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Steam fans chuffed by train

A RENEWED call has been made for more steam trains to visit Bognor Regis.


The arrival of 46100 Royal Scot as the Bognor Belle saw some 300 excited train fans of all ages from those in pushchairs to their 90s gathered at the town’s station.


Among them was town councillor Jan Cosgrove. He said the turnout showed how successful further nostalgic visits by steam trains could be.


“I said this several years ago, and today confirms my belief, that regular arrivals by steam trains would benefit the town,” he said. “It’s great to have a steam train here and this shows it really brings people to see it. It also brings a lot of visitors on the train to spend a couple of hours with us.


“If these visits became more regular, there could be markets held to welcome them and, perhaps, even people in period costumes. The town needs more fun and steam trains are a good way to provide it.”


The arrival of the LMS 4-6-0 locomotive was its first and probably last time in Bognor Regis. Built in 1927, the engine was usually based in Nottingham.


She was bought by Sir Billy Butlin in 1962 and became an exhibit at his Skegness camp for about ten years.


She has become a regular on excursions for the past two years after being restored. The Bognor Belle’s visit last Saturday was run by The Railway Touring Company.


It was sold out, with 400 passengers in ten carriages, with a further two staff carriages.


Nigel Dobbing, the firm’s managing director, said: “It must be eight or nine years since we were last here.


“We could come back again more often but it all depends on demand. Bognor Regis is somewhere different for us to go but the network is so crowded. It can be difficult to get a pathway and we can be stuck behind an all stations stopping train.


“That said, we’re pleased to be here. People love travelling by steam and seeing steam because it’s different.”


Royal Scot left London Victoria at 9.43am and eventually arrived on platform 3 at Bognor Regis at 1.53pm. The scheduled arrival of 1.09pm was delayed because of problems taking on water at Preston Park.


The outward journey was via Haywards Heath and Hove. The train reversed out of Bognor Regis at 3.12pm for a stop of almost two hours in Littlehampton before the return journey to London through the Arun Valley and Dorking.


Seeing Royal Scot brought back memories for Bognor Regis resident and former steam train driver and fireman Peter Christmas, 91.


He said: “It’s great to see this engine. I joined the railway in 1943 at Salisbury as a fireman and then became a driver.


“I used to work the Waterloo-Salisbury route and we did the first 84 miles in 80 minutes and the next 74 in 74 minutes.


“We touched 114mph and that was a thrill, even for the driver.”


Those waiting for Royal Scot in the station included Stephen Harris, 56, of Horsham. He said: “Steam is elemental – coal, water, steam and locomotion.


“Going around photographing steam engines is a very nice thing to do.”


Some 30 photographers also gathered on the Longford Road footbridge almost half an hour before Royal Scot was due.


Former Bognor Regis man Terry Shearing, 76, had travelled from Lewes for the visit. He said: “Today is a bit special for me. I had to see the Bognor Belle coming into my home town. My very first photo was of a steam engine in Bognor Regis and that was way back in 1953. So coming over to see this one is very nostalgic.”

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