Sun, Steam and an Orange! – JEC Oxfordshire’s Visit to Fawley Hill Railway

Sunday 26th June saw 29 of our number in 16 cars visit the Fawley Hill Railway, tucked away in the hills close to Henley. We were the guests of Lady Judy McAlpine and the Fawley Museum Society who had agreed that we could park our cars in the station yard rather than in the normal car park.

Some of the lanes were sufficiently narrow lanes meant that John Reed's F-type only just about managed it, but the Museum Team Fawley expected us and all cars were parked down by the Museum, causing some problems parking as the Daimlers and XJR were "so long" that they nearly fouled the rail tracks !!

But a really great time was had by all who attended and there's real clamour to be able to return and soon....

A successful meeting-up set things off in a good style

Sunday 26th June saw 29 of our number in 16 cars visit the Fawley Hill Railway, tucked away in the hills close to Henley, having first met up in nearby Bix. We were the guests of Lady Judy McAlpine and the Fawley Museum Society who had agreed that we could park our cars in the station yard rather than in the normal car park. Upon arrival we were directed to our allocated position next to the railway tracks upon which the 2 engines, 1 diesel and 1 steam, are shunted when not on the main line. This initially caused the staff in attendance some concern as they had not realized how long some of our cars are! They needed to ensure the trains could pass without hitting our bonnets (something we were keen to ensure too) but we were soon able to dispel any concerns.

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Such A Lot To See

Once we were all parked and the Region’s feather flags erected, other visitors to the Railway were able to enjoy a fine display of Jaguars in addition to all the usual attractions with the cars drawing a lot of interest during the day.

There is a huge amount of Rail related things to look at, train layouts, pictures, loads of railways signs, GWR cutlery and crockery, the upper floor contained a number of different themes, for instance a lot of "Topping out" trowels from major landmark buildings the McAlpines constructed, a huge manually operated departures board that used to be at Brighton Station and loads of brickwork sculptures saved from a number of train companies.

The site encompasses a restored Victorian station, many large pieces of railway architecture such as engraved stone arches, railway carriages including two from Royal Trains one of which was a nursery coach for Prince Charles and Princess Anne, innumerable smaller pieces of railway memorabilia in the museum building, the upper floor of which never seems to end and model train displays by the local railway societies. Add in on site catering, plenty of room for a picnic and a sunny day and you have the recipe for a great day out.

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Let Alone The Train rides Themselves

The trains run continually from midday to late afternoon on a track approximately one and a half miles in length. This encompasses a section that is the steepest, 'adherence worked', standard gauge track in the world. You could have as many rides on the train as you like (or you can manage to get on – it is very popular). The first train on track was the diesel as the steam train was completing its firing up procedure, a process that was started the previous day. The steam train was ready after a couple of hours and started it’s first run at about 2pm. For those of us who are old enough, the smell of the smoke was, quite literally, a whiff of nostalgia and the rhythmic chug, chug, chug as the engine climbed the steep gradient was intoxicating.

The track runs through an animal sanctuary, which is also a part of the McAlpine estate upon which the railway is situated, that contains over 20 species that are all free to roam and co-exist happily together (there are no predators/carnivores!). These animals have either come from the London or Whipsnade zoos, with whom Sir William McAlpine had a very long association, or the animal rescue centre, Tiggywinkles.

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And, as for the orange......

During the day Lady Judy McAlpine came down to the station with a group of friends that included Ed China, probably best known as the mechanic from the original series of Wheeler Dealers, He had brought with him his car shaped as an orange and painted accordingly! Some of our posers (sorry members) even had their picture taken with him against their own cars. If you would like to see what the orange car looks like it is featured on Ed Chinas Workshop Diaries on You Tube.

All in all, a great Oxfordshire Region day out and our thanks go not only to Lady McAlpine and the Fawley Museum Society (www.fawleyhill.co.uk) but also to Andy North who arranged the visit on behalf of the Region and who has posted a few photographs of the day, along with two short videos with sound of the steam train in action, including climbing the hill, on the Region’s Facebook page (Jaguar Enthusiasts Club Oxfordshire Region). I should also mention that there was no entrance fee but with donations collected from members on the day plus a small addition from regional funds we were able to donate £300 to the Fawley Museum Society to help them maintain this wonderful facility.

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It is not just about Jaguars in Oxfordshire Region !

Other tastes and interests are covered too ....