Me­mo­rial rail­tour to Princes Ris­bor­ough and Chin­nor was a de­light­ful nov­elty, and a trib­ute to for­mer 9466 owner Den­nis How­ells.

Steam Railway (UK) - - DOWNMAIN -

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.

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