In early 2002 we received an invitation for 31271 to take part in the prestigious Mid Hants diesel gala or ‘ Trainspotters Ball ‘ as they affectionately named it..! However as 271 wasn’t quite ready to make the journey south , 5580 was substituted. Never before had a Class 31 graced the ex-LWSR ‘ Watercress Line ‘ so what with this , the gradients , a 10 mile line and a major social event , we did our utmost to ensure 5580 didn’t disappoint . 5580’s UAT ticket was in date as were the air receivers so once our pre – Gala inspection was completed , she was given another thorough clean . She passed the transit exam with flying colours and commenced her journey ‘ down south ‘ behind 46035 to Wembley , coupled to the CFA’s 37190 also en-route to the event. Following a night on Wembley , haulage to Alton was provided courtesy of The Fifty Funds 50031.
We arrived at Ropley early on the Friday morning to prepare 5580 for the days trains and with everything fine , off we went ! The first working of the day saw us work the 0925 Alresford – Alton……bloody hellfire !! Various trains were worked throughout the 3 day event and she sure sounded the business on the steep gradient from Alton to Medstead which runs for 3 miles at 1 in 60 and known as ‘ the Alps ‘.
5580 stands at Alton with the 1636 to Alresford. 1L20 was the headcode of the 1636 Liverpool St – Kings Lynn26/04/02. photo A Gregory
5580 stands at Ropley awaiting clearance of the single line en-route to Alresford..27/04/02.
50031 / D431 coupled to 5580 at Alresford …28/04/02.
5580 at Alresford station during some shunting..27/04/02
A view of Ropley station following the event with 47306 & 5580. The locos are assembled ready for departure the following day.. 28/04/02.
This was a cracking event and extremely well organised and 5580 did the business ! and a railway we hoped we would return to.
Many followers of 31s came down for this ‘ do ‘ and and did not leave disappointed! All over too quickly as usual , 5580 returned north hauled by 50031 on the Monday morning , stabling at Washwood Heath yard in Birmingham overnight , before continuing and being delivered back ‘ home ‘ the next day.