Despite the Covid restrictions, the wonderful, Bressingham Steam in Miniature event went ahead, as Peter Love reports.
I was fortunate to be invited to this year’s Bressingham Steam in Miniature event, back in early August, at which there were an impressive 37 miniature engines chugging around in this beautiful garden setting near Diss, in Norfolk.
According to rally organiser, Norman Atkins; “This is normally our busiest weekend, with a model railway and miniature steam engine rally combined. However, with the Covid-19 situation, the model railway show couldn’t go ahead but, thankfully, the miniature section could. We’d normally have about 50 engines on show but, this time, were anticipating around 20. But that all changed as the word got out.”
Visitor numbers to this excellent site have been very good since it reopened in July, all helped by the Channel 5 four-part TV series called Inside the Steam Train, which gave Bressingham some wonderful exposure. Another series may possibly be made but, in the meantime, there’s a Christmas special that scheduled to be shown during the festive season.
Staggered bookings were taken for the weekend and it worked well, with happy visitors and exhibitors enjoying perfect summer weather. I asked Norman, a retired electrician, how it all started for him. “Well, I live in Cambridgeshire, some 50 miles away, and was a volunteer driver here, particularly on the 15in Waveney Valley 1.5-mile line (opened in 1973). In those days, this was headed by the famous, 1937 Krupp-built 4-6-2 Pacific No. 1662, Rosenkavalier, and No. 1663, Manentreu.
“The management knew at the time I owned a 4.5in Burrell traction engine, and asked if I could organise a miniature rally for them. That was more than 30 years ago now, and we had just six engines in attendance for that first event. But it’s grown strongly since then, thanks to Alan Bloom’s inspiration; he was an easy person to work with over the years.”
The late Alan Bloom MBE started his collection in 1961, with the purchase of 1909 Burrell No. 3112 7hp, single-crank compound Bertha. He lived at Bressingham Hall, with its five-acre garden, which had been open to the public on certain days since 1957. He’d also created the biggest hardy plant nursery in Europe at the time and, as they say, the rest is history.
I was made very welcome indeed as I walked around the miniatures; everyone wanted to chat and show me their exhibits. In fact, a number of engines had changed hands recently, or had just been finished off, and were making their first appearances. Members of the SWAGS (Steam wives and girlfriends) Facebook group were also in attendance. The successful group was set up by Wendy Webb from Newark, Notts., whose husband, Chris, was showing his fabulous Edward George-designed 6in Savage Little Sampson for the first time. This engine took him seven years to build.
Interestingly, Steam Traction World is the new home of the Savage Little Samson range. In fact, the drawings, patterns, stock, brand and goodwill have been acquired from the well-respected Edward George. Now it’s hoped that the release of a fully-machined kit for the 6in Little Samson will be announced imminently, with a 4in planned for 2021.
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