All the charter news from July 2011.
The Maroon liveried LMS Stanier designed prototype Pacific No. 6201 Princess Elizabeth will mark the 75th anniversary of its epic record 401 mile non-stop run between Euston and Glasgow and back over the weekend of November 12 and 13.
Tickets are available through Vintage Trains and the train, called the ‘Coronation Scot’, starts at Tyseley Warwick Road running behind a class 47 diesel to Crewe where the celebrity engine takes over for the 243 mile run to Glasgow. After departure, apart from water stops, the train only calls at Carlisle for servicing and a crew change and is then scheduled to run the next 101 miles non-stop (hopefully) via Beattock to Glasgow.
This is a lot further than the capacity of the tender can provide so as with ‘The Bristolian’ non-stop services last year, the Tyseley water carrier is to be used again. This will allow the long non-stop run, which took place on November 16 and 17 1936, to be partially recreated.
That record breaking run only just achieved the 401 miles non-stop and reports suggest that the tender was as good as empty empty on arrival at Glasgow and back in London the following day! The trailing load 75 years ago was 225 tons northbound and 255 tons southbound but the 2011 equivalent will be at least another 150 tons due to the water carrier and extra coaches needed as it has to pay its way.
The 1936 train carried the number 703 on the smokebox rather than a name, but the anniversary run has been called ‘The Coronation Scot’ by Vintage Trains. The anniversary train also calls at Birmingham new Street, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Stafford.
The first charter train ran on May 28 on the Cambrian Coast route west of Shrewsbury under the new ERTMS system. It was promoted by Statesman Rail and ran to Aberystwyth from Hull hauled by West Coast diesel No. 57601 with class 47 No. 47826 at the other end.
These are not fitted with the requisite signalling in-cab equipment so had to be piloted by two specially fitted yellow liveried Network Rail owned class 97s, attached at Shrewsbury. These were Nos. 97303 and 97304 making a triple header into the Welsh seaside resort.
Network Rail was still working on the section timings for the ERTMS route until 48 hours before the train ran. These had to be established because of the required extra use of passing loops and their operations team’s detailed work ensured the train ran in a satisfactory manor.
The next charter on the route is promoted by Spitfire Tours on July 16 using a Double headed class 37 pair on a charter from Euston to Aberystwyth. It could just be that the train is pulled by four locos once the Network Rail class 97s have been attached!
A special train from Hastings via London and another from London have made Swanage Railway history on two counts. The first turned back the clock to January 1972 when the last passenger trains ran on the doomed Purbeck branch line.
Organised by Hastings Diesels Limited, the enthusiasts' rail tour brought the preserved ex-British Rail Southern Region 'Hastings' class DEMU (diesel-electric multiple unit) run between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage on June 25.
The train was a sell-out and called 'Dorset Diadem' (Crown of Dorset) had six carriages conveying 274 passengers created a little bit of history at the Swanage Railway history.
It was the first diesel-electric multiple unit train to operate between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage since the branch line's last operating day under British Rail on New Years Day 1972. It was also the first six-carriage 'Hastings' class DEMU train to Swanage.
"Southern Region 'Hampshire' class diesel-electric multiple units – which are of a similar design to the 'Hastings' DEMUs – ran the railway service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage from the end of steam traction in September 1966 until the closure of the ten mile branch line in January 1972.
On that last operating day, a Saturday, a special charter train from London composed of a 'Hastings' DEMU unit ran down to Dorset. Run by the Southern Electric Group for enthusiasts, the 'Purbeck Piper' rail tour included the doomed Swanage branch line – the train also calling at the goods-only stations of West Moors and Hamworthy.
The 'Hastings' DEMU units acquired their name because they were built for the London to Hastings commuter line and had narrower body sides than other trains because of the restricted size of railway tunnels along the route from the Capital to the East Sussex coast.
Four days later on June 30, the second piece of history was made when another charter visited the railway when the ex-London Midland and Scottish Railway Stanier 8F class No. 48151 Gauge O' Guild took the ten coach charter from Swanage.
“Stanier 8F class steam locomotives never ran between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage during the Southern Railway and British Railways eras because they were too heavy for under-bridges along the branch line. But, when the Swanage Railway was rebuilt, under-bridges were rebuilt and strengthened so they could take the heaviest steam locomotives that had been barred from the branch line during the days of steam," explained Mr Payne on behalf of The Swanage Railway.
Linesiders and some passengers on steam charter trains often wonder why s diesel remains attached to the train adding the equivalent of three coaches to the drawbar. There are two main reasons supplemented with a third in dry spells such as we have seen this Spring in many parts of the UK.
The harder a steam engine is worked, the more chance there is of stray sparks and cinders being emitted starting a lineside fire. If a diesel is at the other end of the train, it can assist climbing steep gradients or when starting away from stops. This minimises the risk of emissions starting a fire and is a sensible precaution to take given the disruption this can cause. It also ensures that the train runs and is not cancelled by Network Rail as the fire risk is mitigated.
