All the Charter news from September 2011.
In 1936 the long distance Anglo-Scottish train companies, the LNER and LMS, were locked in a publicity competition to promote their respective London to Glasgow and Edinburgh services.
Often perceived as the golden age of steam, the scene 75 years ago was all about headlines and fast limited accommodation trains such as ‘The Coronation Scot’ and ‘The Flying Scotsman’. These were variously advertised as the fastest, most comfortable and best way to travel. Then the LNER introduced the non-stop service between Kings Cross and Edinburgh – a distance of 393 miles which ramped up the PR battle.
The LMS could not compete on anything but a one-off basis so they ran a train non-stop between Euston and Glasgow and back again in November 1936. At a stroke they took the non-stop record for a steam train covering the 401 miles each way. They used Stanier’s prototype maroon liveried ‘Pacific’ No. 6201 Princes Elizabeth in each direction on the train.
The LMS trains carried Stanier himself on the engine plus three other crewmen and legend reports that only coaldust was left in the tender at the end of each run! All other trains were kept out of the way for these record breaking runs to ensure fast average times.
The exploits of Crewe based loco-men, Driver Tom Clark, Passed Fireman Albert Shaw and Fireman Charles Fleet over the two days of operations covering over 800 miles on November 16 and 17 that year, demonstrated that the LMS could compete with the LNER.
The newspapers of the day had a field day headlining with “Railway Ambition Achieved, 401 Miles Non Stop, London – Glasgow Under 6 Hours”. The train took 353 minutes to Glasgow and William Stanier and his LMS paymasters knew that their confidential plans to run their ‘Coronation Scot’ the following year were achievable.
The return journey was made the next day covering the 401 miles at an average speed of 70mph, a formidable record and an outstanding achievement. The LNER had been trounced but soon regained the upper hand with their streamlined A4s.
Vintage Trains are celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the record run with a two day trip using the same engine between Crewe and Glasgow.
The charter leaves Tyseley on November 12 using the Vintage Trains Class 47 diesel No. 47773, taking the train to Crewe where the vintage record-breaking steam locomotive joins the train. After climbing Shap, the train stops at Carlisle for servicing and a crew change ready for the non-stop run to Glasgow 102 miles away.
Beattock will provide a test for the crew and engine and it will be fingers crossed for a non-stop run on the day, other traffic permitting. The two days steam mileage will be around 500 miles on the locomotives old stamping ground and will hopefully be a train to create memories again! The train will include a converted parcels van carrying water tanks enabling the non-stop run to take place. It was also used on ‘The Bristolian’ run last year between Paddington and Bristol in each direction.
The train also calls at Walsall, Wolverhampton and Stafford diesel hauled and returns on November 13, again behind No. 6201 to Crewe where the same diesel will be attached to the train bringing it all back to Tyseley .
The preserved steam era can now not only recreate history but create history - and there is no better example of this than the West Coast Railway Company owned and operated LMS ‘Royal Scot’ No. 46115 Scots Guardsman.
This engine has been a good performer in the last three years since overhaul and apart from a few mechanical problems, such as suffered on August 18 when the middle engine bent a rod on a Scarborough service, has been a popular and powerful performer.
The engine has visited Weymouth, Kings Cross and Kings Lynn in preservation and is now set to reach Fort William on September 11, which West Coast Railway Company believe to be the first visit of this class of engine to the Highland Capital.
It will be in charge of the Railway Touring Companies’ ‘The West Highland Jacobite’ all the way from Preston to Fort William, outwards via Shap and Beattock, return via Dumfries on the Glasgow and South Western route.
This is part of a four day trip which also sees double headed ‘Black 5s’ pull the train from Crianlarich and Oban and back.
The preservation group that owns the post war record breaking steam locomotive, blue liveried ‘A4’ class No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley has issued their 2012 calendar. This is a strictly limited edition print run of just 200 and if the last few years are anything to go by, they will sell out fast!
The cover picture was taken by their Operations Manager from the cab while crossing the Forth Bridge. They are available from the Trust on www.sirnigelgresley.org.uk and all proceeds will be put towards the current repairs underway at Grosmont.
The Royal Train steam engine, No. 60163 Tornado has to raise £500,000 to repay Bearer bonds which funded the construction of the engine. In addition to these costs, the engine had major repairs over last winter and in addition to earning income on railtours and preserved railway visits, the A1 Steam Trust have a ‘virtual shop’ which keeps funds rolling in to help reduce the debts.
This is available by visiting the A1 Steam Trust website with many items on sale from badges to tee-shirts and DVDs. The latest DVD issued in the last few weeks is called ‘Absolutely Chuffed’ and brings the story up to date as The Trust say, from dream to steam!
This DVD is an in-depth film about the 50th Peppercorn class A1 steam locomotive, No. 60163 Tornado which brings up to date the original, double award nominated BBC television programme 'Absolutely Chuffed: The Men Who Built A Steam Engine’.
It brings the story up to date following the engine in Works and includes previously unseen new footage which gives a new insight into the construction of Tornado.
It takes in the original inspirational idea, to running the Royal train and delves deeper than ever before into the fascinating story of the engine, with frank interviews and fly on the wall filming.
‘Absolutely Chuffed: From Dream to Steam’ is the tale of the project that made the world sit up and watch. Film includes an exclusive Cab Tour and the unveiling of the new Brunswick Green livery this year. A donation will be made to The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, the builders of Tornado, for every DVD sold. It is available from Amazon, WH Smith, HMV and all good online retailers with a recommended retail price of £19.99.
The Head of Steam Museum at North Road Station, adjacent to where Tornado was constructed, is holding a special exhibition dedicated to the story of the engine. This also highlights Tornado’s importance to Darlington and the North East and has artefacts on loan from The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust on display.
