Posted in Railways on Saturday 28th April 2007 at 11:30pm
Frustratingly, given that this is the first update for a long time where I've managed to get out and about, there are no pictures - due to some technical problems and very little spare time to sort things out. It's been an unusual couple of weeks - with family members descending due to a confusing house move, and lots of work related tribulations. I'd been looking forward to this trip for quite a while - a local start, decent mileage and a pair of Class 47s being the attractions. No particularly difficult track to score this time, but a few hours in York is always welcome. This would be my first trip with Hertfordshire Railtours, and the first operated by newcomers Victa Westlink Rail.
Set off with a lift from my sister to Taunton station. The tour commenced at Minehead and made slow progress over the West Somerset Railway, until Norton Fitzwarren where it joined the network and arrived on time. Spent the wait chatting with a few locals about the day ahead, and confirming the arrangement - double-headed with 47847 up front and 47815 tucked inside the train. The plan was to turn the train during the ECS move after York, with the same arrangement heading back. Once onboard, noted the SRPS stock which had been borrowed by the WSR was in very good shape compared to some of the Riviera rakes - but strangely not particularly comfortable. It was also incredibly hot, with the train heat blasting out unnecessary amounts of hot air. It was already shaping up to be a bright warm morning, and the people in the compartment stock further along the train looked pink and overheated already!
We made steady progress northwards, with stops at Weston-super-Mare, Bristol Temple Meads and Parkway, with the first real excitement occurring on the Lickey Bank. With only one loco running at this point and a load of nine Mk1s and a dead 47, there were moments when it all felt slightly impossible, and a great deal of noise and clag appeared to be coming from 47847. Moving at a relative crawl we reached the summit at Blackwell and began to accelerate once again. Took the Camp Hill line at Kings Norton, then avoid New Street entirely via Landor Street Jcn. Noted some impressive speeds between Water Orton and Derby - reminding me of some spirited Cross Country runs down here in similar circumstances a decade or so ago. After Chesterfield, took the Old Road via Barrow Hill to avoid Sheffield, and again made fine progress, having to wait time at the depressingly derelict Rotherham Masborough station. Once onto the East Coast at Doncaster, set out quickly before being briefly looped at Arksey. Rolled into a sweltering and bright York bang on time.
Another couple of tours had targetted the city today - including a luxury dining tour from Tonbridge and a steam hauled trip from Tyseley. Rood Ashton Hall was steaming gently in the station on our arrival at the adjacent platform. After the obligatory photo stop, set out for the city centre and a pint at The Maltings. Very busy - standing room only in fact, but cool and pleasant nonetheless. Wandered a little further into the city before re-crossing Lendal Bridge and walking along the City Wall back towards the station. Decided to retrace the route it used to be necessary to take to the National Railway Museum, along Leeman Road and under the railway. Not much had changed at the museum since my last visit, but a quick check in the yard saw Rood Ashton Hall being serviced for it's return trip. Made my way back to the station with the intention of getting a bite to eat and whiling away an hour or so on the platform.
After watching the departure of the 47 hauled Tonbridge trip and then the steam, wandered over to our platform for the return of our stock. Rumour has it that this went as far as Tyne Yard to be serviced - but that's not confirmed. Some early misinformation that this would happen with passengers allowed to remain on board was immediately denounced as 'utter rubbish' - appropriately by the man collecting the litter! Set out on time, and even after 17:00 the sunshine was still strong enough to make the carriage almost uncomfortably hot! Retraced our outward route, missing out Worcester, to Weston-super-Mare where I bailed to face the wait for the final stopper of the evening.
The Intercity Merrymaker format is interesting and good value, but I can't help but feel that some extra touches might have made the day run a little more smoothly - not least better buffet and trolley provision, although the SRPS folks did a fair job in the restricted space available. I can't honestly complain - 500 miles plus of large-logo 47 mileage for a reasonable price can't be bad.
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.