Eastleigh’s proud history as a railway town is celebrated with arrival of a 92-ton steam locomotive
Page last updated at 14 July 2017 at 11:33
To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the age of steam in the town a steam locomotive, that served Eastleigh and other Southern Railway stations, will be the stunning centrepiece of a weekend of events for all the family, as well as diehard railway enthusiasts.
Wadebridge, the 92-ton steam locomotive will take pride of place in the centre of the main shopping precinct at the north end of the town centre. To reflect the nearby Eastleigh Works' role as a centre of steam loco production, Wadebridge will be numbered as Eastleigh-built classmate Bideford and weathered to the condition she was in at the end of steam. No tender will be attached to the engine, allowing a rare, close-up look at the footplate.
The event takes place over the weekend of 15-16 July, but the engine will arrive at Eastleigh's Market Place at 8pm on Friday evening to be painstakingly unloaded from the heavy haulage vehicle that will transport her from the Mid Hants Railway's headquarters at Alresford. The Celebration of Steam runs from 10am-6pm on Saturday and 10am-4pm on Sunday.
In July 1967, steam trains, including Wadebridge, visited Eastleigh station for the very last time, heralding a new era of diesel and electric - that may have been more efficient, but had nowhere near the romance and spectacle of their magnificent, coal-powered predecessors.
As well as a chance to see Wadebridge at close hand, other plans for the event include:
- Themed stalls
- Children’s activities
- Heritage displays at Eastleigh Museum and The Point (which will also host a model railway)
- Rare film footage
- Trigger the Train making circuits of the town centre (on Sunday)
- Live music on the Bandstand (Sunday)
And it is not just the firebox aboard the loco that will be generating heat – on the Saturday the town’s annual Chilli Fiesta takes place in the Leigh Road Rec, alongside the steam-themed celebrations.
The Celebration of Steam is the brainchild of Councillor Paul Bicknell, who is himself a train driver . He said: “The people of Eastleigh are very proud of their town’s railway heritage – both as an important mainline interchange and especially as a builder of these magnificent steam locomotives.In fact, Eastleigh owes its existence and recent history to the railway - and it seemed important to mark the half-century since the last timetabled steam passenger trains stopped at Eastleigh station. This weekend’s event is giving people an opportunity to see one of these wonderful machines up close and find out more about the golden age of steam.”
The Borough Council has been working closely with the Mid-Hants Railway/Watercress Line and the Eastleigh Business Improvement District to make the Celebration of Steam possible. The event is supported by Hampshire County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.