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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 40 - Spring 1980

A Christmas Steaming

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Beattie No. 0314 at Quainton Road Station
Painting by W H Constantine - from a transparency by P I Clarke
(Our 1979 Christmas Card)

On 16th December 1979 we tried our first Christmas steaming. This was a totally new venture for us and was approached with considerable misgivings by many members. 'Nothing ventured nothing gained' said our Chairman in a contemplative mood. 'Bloody waste of time' said our outspoken member. I must admit that, as I stuffed the Christmas tree into a large plastic container full of soggy newspaper, I had plenty of unchristmassy thoughts. 'I could be at home in front of the fire with a good book / my knitting / fast asleep' was the general gist. It was incredibly cold and damp in the Booking Hall, which made it a slow job tying baubles and bells on the tree. Simon Field was doing some excellent electrical wizardry with three old sets of coloured lights, lent for the occasion, and at 4 pm. on Saturday, 15th December a beautifully colourful tree sprang to life. Jo Boait was transforming the refreshment coach with lights, streamers and balloons and then turned her attention to the brake portion of the GN 6 wheeler ready for Father Christmas the next day.

Meanwhile, Mick and Bev Sell were driving round Aylesbury with huge boards tied to the sides of their car, announcing that Father Christmas would be at Quainton the next day. They froze to death with the windows down so that people could hear the carols issuing forth from a tape-recorder. The Police seemed interested - even if no one else did!

The weather forecast for the Sunday was awful - tell us something new - but we were lucky and the rain held off until 5 pm - by which time we were closed. Opening time was from 11 am to 4.30 pm and we had 230 visitors. We were serving free sherry in the Booking Hall to the adult visitors and giving presents to the young children after a free train ride.

Father Christmas was ensconced in the brake portion of the 6 wheeler with his tubs of toys - warmed by a small heater, assisted by leaking steam from Coventry No. 1, which came up through a small hole in the floor! She had been re-tubed and re-assembled just in time to be back in harness for Christmas. It had been a bit of a rush, but there she was back at work again, and it was gorgeous to see her in steam - well, 'see her' is hardly the right description, you couldn't see her. She was enveloped in steam from leaking glands and, personally. I thought she was running with her drain cocks permanently open. I was assured that was not so, but the noises she made were very similar. She must have been blowing from both cylinders and from several other places as well! If I'm not heard from again you will know that Loco have disposed of me!

Chatting to members of the public, I learned that they thought we had put on a good day's entertainment and felt they had had value for money. They thought the toys had been well chosen, thanks to our member, Ken Hobday, who bought them for us. All things considered, it went quite well - we would have liked double the number of visitors and will have to try harder this year.

We rounded the day off the a tenth anniversary Christmas dinner, which proved to be a truly traumatic experience! By about 4.30 pm the public had gone home and Bev, Miriam and I began preparing the dinner, while Jo, Mick and Sandy, helped by several other members, brought in several small tables and got the other end of the coach ready. The menu for the dinner Mick and Bev had arranged was: tomato soup, turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, bacon, sausages, mashed potatoes, sprouts, peas and carrots, followed by mince pie or apple pie and custard, with wine, and coffee to follow. Originally it was to be for twenty-four people - but, as more members heard about it, they asked to be included and we ended up with thirty-six! Thirty-three could just be squeezed in, so Mick, Bev and I had ours in the kitchen.

We safely finished the soup course and Miriam and Jo washed up the spoons to have them ready for the pudding, while we spread thirty-six plates round the kitchen on every available bit of working surface. Mick went round with the turkey slices, the sausages and stuffing followed, and we were just starting on the bread sauce and gravy when the lights went out. Sandy, who was behind me, called out 'Stand still', which was just as well as we were all holding blazing hot saucepans! 'Oh, no' wailed Bev, 'how do we dish up dinner in the dark - I'll kill who ever has switched us off'. 'It could be a main fuse' I said. Several members went off to find out what had gone wrong, others produced torches and, by their light, we continued dishing up. Pandemonium reigned in the kitchen as, by the light of two torches, we tried to make sure that everyone received their fare share of the food! It wasn't very easy and we were afraid that several people must have had a nearly cold dinner.

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N J Halliday - 1980 - a New Year's Day Scene

After what seemed like half an hour, but was probably fifteen minutes, the lights came on again - 'Hooray', and went out again. 'Oh, no'. A few minutes later they came on and stayed on. The others returned, it had been a fuse in the main fuse box, where the electricity comes onto the site. Their supper was rescued from the ovens and the big mince pie and two apple pies went in ready for the final course. By now we were feeling as though we had been mangled, and I had lost my glass of wine in all the excitement! Still, we managed to dish up the pudding without any disasters and produced coffee for everyone. It all happens at Quainton - but, if we have a Christmas dinner this year, we will make sure the fuses are examined beforehand. We really can't have that happening again!

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1980 and so does not reflect events in the 34+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

A Christmas Steaming - Quainton News No. 40 - Spring 1980

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 17 November 2017