Christmas time approaches, and so Santa Claus can now be found up and down the country collecting every child’s wish list of what they’d like for Christmas Day. Many places run meet & greet events with Santa, and one increasingly popular event is the world renown Polar Express. Based upon Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 children’s book, the story gained global fame in 2004 when Warner Brothers Pictures released a Computer animated film featuring Tom Hanks. Since then the story has been retold in live action at railways throughout the world, and story time has once again arrived in the United Kingdom.
In 2016 Telford Steam Railway became the first operator to use a real steam locomotive in the UK, with the hire of Batt Holden owned S160 no. 6046. The event proved so successful a repeat performance was agreed and sister locomotive no. 5197 has continued this now annual tradition hauling the Polar Express each Christmas – even finding time to become a TV star on UKTV “Train Truckers” documentary series during this time. 2019 sees the event expanded once more, with the Wensleydale Railway now offering their own version. This has seen 6046 come to the stage once more, as she’s been booked to take centrestage in Yorkshire for their debut event this weekend, whilst 5197 continues with her appearance at the Telford event.
Batt Holden are a local steam locomotive company based out of Cheddleton, on the Churnet Valley Railway, where they use the preserved line’s facilities as a maintenance site. Their locomotives are regularly used on the Churnet Valley Railway’s own 10-mile railway between Froghall and Ipstones, becoming the modern-day flagship for the line. 5197 first arrived in Staffordshire in 2001, and only returned to service in 2017, starring alongside sister 6046 as they became the first pair of S160s to operate together in the UK since 1944. 6046 is a World War 2 veteran, having helped the Allied cause following D-Day before ending up in Hungary. She came to the UK in the 1990s but her overhaul was not complete until 2012. Since then she has toured numerous railways, though will always call Cheddleton home where she can be found operating at selected times during the year. The next chance to see the pair operate at home will be the hugely anticipated SUPER POWER: TAKE 2, which will be launching the CVR’s Reconnect Leek project and the 2020 operating season.