Rail enthusiasts, residents, local school children, the mayor and even a national celebrity were given a treat this past Tuesday as the Lincolnshire town of Horncastle received a special visit from one of the most famous steam locomotives of recent times.
London Midland and Scottish Railway Jubilee class No. 45596 Bahamas went on display in the car park of Mortons Media Group until 2pm; the first time a steam locomotive has been in Horncastle for nearly 50 years.
Patrick Mower – best known as Emmerdale’s Rodney Blackstock – was among those in attendance who came along to get a glimpse of Bahamas before it continued on to Birmingham where it will undergo an extensive overhaul.
Dan Savage, Mortons’ publishing director, said: “Having a steam locomotive in our car park for the day has been a fantastic experience and it has been so pleasing to witness the enjoyment it has bought to those who have made the trip to see it.
“In terms of local history this was a momentous occasion and we were delighted to see that interest in these incredible pieces of engineering is still very much alive and well.”
Aside from welcoming soap star Mower, Horncastle’s mayor – Councillor Fiona Martin – and a group of 46 children from the local primary school made the trip to see Bahamas, along with local BBC television and radio.
BBC Radio Lincolnshire broadcast its entire morning show from the site, talking to expert railway journalists, members of the Bahamas Locomotive Society, Mortons staff and the attending public.
One of those journalists, Heritage Railway magazine editor Robin Jones, said: “We were honoured by the visit of one of the big name main line steam locomotives from the preservation era, and look forward to seeing it back hauling trains on the national network in 2017 once its overhaul has been completed.
“It definitely caused more than a stir in our home town of Horncastle, where steam has not been seen for half a century. It was great to see the youngsters from the local school turn out to see it – maybe its appearance will inspire the next generation of enthusiasts.”
Horncastle, which was served by a short branch from Woodhall Junction on the former Boston to Lincoln line, lost its passenger services as early as September 11, 1954 – seven years before Dr Beeching was appointed as chairman of the British Railways and began wielding his axe on railway services. Freight services lasted until April 6, 1971, with the track ripped up a year later.
Bahamas, along with sister Jubilee class locomotives, is named after a territory of the former British Empire. The locomotive, which last steamed 16 years ago, was midway on its journey by road from Ingrow on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway to Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham, where a contract has just been signed for its latest restoration which has been backed by £776,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund cash.
Members of the Bahamas Locomotive Society – owner of the locomotive and organiser of the move – were on hand to talk to the visitors about its history and its future.
The charity’s marketing and publishing director, John Hillier, said: “The day is one of the most important in the history of the engine and to see this public display come to fruition after months of planning has actually brought a lump to my throat.
“This kind of event has never been done before and we are so grateful to Mortons for helping to make it happen and we look forward to working with them in the future as we endeavour to preserve Bahamas.”
The move saw Bahamas pass through Wragby on its way in and out of Horncastle, and Lincolnshire residents may well have spotted the locomotive on either the A158 or the A46 as it made its journey towards the Midlands.