR engines active either, it was also the first chance anyone had for a ‘big railway’ spin with a Western engine at any time in 2018.
That it was a memorial trip for owner Dennis Howells who died in August (SR484) made this ‘one-off of one-offs’ especially poignant. Support crew member (and general manager of the Mid-Norfolk Railway) George Saville explained afterwards that the original idea had been to give the 0-6-0PT’s owner one last run.
“It was for Dennis… after Dennis went, we reflected on it and thought ‘should we carry on?’. And actually thought ‘yes, it’s a fitting memorial to him’. A lot of people helped out, including West Coast, Network Rail and Great Western. The support crew and family
were hugely grateful for all the help to make it happen.”
With the Hawksworth engine now in probate, the support crew is continuing to look after it and George reports that its ‘big railway’ certification will be maintained for the foreseeable future. Sadly though, given main line economics, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should expect too many more days like October 20…
As an aside, there’s an answer too for anyone wondering about the incongruity of a ‘94XX’ supposedly hauling the ‘Red Dragon’: like the 1952-built pannier, the headboard belonged to Dennis Howells.
Pannier No. 9466 heads through the High Wycombe suburbia, bound for Chinnor, on October 20.