The Churnet Valley Railway is hugely excited to announce a complete one-off event to publicly launch the “Reconnect Leek” appeal for supporters of this popular heritage railway.
Originally planned for last October, the line was dealt a hammer blow when heavy rain caused the canal to breach and wash away a section of the railway line; forcing the cancellation of the event. However following huge support from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, and industry experts including Stobart Rail, the line was repaired in time to run its full Santa programme as planned.
And so now – for one weekend only – the unique spectacle of THREE working S160s will be on show demonstrating all their American Muscle, as they weave through the Churnet Valley and up onto the steep gradients to Ipstones deep in the Staffordshire Moorlands – in what is being branded as “Super Power: Take 2”.
Courtesy of Peter Best and the Dartmouth Steam Railway, USATC S160 no. 2253 Omaha has had an extended visit to Staffordshire assisting with the CVR’s Christmas programme and will make her final appearance during this event. Having only returned to traffic last summer, the locomotive was named in memory of British and Allied serviceman who participated in the D-Day landings 75 years ago – one of whom, Sqn Ldr Norman Best, was Peter’s father and landed on Omaha Beach as a Radar Specialist. Following a running-in period on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the locomotive is being transferred to the Dartmouth Steam Railway to take up residence there for the immediate future; but an agreement was reached to make a diversion to Froghall for the original event that was gratefully extended to ensure her appearance at this reorganised ground-breaking event.
Joining 2253 will be resident S160s nos. 5197 and 6046. 5197 has been operating on the CVR throughout 2019 before resuming her Polar Express role, which brought national attention with her transfer to Telford being featured on UKTV’s Train Truckers series. 6046 meanwhile spent 2019 operating at Dartmouth, before taking her own role in the Polar Express with the debut of the event at the Wensleydale Railway – which turned out to be the biggest Polar Express event outside of North America! With both having returned home, they are ready to take their place for this one-off opportunity to see three operational S160s in one place – a first for the UK and only the second time within Preservation globally following Fort Eustis Military Railroad operating three S160s together in 1963 for a Military Convention.
A single eight coach rake will be in operation all weekend, departing from Froghall, for four return journeys non-stop to Ipstones. Each trip will feature a different combination of the three locomotives, before the fourth and final trip sees all three combine for a triple headed journey to Ipstones. The Moorlander Kitchen car will be included in the rake, which will be serving hot & cold refreshments for those travelling onboard. Tickets are valid all day and can be booked online in advance now.
Additionally, each morning the locomotive sheds at Cheddleton will be getting opened from 7am so those interested can witness what it takes to bring a steam locomotive to life first-hand. See the first fires burn bright in the locomotives bellies, hear the hiss of steam and smell the coal as these beasts are woken from their slumber.
All monies raised will be going towards the previously announced “Reconnect Leek” project, with this being the first opportunity for members of the public to contribute directly to the appeal. Thanks to some very generous donations by all locomotive owners and hauliers, all locomotive hire fees and transport costs of 2253 have been sponsored allowing a maximum return for this appeal that aims to return trains to the Moorlands biggest Market Town for the first time since 1970. Further fundraising activity is to be announced in due course, including special events, a share issue, and community outreach, but for now the railway is looking forward to receiving support for this event in promises to be an exciting event to open the 2020 Operating Season with.