In the wake of one of the greatest shows of national pride that Britain has seen in recent times, we can now look to the UK’s biggest rail event – Railfest 2012 – to provide another excuse to continue the spectacular jubilee celebrations. Britain is the birthplace of the railway, and seeing an area the size of 11 football pitches teeming with locomotives that have made their mark for being the fastest, strongest, first, last and oldest provides lots of new opportunities for jubilation.
Now the street parties are over, families wanting to continue their celebrations are making tracks along with rail enthusiasts from around the world for LMS Princess Royal Class No. 6201 Princess Elizabeth, the express steam locomotive whose whistle heralded the start of the flotilla down the Thames.
Many other remarkable examples of Britain’s engineering prowess can be found at the nine day Railfest. They include the mighty blue No. 4468 Mallard, 4472 Flying Scotsman, Class 395, Tornado and many more speed legends.
Notable figures from the art world are weaving the event into the rich tapestry of Britain’s rail history by recording the bustle of the crowds for posterity. Yesterday, poet Ian McMillan and cartoonist Tony Husband entertained the crowds with Railfest-inspired words and images. Today, Artist and illustrator David Charlesworth GRA is currently capturing the atmosphere of Railfest on canvas and John Wigston GRA is producing wonderfully detailed pencil sketches.
As well as the home of the railway’s glorious past, Britain is also the seedbed for the railway of tomorrow. At a dinner for more than 600 people at the museum last week, in front of key representatives of the rail industry, Sir David Higgins, Chief Executive of Network Rail, declared: ‘We really are in a golden age, and should make the most of it.’
Museum Director Steve Davies shared his vision of a new £250,000 gallery to ‘showcase, discuss, debate and inform’ the modern industry. Tonight as part of Railfest 2012, a panel of local and national experts are presenting their views and answering questions about the proposals for the HS2 high speed rail line, the Y-shaped high speed rail link from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and how this project could deliver an efficient transport system of the kind seen in continental Europe.
Railfest has been supported by the leading rail magazine titles; RAIL, Steam Railway and Model Rail, and saw a spectacular opening ceremony at the museum in which East Coast locomotive 91110 was named ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’ by TV personality and mathematics wizard Carol Vorderman as iconic aircraft from the Second World War flew overhead.
Steve Davies said: “There could have been no finer way to open and launch Railfest 2012.”