Hotham Park Railway, Bognor Regis
Saturday 24th March 2018
Report by Stephen Phillips
35 participants assembled on the recently refurbished, restored (at a cost of £2.5M) and now very smart Bognor Regis [the place once described as 'the last resort'] station concourse, and were met by a representative of the railway. He took us the most direct route, about 10 minutes walk to Hotham Park. The railway was running for the public so we awaited arrival of the train on the circuit and boarded. This working was reserved for us, much to the surprise and amusement of regular potential passengers and people in the park watching.
Our fully booked special made two circuits of the 12¼" gauge line, a circular layout with a public run, totalling 900yd hauled by Alan Keef steam outline loco 'Boris'. The first circuit was via the outer loop and the second via the inner loop, re-joining beside the loco shed (which is between these two lines). Normally when the railway is quiet they use the outer loop and when busy the inner loop but not both (due to the points having to be padlocked for one route or the other). The proposed triangle and cut off loop at the junctions of the two loops have yet to be built. Discussion took place and, on arrival back at the station, we were told to remain on the train and, shunting back, we then visited all three loco and stock shed roads, their diesel outline loco being moved to allow this. The stop blocks of the two right hand lines were reached with no loco in the way.
The 'keen end' of the train is propelled to the end of the middle shed road - no train loco in the way either. The longer (outer loop) goes across the bottom left corner. The shorter inner loop runs alongside, and to the right of, the carriage and loco shed. As well as being BLS friendly the 'Family Coach' the disabled coach will take a wheelchair and is named 'Ryan' after a paraplegic boy who persuaded the railway to build it.
On the right hand shed road, the inner loop running line is behind the locomotive which is named after the town: BOgnor RegIS.
Our special on the outer loop approaching the station (to the right) the inner loop can be seen to the right of the shed. Outside the shed is a new 'Class 33' loco.
Strangely the really keen members were even in that end of the train! In addition to the fare suitable additional donations were collected to show our appreciation of the 'extras'. Bidding our hosts farewell with many thanks we had plenty of time to walk back to Bognor Regis station and our waiting Railtour.