Diesels to the fore as heritage lines feel the heat

THE usefulness and worth of diesels and DMUs on the nation’s preserved railways has been highlighted across the country during the intense dry spell of June and July.

Notices announcing the substitution of steam with diesel on passenger services have been a regular sight across social media as our railways took precautions against the risk of lineside fires.

One of the first to announce a move to diesel was the East Lancashire Railway, whose Bury headquarters lies a short distance from some of the worst reported moorland wildfires at Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor.

‘Modified Hall’ No. 6990 Witherslack Hall – visiting from the Great Central Railway – works away from Bury with an evening dining train at the East Lancashire Railway on July 14, the first day of steam operations following the two-week ban. PHIL JONES

At 19.00 on June 30 the railway announced all services would be diesel-hauled until further notice, largely as a result of a number of lineside fires that broke out that afternoon and delayed services by around two hours. The ban applied to all service trains, footplate experiences and evening dining trains, and remained in place for a fortnight.

On July 14, following heavy rain and the installation of ashpan guards on certain locomotives, a partial return to steam was adopted, with visiting GWR pair of ‘Modified Hall’ No. 6990 Witherslack Hall and 0-6-0ST No. 813 working the majority of services.

The Severn Valley Railway followed suit on July 10 after embankment fires affected steam services on Sunday 8th.

All passenger services were to be worked by diesel, although there was to be a steam presence at Bridgnorth and Bewdley at weekends – ‘4MT’ No. 43106 and ‘28XX’ No. 2857 sharing the role.

Another steam ban also came into force on July 10 at the Llangollen Railway, although ‘Large Prairie’ No. 5199 was back in action over the July 14-15 weekend. The railway’s business manager Liz McGuinness said: “Thanks to the diesel group and the railcar group coming to the rescue we haven’t lost any services. Both groups have done a fantastic job at keeping the services running, and the majority of customers have been very positive and supportive.

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