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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 24 - Summer 1975
Easter Report 1975, Part I - By Crassus
There must be a Guardian Angel that watches over Quainton. I like to think it is the spirit of the first Aveling and Porter to operate to Brill, or perhaps the soul of one of the Metropolitan engines that finished her days on the Brill line and found Quainton a peaceful place! Anyhow, be that as it may, we were undoubtedly saved from several disasters at Easter.
The first possible disaster was the weather. It was ghastly. The second possible disaster was the lack of a car park. The rains of the preceding weeks had turned the car park field into a sponge and as Easter drew near it was obvious that we couldn't use it. Roddy made his alternative plans and crossed his fingers. He had permission from the council to put signs on two of the roundabouts in Aylesbury on the Monday morning, warning motorists there was no Car Park due to floods and recommending they should come by train. John Reed, at very short notice, made four excellent signs - yellow with black lettering.
On Good Friday we awoke to find it had snowed in the night, which set us all shivering before we had even reached the site. The usual few were there, freezing to death and struggling to get the last minute jobs done. Coaling the engines and cleaning them, tidying the site and the Station building, attending to fences, hunting for Open Day signs, installing signalling equipment, putting up posters and hundreds of other jobs. Alan Vessey was arranging a very interesting collection of items in the Museum Room and the robin was supervising the Chairman as he cleaned Juno with oil. Peter Clarke sadly regretted that Juno's beauty was only skin deep. The undercoat is beginning to show through the green paint on her saddle tank.
It snowed again on Friday night! Saturday was cold with a strong tendency to sleet, snow and hail and how the wind blew! Only those folk on the engines kept warm and anyone wearing a woolly hat had to pluck up courage to change into a peaked cap!! Diminutive Swanscombe was proudly in steam for her first Open Days. She has a very pleasant blast and looked resplendent in her new green paint. She ran up and down light engine in the morning and No 3 worked the passenger train. Then John Mortham had the idea of double heading. This was agreed by all concerned and Swanscombe was coupled on the front. The two green engines made a beautiful sight and they worked very well together. On one occasion, when they were pulling out of the platform, Swanscombe gave a tug at No 3 and it looked just like a puppy trying to pull a bigger dog along!
Everything ran smoothly all day excepting no one checked the water tower to see if it needed filling and by late afternoon it was empty. This delayed the filling of Coventry's boiler as she had to part with the hose to No 3. It will be nice when the pipe is laid to the tower. Only 775 visitors came and we closed down feeling somewhat doubtful as to how successful the weekend would be.
Sunday morning was cloudy but only a slight sprinkling of snow had fallen. The wind was colder than ever. Nick Lewis, who is very busy with exams as he hopes to become a Doctor, took the day off and came and helped. He was on the barrier during the afternoon and wrapped himself in Jane Stevens' long woolley scarf and a woolley hat. Only his eyes were visible! The sun did manage to shine, fitfully, but this was interspersed with squally showers of sleet, snow and hail. Not surprisingly there were not many visitors. The signalling, which had been renewed and rewired and now requires fewer relays and batteries sprang to life during the morning and with a 'Yippee' of joy from the S & T boys the platform starter was pulled off.
Our new colleagues, the Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineers, had a splendid display of model engines some working on compressed air in the Workshop which the public were flocking to see. They were also giving rides on their portable track on Platform 3 with Jim Stevens driving his engine Pansy. They were a great attraction.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly until about 12.30 when the first blow fell! No 3 went into the platform road to coal up, after Cunarder had left with the train. Someone suddenly noticed that she was wreathed in steam and a few minutes later she limped back into No 1 Yard Road. She was leaking from the smokebox tube plate, so had to be taken out of service. Her fire was dropped and she stood deserted and forlorn in the yard. Luckily Coventry No 1, was up to pressure early and she came onto the train in place of No 3. She and Cunarder ran the two-train service until about 5 pm and then Coventry finished on her own.
The Car Park arrangements had gone smoothly, thanks to Roddy, (who deserves a medal) and Chris Taylor. The Up Yard had been able to accommodate the visitors with limited parking out in the road.
Bank Holiday Monday dawned bright and clear! It was cold but the sun was shining! We had only had 1750 visitors the day before. If they didn't pour into Quainton for the last day we wouldn't even cover our expenses. Swanscombe came out to start the service. A lapsed shareholder, John Walland, came to renew his subscription and offered to help Chris Taylor on the Up Yard gate for a short while. The crowds came pouring in and, noble fellow, he was there until 4.30! Before noon Roddy certainly had a car parking problem! He had filled the lanes around the Station and the road up to the Village. The Up Yard was nearly full. By 2 pm cars were squeezed in to every nook and cranny and he had to put 50 in the field. He wished he hadn't, because they all had to be pushed out and it was difficult to find willing helpers. Those who rallied to his call were plastered with mud from spinning wheels. More of this saga in Part II!
There were only just enough people helping and the Roster Clerk, her mini pigtails bristling, was seen pounding around the site looking for people to do jobs here, there and everywhere. The robin, who had been joining in the fun on Saturday and Sunday, decided there were far too many humans about and kept out of the way. Cunarder was rostered for a two hour stint at 2 pm with Coventry on the second train, and Swanscombe was to come back at 4 pm. But then the next blow came. At 12.30 Swanscombe's clack valve suddenly stuck open, luckily when she had the train in the platform, and she was losing water fast from her boiler. There was a flurry of activity and she was removed smartly to the short siding where her fire was quickly dropped. Coventry came to the rescue and took over her train. How very lucky that Ralph Turner always lights up in good time and always has his engine ready! So once again it was Cunarder and Coventry, the two blue engines, who bore the brunt of the two train service. Cunarder was just ready in time for two train running which was lucky as, unfortunately, in the pre-Easter shunting the Diesel had been locked in the short siding behind 3 coaches! It could have been released but it would have meant stopping everything and doing a shunt move at "South".
Brian Clifford got to work on the faulty clack and by about 4.30 pm Swanscombe was once again ready to head a train. She took over from Cunarder' and puffed busily up and down until the end of two train running. Meanwhile our 5½" colleagues were having a field day on the platform with a never diminishing queue of prospective passengers. They were very happy with their first Open Days.
During the afternoon the clouds came up and it began to rain, but fortunately not until late on and people were beginning to go home. 6.0 pm came and we all paused for breath. What a day it had been! The site had been packed. 811 people had used the DMU from Aylesbury; cars had been crammed everywhere; all the food had been eaten by 4.30 and a total of 4961 visitors had come on one day! Over the three days we had 7486 visitors, the holiday had, after all, been a great success. I hope our Guardian Angel slept well that night, he deserves our best thanks!
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 04 November 2017