Yesterday I spent the morning in Leicester, and decided to visit the cemetery closest to where I was. It happened to be a small cemetery called Belgrave cemetery, and my lift dropped me off close to the cemetery. On the approach to my destination I saw a sign for the Great Central Railway PLC and decided to have a look before continuing on my way.
However, my plans for the cemetery took a nosedive when I saw that the railway was having a “Wartime Weekend”. I also caught a German Leutnant having his morning cup of coffee and cleaning his rifle. The French Tricolour was waving in the breeze. I could almost hear the theme music from ‘allo ‘allo playing in my head in the background. The station was reasonably deserted and the signage said that the first train would be arriving at 10H45.
And that I was not standing in Leicester North Station but at…</>
I bid the German an Auf Wiedersehen and decided that I would be back at 10H30 and that he must not invade or start building fortification until I got back. In my absence the forces had gathered, busloads of children and their teachers, soldiers from the past and even more World War 2 era clad people were all awaiting the train. The soldiers were members of a re-enactment group that were going to partake in the Wartime Weekend.
The platform side was crowded, there were at least 4 separate groups of school children all eagerly waiting for the train (as was I), and I spent quite a bit of time discussing uniforms and insignia with the soldiers and those involved with the re-enactment. According to the French station master the train was not too far off.
I moved to the opposite platform to wait for the train which soon appeared from under the bridge.
As usual the crew did not have a lot of time to admire the scenery, they had to uncouple the loco and run her back to the end of the train, although she would then have to run tender first for the rest of her journey. The station is an endpoint and there is no turning triangle.
The loco is a LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 5305 and was built in 1936, being withdrawn from service in 1968. Once the loco had moved I headed back to the platform to try get a closer look at her from the far end of the platform, but the military were everywhere!
And not only Allied troops, but the French Resistance was there too.
As I stood watching this I realised that a very similar scene may have played itself out in wartime Britain as children were evacuated from their homes, although back then the children would not be wearing hi-vis vests, pink backpacks and with cellphones clutched in their hands. It was really a poignant scene to witness, made all the more so when a group in the train started singing songs that were famous during the war. The engine had coupled back onto the train and then pulled the guards van from the consist and shunted it back onto the spare platform line.
The platform was steadily getting less crowded, although the police and military were still in evidence.
I returned to the end of the train where the loco was moving back into her position for departure. And a shiney beastie she is too.
I turned to look down the platform, and it was empty except for a solitary railwayman plodding along, they were ready to go. A final clanking and rumbling from the steam engine, a blast on her whistle and she slowly started to steam away, leaving me almost on my own.
Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?
I had a quick look at the guards van that had been left behind; it is interesting how much different these are to the coaches we had back in South Africa.
And then it was time for me to go, we still had a long day ahead, and I had a long walk ahead of me too, but what an excellent morning it had been. A special mention must go to the people who participated and who were there in all their finery, they really did a great job and were all participating in what I hope is the sort of day those children on the train never forget.
© DRW 2015-2021. Images migrated 30/04/2016