The Finchampstead Society

Fawley Hill outing 2018

Steaming up the hill (Copyright © 2018 Bryan Chinn)

Sunday 1st July was a delightfully sunny afternoon and Finchampstead Society had acquired a number of VIP Invitations to visit the Fawley Steam Railway snd Museum near Henley, owned by the late Sir William McAlpine & Lady McAlpine.

Once described by Country Life magazine as “the most bonkers estate in Britain”, it is home to a restored Victorian railway station, the steepest standard gauge railway in the U.K. and one of the top three steepest in the world, a railway museum and over 20 species of animal.

As we arrived the very impressive steam train was at the station, fully stoked and ready to roll. We crossed the railway line, via a manually operated barrier, and into the waiting room. It was like stepping back into a Victorian age, all the furniture beautifully crafted in wood, the washroom waiting area had a leather chaise longue and the water closet itself had a cast iron high level cistern with a metal chain…. How many of us can remember those?

Checking the signal (Copyright © 2018 Bryan Chinn)

The journey on the steam train was quite breath-taking. As it travelled through the manicured grounds of the estate many items of railway memorabilia could be spotted along the way – the signal box from Star Lane Crossing in Wokingham being one of them. As the train passed through the grounds it was possible to see many of the animals grazing - even the red deer could be seen in the distance running through the trees. It was possible to travel on the train as many times as you wished and with each journey you would see or spot something completely different. The most thrilling part of the ride, and possibly the afternoon, was the train’s return to the station. The amount of power generated by the steam to allow this beast of a machine to ascend the steepest gauge in the world was something to behold and many people stood on the footbridge to witness and feel the power on its arrival back at the station.

One of our members, Clive Hill, made a successful bid to ride on the footplate of this magnificent machine which he thoroughly enjoyed and it made a very memorable event for him.

Coming into the station (Copyright © 2018 Bryan Chinn)

Clive Hill enjoying his footplace experience (Copyright © 2018 Mrs Hill)

As if the train ride and station were not enough there was the most amazing museum on several floors with everything relating to railways and transport. There were models of reconstructed railways no longer in service, large oil paintings of historic railways and trains, a collection of various advertising posters, collectables from the Flying Scotsman, the Royal china from Queen Victoria’s travels, examples of all the different seating through the years - just a vast array of railway gadgets, inventions and memorabilia through the years. Absolutely fascinating, thought provoking and you could not help but reminisce of days gone by when you spotted something from your childhood.

The organisers had, as a bonus, also arranged for the MG and Jaguar Owners Club to bring along a number of their cars which were on display in the car park. As you walked around the proud owners were happy to share their experiences from acquisition through to restoration and current day use -very interesting and some stunning looking vehicles. We finished our particular excursion with a prosecco picnic on the grass in the sunshine…….just a super afternoon.

- Kate Barrie -

Time to disembark (Copyright © 2018 Bryan Chinn)

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