Barry Job reports on the recent Apedale Steam Gala and the fascinating range of machines and steam engines to be seen there.
The Apedale Valley Light Railway held its Steam Gala at Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, over the weekend of October 2nd-3rd. Importantly, in addition to the resident three locomotives in steam, there were three guest steam locomotives attending the event which had, at some time, all worked in the Welsh Penrhyn slate quarry.
These were the 1906 Hunslet Sybil Mary, built originally for the Penrhyn slate quarry, the 1930 Hudswell Clarke GP39, which originally served the Surrey County Council on the construction of the Guildford bypass, and the 1933 Avonside, again from Penrhyn quarry and currently named Durham, although many will know the engine as Ogwen.
In addition to these six steam locomotives hauling passenger trains on the main line and field railway, there were diesel and battery-electric locomotives hauling freight on the field railway. Thus there was plenty of activity for the general public but particularly for photographers and railway enthusiasts.
Such was the success of having stationary engines at the previous Steam & Diesel Gala in July (see Stationary Engine magazine October 2021 pages 10 and 11) that they were invited back again. Although the number of exhibits was slightly down, there was still plenty to interest enthusiasts and the public.
Engines by Lister and Amanco were well represented. Interestingly Keith Greatbatch’s enclosed crank “King of All” engine was marketed by the Bradford Engine Company of Shipley, Yorkshire, after they had entered into an agreement with the Associated Manufacturing Company of America (Amanco) to produce its new range of engines. His example was belt-driving a 1925 Stuart water pump. Indeed, there was a variety of water pumps on show.
Paul Edwards always brings along a unique exhibit, this time he brought along a 1916 Brownwall type A, an unusual engine but not unique you might say. However, this was fitted with a “star wheel” ignition system. This was a period modification in the United States where the striker contacts the top of the star and in pushing it round the bottom of the star makes electrical contact to fire the spark plug. It is not clear what the perceived advantage was over the conventional ignition system, it is a rare modification even in America and is believed to be unique in the United Kingdom.
A great deal of time and effort had been expended by the volunteers to stage the gala, unfortunately the weather did not oblige; the Saturday was cold and extremely wet, bringing proceedings to a premature conclusion. However, the Sunday was different again and, apart from a couple of showers, was dry and quite warm in the sun and was well-supported by the public.
This venue is becoming increasingly popular with stationary engine enthusiasts. It lies alongside the extensive Apedale Country Park, and there is a large range of railway rolling stock, a Great War trench system manned by uniformed re-enactors, a museum, drift coal mine and, importantly, an excellent cafe. It is to be hoped that future stationary engine rallies can be held here.
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