Inverurie’s historic connection with steam was recalled at the weekend when the LNER Class A4 4488 Union of South Africa stopped at Inverurie Railway Station, en-route south via Aberdeen and Stonehaven, following a week long rail tour of
Built for the London and North East Railway Company in 1937, the streamlined green liveried steam locomotive pulled in at Platform One for a one hour stop to allow both rail enthusiasts and interested passers by an opportunity to admire a potent symbol of a bygone age.
Originally operating from Edinburgh’s Haymarket, this engine later transferred to Aberdeen and hauled the last passenger steam train from Kings Cross on 24th October 1964 before finally being withdrawn from British Railways service in 1966. A similar locomotive the “Mallard” holds the world steam engine speed record having clocked over 125mph (202 km/h) in 1938.
The Union of South Africa’s passengers on Saturday were enjoying the nine day “Great Britain VII” rail tour run by the Railway Touring Company. Leaving London Victoria on April 26th the steam tour had made its way north via Beattock Summit, Mallaig and the Glenfinnan Viaduct of Harry Potter fame before returning via Inverurie to London’s King’s Cross Station on May 4th.
Comfortably seated in Pullman style coaches many passengers were railway enthusiasts and indeed on one carriage window a sign had been posted which read “Caution, this Train Contains Nuts.”
As one traveller explained:
“This is a chance for railway buffs to live out the dream of travelling in the steam age and a sense of humour, as well as an interest in the rolling stock, is essential.”
It’s hardly surprising that enthusiasts hark back to a golden age when trains not only transported folk around the country, but did so in some style.
Saturday’s visit by the Union of South Africa certainly drew crowds, although one concerned local had seemingly been drawn to attend only because he assumed that the plume of smoke emanating from the station signified a train on fire.
He soon joined excited onlookers however and, after pulling out his phone, began sending pictures to all and sundry.
There are over 100 heritage railways currently operating in the UK including Aberdeenshire’s Alford Valley Narrow Gauge Railway and The Royal Deeside Railway near Banchory. If a nine rail day trip is beyond your reach then perhaps a day trip on a local scenic railway could fill in a very pleasant summer afternoon.
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