The restored steam locomotive 61306 “Mayflower” departed Southend East 7.22 am on Saturday 7th March 2015 heading towards London, and ultimately Bath.
Though the excursion did not stop at Leigh, there were interesting views from Hadleigh Castle and a small group of people gathered there with cameras, binoculars and what-have-you from 7.20 am so as not to miss a visceral experience.
There was someone close to the line, too; so as to get the full effect of smoke, steam, sulphur, cinders and chuffing! In the distance, a plume of steam and smoke rose over Leigh, last seen on a trip into Fenchurch Street many years ago.
The first sight was along the Saddleback after which Mayflower blossomed quickly into full view of the waiting group. Even at a range of 200 yards (about the same in metres) from the track, the throaty rumble and chuff rolled uphill with the evocative mix of steam and smoke obscuring most of the carriages and the diesel set at the back which would handle the return journey.
As the sun rose, and the Mayflower moved towards Benfleet Station with a nostalgic whistle, our spirits also rose, along with the steam, smoke and sheer enjoyment of a nostalgic moment! If you saw Mayflower or perhaps were on the train, we look forward to seeing your pictures of the occasion.