Visited the Spa Valley railway for the first time using a gift experience day given to me by my ex-colleagues when I was made redundant by the Council, so no better way to end a not so good year then having a ride on a steam train with the good Mrs D.
Catching the 1122 am ,Uckfield train from E Croydon we arrived in time to catch the late running 1203 pm departure. When we arrived they were just putting Ring Haw on the front. As Spa Valley lease the track from Network Rail (expires in 2022) they are not in possession of a run round loop which necessitates a rather complicated shunting manoeuvre, hence the photo of the Cl.31430 at the Uckfield end of the train.
Leaving Eridge we made slow progress to Groombridge (& I do mean slow progress) waiting 20 minutes in the loop at Groombridge for the late running service from Tunbridge Wells West hauled by the GWR tank 813.
Groombridge is a rather quaint station, not the original as the original station site was developed for housing encroaching on the railway boundary so although the old station building is there the Spa valley station has been relocated further along, interesting none the less, especially the old bakery sign.
Upon arrival at Tunbridge Wells Wests single platform i was able to take a photo of our steed Ring Haw on loan from the North Norfolk Railway.
The Spa Valley is very much diesel orientated as can be seen from the DEMU in the background (fond memories of working on those when a Guard at Norwood back in the 80’s).
So to fed the inner man and woman we headed for the Opera House – a Weatherspoons. Being my first time in Tunbridge Wells (not my wife’s as she lived there years ago) Google Maps navigated us to the Opera House, where a lovely meal in beautiful surroundings did not disappoint.
Back to the station via the High Street and the Pantiles made for an interesting walk back, though we were early which was just as well as the late running was still occurring with the stock for the 320 pm departure not having arrived. However this go an opportunity to look round.
Electro diesel 73140 was ticking over, I guess on Thunderbird duties.
The yard contained some interesting stock. 813 waiting patiently for its train to arrive along with the railways resident diesels.
Eventually Ring Haw arrived with the late running 320 pm departure. This meant 813 coming from the yard and attaching to 31430 which was the tail end – sure the Rev. Awdry would of had a field day!
The light as you can imagine was starting to fade badly as 813 coupled up to the head of the train.
We departed Tunbridge Wells West around 4 pm with a well loaded 4 coach train. Just outside Eridge, 813 was detached to run into the bay platform, as 31430 brought the train into the main platform.
There we left the train and adjourned to the adjacent Huntsman pub (Hall and Woodhouse) See The Huntsman Eridge for a couple of drinks before catching our train back to East Croydon.
A very enjoyable day, Goodbye and good riddance 2018, hears to what I hope will be a better 2019.