1 Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway by Phil Marsh

Borders Line charters dominate the news as ‘Gresley’ bows out and Scotrail ban passengers from Tweedbank station carpark!

Published: 21st September 2015

Branch Line Society take charity special onto Devon’s Great Western Royal siding

The Branch Line Society (BLS) in conjunction with First Great Western – soon to become the Great Western Railway, have arranged a charity High Speed Train (HST) charter on October 10 from London to the byways of Devon. The aim is to raise £20,000 for the First Devon and Exeter Prostate Cancer Fund to buy a portable scanner.

The ‘First Devon and Exeter Explorer’ departs Paddington at around 0715 returning at 2039 calling at Reading, Didcot, Swindon, Bristol TM, Taunton and Exeter St. David's at 0954. The service will travel over the rarely used connection to the South Devon Railway at Totnes travelling to Buckfastleigh for an optional break.

Route of the Royal Train

The special train offers an optional local excursion for £25 (which will be donated to the South Devon Railway and the Devon Diesel Society) onto the rarely used Heathfield branch just east of Newton Abbot station departing Buckfastleigh at 1125.

This is the section of branch line that has been used for many years as an overnight stabling point for The Royal Train and this optional excursion can be joined by local people and arrives back at Buckfastleigh at about 1445.

It then makes a second trip to Heathfield before returning to Paddington and given that the short branchline has no booked traffic since April, it could be the final train. The charity special offers full catering and real ales with all proceeds going to the charity fund.

How to book

Cheques, payee 'Branch Line Society' with your name, address, email and contact phone number and a SAE sent to Jill Everitt, 4 Barnside Way, Moulton, Cheshire CW9 8PT. Envelopes should be marked 'HST Special'. Booking queries blsfgw@gmail.com and general queries to kev.adlam@branchline.org.uk

BLS Miniature Railtour on October 11.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is a 15 inch gauge line running via Dungeness in Kent and features fabulous desert type scenery, being one of the driest parts of the UK. The BLS is promoting a special service over the 14 mile railway booked to cover some exceptionally rare track not normally used by passenger services.

To add to the day, the railway’s Permanent Way shunter will be used on the train at New Romney to take the train onto all available lines and possibly into the PW depot and the loco works and shed.

This is an afternoon trip but with only 32 seats available. Priority will be given to those booking both trips that have been arranged that weekend by the BLS. Queries can be emailed to darren.garnon@yahoo.co.uk

UK Railtours

is running a special train to Dungeness on December 9 from London Victoria but will be using the standard gauge freight-only track to the power station there. So perhaps these two trains offer the chance to cover all the track in this remote, bleak part of Kent. They are also running a charity charter using a Southeastern Class 395 ‘Javelin on November 7 raising funds with all profits going straight to the Royal British Legion. This leaves Victoria and visits Maidstone East, Ashford, Folkestone Train Roads and back to Hastings and Eastbourne before returning to London Bridge, Charing Cross and Cannon Street.

Sir Nigel Gresley bows out, almost on a right Royal high, but not quite!

The post-war World speed steam record breaker, LNER ‘A4’ No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley has now been withdrawn for its ten yearly overhaul running its final train on September 20 at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The engine has been owned for just shy of half a century by The Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust and has been closely associated with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for the past decade.

But the engine very nearly went out in a blaze of Worldwide publicity being booked for The Royal Train opening of The Borders Line on Scotland. Ultimately, the short notice request could not be facilitated because of the stringent safety approval paperwork that has to be competed. The opening train was operated by DB Schenker and No. 60007 was not accredited with them, only with The West Coast Railway Company.

The request was made when it looked like the originally booked engine, Classmate No. 60009 Union of South Africa failed on a special service in Devon and looked as though it would miss the important opening train. In the end it went as planned as reported on rail.co.uk.

Sir Nigel Gresley is credited with holding the post-war speed steam record after reaching 112 mph with a full train of passengers on May 23, 1959. Three years earlier on June 3, 1956, the locomotive hauled the Royal Train from King’s Cross to York with the Queen on board.

The engine also operated the Royal Train from Bishop Auckland to Kings Cross in 23 February 1939. The overhaul of the locomotive has now commenced and will take a couple of years to complete at a significant cost. Anyone wishing to make a donation towards the cost of the overhaul or to become a Member of the owning Trust can find out more at www.sirnigelgresley.org.uk

First public Borders’ charter operated but Scotrail ban use of station carpark.

The Scottish Railway Preservation Society and West Coast Railways operated the first charter train from Tweedbank on September 19. This attracted around 250 passengers joining at Tweedbank but Scotrail banned them from using the station carpark as they were not their passengers!

Scotrail also charged the charter train operator a four figure sum for shunting duties when the Franchise Agreement (page 246) specifies that this should not happen.

The first inbound charter to Tweedbank organised by Pathfinders was cancelled at the last minute because Scotrail said there was not enough notice given by DB Schenker, that train’s operator. This seems to be what can politely be said to be a ‘teething trouble’ and urgent rail industry investigations are understood to be underway.

The popularity of the Borders Line has surpassed all forecasts and longer trains are already needed. This interferes with charter train operations as platform space is limited at Tweedbank. This, combined with the scaling back of the double tracking sections highlighted on rail.co.uk is already starting to limit operations.

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