1st April 2000
The Practical Joker
|Locos Used||56115, 58005 & 92017|
|58005||Watford Junction - (WCML) - Northampton - Rugby - Coventry - Nuneaton - (WCML) - Crewe|
|92017 (1)||Crewe - (WCML) - Carlisle|
|56115 (2)||Carlisle - Petteril Bridge Jn - Appleby - Settle Jn - Hellifield - Clitheroe - Blackburn - Lostock Hall Jn - Farrington Jn - (WCML) - Crewe|
|58005||Crewe - Stafford - (3) Bushbury Jn - Bescot - Aston - Stechford - Coventry - Rugby - Northampton - (WCML) - Watford Junction|
(1) 56115 coupled between 92 & stock - Dead-in-tow.
(2) Halted at Clitheroe by signalman owing to loco marker lights not being lit. A few minutes pause at Blackburn (already 1 hour late) for a crew change became two hours owing to all the locos lights having failed. We eventually got going again, almost three hours late, courtesy of an emergency headlamp brought by taxi from Warrington!
(3) Booked route via Trent Valley was abandoned as the line was already closed for engineering work. Despite this the train ran approaching three hours late all the way back to Watford Junction.
(by Gary Thornton)
Why is it that, these days, the words "railtour" and "farce" seem increasingly to be finding their way into the same sentence? Recent weeks have seen a particularly poor time with both a Pathfinder and Deltic Preservation Society railtour postponed at quite short notice. Would this tour, by one of the railtour markets smaller operators (run in conjunction with Traction magazine) get on any better?
Having been booked on the DPS tour I was called on the Wednesday evening and informed of the postponement. This left myself (and my father who was coming with me) at a loose end, so a quick phone call to Mercia Charters confirmed that they were running and there were pay-on-the-day seats available. A local pick-up was another nice point, although it was still quite early.
Arriving at Northampton station a little before 7am and it was clear that the station staff were somewhat confused about the tour - or rather tours. There were three due to pick-up in Northampton;
1) Mercia Charters "The Practical
2) Past Times' kettle-ex to Buxton
3) Hertfordshire's "forgotten tracks" tour to East Leake
No mention of the HRT outing and the monitors on platform 2 and 3 were showing both the other railtours (07.16 and 07.40 departures) as being run by Past Time Rail! The Past Time stock arrived into platform 3 first (it started from Northampton) with 86426 in charge then an announcement was made that the Mercia Charters tour was around 13 minutes late. It rolled in at 07.26 with Mainline blue liveried 58005 at the helm - good, start the day of with a new haulage :-)
Our route to Carlisle, our destination, was almost straight up the WCML - with just a diversion via Coventry to pick up passengers - and a loco change at Crewe. Leaving Rugby and 08939, 08897, 66147, 66137 and 47721 were noted. Departing from Coventry and freight grey 90142 was passed on a Virgin WC service for London. We took the Bedworth line to Nuneaton and our next pick up point. The run to Crewe was straight forward with pauses at Lichfield and Stafford to collect more punters. A lot joined at the latter station, the last one which gave some mileage behind the bone. As we waited to depart, 37426 rolled in on a fNW service to Birmingham - it made a good bit more noise departing than we did!
Much scribbling on running into Crewe - 57012, 47328, 47536, 47576, 47547, 47338, 47501, 325005, 325008, 47519, 47326, 47474 & 37407! Crewe was reached about 10 down and most of us carried out the normal ritual of baling to photograph the locos. It seemed farce no.1 of the day was about to unfold - our class 92 was rumoured to be 92025 but this was reported "still somewhere south of Stafford" working an incoming freight train. Time to photograph our other train loco, 56115. This was attached to the train as class 92's are not permitted to couple directly to hauled coaching stock because of a risk of the buffers interfering with the corridor connection. 37219 was wandering about the station, bound for the Past Time charter it was rumoured (to assist where required around Buxton as there is a short reversal needed to gain access to the Peak Forest line).
Shortly after the 37 vanished and a lone 92 appeared and was attached to our train - not 025 but 017, so presumably it was sent out instead. On an adjacent platform kettle 48773 was fussing about with its support coach, awaiting the arrival of the kettle-ex bound for Buxton. Our first movement with the 92 was back in the direction from which we'd come - and to a loud cry of "wrong way" from a number of passengers in the coach next to ours! This was just to get the 92 "inside" the platform end signal as it was part way past it.
Departure was finally achieved at 10.37 - a mere 36 minutes behind plan! The 92 performed well however and ate the miles towards Carlisle. Much ink was used up passing the EWS component recovery depot at Wigan where I personally noted;
37153, 47627, 56080, 37026, 08693, 37088, 47353, 37158, 47565, 37154, 37043, 37191, 37251, 37431, 47300 & 47304
....and there were loads of others I simply didn't have time to write down! Not much left of some of them - just the main chassis and cabs in a number of cases - yet they are for sale if you want to buy one!
Carlisle was reached just 13 minutes down and we had about two and a half hours to explore. Despite the prediction of awful weather, it was quite bright and there was no threat of rain during our stay. After an initial look round though we thought it safest to take refuge in a local pub....just in case....
Back at the station and our return journey didn't get off to a good start - 15.17 came and went with no sign of 56115. It eventually appeared at about 15.35 and departure was at 15.44, just behind a 156 unit headed for Newcastle. We were later told the delay was caused by the driver waiting confirmation of the train consist and weight. The next couple of hours was spent enjoying the Settle & Carlisle line scenery, though a couple of heavy showers dampened things a bit. At Kirkby Stephen we were held as we'd caught up a freight working - we then passed this (66065 - a required sight) at Blea Moor.
The pause at Kirkby Stephen had left us about 45 minutes behind plan but timings along the line to Blackburn gave an opportunity to catch some back.
....or would have done had we not arrived at Clitheroe just as a local train departed. This meant we'd have to stand until it cleared Daisyfield Junction some 10 miles further down the line. As we waited an announcement was made that a signalman had also noted that 56115's marker lights were not lit and as a result we would have to proceed at reduced speed (what, more reduced than the stagger we'd suffered from Hellifield??).
And stagger we did, getting to Blackburn 56 minutes late. We were not booked to stop, but were informed that there would be a short pause for a crew change.
Cue mega-farce (been a while since a real decent one)........
As we sat and watched the minutes tick by it became clear that something was causing a delay. A PA announcement for a first aider was the first confirmation and shortly after this an ambulance turned up to see to a passenger who was taken ill in the buffet car (not funny I know, but the second tour on the trot I've been on where an ambulance has had to be summoned for an ill passenger!). A second announcement then came to say that all the lights had now failed on 56115 - we were going nowhere for a while.....
....and nowhere we did go. 7pm became 8pm and it was by now dark, and raining. Many rumours circulated and the Mercia stewards did their best to keep everyone informed of the situation - which was not easy as it appeared neither Railtrack or EWS "control" seemed to know what was happening, or be making any decisions to resolve our predicament. Two things were suggested to get us on the move again - 56094 was on its way to rescue us was the first and the second was that an emergency headlamp had been despatched from Warrington - in a taxi !!
Some of the trains participants spent the time conversing with "normal" passengers (mostly female on their way to nightclubs) and a couple of drunks who turned up. Most of it was good humoured although one of the drunks was quite abusive and after a while a couple of British Transport Police officers turned up to keep an eye on events.
A call from a colleague on the Hertfordshire tour told us we were not alone in being delayed - they were sat at Bletchley because of a points failure. I'd also heard that the kettle on the Past Time jaunt had failed and 37219 was now in charge of the train. Damn, a required haulage for me! (subsequent to me writing this I received the following comments from Malcolm Thompson : This is not quite right - the 8F, 48773, didn't actually fail. It slipped to a stand in Eaves Tunnel near Chapel-en-le-Frith. This was perhaps not entirely surprising - the rails in the tunnel would have been quite wet, it is on a 1-in-58 gradient and the train was loaded to 11 coaches. Eventually, it was decided to send for assistance from 37219 which was at Buxton. This duly arrived wrong line and was attached to the front. It certainly assisted on the restart but once underway it was quite clear that the 8F was doing virtually all the work. The 37 was removed just outside Buxton station, to be re-attached to the rear. When we left Buxton, 37219 drew us back into the Up Goods Loop, were it was detached and the 8F continued to Derby on its own. So the only haulage with the 37 you would have been able to count was a little bit (maybe about 200 yards) double-heading with the 8F on the restart at Eaves Tunnel and the reversal movement (0.2 miles) from Buxton station to the Up Goods Loop. I stand corrected, thanks Malcolm).
Anyway, enough of the problems being suffered by other railtours and back to our predicament....
