The sun was just behind the unit and the reflection was like looking into a glass lake. I could clearly see my face reflected in the metalwork from the other platform. The beautiful paint job that had been confined to the front end, had now been extended to the entire carriage. Then I saw Chris Chamberlain.
For those of you who do not know, Chris has undertaken the restoration single handed and it is difficult to imagine a more motivated, knowledgeable and skilled restorer. If he does not know how to do something - he learns - and then does just does it. No fear or any doubt in his own ability.
"Well" he said, "Is it alright"? At first I was lost for words.I eventually said "Are you blind? Its brilliant". "That's alright then" he replied, and then proceeded to pick out all the minute faults that no-one else would have spotted and he only knew were there, because he had worked so intimately with it.
To just consider the paint job would be to do the man a complete injustice. The detail in the metalwork; the cleanliness of the upholstery; the attention to detail everywhere you looked was a revelation. But then you realise that you have been talking to him whist standing next to the running engine, with the engine cabin door open and not a raised voice anywhere.
Apart from the cleaning job that he has undertaken in the engine cabin, the main thing that strikes you is the balanced tone of the engine. No whining; no hunting; no clattering, just a beautifully tuned and well balanced motor. On a run to Worth Halt he opened it up a little to give a feel of the turbo. Feel it! Indeed i did; physically forcing you back into the seat. Yes, a 4srkt pushing you back into the seat (difficult to believe i know).
I could go on and on about what Chris has achieved with this unit, but just look at the photos above. Even my poor excuse for photography can say more about the unit than I can.
The unit is a brilliant example of what can be achieved by one man; on a virtually non-existent budget, but with a desire to do the best you can with the skills you have been blessed with.
The Lavender Line is a small operation but everyone was friendly, knowledgeable and the breakfasts are as good as everyone says.
I wish that the unit was based at a larger railway. Not because there is anything wrong with the Lavender Line ; far from it. Just because I selfishly want the thrill of being a passenger when it was given a real outing.
Chris, thank you mate. From an enthusiast who was given a real thrill and a brilliant experience. For those of you who were not there......shame on you. You missed an absolute treat.
When you look at the pictures above, keep an eye on the reflections and only then will you appreciate the effort that has gone into the finish.
Chris Cannon 18/08/2014