Posted in Railways on Saturday 29th September 2007 at 11:44pm

At last, found myself back on the rails and not a moment too soon. This tour, originally planned for June, was pretty simple - a pair of 37s would meander it's way to Lancaster, take the Cumbrian Coast line, and head back via the West Coast Main Line. Oddly, given the mess of cancellations and reschedulings this summer, the Lakeland Express II was taking place some months before the Lakeland Express I! It was almost inevitable given the state of the EWS fleet that we would have 37410 and 37417 today, but having heard about their performance on the Torbay Express a couple of weeks back, this wasn't a concern.

So, down into the depths of New Street after breakfast to watch the locos arrive double-heading a rake of ex-Anglia MkII air conditioned stock. Rather unexpected, but all was soon explained - the tight clearances between Maryport and Carlisle have led to tours being banned for a number of years, and having few opening windows was a condition for this trip running. Settled in for the ride out to Shrewsbury and through the Welsh Borders to Wrexham General. The pair of locos were performing perfectly, despite the timings being less than challenging. Extended stops at Shrewsbury and at Wrexham were followed by some more challenging times through Chester and onto the WCML at Acton Grange. We were booked a long stop at Preston to service the stock, and in weak sunlight we got our first real chance to see the 37s.

37410 leads the train at Preston
37410 leads the train at Preston

We passed Carnforth on the rather rare Up and Down Goods Line in improving weather, and started our long slog along the coast. The flat countryside gave way to increasingly mountainous terrain inland, and as we curved southwards towards Barrow the marshy fringe of Morecambe Bay dominated the seaward view. Another brief stop at Barrow, much as I recalled it from another visit coming the other way along this line just a couple of years back. Underway again, and northwards towards Sellafield. There had been much excitement earlier as we'd realised that the four huge cooling towers at Calder Hall were due to be demolished today. As it turned out, the towers fell at around 09:00 and as we passed the mysterious complex all was quiet and deserted, and the horizon looked strangely empty. A good few DRS locos on shed at Sellafield too, and as always, no people around. However a Police vehicle did seem to appear quite suddenly and prowl around the station area during our very brief stop!

Onwards along the coast, noting the strange beachfront shacks, some closed up for the winter and clearly holiday homes - but others inhabited and busy with activity. It must be strange to live hear, between the railway and the sea, and in the ominous shadow of the reprocessing plant. The last stretch of our outward trip was preceded by dire warnings about the tight clearances, and stewards were posted at every droplight by order of Network Rail. No-one lost any appendages, and we arrived in Carlisle only a few minutes late despite a slow trundle around the coast.

37417 and 37410 run around the stock at Carlisle
37417 and 37410 run around the stock at Carlisle

After watching our locos run around the stock, walked briefly into Carlisle. Despite many visits I've never really walked far from the station. On a Saturday afternoon, the town was busy with lots of young Emo types lounging around the square and outside the Courts. A European market was in full swing, and resisting the various delights on offer wasn't easy. Headed back to the station to find a tense situation between a couple of gangs of local kids. The Police shepherded them along, depositing the whole lot at the door of the station! The vague threat of teenage violence continued on the platforms, and a member of staff in the buffet remarked what a strange idea it was to take a gang off the street right outside the Police Station and to move them somewhere far more dangerous! After a bite to eat, back on board and ready for our long homeward journey.

Once underway, headed for the door and stuck my head out of the window. It was freezing and the light was failing, but the sound of the pair of locos thrashing up to Shap Summit was unforgettable. Stayed at the window for the curves and twists to Tebay - fantastic entertainment which reminded me why I love these days out so much. Back in the warm, surprised by a sudden flash of red light in the sky at Hest Bank. A huge sunset silenced everyone in the coach, and a few tried to capture it in a photograph. A magical moment to end a refreshing and enjoyable trip. Not long until the next one I hope...

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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.

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