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Class 31 Power Returns To The Preserved Churnet Valley


01/02/2019 (6 months ago)  Events

We are delighted to announce that the former British Railways Brush Type 2 class 31 locomotive No. 31271 “Stratford 1840-2001” will be visiting us at the Churnet Valley Railway this spring time for a short visit that will include starring in our returning Diesel Gala for 2019.

We are appreciative of the locomotives owners A1A Locomotives for permitting this visit, and the Llangollen Railway Diesel Group who have altered their roster ahead of the locomotives’ hire to themselves. 

This will be the first visit time that a 31 locomotive has worked on the Churnet Valley in preservation, though on 28th May 1994 four of these locomotives worked a Pathfinders Railtour “The Leeky Pot” from Bristol to Cauldon Lowe that continued on to Ironbridge afterwards. Bought initially as a source of spares by A1A in 1998 for their other two Class 31s, the locomotive was purchased from UK freight operator English, Welsh & Scottish Railways and transferred from their Toton Depot to the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley where she was placed on display as a museum exhibit. However in 2000 it was decided to restore the locomotive and a return to service was achieved in April 2002. Following bodywork repairs the locomotive was named “STRATFORD 1840-2001” at the National Railway Museum during their RailFest 200 event in May 2004 as a tribute to Stratford’s rich locomotive history – particularly its role in the story of Class 31s given over 75% of the total built were based at this depot at some point in their BR careers. 31271 herself spent her first year in traffic there following commissioning in 1961, before returning again in the late 1980s. Since these heavy repairs 31271 has performed at numerous preserved railways up and down the country whilst primarily being based at the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough. Now though she is moving to Llangollen for a 2-year hire period, but to ease with transport will be calling in at the Churnet Valley on her journey to Wales

The Class 31s were built by Brush Traction between 1957 and 1962 in two batches with 263 members eventually being built. Originally found to be unreliable, the entire fleet was re-engined between 1965 and 1969 which solved their reliability issues and made them a success for British Railways. Primarily used for secondary and relief passenger services as well as parcels and freight traffic on the Eastern Region, primarily East Anglia which saw most of the class based at Stratford, their usefulness saw them venture onto both the Midland and Western Regions during their careers. In Privatisation a number of the class were relegated to the freight sector and concentrated solely on engineering works trains until withdrawal, though a selection were maintained for use on Charter trains for enthusiasts by private groups.

The sole opportunity for the members of the public to travel behind the locomotive will be during the diesel gala over the May Bank Holiday of the 4 - 6th May

She will operate along both the scenic Churnet Valley line and the challenging Cauldon branch – giving herself a real test compared to her relative relaxed life in preservation so far. However as part of her visit we are grateful to A1A for permitting us to offer Driver Experience courses, that will encompass the 4.5 miles climb to Ipstones with its ruling gradient of 1 in 45. This will be an absolute must for those with an interest in anything Class 31 related, and will give participants the opportunity to drive 31271 for over 14 miles themselves whilst also getting the chance to sit in the secondman’s seat for an additional trip to just watch and listen to the locomotive earn its keep. The experience will last for approximately 2.5 hours, and includes a meal plus an invite to bring up to six guests to join you for your experience who can ride on the carriages as you take the controls. Priced at £395 per person, there are only four spaces available per day and will be sold on a first-come first-serve basis.

Pre-booking is essential, for more information please contact our office on 01538 750755 or email enquiries@churnetvalleyrailway.co.uk.