Posted in Railways on Saturday 19th September 2009 at 10:34pm

I've become used to people describing the Battlefield Railway, and particularly the Shackerstone Diesel group in hushed tones. A preservation group with a home fleet of well-maintained, beautifully kept locomotives - but in an almost impossible to get to location. Everywhere I went at railway events I'd spot the ubiquitous 'SN' depot insignia on bags, mugs and notebooks - people were impressed with this bunch, and didn't mind who knew it. So when this gala was advertised with a bus link to Nuneaton station, I wasted no time in booking. It was a tough call between this and Pathfinder's jaunt up to North Wales with D1015, but curiosity to see this line in operation got the better of me - along with a busy month ahead and a need to keep the purse strings in check. I travelled up to the Midlands yesterday, and had a pleasant evening out in Birmingham with relatives before setting off early this morning. However, a second consecutive night out on the town (which also included a trip to the legendary Wellington pub with its many real ales on offer) had left me feeling a little out of sorts - and I dozed through the journey to New Street, sleepily changed trains and only really began to surface on the unit to Nuneaton where the sun began to shine through the windows very strongly. We were in for a hot day it seemed. The last leg of the journey was conducted in a coach, winding through the Warwickshire and Leicestershire countryside before finally arriving at Shenton station, with the resident DMU chugging away at the platform. I'd finally reached the Battlefield Railway!

The DMU started things with a complete run of the line to Shackerstone, and this was useful in getting my bearings - while staff puzzled over my 'ticketweb' purchased rover. The line is around four and a half miles long, and is part of the former Nuneaton to Ashby route. Population around the line is sparse, the only town of note being Market Bosworth. However the station there is in disrepair following vandalism and trains don't currently stop. Once at Shackerstone, the intensive operation started in earnest, with the next loco hauled departure at 09:00. I could see a yard full of interesting locos behind the station, but soon realised that one of the rather tricky bits of this gala would be that you were either on the train or elsewhere photographing things and exploring. The layovers between trains were too short to combine the two. Consulted the timetable and decided that the 73/25 combination, whilst very tempting, was eclipsed by the bigger engines on offer today, so decided that would be my break between trips. Soon off Shackerstone with the resident 33 on the front and 47640 'University of Strathclyde' on the rear to haul us back. Briefly hopped off at Shenton and noted that with the long train blocking the foot-crossing, and the other loco way off the platform there were few photo opportunities. Settled in for the run back, with the alternating aromas of diesel and the excellent griddle car!

56040 runs around at Shenton
56040 runs around at Shenton

The highlight of this gala was the 'gridlocked' theme - the plan to have three working Class 56s, and at some point for all of them to work a train together. As 56098 had been detained at Barrow Hill for further fibreglass work this wasn't to be - but still left the prospect of 56040 and 56086 - the latter in a very fresh coat of large-logo BR blue which had been finished just a day or so before the gala! 56040 provided the first taste of grid haulage for the day, and it was easy to see why it had triumphed in the gala's "Carry on Clagging Cup" the previous evening - literally a competition to make as much smoke and noise as possible. Had an hour or so break after flagging the 73 - which allowed me to explore Shackerstone station a little more and to wander down to the yard. It struck me that this was a really tiny operation - and what an amazing job the Diesel group here do. Watched a pair of immaculate Class 31s leave the yard and wait in the station for their next working - which was also my next train. Settled into a pleasant pattern of shuttling back and forth in the warm afternoon sunshine, but beginning to notice that the timetable was slipping. As there had been quite a long wait for the timetable, I'd taken a flyer on a 17:10 train from Nuneaton. This already meant waiting over an hour after the arrival of the bus from Shenton. Calculated I could still do the triple-headed lash up of 56086, 56040 and 73114 to Shenton, which turned out to be fantastic fun. With my eyes stinging with diesel fumes, I stumbled off at Shenton to watch the complicated run around.

56086 waits at Shackerstone
56086 waits at Shackerstone

As it happened, the bus driver had taken a trip on 47640 too and I could have comfortably done the last circuit. However, a little relaxing in the sun at Shenton allowed time to get a decent picture of 47640 arriving too. Soon back on board the bus in sauna-like heat, heading back to Nuneaton. A quick trip to the supermarket for drinks and provisions, then a little time spent on the end of the platform which I almost never get the chance to do now. A quiet afternoon, but good to be out and about. On to my slightly delayed train back to New Street, and a fairly swift change onto the homeward bound Voyager where thankfully, the air-conditioning was working at its ice-cold best! Really pleased to have finally got to the Battlefield Line, and despite the somewhat frustrating limitations of the short stretch of line, I was really impressed by the line-up of engines and would visit again. There have been some interesting galas this year, and strangely enough it's often been the smaller railways who've managed to turn in the better events.

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I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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