During recent years I have been to many railways around the country and found many different things to offer. The one I always want to go back to though, the one I dream of spending lottery winnings on (if I ever get that lucky!) is back at my old home.
The railway I'm talking about is the Nene Valley. This is a railway that can't depend on tourists such as say, the Yorkshire Moors or West Somerset lines. It hasn't got the rolling mountain scenery that Llangollen has and whilst having a well established mainline link it doesn't share a mainline station like the Keighley & Worth Valley does.
But whilst you could be forgiven for thinking it had a lot going against it you would be wrong. Through years of dedication and passion from volunteers has sprung a giant. The Nene Valley, through some quick thinking back at the beginning, is the only railway in the country that can run continental engines and stock. The preservation era has also seen new stations built at the country park of Ferry Meadows, Orton Mere and the terminus at Peterborough. 7.5 miles of track carry passengers from the bustling city to the idyllic countryside at Yarwell. Prime walking country from the railways most recently built station, Yarwell Junction.
The main line link though, has so far not yet made use of its full potential. Whilst being used to bring the odd engines in for galas, it’s now been realised that there is bigger business to be done.
Being perfectly placed 75 miles out of London, and linked to, of all lines, the East Coast Main Line, the NVR is putting itself forward as the ideal servicing depot for main line steam engines. With the building of a new servicing pit which is already underway, already complete with turntable, workshops and heavy lifting gear, the NVR's base at Wansford will now have everything the main line teams could need.
So all these facilities, 75 miles outside of the capital, and an increasingly congested area out of London, is this the future for the Nene Valley?
After the visit of Tornado at Easter there isn't any doubt about the appetite for the big visitors in the area. This isn't an area of the country that is bustling with other lines, the Great Central at Loughborough being the closest over an hour away. So if these big engines are going to be seen by the Cambridgeshire area, it’s going to be here.
Anyway, back to the title, gala season is almost here.
The first in my busy weekends of this period will be back at my favourite line on the 22nd and 23rd of September. With the railway now on the map for main line engines, visiting the line for their second appearances will be 'Tornado' and the 'Duke of Gloucester'. Using two rakes of carriages and freight there will be plenty of action to see.
In steam will also be the railway's own 'City of Peterborough' next to current residents 4F 44422 and industrial tank No22. It’s fair to say that anticipation is high for this gala. With the stepping stones laid last year with their 'East Meets West' gala this year sees the next step in the progression that will take this line forward over the coming years.
For anybody looking for some evidence of whats going to be on offer here, please see my previous galleries taken at the NVR: