There is a fine line between being a railway enthusiast and care in the community. I know because I am that man. Last night, we were shivering at Bristol Parkway station, waiting for the Flying Scotsman to arrive very late. Today, we were in Kidderminster for the annual diesel gala. The annual what? Three days of trains being pulled by elderly diesel locomotives, that’s what, all along the rather beautiful Severn Valley Railway.
I would like to point that I do not take train numbers. I never did that, not even when I was seriously obsessed with diesel engines as a young boy. I didn’t even try. I would sit for hours upon hours at St Annes station just watching the trains go by. It was all I needed. All around me were boys and men who went to the trouble of taking the numbers. But not just of the diesels. Some noted the numbers of the carriages too.
Many of these men – and to be fair, there were few boys amongst the men – were there at Kidderminster today. I love the sight and sounds of these powerful beasts from another era. The magical Deltic, Ballymoss, exudes the power of a B52 or an A380. If you stand near enough, it makes your breast bones vibrate. You wonder how all that power, all 3300 HP of it, doesn’t simply blow up. I marvel at it, even now.
But for me it was also a railway pub crawl. Whilst I loved the locos, I like a pint and a cheese and onion sandwich too. I can switch off. Hundreds couldn’t. To my mild surprise, a large number of men of a certain (middle) age rode every train from beginning to end. Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and back. Then back again. That was what they did all day long and they were happy as the proverbial pigs in excrement.
It doesn’t take all sorts to enjoy a diesel gala. It is pretty well compulsory to be mildly obsessive at the very least but it helps even more if you completely obsessive. I loved it, absolutely loved it, and if you are not a fan of heritage diesel locomotivesI doubt if I will be able to explain to you just why.