Fab Four

Barrow Hill Roundhouse & Railway Centre, Derbyshire:  Fab Four event, April 13th 2012 – from left to right, 4464 Bittern, 4468 Mallard, 60103 Flying Scotsman, 4771 Green Arrow

Barrow Hill Roundhouse & Railway Centre, Derbyshire: Fab Four event, April 13th 2012 – from left to right, 4464 Bittern, 4468 Mallard, 60103 Flying Scotsman, 4771 Green Arrow

My friend Doug, who likes trains nearly as much as he likes buses, tipped me off that the Barrow Hill Roundhouse “Fab Four” event would be good value.

The original intention behind the title, apparently, was to reunite for the first time in preservation examples of the LNER A1, A2, A3 and A4 locomotive classes.

I had to look this up, having discarded my Ian Allan spotting books many years ago.

The A1 Pacific locomotives were all scrapped in the early 1960s, and a brand-new version, 60163 Tornado, has been painstakingly constructed.

The A2 was an updated version of the A1.  Its sole survivor is a household name, 60532 Blue Peter, which looks magnificent and only needs half a million pounds spending on its next overhaul.

The only surviving A3 is an even more familiar household name, 60103 Flying Scotsman, saved by the late Alan Pegler, doyen of railway enthusiasts.  (His obituary in The Times, March 23rd 2012, relates a life well lived:  “When the good Lord calls me to the happy shunting yard in the sky, I shall have no regrets,” he told the Railway Magazine.  “I’ve had a great innings.”)

The Fab Four plan came adrift because Flying Scotsman, nearing the end of its latest overhaul, was indisposed, so the Barrow Hill people and their sponsors, Railway Magazine, fielded two examples of the instantly familiar streamlined A4 class, LNER 4464 Bittern, which is in full working order, and the record-breaking 4468 Mallard, which is apparently regarded as so precious a piece of history that it hasn’t steamed since the 1980s.

It was a tremendous show, and drew hordes of visitors, including hard-core railway photographers who carry not only dauntingly huge cameras but also stepladders, like paparazzi.

The implicit thematic intention was to show locomotives that hauled the East Coast main line expresses between London and Edinburgh and beyond.

In addition to the Fab Four, there were other locomotives with an East Coast Route connection.

Great Northern 251, dating from 1902, spun on its own axis on the roundhouse turntable.  LNER 4771 Green Arrow, a variant version of Sir Nigel Gresley’s Pacifics, lined up with the Fab Four.  61994 The Great Marquess, a more rugged beast designed for yomping across the Scottish Highlands, pulled trains up and down the Barrow Hill demonstration track.

Barrow Hill is also the home base of the Deltic Preservation Society, which maintains in running order a roster of three of the diesel successors to the steam-powered Fab Four.

It was a fine display, beautifully organised.  I warmed to the fact that every Barrow Hill volunteer I spoke to wished me an enjoyable day.  They may have been scripted but they clearly meant it.  I admired the fact that the carriages hauled by The Great Marquess were immaculately turned out in British Railways maroon on the side that the public sees;  the other side is still in the Rail Blue livery that they brought from mainline service.

I had only one complaint about the whole experience.  The advertised advance-ticket prices were fictional.  It was practically impossible to buy a ticket in advance without paying a “transaction fee” of £1.00.

I don’t at all mind paying £15.00 rather than £14.00 for an entertainment.  But I do expect to pay the price on the price-tag.  Compulsory add-ons simply make me feel ripped off.

There’s no need for it.  It would have cost the Barrow Hill Roundhouse and the Ticket Factory nothing at all to come clean and say the cost is £1 more than they pretended.

To do otherwise leaves a nasty taste.


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