FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Evening Star and the Pines Express

Posted in England, Loughborough by folkestonejack on February 2, 2016

The sight of Evening Star sitting in the station at Loughborough Central this morning in her BR lined green livery with a set of maroon MK1 coaches was a little bit of railway magic. It was quite impossible not to be swept up in this, despite knowing that the real Evening Star has been on static display at the National Railway Museum for over two decades!

A glorious, but brief moment of sun as 'Evening Star' heads towards Swithland

A glorious, but brief, moment of sun as ‘Evening Star’ heads towards Swithland

The opportunity to turn back the clock came with a photo charter organised by Neil Cave and the team at Timeline Events. For the day BR Standard 9F class locomotive No. 92214 would take on the identity of her more famous sister, No. 92220, better known to us as Evening Star.

It is now almost 55 years since Evening Star left Swindon Works as the 999th ‘standard’ and the last steam locomotive to be built by British Railways. In her short working life (which lasted from March 1960 to March 1965) she mainly worked on freight but sometimes worked passenger expresses. The latter were carefully controlled by BR management to ensure that Evening Star remained in perfect condition for special workings, exhibitions and a future in preservation.

The career of No. 92214 was not that much longer. The locomotive left Swindon Works in October 1959 and spent her earliest period of service hauling heavy ironstone trains from the Oxfordshire quarries to the steel works of South Wales. However, she too ended up hauling passenger services – notably holiday excursions over the Somerset & Dorset in the Summer of 1964. In August 1965 No. 92214 was withdrawn from service. Today, No. 92214 is one of nine members of her class that have been preserved (out of the 251 produced).

Evening Star on the approach to Swithland

Evening Star on the approach to Swithland

On 8th September 1962 Evening Star hauled the last ‘Pines Express’, a famous passenger service operated between Manchester and Bournemouth, over the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR). The S&DJR line did not survive all that much longer than the locomotive, closing on 7th March 1966. It was appropriate then that the ‘Pines Express’ headboard would adorn our train at times during the day, particularly on the double track sections of the Great Central Railway which most resemble the much missed line.

Although the forecast had suggested that we would see full sun from sunrise through to early afternoon it was still pretty cloudy when we gathered at Loughborough. Nevertheless, we set off down the line to Swithland – an impressive location for a preserved railway with up and down main lines, up and down passing loops, sidings and a branch line.

The opening shots of the day took in the signal box at Swithland with the idea to capture our train as it passed through. However, there was a problem – a bright blue lorry lurking in the background. One of the crew persuaded the driver to move the lorry out of shot, only to reveal a bright yellow skip instead! It was hard not to laugh.

We had originally planned to work our way down the line, but in the end we stuck it out at Swithland until the sun made an appearance at 10am (repeating all the shots that we had taken previously).

Swithland in the sun

Swithland in the sun

The conditions were still not entirely ideal, with the blustery after effects of Storm Henry blowing the smoke from the locomotive in some rather odd directions during the day. However, we were all well aware that it could have been a great deal worse – the margin of a day was the difference between miserable weather and a pretty reasonable day at the lineside.

One of the benefits of a photo charter is the ability to call the train when the light is at its best, but that was proving quite tricky. Our three runpasts at Rothley around midday provided a great illustration of this – the clouds were racing through so quickly that it was difficult to call the train and have it pass through at the same time that a break in the clouds allowed the sun to illuminate the track.

Evening Star on the single track beyond Rothley

Evening Star on the single track beyond Rothley

The first half of the day concluded with some lovely shots on the single track beyond Rothley before heading on to Leicester North for the loco to run around and haul us back to Loughborough.

Catching the sun proved much harder in the afternoon with the small breaks in the cloud proving extremely hard to call. However, when it all came together it was rather lovely – as we discovered after chancing it with a lengthy wait at Woodthorpe. The shots here with a black sky as a backdrop were perhaps the best of the day.

After leaving this location behind we reached the curve at Kinchley Lane with some wonderful light illuminating the track and gilding the bare trees in the wood with a golden glow. Sadly, our locomotive was just a tad too slow to deliver a perfect finish and the light faded from the scene about twenty seconds too soon. It was a good reminder that the difference between an incredible shot and no shot can be incredibly slim. Today was not to be our day!

In fading light...

In fading light…

The light disappeared altogether not long after this, leaving us to reflect on a good day as we headed on to Leicester North and then tender first back to Loughborough.

Thank you to Neil Cave, the team at Timeline Events and the volunteers at the Great Central Railway for a terrific photo-charter.