UK Railtours is to operate a railtour into a rubbish tip on November 5 using GBRF class 73s!
The ever imaginative John Farrow from UKR has called the train ‘The Mine of Serpents’ which also gives a hint as to the other destination for the train, the Mountfield Mine mineral line near Battle operated by British Gypsum.
The rubbish tip? None other than the one the Bluebell Railway is digging out at Imberhorne so the preserved line can link up with the national network at East Grinstead and run over the Imberhorne Viaduct. The train will traverse the rubbish removal line as far as possible before reversing and carrying on with the day out.
BR ‘Standard Pacific No. 70000 Britannia ran out of water on August 17 while pulling ‘The Bath Spa Express’ (BSE) promoted by Torbay Express Limited (TBEL). It is understood that the ashpan sprinkler was left on thus emptying the tender of water and the train was reported as ascending Upton Scudamore bank with both safety valves open before being stopped at Warminster.
The water had by now run out and the fire brigade reached the scene too late so the train was cancelled and towed back to Westbury by a diesel and the failure caused 548 minutes delay to 25 trains. The train was eventually taken forward by the Class 59 diesel No. 59203 for the rest of the journey from Westbury to Poole via Southampton.
Fortunately there was no damage to the engine which resumed duties a couple of days later on a ‘Cathedrals Express’ service for Steam Dreams.
The first ‘Bath Spa Express’ had run two weeks earlier on August 3 running from Poole via Southampton to Bath declared as a “resounding success” by TBEL on their website. Somewhat intrigued at this statement, rail.co.uk rang to see why the statement was made. The reply was that the first train was well loaded (but not full), was on time and marked the start of a new area for us to run from” a TBEL spokeswomen said.
TBEL also promote the Sundays only train of the same name from Bristol to Kingswear which was booked to run on Sundays in the summer. Only two services ran in August understood to have been caused by low bookings. The July 24 train had to be cancelled due to a fatality neat Taunton closing the line for a few hours.
August 17 was not a great day for DB Shenker’s steam operations. In addition to Britannia running out of water at Warminster, Tornado suffered the ignominy of being pulled by a freight diesel after they could not find a fireman for the job!
DB Shenker asked West Coast Railway Company of they had a spare fireman but the request could not be met at short notice. The train was therefore pulled by class 67 diesel No. 67002 from London to Eastleigh where it took over. Concerns had been privately voiced about DB Shenkers ability to operate two steam services on the same day while West Coast Railways can and do operate up to six a day when required.
The ‘Weymouth Seaside Express’ trains run in direct competition with ‘The Torbay Express’ from Bristol on Sundays to Weymouth have run consistently full this year. Some argue that Weymouth is a more family friendly destination and the fares are 30% less making the RTC train a preferred option.
TBEL say that their train will run again next year so privatisation has brought competition to our railways, but not as envisaged in the flawed process!
The West Coast owned Southern ‘Battle of Britain’ Class No. 34067 Tangmere, pulled the Crewe to Scarborough Railway Touring Company (RTC) ‘Scarborough Flyer’ service on July 29. This marked the return of this class to Yorkshire for around 30 years and happened due to a loco shortage with booked engine, ‘Britannia’ No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell under repair in July at Southall.
The regular weekday steam services over the Settle & Carlisle route operated full in August. ‘The Fellsman’ promoted by Statesman Rail ran every Wednesday from Lancaster while newboys to steam, Compass, ran their ‘Moorlander’ service every Monday from Liverpool.
The Carnforth Pool of steam engines has had to work hard to keep the services running and has made heavy use of the 5305 Loco Association’s engines, LMS Black 5, No. 5305 Alderman E Draper and National Railway Museum owned ‘Britannia’ No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell.
Compass Railtours’ Kevin Melia said that their trains had all eventually run full, or very close to it and they envisaged expanding this market in time to come. One benefit which will only be realised over the next few months or so is that the mailing list will have increased with new passengers who will probably book for more charters when contacted. This is partly why some tour promoters offer a free booking service for charity trains so everybody gains – a result in the charter business!
THE Severn Valley Railway’s connection to the national network at Kidderminster is due for significant upgrading in August 2012 as part of a Network Rail ‘Enhancement Plus’ scheme. This will see new crossovers and signalling installed as part of a wider project and will prove beneficial to the major preserved railway allowing for the first time passenger carrying trains to and from the main line.
Trains will not be able to access the SVR’s Kidderminster station as the connection faces the wrong way, but will instead serve Bewdley and stations to Bridgnorth. There have been suggestions that this will allow a commuter service to operate to Birmingham but the SVR has said this is not a realistic option.
Pathfinders are advertising a train called ‘The Coal Grinder’ which will cover many former coal carrying branches in South Wales on October 1. The train starts at Crewe and picks up at many stations via Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff to South Wales freight branches. The highlights are expected to be the many freight only lines in the Port Talbot and Swansea areas followed by a visit to Pantyffnnon to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen branch off the Central Wales line followed by the recently re-opend Cwmgwrach Branch
The same day sees UK Railtours run one of their popular ‘Forgotten Tracks’ trains to the Seal Sands Branch – the first time a passenger train has visited the line. Where is this line, sought by many, but travelled by none? The clue lies in the train name, ‘The Tees Goblin’.
The train departs from Kings Cross and picks up en-route to York before going forward to the former industrial heartland of Teeside and also takes in the Tyne Dock branch. You may have to hope for a cancellation though, only a dozen or so tickets are left.
Railtourer, a Hull based train charter company are hoping to run a rare steam excursion on September 28 on the Yorkshire Wolds coastal route via Filey on a Scarborough-Selby-York circular train. This is subject to Network Rail gauging approval and if it runs, will be the first steam for over five years on the route.