Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

Spa Valley Railway 26th August 2013

The saga surrounding 31206’s journey to the Spa Valley Railway is a well known one; it should have been the star of the railways’ August Gala but due to more than one farce with road transport it didn’t make it in time! What with one company having no tractor unit available and another breaking a trailer once ‘206 was loaded; it was utter chaos and ultimately a bit of a let down for many 31 bashers that ‘206 didn’t make it.

Last time 31206 had an outing from the Rushden Transport Museum it had been included in a gala line-up at the Midland Railway Butterley and hadn’t performed too well; suffering from low power and not really sounding the part at all. Some had speculated that it may well have been a good thing for ‘206 not to have made it to the Spa Valley so as not to embarrass itself and indeed the class……….

Thankfully both the Spa Valley Railway and the owner of 31206 persevered and the loco arrived at the Spa Valley the week after the gala and was pressed into driver training runs, T&T with 73140, almost immediately. It made it’s debut on passenger trains over the August Bank Holiday weekend on Sunday 25th when it worked the diesel turn on the green timetable, with steam loco 47493 covering the steam turn. Unfortunately there was nobody on hand to prep ‘206 on the Sunday morning so it didn’t make it onto the rear of the stock for the departure of the 1010 from Tunbridge Wells and 73140 deputised; working the 1110 Eridge – Tunbridge Wells back, where 31206 was indeed waiting to work the rest of the days’ diesel turn.

1155 Tunbridge Wells – Eridge, 1410 Eridge – Tunbridge Wells, 1455 Tunbridge Wells – Eridge & 1706 Eridge – Tunbridge Wells

On Bank Holiday Monday 26th August the diesel turn was different and 31206 worked the following:

1010 Tunbridge Wells – Eridge, 1230 Eridge – Tunbridge Wells, 1319 Tunbridge Wells – Eridge, 1530 Eridge – Tunbridge Wells, 1619 Tunbridge Wells – Eridge & 1706 Eridge – Tunbridge Wells (banking in rear – assisting steam 47493)

The moment of truth for ‘206 as it departed on the 1010 from Tunbridge Wells didn’t live up to much, although probably as it was downhill and the driver was still finding his way round the controls. However by the middle of the day 31206 has proved its worth and that it justified the numbers 3 & 1 being on its cab side. Not only had its low power issues been resolved but it sounded meaty, loud, clagged out of one bank and had a decent first divert as well; on a decent load it would have sounded the part going up the hill back towards Tunbridge Wells.

I left Tunbridge Wells looking forward to a return; the opportunities for which were plenty as ‘206 was rostered almost every weekend up to the mid-October diesel gala. Details of which can be found on the Spa Valley Railway Loco Roster.

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