by Phil Marsh

Autumn steam and diesel special trains on the national network

Published: 22nd September 2014

Top award for Compass and Statesman Railtours

If you are reading this you will have an interest in railways. But you may not be aware just what the special train business can offer in terms of where to visit and what to see this Autumn.

Anniversary season starts

The railways are now entering many 50th anniversaries of the end of various sections of line, locomotives and special ‘last trains’. The Railway Touring Company is running a commemorative tour on September 27 celebrating the 50th anniversary of “The Scottish Lowlander” railtour which ran on Saturday 26th September 1964.

Half a century ago the train was designed to commemorate the imminent total withdrawal of two types of ‘Pacific’ steam locomotive and travelled over a pair of closure-threatened Scottish secondary routes. One, the Waverley Route is about to be re-opened and the other, the Glasgow & South Western remained open despite being close to closing.

The ‘Pacifics’ used were a LMS ‘Duchess’ making the last run of the Class in BR. service, and a pair of LNER ‘A4’ locomotives were used on the train. The commemorative trip will use a ‘Duchess’ and an ‘A4’ but will not obviously be able to travel over the Waverley route until next year when it partially reopens.

But the train will cover the same track as far as possible as 50 years ago and will use the same ‘A4’ as 50 years ago, No. 60009 Union of South Africa over the Glasgow & South Western section as it did originally.

The train leaves Crewe at around 07:30 behind ex-LMSR ‘Princess Coronation’ class ‘Pacific’ No. 46233 “Duchess of Sutherland” to Carlisle (No. 46256 Sir William Stanier is no longer available which was used on the original tour).

From Carlisle, the train 50years ago used the route via Hawick from Carlisle to Edinburgh which closed in 1969 pulled by ‘A4’No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley. The rerun uses classmate No. 60009 Union of South Africa from Carlisle to Beattock and swings right at Carstairs to Edinburgh where there will be a break of around two hours.

No. 9 takes the train from Edinburgh through Haymarket and Polmont to Falkirk Grahamston and runs via Coatbridge and Barrhead to the Glasgow & South Western main line through Dumfries to Carlisle. The train is then hauled back to Crewe by No. 46233. It should be quite a day!

Passenger train to Foreign Ore and Hull Docks

There are several trains advertised to travel over lines that do not normally see passenger trains. The Branch Line Society (BLS) has a train running from Carnforth, Lancaster, Preston and Wakefield Kirkgate to and around Humberside on October 11. It will have a Class 47 or 57 diesel at each end of the train to enable it to reverse as required from dead end branch lines.

The BLS service will make a third attempt to visit the Foreign Ore Branch line at Scunthorpe and will also visit the Western side of ABP Hull Docks, both rarely visited. The new section of line that avoids Doncaster will be used in each direction and in that area, the Doncaster Skellow Curve and Up Doncaster Avoiding line.

Passengers can connect with this train from London by changing at Wakefield and it is hoped to raise a significant sum for charities nominated by ABP Hull and Tata Steel in recognition of their consent to operate over private owner rail infrastructure.

Last train to Ironbridge?

UK Railtours is promoting a winter tour called The Shropshire Union on January 10 which could well be the final train over the six mile branch line to Ironbridge George.

The train is Class 67 hauled from Euston to Bescot Yard where a Class 60 will be attached at the rear of the train. The train carries on via Portobello Junction to Wolverhampton and Madeley Junction and on to the Ironbridge Power Station Branchline.

This line is expected to close in 2015 as the line has existed to serve the power station and this traffic will cease. The line travels over the 275 metre viaduct at Coalbrookdale, and the train will reach the Network Rail boundary at the entry to the power station sidings.

After this diversion, the train returns via Crewe and Basford Hall Junction and on to the Gresty Lane Curve to access the Shrewsbury line to Wellington and the freight sidings there. These were rebuilt as three miles of closed railway was reinstated in 2008 to form the Telford International Railfreight Terminal, operated by DB Schenker and the train is expected to proceeding beyond the NR limits and into the depot.

90mph steam locomotive Bittern/Dominion of New Zealand bows out

LNER ‘A4’ No. 60019 Bittern, currently running in the guise of classmate Dominion of New Zealand, will require its mandatory overhaul next year and a series of last runs have been arranged.

Vintage Trains are running it on October 18 from Tyseley to Bristol in a circular journey. The train is diesel hauled outwards via Didcot, Swindon and bath and returns steam hauled via Cheltenham up the fearsome 1 in 37 Lickey Bank back to Tyseley. It will then appear at the Tyseley Open Day on October 26th.

Vintage Trains are also using the A4 on November 1st on a trip via Birmingham New Street to Liverpool. It is believed that this will be the first visit of an ‘A4’ to New Street. The train runs via Wolverhampton to Crewe and then turns off to run via Chelford and Stockport and on to Guide Bridge and Denton, a rare route for steam passenger trains.

‘The Merseyside Streak’ runs via Manchester Victoria and on to Liverpool via Chat Moss and Sankey. The train returns on a more direct routing through the cutting and tunnels to Edge Hill and to Earlstown, and the West Coast Mainline at Warrington and back to Tyseley. The train calls at Tyseley Warwick Road, additional pickups at Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton, Stafford and Crewe.

Top award for Compass Railtours and Statesman Railtours

Compass Railtours have moved offices and are now located at:

Compass Tours by Rail, Station Masters House, Frodsham Railway Station

Church Street, Frodsham, Cheshire WA6 7DJ and their phone number is 0333 335 37 47.

They have announced that they are pleased to announce “We are a 2014 winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence”. This should give youthe guarantee that their series of three day land cruises from across the UK to the Highlands of Scotland will be enjoyable experiences.

Statesman Rail sell out!

Statesman Rail is another rail company to be awarded the 2014 winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and you will need to act fast if you want to travel on their services. Most are sold out months before they operate. Trips range from days out to long weekends across the UK and include luxurious carriages and high-end service.

Visit the charter train listings for all the charter trains operating.

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