David Cole Transporting locomotive a logistical challenge
Packing to go on holiday can be stressful, from sorting the cases and what to take to whether you also need to take food, and then there's the transport.
Will it all fit in the car? Can you get a connecting ferry or train? It's enough to change your mind about having a holiday, so just imagine what's involved in having to transport a 70-plus tonne locomotive across the country.
The logistics are phenomenal when transporting a historic engine, which is what we're doing for this year's End of Season Gala. We're bringing the Foxcote Manor No. 7822 to Bitton on two low-loaders (one for the engine and one for the tender) in 11 days' time, but the planning started months ago.
Working with the specialist haulage company, we've had to inform the police of the dates and times the engine is being moved, and agree with them a suitable route to avoid any low bridges, weight restrictions or narrow roads. And make sure we have the right insurance – it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore an historic locomotive to its former glory, and as with most heritage organisations, that work has been done by volunteers so it's important that it is protected.
The Foxcote Manor No. 7822 now belongs to the Foxcote Manor Society, based at the Llangollen Railway, but was built in the West Country – she was designed by CB Collett, the chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway and built after the Second World War.
The organisation involved in bringing a guest engine to Bitton may from time to time give us a headache but it is absolutely worth it.
There are so many fans of steam who will journey across country to see engines they haven't seen or have only seen in books; it's wonderful to be able to bring one to their doorstep.
This engine once hauled the Royal Train and spent its working life in Shropshire, Cheshire, North and Mid-Wales so it's exciting to be bringing her back to the region where she came from.
The Gala weekend on October 19 and 20 is also an opportunity for us to celebrate another season of bringing heritage to life; of using today to celebrate our past.
But the Foxcote Manor No. 7822 won't just be used for that weekend.
She will also be hauling our Fish and Chip train – where visitors can enjoy supper aboard, and will be used for driver experience courses which will give some enthusiasts a never to be forgotten treat.