Fifty years ago this week-end – on Sunday, 2 July 1967 – I stood by the line close to Basingstoke station while my father photographed the farewell to Southern steam specials from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, hauled by Merchant Navy Class locos 35008 Orient Line, 35028 Clan Line and West Country Class loco 34025 Whimple.
Half a century on there was a fabulous reminder for me of that fateful day, at the Summer Steam Gala on the Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line), where in less than two hours at Medstead & Four Marks station – at 652 feet the highest station in southern England – it was possible to see even more Bulleid Pacific action than I had watched from the line-side on that day back in 1967.
A quartet of the famous locos, designed by Oliver Bulleid when he was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway between 1937 and nationalisation in 1948, has been assembled from around the country to operate services at the gala, which continues next weekend (the actual last day of Southern steam being Sunday, 9 July 1967).
The four in action comprise West Country Class 34046 Braunton – masquerading as Battle of Britain Class 35052 Lord Dowding – sister loco 34053 Sir Keith Park and another Battle of Britain Class loco, 34081 92 Squadron (in original un-rebuilt form), together with Merchant Navy Class loco 35006 Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company
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