Network Rail (NR) is requesting permission to remove the York locomotive turning triangle known as the ‘Engineers’ Triangle’ after the Olympics to create space for building works.
When a steam charter ends or starts at York, the steam locomotive generally has to be turned to face the right way for the next operation. This is normally carried out on a triangular section of track just to the south of York station and the station avoiding line and is known as the Engineers’ Triangle.
Engines are not only turned here but serviced with water and coal supplies while away from the national network thus not causing any congestion or service delays. The formal paperwork for the change was issued by Network Rail in late November, commencing the legally required process, and says that they have agreed with the National Railway Museum (NRM) that locomotives can be turned on their turntable in the Grand Hall instead.
This would add another two organisations to the running of charter trains as the museum would have to provide staff to open the doors and operate the turntable – normally out of office hours. To access this turntable, engines have to go through the Siemens Transpennine depot north of York station before reversing into the museum. Both are very receptive and co-operative in facilitating steam locomotive movements.
The land presently occupied by the triangle is required for a new control office by Network Rail in York, which ironically is now very anti-steam following the combination of a steam related fire in September on the East Coast Main Line and the continuing poor performance of scheduled East Coast trains and infrastructure.
The triangle is used over 30 times a year and its use does not affect York station workings, unlike the proposed new arrangements which could lead to delays as engines work to and from the museum through the station.
If the plans go ahead, and the Museum manages to develop it’s South Yard as planned, they will be able to offer a large turntable for servicing in a few years’ time. This plan is instead of the NRM+ plans being unsuccessful gaining Heritage Lottery Funding.
As we all know, planning and operating charter trains is a hugely complex operation and adding another layer of involvement is will not be welcomed by planners and operators alike. Currently, any train operator can use the triangle as it is part of the NR network, but they will have to organise access with Siemens and the NRM if the plans go ahead.
This will increase use of both facilities adding more layers of planning to be carried out and a greater opportunity for things to go wrong on the day.
But, with careful planning the scheme may eventually improve steam facilities at York with the provision of modern facilities in the south yard. So those involved in mainline steam operations will be watching and monitoring developments closely and keeping their collective fingers crossed for such an outcome.