The emergency headlamp arrived first (to cries of "but does it work?") and we finally got on the move again at 20.50 courtesy of the replacement headlamp rather than 56094 which was nowhere to be seen. We were a mere two and three-quarter hours late by now! At this stage the stewards threw their emergency procedures into overdrive and walked the length of the train to find out where every passenger was headed and how - many by now having missed any chance of getting their last trains home. Further rumours also circulated about line closures further south and whether the train would be able to make it back to Watford or not. It was soon confirmed that the Trent Valley route from Stafford to Rugby was closed for maintenance, so the train would be diverted via the Birmingham area. This meant missing out the stops at Lichfield and Nuneaton. Alternative arrangements were made for all concerned even for people headed back to destinations such as Reading, Leominster and Shrewsbury.
56094 was noted as we sped through Warrington Bank Quay (I suspect it never was headed to rescue us) and also 66212, one of the most recent arrivals from Canada. At Crewe we lost 56115 for 58005 and departure was at 22.24, 164 minutes behind plan.
With no worries about getting home (a five minute lift for me) the "dramas" associated with the mega-late running kind of passed us by, perhaps helped along a bit by another bottle of beer too. From Stafford we were routed towards Wolverhampton then via Bescot, Aston and Stechford to Coventry where we "regained" the booked route. I was pleased at the diversion as at Bescot I saw 66201 and 66216. There was also a 67 stabled but I didn't get its number - though a fellow passenger said it was 67014.
Sunday arrived just as we departed Coventry.
We finally arrived back into Northampton at 00.39, so the diversion did not gain or loose any significant time over the original schedule as the train was still about 2 hours 45 minutes late. An estimated arrival into Watford of 2am looked like being beaten though.
Verdict : A really good day out, despite the farce caused by the failure of 56115's lights. All credit to the Mercia Charters team for their efforts keeping passengers informed and making alternative arrangements for those who were going to have problems getting home - without their efforts I'm sure there could have been many stranded passengers. My only complaint for the whole day was actually about one of the other passengers in my coach - the sort (you'll know the type) for whom even a five minute delay manages to spoil their whole day out. He spent almost the entire way from Blackburn to Northampton loudly proclaiming how bad the situation had been handled and demanding a full refund every time a steward passed by. What a total prat he was - absolutely no grasp of the situation or the efforts that had made to eliminate and/or minimise any further problems!!
1Z92 : Watford Junction - Carlisle
1Z93 : Carlisle - Watford Junction
Watford Junction to Crewe & return : 58005 "Ironbridge Power Station"
|32||26||Milton Keynes Central||06.54a||-||:||22.15d||-||---||--|
|108||19||Lichfield Trent Valley||08.45a||08.55||:||20.31d||Div||--||--|
|148||18||Basford Hall Jn||09/28||09/37||:||19/46||22/28||1||60|
Train was diverted from Stafford to Coventry due to closure of Trent Valley line for engineering work. Re-route details as follows;
|Perry Bar North Jn||--/--||23/22|
Crewe - Carlisle : 92017 (plus dead 56115)
|16||39||Weaver Jn SB||10/26||(10/52)|
|22||22||Acton Grange Jn||10/31||10/56|
|24||08||Warrington Bank Quay||10/32||10/58|
|34||40||Springs Branch Jn||10/41||11/06|
|35||69||Wigan North Western||10/42||11/08|
|43||40||Balshaw Lane Jn||10/50||11/16|
|73||69||Morecambe South Jn||11/26||(11/48)|
|78||04||Carnforth North Jn||11/29||11/51|
Carlisle - Crewe : 56115
|0||51||London Road Jn||15/19||15/46|
|0||70||Petteril Bridge Jn||15/20||15/48|
|120||19||Lostock Hall Jn||18/17||(21/00)|
|125||75||Balshaw Lane Jn||18/31||21/19|
|133||46||Wigan North Western||18/39||21/24|
|134||75||Springs Branch Jn||18/41||21/25|
|145||27||Warrington Bank Quay||18/51||21/34|
|147||13||Acton Grange Jn||18/53||21/35|
|152||76||Weaver Jn SB||19/00||21/40|
|160||51||Winsford Jn SB||19/07||21/46|
a : arrival time
d : departure time
Div : diverted via different route
L : loco change
r : reversal of direction
/ : passing time
A time in brackets is approximate.
All distances, in miles and chains (M & C), are taken from the timing sheet given out on the train. No attempt has been made to verify the mileages given. Mileages for diversion via Bescot have not been determined.
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