50th anniversary gala at Dean Forest Railway
By David Wood
Dean Forest Railway is holding a weekend of special events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first public train being operated.
In 2020, the Dean Forest Railway Society had been planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the original Preservation Society but, as the pandemic prevented that, the DFR will instead celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2021 of the first public train being operated.
Short brake van rides were first on offer at Parkend on October 23rd 1971 and these will be featured again in 2021, on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th October, during the railway's exact 50th Anniversary Gala!
An intensive timetable will feature three steam locomotives working each day which will be 2-6-2 'Small Prairie' 5541, 0-6-0 Austerity 'Swiftsure', whilst Peckett locomotive 'Rocket' will visit Parkend from the Telford Steam Railway to run brake van rides as a tribute to the journeys offered behind 'Uskmouth No. 1' exactly 50 years previously.
On the diesel side, the DMU and Class 14 D9521 will be working the trains. Concentrating upon the railway's Parkend birthplace, there will be a display of museum artefacts specially chosen for display and the unveiling of a 50th Anniversary plaque.
'Driver for a Fiver' will be on offer as an attraction at Norchard, the railway's main centre with shed access to view progress in restoring 'Uskmouth' as well as pannier tanks 9681 and 9682; Hunslet 0-4-0 shunter D6688 'Salty'; Hunslet 0-6-0 saddle tank 'Gunby'; and Mk1 TSO coach 4862.
As part of the gala the Society will be holding a Members' Social Evening on Saturday 23rd October at Norchard from 5.00pm with the presentation of long service badges followed by supper, a bar serving local beer and cider - and the official launch of the anniversary book.
As the chairman of DFRS, Dr Alastair Clarke, says: "I enjoyed (if that's the right word) an extra year to write 'Five Decades in the Forest'. It is intended as the definitive pictorial history of the Dean Forest Railway, from our society's birth at Parkend in 1970, through the development of the Norchard site from scratch, all the way to the present day.
"Our line now runs four and a quarter miles from Lydney Junction to Parkend and all Gala train rides will be for our normal Rover ticket price."
'Five Decades in the Forest' comprises 164 pages of images, including many that have never been published, and is printed on high quality art paper. All proceeds from the book will contribute to the continuing maintenance and development of the Dean Forest Railway and it can be ordered through the DFR society's website at dfrsociety.org.uk/shop
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