The Severn Valley Railway has confirmed that USATC No 2253 ‘Omaha’ and LMS No 41312 will join the exciting and varied line-up of guest and home locomotives at its forthcoming Autumn Steam Gala.
The event takes place between 14th and 17th September and will continue the SVR’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the ‘Big Four’ railway companies.
The former United States Army Transport Corps S 160 locomotive No 2253 looks set to be a big crowd-puller at the four-day event. It was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in America in 1943 and was shipped to Britain as part of the US Army’s war effort. It worked on the LNER from its base at Neville Hill depot at Leeds.
By 1944, it had been shipped to France, to maintain supply lines and support the advancing Allied armies. After the Second World War, it was bought by the Polish State Railway, and worked continually until its withdrawal in 1980.
“The history of this locomotive is fascinating,” said Duncan Ballard, the SVR’s head of steam engineering. “We’re very grateful to its owner Peter Best and the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company for allowing it to appear at our Gala.
“Peter brought it back from Poland to start its life in preservation more than 30 years ago. He named it ‘Omaha’ in 2019, to commemorate the part played by US troops in the D Day beach landings in 1944, as well as by his own father, an RAF officer, who was awarded the Military Cross for his part in the Omaha operation. It will be an honour to host the first ever visit of this type of locomotive at our event.”
The fourth and final guest locomotive at the SVR’s Autumn Steam Gala, LMS No 41312, is an Ivatt design, introduced in 1946, and built in May 1952. It spent its entire main line working career on the Southern region.
“We’re grateful to the Watercress Line for the appearance of 41312 at our event,” added Duncan Ballard. “It’s one of just four that now remain in preservation, and the visit is particularly poignant as our own Ivatt 4 43106 is having its swansong at the Gala. The class got the nickname of ‘Mickey Mouse’ tanks because of the route indicator discs that were placed on either side of the smokebox, giving it the appearance of mouse ears! It’s going to prove a popular addition to what is truly a superb line-up for our autumn event.”
Two guest locomotives have already been announced, Class B1 61306 ‘Mayflower’ and industrial locomotive No 401 ‘Vulcan’. The four guests join the SVR-based LMS No 43106 ‘The Flying Pig’ as it makes its last Gala appearance before going out of ticket, along with GWR 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’, GWR 7714, SR No 21C127 ‘Taw Valley’, BR No 75069 and other home fleet engines.
The event will feature local trains stopping each day at the SVR’s tiny Eardington station for the first time in more than 40 years, and overnight running on both Friday and Saturday nights. There will also be goods train demonstrations, and on Thursday 14th a recreation of the first train to depart from Bridgnorth in 1970; 43106 will haul a 2pm departure formed of LMS carriages from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade, adorned with the ‘Severn Valley Reopening Train’ headboard.
A mini beer festival will take place at The Engine House, Highley and a Spitfire fly past at 1.56pm on Saturday 16th by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are also scheduled during the event.