Four Rail Tours, Five Days

Saturday 17th August
37516; Crewe – Liverpool
46233; Liverpool-Wigan-Settle-Carlisle-Shap-Preston-Liverpool
37516; Liverpool – Crewe

Sunday 18th August
48151; York – Leeds – Keighley – Hellifield – Appleby – Carlisle (37706 on rear)
48151 (piloting 37706); Carlisle – Appleby – Hellifield – Keighley – Leeds – York

Tuesday 20th August
48151 (piloting 47760); York-Normanton-Wakefield-Castleford-York-Scarborough – York

Wednesday 21st August
70013; London Victoria-Staines-Southampton-Weymouth
47245; Weymouth – Southampton
70013; Southampton – Andover – Wimbledon – London Waterloo

Some may say I was mad, some may say it was weird, I say it shows the best of what England has to offer, and shows something that made Britain Great, the railways.

Setting out from deepest darkest North Yorkshire late on a Friday evening is unusual enough. But heading for Crewe? Well, thats just something else. Arriving just after 2am the original plan was to get a few hours shut eye in the car, but that wasn’t to be. So instead, spent the early hours of Saturday morning on Crewe Station watching various train moves including a Northern Belle ECS & a Network Rail test train with top and tailed 37s.

Our stock arrived with 37516 up front shortly before 0530. ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ manoeuvred around the station mouth onto the rear of the consist, to be in the right position for the departure from Liverpool. Its always nice to have heritage traction on the mainline in diesel form, it is often over looked. After a spirited run to Liverpool Lime Street we arrived a few minutes ahead of time. Removing 37516 from the consist at Lime Street, it was to spend the day on Edge Hill depot.

After a cautious departure with 46233 at the head, we lost our footing momentarily on the greasy rails after a light rain fall, soon regaining composure and doing what she does best, powering away at the front of a train bound for the north. Our outward run was routed via Blackburn, Hellifield and the stunningly beautiful Settle & Carlisle Railway, a line I have not traversed in over a year, but was to do so 3 times in the space of 2 days! After a waterstop at Hellifield we set out for Carlisle. Showing such ease in maintaining speeds on the grades, it is a truly great tribute to Stanier showing that his workhorses can still do what they were designed to do, 75 years ago! I could easily class the run we had over the line as one of my top 5 runs on that route, arriving into Carlisle some 7 minutes early.

The return run for the day was routed via Shap and Carnforth. Departing Carlisle some 7 minutes late the Duchess soon got into her stride and showing what she could do. Gliding with such elegance and power quite easily. Soon after a sterling run via Shap we were checked at Carnforth prior to entering the goods loop to have the tender tanks topped up for our journey further south. Departing 3 mins early from our water stop we were held again at Lancaster for a late running Virgin service to pass heading southbound, making our arrival into Preston some 10 minutes behind schedule. We set off back south again, with 46233 soon regaining composure and the speed she was designed for. Making the occasional stop to set down passengers en route, we arrived back at Lime Street 10 mins behind schedule at 2040.

37516 made its way down to the station from Edge Hill and rejoined the consist. We set off back to Crewe at 2113, some 31 mins behind schedule due to issues with the loco. But the noise inside of the vast caverness tunnels of Liverpool was something special. A class 37, fully open and shaking the tunnels was very impressive to say the least, it remained fully open all the way up to Crewe, only being notched back on the station approach due to being checked. But, I must say, once again, what an impressive noise in the dead of night. Arrival back at Crewe was 2208, regaining some 8 minutes back of time. A truly impressive day behind 2 great locomotives.

After arrival back at Crewe, and we were fed and watered, after an escapade with the hotel, we were back on the road, bound for home territory of York, arriving a little after 0145. A good night’s sleep was most certainly called for.

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Arriving at my honorary home station of York shortly after 8am, we walked over the station avoiding line bridge to get there. On the way seeing our steed for the day, 8F 48151being turned on the recently installed turntable. Due to Network Rail still feeling the need for caution over potential lineside fires, 37706 was on the rear of the consist for the outward run. Setting out 3 minutes behind time we were soon up to speed and flying along on the way to out first pick up at Leeds, arriving just a minute late. Soon back on our way, making a couple of stops en route we arrived into our first water stop at Hellifield on time, and the team were soon on with their duties of watering the loco. Departing ahead of time we were soon faced with, for the second time that weekend, of the undulating route that is the Settle & Carlisle Railway. It was a truly beautiful day weather wise, and travelling through such stunning scenery by steam reminded me of what we were, once upon a time, so close to loosing. We really are so lucky in this country to have such scenery so close by, and of course, heritage still playing an active part on the mainline!

