On Saturday the 16th of may 2015 the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway society held their first beer festival, entitled the Buzzrail Ale Trail, and as an active volunteer at the time of writing who would I be to turn down an opportunity to visit?
Normally I would drive down, but then again, normally when I am there I wouldn’t be sampling various ales (drink responsibly please), so I took the big railway train to Leighton Buzzard station, and got the bus across town, arriving in time for a pint of Leighton Buzzard brewery’s Narrow Gauge ale (named in honour of the railway) and the 2pm departure, a rare 5 coach train hauled by the fantastically turned out Baldwin 778.
The train departed on time, which seemed to take the loco crew by surprise because they were sitting on the edge of the opposite platform, and had to run to board the engine! I wasn’t quite quick enough to get a photo, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Our next stop was at Leedon Loop to cross the other train, which was formed of three coaches hauled by No 11 PC Allen, which was also fantastically turned out for the day.
After Leedon Loop we carried on to the temporary station at Clay Pipe Halt, named after the pub across the road, which was opened specifically for this event.
I stayed on board here and after people boarded/alighted we carried on up the steep hill to Vandyke Road level crossing and curve, with our Baldwin 778 making a fantastic sound as she pulls her heavy train up the steep incline.
Soon we arrived at Stonehenge works, and my beer glass was empty, so it was time for a refill! I wandered over to the “Bottom Yard Beer Hall” and got myself a pint of Leighton Buzzard Brewery’s Restoration ale, and soon it was time to return to the train to go back to clay pipe halt.
I bailed out at Clay Pipe Halt to see what they had to offer, and to take some more photos, While there I had a pint of Hook Norton’s Hookey, and Tring’s Side Pocket, my favourite beer of the day.
at this point PC Allen was approaching with her train, so I got up and took some photos.
I let her pass and waited for her return trip to board, by which point her train was a little bit full, it really was a case of “there’s room for a little one in here!” While on board I caught up with a few other members who had the same idea as I had, so we had a chat on the way back to the park and when we got back it was time for another beer!
We went over to the Engine Shed Bar and I had a pint of Tring Brewery’s Dockey, at the recommendation of another volunteer. Meanwhile the Duty manager had decided to run an extra relief train to bring back some of the people who had been stranded at either end because the last train was full. There was a bit of shunting, PC Allen was taken off and put back in the yard, and the crew were next seen having a well earned drink in the bar. The guard invited me on board for the ride and we set off with Diesel no 81 Peter Wood at the helm to Stonehenge works.
At Stonehenge works there was an engine change with the freshly rebuilt no 80 Beudesert taking us home.
After we got back and the trains had been put back in the yard there was a members and volunteers after party in the shed, where I had my sixth and final pint, which was Colley’s Dog by Tring Brewery. a nice way to round off an excellent afternoon. shortly after sitting down with my beer I’d found out that I’d missed the last bus back to the big railway station! but fortunately some other members offered me a lift back, so all was good.
On the whole the general consensus was that the beer festival was a huge success, with all trains busy, and plenty of beer going around, Talking to a few other passengers during the day, some came for the trains, some came for both the trains and the beer, and a few came for the fact that they could do a pub crawl without having to walk between pubs! Here’s just hoping that this becomes a regular event.
The Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway is entirely supported by volunteers like myself who freely give up their time for no pay in order to run the railway and keep alive the skills and history that have been passed down through generations of railwaymen (and women). If you would like to support the society then please visit http://www.buzzrail.co.uk, for more information, including how to get involved.
Below are all of my photos from the afternoon.