But “Tangmere” is beset by issues arising from a seemingly bumbling Network Rail.
Whilst the occasion of Armistice Day is always sombre, it usually allows a number of steam or diesel hauled charter services to run, with Kent featuring strongly on the charter map.
For 2011, Steam Dreams and the Railway Touring Company ran the only two trains across the land. Steam Dreams, using the new build 60163 “Tornado”, ran a charter from Northampton to Canterbury East. The train picked up passengers additionally at Milton Keynes, Watford Junction and Bromley South. It was running slightly late, and as a reaction took a planned two minute silence early at Orpington. It used the stop at Canterbury also as a means to allow passengers to shop and see the City.
The Railway Touring Company used a somewhat more authentic ‘Battle of Britain Class’ 34067 “Tangmere”, travelling from London Waterloo to Deal, and immediately returning to Kensington Olympia. Early controversy over an apparent lack of two minute silence was quelled when it became apparent that the train would leave London at 11:03, allowing time for the moments of respect.
The Steam Dreams trip ran without incident, with the exception of the odd minute of delay here and there. “Tangmere” however would make the dire weather pale into insignificance. The first issue for the train was a stand of around ninety minutes at Walmer, in Kent, as Network Rail failed to rid the line of leaf matter. The thick, black “grease” was reported as being so great that it caused the train to slip to a stand. The rail head conditions were despite the passage of a rail head treatment train shortly before the steam charter ran.
Then, as time had been lost, the train had to wait at Dover Priory for close to two hours as water was waited for, sourced and added to the locomotive. Reports suggest a large hose and two garden hoses went into “Tangmere” in an attempt to speed up the process.
The final straw was that signallers, perhaps unaware to the mayhem they were about to cause the train, sent the train on the Up Fast line through Petts Wood, which correlates to the Up Fast line at Bromley South. Amazingly, “Tangmere” is ‘too big’ for this piece of track, and should have gone onto the Up Slow, but had absolutely no chance of getting to the right track.
The train waited for close to ninety more minutes as the passengers on board appeared to allow their patience to wear thin. The train eventually was allowed to move, but terminated at Bromley South just over five hours late. It is understood that a lack of water made the trip to Kensington Olympia simply not possible.
For better words, Network Rail caused such an incredible delay and provided such a dis-service to the trip that it calls into question whether or not their East Coast steam ban is credible.