Leighton Buzzard Railway
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Chaloner's 50th Anniversary – Sun 1 July

29 June 1968 saw the first steam-hauled train on our line, operated by Chaloner. To commemorate the 50th anniversary, the locomotive will haul a public train on her own for the first time in more than 30 years at Leighton Buzzard on 1st July – a historic event not to be repeated.

The special train will depart from Page's Park at 13.30, returning at 14.50, and will be available to pre-booked ticket holders only at an enhanced fare of £12 adults, £10.50 seniors and £7.20 for children.

We asked the man who brought Chaloner to Leighton Buzzard, Hon. Vice President, Alf Fisher for a few words on the historic occasions, and he kindly provided the following:

50 years ago on 29th June the first public passenger trains ran on the Leighton Buzzard Railway, then the ‘Iron Horse Railroad’!

I had brought in the veteran vertical-boilered engine ‘Chaloner’, built by de Winton in 1877, and she was supposed to haul the first train. Because of various minor disasters earlier in the day, the train of three coaches was hauled by a diesel instead but this couldn’t haul all three up the gradient on the return journey and one coach with passengers was left at the bottom, soon to be rescued by ‘Chaloner’. This was thus the first steam passenger train on the line since opening day in 1919. She continued to run on the railway for many years until the 1980s when airbrake systems became mandatory for all trains and it was impossible to fit such a historic machine with the equipment. Since then it has never run a public train at its home railway on its own, only being used as a pilot engine. Now 141 years old, Chaloner has been temporarily fitted with air brakes and is going to recreate the first journey with a special train for a select few on 1st July.

I bought the engine originally for £21 and recall that it was originally in such worn out condition that it could only just pull itself along with one coach and sometimes you wondered if it would ever get back (and a couple of times it didn’t).

Now thanks to constant improvements, its performance is totally unrecognisable. It is a tribute to its builders on the Slate Quay at Caernarfon and it is a treat to watch. I am proud of the fact that in contrast to a few ostensibly older narrow gauge locomotives, it is mainly original material, the newest part other than boiler being a water tank from an engine of 1897 build. I am convinced it is truly the oldest narrow gauge engine in the country.

Before she goes out on the 13.30 train she will be giving footplate rides for passengers within the station limits, an unmissable opportunity.

Chaloner in 1968

Phone (UK): 01525 373888
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Registered Office:
Page's Park Station, Billington Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 4TG. United Kingdom
Company No. 2319743.   Place of Registration: Country of Origin: United Kingdom

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