Welland Steam Rally is not one I have visited before; organised by the Ross-on-Wye Steam Engine Society I have been to some of their shows in the past, at their previous sites, each of which they have outgrown. For some reason or other the event is not listed with the National Traction Engine Trust and their listing would have been a fairly good guide to the size of the event, but photographs I’d seen of previous shows seemed to indicate it was worth visiting. Arranging to arrive at about 11.00 we set off on the one and a half hour journey and after leaving the M50 nearing the end of our journey we didn’t have very far to travel before we hit the queue, a very long and slow queue, it was like a community event in itself, everyone was getting out of their vehicles and chatting to one another. I shall cut this narrative short and tell you that we were queueing for one and three-quarter hours but grizzles on their Facebook page later suggested two hours was commonplace.
Despite the constant and torrential rain the day before we visited, the ground had held up very well with just a few very muddy patches in which the kids in wellies revelled. The biggest problem for a photographer was the vast number of people therein and trying to isolate individual items was nigh on impossible so I didn’t try, the atmosphere was buzzing and I just wallowed in it all snapping pictures where I could in an attempt to capture the feel of the event.
What set this show apart from most other steam rallies was the working area, the hills were alive with the sound of Caterpillers. I was fascinated, this was more like the shows of the past, the public being allowed to wander at will amongst all the machinery at work with very limited ropage dividing the public from the exhibit, very much like the Dorset steam rallies of the past before the days of strict safety rules insisting on fencing-off the the most interesting working exhibits. The Caterpillar (and other) machines were moving that hillside around, re-arranging piles of earth and then at the end of the day leaving it looking flat again, fascinating and a big draw for the public. At the lower end of this field was a narrow gauge railway with visiting Bagnall locomotive “Woto” working the roadbuilding trains and a steam roller or two levelling the sections being laid. My photo below shows activity on the hillside.
In the fairground and showman’s engine section trying to take photographs was challenging, the engines were placed very close together and once again people were everywhere. I did manage a few shots but inevitably I have individuals included. I didn’t venture into the fairground itself but it did look like it only included traditional rides from various periods up to about the 1960s as I did notice a Waltzer; a big wheel, helter-skelter and carousel are also seen in some of the photographs.
I wandered briefly around the stationary engines to see if I recognised any machines I might have owned but to no avail, and also had a stroll through the vintage cars and commercial vehicles but took no photographs in any of these areas, there were just too many people. So after visiting these sections it was back to the hillside once again to see what activity was going on. It was there that I bumped into my friend David, I hadn’t seen him since we got out of the car some three or more hours earlier, he was on his knees photographing the red Foden waiting for everyone to clear out of the vision of his wide angle lens.
Despite the people and the two-hour queue, will I go again? I think that has to be a definite yes, the atmosphere reminded me of the shows of days long-gone and I loved the warm feeling of nostalgic memories which kept bubbling to the surface in my mind recalling the days when I too was an exhibitor at such an event. We also certainly chose the right day to go as today it’s hammering down once again at Welland!
Since writing the above, I have learned the Steam Rally was cancelled on Sunday due to the appalling weather and ground conditions.