Arrival at Carlisle was just a minute late, showing fine workmanship by the crew of both locos in charge of the train. After servicing and turning, the train, this time with 37706 situated behind the 8F was ready for an on time departure at 1545. It was evident that the 37 was certainly playing its part in proceeding with the distinguishable English Electric thrash heard from up front, with the 8F occasionally showing that it was still in charge. Good time was kept all the way back to York, arriving some 3 minutes ahead of schedule 2019. Leaving the train here, it was promptly revered out of the station to Holgate Sidings, where the 8F was detached and sent for stabling and disposal at the NRM.

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Monday was a much required rest day thus being able to catch up on UK Heritage Hub duties!

Tuesday saw us back on the road again, at 7am, bound for York. Our steed for the day, once again was Carnforth based 8F 48151, this time paired with WCRC stalwart, 47760. Setting out on time at 1014 for a quick run around the newest of the Scarborough Spa circuits of; Normanton, Wakefield, Woodlesford & Castleford, being held at Colton Junction on the return for space in platform 5, arriving back into York some 7 minutes early. We were soon back off and destined for the seaside of Scarborough. Having a diesel in the consist reduced water consumption, eradicating the need for the outward stop at Bootham to top the tank up before the final stint to the coast. After a quite a sedate run to Scarborough with the 47 providing the power and the 8F simply on the front for aesthetics, we arrived into the coastal resort at 1359, 19 mins ahead of schedule.

At Scarborough the loco is turned, watered and if required, coaled. Returning from the coastal resort we set out a couple of minutes late and returned to York. Once again, having the 47 in the consist removed the need for water, but we remained held at Bootham for a path back into the station, arriving back into York at 1823. Here we bailed before the train made the evening run around the Wakefield circle, as we had a long drive south to Watford ahead of us.

Setting out from York, destined for the south, shortly after 1830, we arrived in Watford at 2145, ahead of a nights rest prior to a long day aboard the Dorset Coast Express the following day.

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Early Wednesday morning dawned as we set off to find Watford Junction station… After a journey via Euston and the Tube, we arrived at London Victoria in good time ahead of an 0844 departure destined for Weymouth. Today’s designated loco was BR Britannia 70013 ‘Oliver Cromwell’, a loco which I hadn’t traveled with for 5 years. WCRC 47 47245 brought the ECS in, with Cromwell on the rear, from Southall. The 47 was to remain on the set to provide the traction for the Weymouth – Southampton section, but wouldn’t provide power elsewhere, making Cromwell work just that little bit harder.

With a minute late departure we set off bound for Weymouth. Due to being checked constantly and coming to several stops awaiting signals, Cromwell was unable to show us what it was made of at the start. Soon after Chiswick the Brit was allowed to get into her stride and show the public what she was made of, gnawing away at the deficit she had accumulated being checked. With speeds continuously in the low 70s we were well on our way with a good strong beat being heard from the loco, arriving into our first water stop at Winchfield, just a minute behind time. Setting back off, the Brit showed she meant business building up momentum at a good pace and settling back down to glide into the mid 70s with ease. Curving around the coastal port of Poole and the beautiful scenery of Ashurst we kept good time all the way to our destination of Weymouth, arriving 3 minutes ahead of time.

On arrival at Weymouth we were greeted by a stunning performance by the Red Arrows, it certainly added to the greatness of the day.

Departure from Weymouth was booked for 1635, with 47245 providing the power due to the unavailability of 34067 ‘Tangmere’. Setting out on time the Sulzer machine soon showed what it was made of powering up the steep hills to Dorchester and beyond. Upon arrival at Southampton Central the train was to reverse with 70013 once again taking up the reigns. Routed via Romsey and Andover Cromwell was well within its capabilities powering the train in the mid 70s and a constant pace. Arrival back into London was booked for Waterloo, arriving at 2113, 4 minutes ahead of time.

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This signified a lot of miles travelled on the mainline with heritage traction in 5 days.

Saturday; 359 miles

Sunday; 274 miles

Tuesday; 182 miles

Wednesday; 319 miles

We are so very lucky to be able to do this in this country; too many take it for granted, don’t be one of them. Get yourself booked on a rail tour, see the stunning UK by steam or heritage diesel, there really is nothing quite like it.