Published: 16th May 2015
Two powerful and popular steam locomotives are to leave main line service in a few months and will then be overhauled. Post war world steam speed record holder, LNER ‘A4’ No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley was due to haul several charter trains for Steam Dreams, the first being from Scarborough to Kings Cross on May 21. The engine is based at Grosmont on the North Yorks Moors Railway and was due to leave there for Scarborough ready for its first trip of the year.
Network Rail (NR) has without warning decreed that due to gauging issues, the engine will not now be permitted to move from Grosmont to Scarborough which means it will miss the train which has now been cancelled. Why has NR taken this decision? The usual reason behind a gauging issue is that the Esk Valley line to Grosmont has not been inspected within laid down timescales and so the track clearances may not exist anymore.
This, combined with the aftermath of the West Coast Railway suspension recently lifted, means that it is likely that the ‘Gresley’ trains are in danger of not operating. As No 60007 cannot leave the NYMR. The July Steam Dreams charter from London to Edinburgh may still feature the engine which could mark the end of the current main line running period before its 10 yearly overhaul. The five trips which the engine may now miss will cost it dearly in financial terms losing revenue which would have gone towards the overhaul.
Southern Railway built ‘Merchant Navy’ No. 35028 Clan Line will be hauling its final train in its current operating session on June 30. UK Railtours is promoting the train which is virtually sold out. The engine takes the train from Victoria and gains the West Coast main Line running via Latchmere Junction and Kensington Olympia joining the WCML Willesden. It’s a fast run to Rugby then onwards via Coventry and Nuneaton before heading off at her 75mph maximum speed to Crewe and Chester.
The engine will be serviced and turned at Chester before the last leg to Crewe where the engine will be overhauled.
Clan Line normally heads up the British Pullman and it has one more trip on this prestigious train on June 12 pulling a Victoria-Redhill-Surrey Hills-Guildford -Victoria circular service.
The new-build Peppercorn ‘A1’ No. 60163 Tornado has been under its statutory overhaul since late last year and is about to return to main line service.
Its first public outing will be on May 30 on the ‘The Cumbrian Fells Express’ promoted by Pathfinder Tours. The train starts at Bristol diesel hauled and the Tornado section is from Crewe via Appleby to Carlisle and return. Then on June 2, Tornado’s owners, The A1 Steam Trust promote ‘The White Rose’ from King's Cross to York outwards using Deltic D9009 Alycidon and the return service uses Tornado and tickets are being sold by UK Railtours.
The engine then takes over from Clan Line on the Belmond British Pullman with trips on June 4, a Railway Children Special charity train and a trio of ‘Surrey Hills’ circular services on July 10, July 22 and August 8.
‘The Juniper Factor’ is a special train on May 23 marking the end of Alstom’s electric train introduced a mere 15 years ago to the Southern electrified network. These Class 458/0 ‘Juniper’ trains had a less than successful start to service and suffered from numerous major faults that ranged from electronic failures to leaky bodyshells and end gangways that proved impossible to couple up in service.
By 2005, after working for just three years, the Alstom trains were mostly out of service and they were so unreliable that nobody wanted to use them and the future looked bleak. The Southwest Trains (SWT) mechanics were brought in and they dragged the trains into a reliable state after modifications were made and they are now reliable.
They now run as fixed eight-car formations and mainly operate between Waterloo and Windsor. To cope with increasing commuter demand, these trains are being withdrawn for complete rebuilding and merging with the sister Class 460 Juniper units to form a new fleet of longer trains.
UK Railtours say that this is an unashamedly 'cranky' enthusiast railtour that no Southern fan will want to miss and it is being run by special arrangement with SWT who will take this commuter train to ‘foreign’ tracks. The train leaves Waterloo and is routed via Hampton Court Junction and the Guildford 'New Line' through Effingham Junction to Guildford and Haslemere which is as far as these trains are authorised to travel to.
The service then proceeds to Aldershot and back to Woking where the maximum speed of 75mph will be reached on a trip to Brockenhurst, Bournemouth to a lunchtime break at Poole.
The return route is the main line to Wimbledon when the train travels over the ‘rare’ route via East Putney and Point Pleasant Junction before arrival at the former Waterloo International Terminal.
The Tyseley based Vintage Trains has resumed charter services after the West Coast suspension and on May 23, their Great Western Railway flagship copper-capped loco No. 5043’ Earl of Mount Edgcumbe will take a steam charter to the Victorian seaside town of Llandudno for the free annual Llandudno Airshow, featuring The Red Arrows. They will be joined by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, a Catalina Flying Boat and the P51 Mustang. Airshow details can be found at: http://www.llandudno-air-show.org.uk/
Network Rail track maintenance between Stafford and Wolverhampton means the route taken will be a little unusual and not the most direct! The train departs from Tyseley behind Class 47 No. 47773 The Queen Mother as far as Nuneaton from where the steam locomotive takes over to Crewe and Chester where unusually the train will turn on the triangle before continuing onward to Llandudno. This is very rare track and will be a draw for all enthusiasts.
The return journey brings No. 5043 leading from Llandudno to Nuneaton where the train reverses with the diesel leading back to Tyseley. The train also calls at Coleshill Parkway, Tamworth, Stafford and Crewe.
Abellio has started operating the new Scotrail franchise and the Scottish Assembly specified a series of steam trains to boost tourism. These commence in June and are advertised as follows with tickets being sold by Steam Dreams. These trains us LMS ‘8F’ No. 48151 and LMS ‘Jubilee’ No. 5690.
June 20. 48151. ‘The Highland Rambler’. Stirling-Perth-Kingussie-Inverness.
June 21. 48151. ‘The Seaforth Highlander’. Inverness-Invergordan-Brora-and return.
June 22. 48151. ‘The Highland Caledonian’. Inverness-Kingussie-Perth-Stirling.
June 27. 5690. ‘The Borders Reivers’. Carlisle-Glasgow-Carlisle. Out via Troon and Dumfries.
The threatened RMT strike could also affect some charter services as empty stock moves may be affected and some of the services require special operating staff to be in attendance. It is best to check with the charter train promoter to make sure the train is running before booking on-line.