Drive a diesel train along the wonderful Churnet Valley Railway line! British Railways started building cleaner and more economical diesel-powered trains in the 1950s. Lightweight and adaptable the diesel rail cars you can drive on these experiences were all built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company not far from this heritage line’s base in Staffordshire.
A true labour of love the wagons and trains you will climb aboard at the Cheddleton base have been restored by the army of volunteers between 1992 and 2004. We think the hard-working team has every right to be incredibly proud of what has been achieved with the train gone from being on the diesel scrap heap to be driven by you and looking decidedly more photogenic now too liveried up in a gorgeous dark green colour or classic BR blue.
To be more precise about your day out you will most likely be driving a class 33 train. This class of diesel was in production between 1960 and 1962 with 98 locos being built in total. At the time they were quite innovative being factory fitted with dual braking systems namely vacuum and air. They were also capable of working in push-pull mode where the trains run on a non-electrified section of railway line. All this fascinating info and more will be explained to you when you take on the 12 mile trip on a one to one basis with your expert driver.
And there is such a lot of history behind these locos! ‘Sophie’ retired in 1992 from the mainlines and she was sold by tender in 1993. After having her bogies replaced and an overhaul she went back into service in 1997. A complete restoration was carried out in 2009 (covering everything from re-wiring and bodywork to new batteries and repainting) before being back in traffic in 2012.
‘Captain Charles’ is another class 33 who retired from service in 1996 after a long career. After being sold and run privately to pull charter and specialist services he made his first appearance after restoration in 2010 and found his way to the Churnet Valley later that year. These are just two of the diesel trains that are in the fleet here in Staffordshire with lots more stored awaiting overhaul or repairs including class 47s ‘Brightside’ ‘Tamworth Castle’ and No6 Roger H Bennett to name but a few loco shed residents.
You will be heading out for your jaunt on the Churnet Valley Line that stretches 12 miles along the countryside they call ‘Little Switzerland’ in this part of Staffordshire. Every drive a diesel train experience is offered on an exclusive basis so it will just be you and the experienced driver upfront in the cab ensuring lots of hands on time actually driving the diesel multiple unit and learning what it was like to be a diesel train driver in the 1960s and 70s. And don’t forget your friends and family will be able to wave from the platform!