A large quantity of good rail has been delivered and sorted ready for relaying some of the most worn stretches this winter. Regular working parties are scheduled for the winter season. More volunteers will be welcome if you would like to help. More wagons are on the way with a tank wagon and a crane wagon next on the Alan Boon production line.
The advertised 2003 season finished on 26 October and has been the railways busiest ever with business 30% up on 2002. Plans are now being drawn up for the 2004 season which will feature increased services.
An order has been placed with the Exmoor Steam Railway for the next steam engine No.8 King Arthur. This should be delivered in June 2004 and will be larger and more powerful than the existing locomotives.
The 2003 steam gala on September 27 & 28th was a great success with busy trains on both days. Ivanhoe the steam engine which started the railway made its final visit for the Steam Gala and was displayed each day for photographs. It joined our summer visitor Waverley from the Isle of Mull. This years Gala had an old engines theme. Waverley was used on both days to double head the trains up the line. It proved capable of taking 4 coaches, 3 wagons and an Exmoor steam engine up the gradients.
The Steam Gala featured our visiting steam engine Waverley with the small Bullock steam locomotive Ivanhoe making a final visit to the railway. Unfortunately Ivanhoe was not able to pull trains over the weekend but was on view. It has now returned to its home in Cheshire August Bank Holiday weekend 2003 was the busiest in the railways history with most trains full to capacity. The first air braked trains ran in regular service with complete success. All the passenger stock and locomotives are now piped up to use air brakes.
The railway now has two videos available for sale at £8 inclusive of post and packing or £6 at Rudyard. One tells the story of the 2002 Steam Gala and was produced by Alan Boon. The second tells the story of the 2003 season and also includes rare scenes of the lifting of the original standard gauge railway. This is produced by Chris Burgess.
The petrol engine No.2 Modred has been painted for the first time in many years. The bright red livery is very striking and it now has a cut down cab roof . The Diesel No.5 Rudyard Lady will be repainted next in Union Pacific Chrome Yellow and grey.
Locomotive No. 6 Excalibur returned to the railway on Sunday March 30th 2003. It looks superb and performs as well as it looks. It is effectively a new engine with a new boiler and many improvements and new parts. A removable cab back has been built to make it more comfortable in wet weather.
The latest wagon from Fairacre Engineering is a box van No.9 type described as a Chub because its bigger than the previous van.
Work on continues on improving the track by ballasting, levelling and adding lots of extra sleepers in readiness for heavier engines to be used. In excess of 1000 sleepers have been replaced or added to the track in the last two years. A new point has arrived to allow an extra siding to be added at Rudyard station. A second siding is also on the agenda. Plans for another passing loop and platform at the Dam are being considered for 2004.
The platform at The Dam station has also been extended to handle longer trains. Operating flashing lights are in use this year at the Rudyard Station car park level crossing. They were first tested on Sunday 30th of March. A new water column was also installed at Rudyard and used by both locomotives for the first time. This has proved to be a great success speeding up the turnaround of trains.
One of our volunteers Ian Burgess has devised very neat battery engine and guards van lamps which will be in use this year. Lamp brackets are being fitted to the rolling stock and the lamps are now in use.
Our oldest steam engine No.6 River Churnet returned to its builders the Exmoor Steam Railway on 6th of December 2002 for its ten year overhaul. It returned on 30th March 2003 with a larger cab and funnel a new name, Excalibur and lined black livery. It is ready for another 10 years work. It is estimated to have run 20,000 actual miles on trains at Rudyard since it arrived in 1993.