Published: 5th October 2014
Rail.co.uk reported last month on the Virgin Trains decision to return their ‘Pretendolino’ to the leasing company as they had no further use for these Mark 3 carriages. To mark the end of regular use of these on the West Coast Main Line, Virgin Trains, The Railway Magazine and Direct Rail Services (DRS) have teamed up to run a one-off farewell to an era spanning 40 years.
A special charter service will operate on October 25 between Crewe and Holyhead and back to Stafford using a pair of DRS diesel locomotives, likely to be a Class 37 and 57. Network Rail operating restrictions have meant that the Virgin Driving Van Trailer will be replaced by a DRS Mk. 2 brake for the train.
The overtly rail enthusiast charter train will appropriately be raising funds for the Royal British Legion, a century after the outbreak of World War 1 which will operate under the banner of ‘The Welsh Warrior’. The train departs from Crewe at about 0830 running to Holyhead with a pair of DRS Class 37s at the standard class end and a DRS Class 57 at the first class end. Engines requested are No. 37409, and 57301 – a former Virgin Trains locomotive.
Network Rail has been requested to route the train via Gresty Green and then to use the ‘rare track’ known as the Crewe independent lines which may be used for HS2 in a few years. The train will then run via Sandbach, Northwich and call at Chester and Bangor terminating in Holyhead giving passengers a 40 minute break.
The wide windows on the train will allow good views of the North Wales coast landmarks such as Conwy Castle, the huge Bangor signalbox and the majestic Lions guarding the Menai bridge, all that remains from the original one built which burnt down over 40 years ago.
On the return, Network Rail has been asked to gauge the train to run onto the Conwy Valley liner as far as North Llanwrst and then to head for Llandudno for two hour break. Then its back to Chester with the Class 37s leading again ascending the four mile Gresford Bank which rises at 1-in-82 towards Shrewsbury and back to Crewe for 830pm after travelling via Telford, Bushbury curve and Stafford.
The Railway Magazine is handling bookings on 01507 529529 open 8.30am to 7pm, Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 12.30pm Saturday but please note that due to the timescale there is no facility for postal bookings.
Tickets cost £65 standard class and £100 first class which includes a cooked breakfast plus a light bites snack box in the afternoon. Seats will be allocated at the time of booking, and the maximum number of seats per booking will be eight. The closure date for bookings is 17.00 on Friday, October 17 unless tickets sell out before then. This allows time for tickets and the final timings to be posted to passengers. There is limited seating available for disabled passengers due to the Mark 3 carriage layout. A buffet will be available for much of the day as will a refreshment trolley service.
There will be an on-board raffle for some unique prizes such as a cab ride in a DRS locomotive, and a session in a Virgin Pendolino driver simulator, a headboard from the special train, model railway items and magazine subscriptions. All monies from the raffle will be added to the ticket money being donated to the Royal British Legion. A goody bag with special offers will also be given to each passenger.