The dry Spring led to several steam charters having a diesel included such as Class 57 diesel No. 57601 piloted GWR ’King’ No. 6024 King Edward 1 over the Devon banks between Taunton and Exeter on June 4.
LNER A4 No. 4492 Dominion of New Zealand had been blamed for several lineside fires later discovered to be as a result of missing mesh on an ashpan. This was repaired and a class 37 diesel remained attached to the Steam Dreams train from Kings Cross to York on June 4 as a precaution.
June 5th saw BR Class 8 Pacific No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester running with a diesel pilot, Riviera Trains’ class 47 No. 47518 used west off Taunton.
Todays railways do not cater for locomotive hauled trains in most areas, for example at terminal stations where a train ends its journey at the buffer stops. Railway operating Rules prohibit propelling a train past more than one signal so once a steam engine is next to the buffers at the end of the line, it is trapped until the train can be pulled out of the station.
A diesel on the end of the train can fulfil this need and also does not take up a precious path in busy areas, such as at London Victoria or Manchester Piccadilly running in from a siding. This is called a shunt release engine and this also saves time at the end of the journey if already attached to the train and enables the platform to be re-used again quickly once the train has departed.
The third reason is that if the steam engine fails or has some performance problem, the diesel can act as a rescue engine and again avoids blocking the line for hours at a time. Many charter trains are vacuum braked and these are the only such trains operating today. All the others are air braked so rescue is not an option!
Both West Coast ‘Jacobite’ services between Fort William and Mallaig are now reported to be running with all seats sold and would be passengers being turned away. The trains pass at Glenfinnan since the afternoon service has been brought forward by 90 minutes because of pathing problems at Arisaig.
The two services were at Fort William station together for the first few weeks providing a time-warp vision of two steam hauled maroon trains in the same station at the same time!
The second service now departs at 330pm arriving back five hours later into Fort William and will run until the end of August.
Both BR Standard Pacific Britannias have been out of action under repair recently. Prototype No. 70000 Britannia was taken out of service out of service immediately after the April 23 Steam Dreams trip between Paddington and Stratford because white metal had been lost following lubrication problems.
Repairs were made at Southall and the engine sent on a short proving run to Chertsey and back on May 26 after which it went to the West Somerset Railway 48 hours later. On arrival, 24 hours before running the May 30 tour to Portsmouth Harbour, it was found that the engine had again run hot and as SR ‘West Country’ No. 34046 Braunton had still not been tested for main line running, the train was postponed. Pathfinder hope to run the train on September 10 using Braunton as originally planned.
No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell underwent a successful steam test at Southall on June 12 after some more boiler repairs and subsequently re-entered service while Britannia was still out of action at the end of June.
Three charter companies ran steam through Bristol on the weekend of June 11 and 12, each with varying results. Two of these ran on June 11 and first up was the Steam Dreams train using the GWR ‘King’ No. 6024 King Edward 1 to Shrewsbury via the Severn Tunnel which ran to time without incident.
Next was The Railway Touring Companies ‘The Welshman’ which started from Poole and ran via Salisbury to Cardiff on June 11.The train came to a stand on the 1 in 75 Filton Bank following a brake application brought on by in-cab signalling equipment.
The engine was SR ’West Country’ No. 34067 Tangmere which was unable to restart the 11 coach 410 ton train on its own. The Train Operator, West Coast Railway Company had a class 47 diesel No. 47500 on hand nearby at Bristol Parkway, which had just been used from Paddington to Bristol Parkway, where GWR ’King’ No. 6024 took over to Shrewsbury.
No. 47500 piloted No. 34067 to Cardiff which was reached about 100 minutes late. Then the random set of unrelated events set in increasing the delay to the return journey. The engine was due to be serviced at Cardiff’s Canton depot which normally has two reception lines giving access to and from the main line from the east and into Cardiff Central.
One of these was not available due to engineering work which caused some congestion to and from the depot. Tangmere also had to be turned for the return journey, due to be carried out by taking the line to Barry as far as Cadoxton using the crossover there.
This was blocked because a once a week freight service was there at the same time so Tangmere had to carry on to the Barry crossover, a few miles on. This was the first time the engine had been back there since it was taken to Woodham Bros scrap yard for scrapping 45 years ago.
After leaving Canton with the return train, it was further delayed outside Cardiff Central due to an Arriva Trains Wales service being stabled in the platform without a driver. After departure, the service ran well via the Severn Tunnel to Salisbury for a water stop and eventually arrived back at Poole two hours late. The Severn Tunnel therefore hosted four steam services on the day!
The next day, The Torbay Express Limited operated by DB Shenker, arrived at Weston Super Mare at 1130pm, some 200 minutes late due to the failure of BR class 8 ‘Pacific No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester. It is thought that damage to cylinders had occurred which meant that Riviera Trains class 47 diesel No. 47815 was attached at Tiverton and brought the train back to Bristol.
