Over the weekend of 23/24 February, the Churnet Valley Railway held its annual curtain-raising event – The Winter Steam Gala. For 2019 the guest locomotive was the Scottish Railway Preservation Society’s Caledonian Tank no. 419, making its first operational visit to England since 1982! Having only returned from a protracted overhaul in November 2018, the locomotive was quite a coup for the line and so it proved with record passenger numbers flocking to the line to see 419 in action in her iconic blue livery.
Joining 419 in service was another guest locomotive with a more humble background, Hunslet Austerity no. 3694 “Whiston” originally arrived to assist with 2018 Santa services but stopped on to feature at the gala and turned out to be another popular visitor for those riding the trains. Completing the line-up was CVR residents TKh no. 2944 “Hotspur” and S160 no. 5197. An enhanced timetable was in operation with a regular service along the Churnet Valley section, and some services extending onto the steeply graded Cauldon branch to Ipstones Loop.