Great Central Railway

925 Cheltenham on the Quorn turntable

They all laughed when I said I was going on a city break to Loughborough, but it was true. I've mopped up most of the attractive coastal heritage railways, so it was time to go inland and the Great Central Railway boasts the only mainline double track stretch of rail in the UK. The journey there was quite spectacular too, from upstairs at St Pancras on the East Midlands line. I was going to be a delegate at the NUJ conference in Newcastle so took the opportunity to spend a day at their Autumn Steam Gala, on the Thursday. I wouldn't see all the locos in steam, but there again it wouldn't be as crowded as the weekend.

Pannier tank 9466 at Rothley

I spent the Wednesday night at the Premier Inn on a £29 deal (no breakfast), which was fine, with a meal and a couple of pints at the Moon & Bell, a Wetherspoons pub, then on Thursday morning set off for Loughborough GCR station (the mainline station is a way out of town and had to take a bus to the town centre). A kind porter let me leave my case in the porters' room (he also gave me a lift to the main station later) so I had a cup of tea in the buffet while I was waiting for the first train out at 10.30, pulled by GWR pannier tank 9466 in black BR livery. I went all the way to Leicester North then back to Rothley, where I alighted to await the 4-4-0 Schools Class 925 Cheltenham, painted in malachite green, heading back to Leicester.  I travelled on to Quorn and Woodlouse (sorry, Woodhouse) this time and went to look at the cosy NAAFI tea room and the new Butler-Henderson Bistro, but there were no Quorn pies to be had anywhere!

925 Cheltenham on the Quorn turntable

Then an unexpected treat. There was announcement that there'd be a demonstration of the new turntable. And which loco should turn up, but Cheltenham. The demo was not without mishap, with lots of precise movements back and forth to get the balance right, but it was eventually turned round by manpower and chuffed back to Loughborough. By now the timetable was about half an hour behind, so jumped on the pannier-hauled 1.36 and had a cup of tea and a toasted teacake in the buffet car.

LMS 8F 48624

Back at Loughborough I had a wander down to the shed, where a diesel was shuffling four steam locos: the fictional crimson 8F 48624, the twins 78019 and 46521 and a jinty 47406. Just outside the shed was 777 Sir Lamiel in steam. Also parked up outside were the blue King Edward II and GNR tank 1744. Now the GCR let you wander into the shed, subject to a small donation, and there I could see various locos in various states of restoration, but didn't want to delve too deep as there were lots of scary oily pits around. I went back to the station to watch Cheltenham run around the train and eventually take it out heading for Leicester. Strange to see so many Southern locos in the midlands. Coincidentally, on the way back from Newcastle I spotted the GCR black 5 45305 outside York railway museum.

777 (30777) Sir Lamiel

And what of Loughborough itself? Well, it has some fine Art Deco buildings and two Wetherspoon pubs, so what more could you ask, and the weather was too good, the sun getting in the way of better photographs! More on Flickr.

  Odeon at Loughborough

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