Platform work at Kings Cross station meant that the usual charter platforms could not be used on June 4. Steam Dreams were running a train from Kings Cross to York that day using No. 4492 Dominion of New Zealand. Platform 3 was used and discovered that it was not long enough to take the train with a class 37 at the buffer stops as well!
To avoid blocking in several platforms at Kings Cross, the A4 was stabled inside Gasworks Tunnel until a few minutes before departure and set back onto the train just like they used to do up to 1962.
Now sporting a new livery, the replica LNER ‘A1’ Pacific No. 60163 Tornado is now back in service on the main line after major repairs to the boiler carried out in Germany. The test run took place on June 8 from Tyne Yard to Crewe via Carlisle and southbound over Shap after appearing at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Didcot Steam Centre.
The BR Brunswick green liveried locomotive resumed revenue earning duties on the national network on June 18 joining a Pathfinders train at Willesden and pulled it to Canterbury and back to Victoria.
Statesman Railtours have again sold out many of their ‘Lakelander’ and ‘Fellsman’ steam services. There are a few seats available but as with the last two years, they have got the marketing spot-on and offer as they say, value for money main line steam services.
Their ‘Lakelander’ steam services commence on Saturdays from July 23 using the scenic Cumbrian Coast line from Barrow via Millom to Ravenglass which is due to re-open on July 18 after major engineering work.
Cumbrian Coast diesel charters commence with Pathfinders’ train from Cardiff on July 27 followed 48 hours later by Compasses ‘The Cumbrian Coaster’ which starts at Brighouse calling at stations to Blackburn via Rose Grove. The train runs southbound over the line after heading northbound via Shap.
This years only major Depot Open Day will be held on July 16 by Direct Rail Services who are throwing the doors open for enthusiasts at their Carlisle Kingmoor depot. There is one railtour to the event run by Pathfinders calling the train ‘The Lakes & Borders Explorer’. It will be pulled by two DRS class 47s from Eastleigh calling at stations to Oxford, Leamington and Coventry setting down at Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle.
A ‘Gourmet’ charter train promoter has booked their first train running from Stratford (London) to York via Colchester and Ipswich on July 9. Plum Connections are based in Hockley, Essex and it will be interesting how they and Rail Blue Charters manage to fill their trains when traditionally the Norfolk based Nenta Railtours have captured the East Anglian charter market.
Nenta does little advertising as most of its trains are fully booked long before departure with the same passengers travelling on every train!
They are joined in the market by Cheshire Cat Tours based in Crewe with close links to Riviera Trains and use Pathfinder Tours as their booking agents. Their first train ran on June 30 from Stratford on Avon to Edinburgh running via Birmingham New Street Crewe, and the West Coast Main Line.
GWR ‘Hall’ No. 5972 Olton Hall may be used on the West Coast Railways ‘Scarborough Spa Express’ in its Hogwarts Castle guise this season. The SSE runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from York via Leeds and Wakefield and again through York to Scarborough.
The PTG Tours weekend excursion advertised to run on June 18 and 19 has been redated to July 30 and 31st because the locomotives’ repainting had been delayed. The two class 50s, Nos. 50044 Exeter and 50049 Defiance will still be used and Exeter was noted outside the Pullman Works’ shed at Cardiff Canton on June 11freshly reliveried into BR Blue.
The ‘Torbay Express’ service on June 26 was cancelled as there was no available engine following the damage to No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester. At least three locomotive owners were contacted to see if they could cover the train but declined to do so. Replica A1 No. 60163 Tornado has been booked for all ‘Torbay’ departures in July.
The Steam Dreams charter on July 2 between Paddington, Taunton and Plymouth was cancelled due to logistical difficulties. This was to be the train that split into two portions at Taunton, one for Plymouth using LMS 8F No. 48151 Gauge O Guild and the other for Minehead using LNER A4 No. 4492 Dominion of New Zealand.
Steam Dreams have redated their Southend to Salisbury trip originally booked for May 28 using SR West Country No. 34067 Tangmere to August 31 and will be using ‘Britannia’ No. 70000 Oliver Cromwell.
Their Aylesbury to Norwich via London charter advertised as using classmate ‘Britannia’ No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell has been redated a couple of times from March to August and now does not appear on the SD website.
Pathing problems and engineering work seem to have combined to prevent the Aylesbury train from running. It would have been the first real public long distance main line steam from Aylesbury since 1965.
The only main line approved Class 55, better known as a Deltic, No. 55022 Royal Scots Grey has been scheduled for a marathon railtour from Crewe to Fort William on August 10. Spitfire Railtours is promoting the train called ‘The Lochs and Glens Napier’, but beware if you are considering booking. It leaves Crewe at 5am and takes nine hours to reach Fort William. Passengers will get just 90 minutes to enjoy the Highland air before it is time to depart for Crewe arriving back after midnight.