Posted in Railways on Saturday 28th November 2009 at 10:11pm

Woke a little earlier than I needed to, after a night of odd and troubling dreams. I can't help but wonder if these were related to being in Wolverhampton - which just seems to become a stranger place everytime I visit. However, there's no doubting it's convenience as I was soon trudging along the colonnade and into the High Level station. The small crowd joining our train had caught the buffet staff unawares, so breakfast was off the cards - but much needed coffee was avaialble. Noted some now very familiar faces in the crowd, as the growl of 37609 and 37259 was heard - commendably early - from the direction of Crane Street Junction. The stock was, as ever, a mixed bag - but noted that we were in a very pleasant ex-Blue Pullman coach which was in excellent condition. Settled in for the trip north in some comfort. We took the familiar route, often used by Charter Trains, via Telford and Shrewsbury, then turned east to Nantwich and Crewe. Here we crossed onto the line to Manchester, following this as far as Stockport where we took the 'ghost train' route via Denton to Guide Bridge. With the sky looking a little brighter, noted a dusting of snow capping the Pennines. Relaxed and chatted with some of the usual suspects as we sped east.

After passing Huddersfield, we turned north again through Milford Junction and were soon in York. Here we joined two other charters, lined up along the western reaches of the station with Pathfinder's trip to Durham arriving shortly after us. We were first off however, and after dropping those who'd come for the Christmas Market and collecting a fair few passengers for the trip to Newcastle we set off on the second leg of this tour - dubbed The Growling Geordie! This started with a rather swift dash up the East Coast Main Line, through flat and very wet fields, and crossing still swollen rivers. Around the back of Darlington station for the second time in two trips, then a quick glance at the breathtaking views across Durham as we flashed past. Soon enough we were crossing the Tyne and curving into the impressive station. Perhaps more surprisingly, we were doing so in low but bright winter sunshine. Made a dash for the front for the obligatory photographs.

37609 leads 37259 on arrival at Newcastle
37609 leads 37259 on arrival at Newcastle

Ventured out into Newcastle with some trepidation. A home match is never a recommendation for exploring a city - but with St. James Park being very much a city centre ground, things here were going to be more congested. For this reason I avoided the lure of some of the interesting pubs in town, and went for a wander around the eastern part of the city centre. Found some refreshments for the journey back, and when the crowds became denser and harder to navigate, made a dash back to the station to enjoy the sunshine, grab a coffee and watch the stock arrive for the trip home. Felt very content lazing around in the sunshine despite it being November!

37259 waits in the sun for the trip along the coast
37259 waits in the sun for the trip along the coast

Once onboard the stock it became clear that all was not well. Firstly, the Class 47 which had been providing heating wasn't on the back anymore. Rumours of serious wheelflats had already reached us - but it seems it had remained at Heaton Depot where the stock had been serviced. So, despite providing a much nicer coach, WCRC had once again let down Spitfire and it's passengers by providing an unserviceable ETH loco. Decided this wasn't going to affect me - and settled in for the trip around the coast. This route gets little attention from railtours, and indeed this was only my second visit - the previous one having been on a unit four years ago. We curved onto the south bank of the Tyne, passing the site of the once mighty Gateshead Depot, and marvelled at the new developments of housing replacing the industrial landscape. After a brief run alongside the Metro, we shared tracks with it from Pelaw to Sunderland where the underground station is under seemingly constant repair. Bursting out into an amazing sunset on the coast, enjoyed views across the grassy flats to the North Sea. It was getting a little chilly on board, but beer and conversation helped - and the views were genuinely stunning. Soon turning back inland, we made for Northallerton and rejoined the ECML for the dash down to York. Now fully dark, the stock was lit by the customary emergency lights which have become the norm on the way back over the last few trips. Much grumbling from the punters joining at York who'd been trudging around the freezing city all day and were looking forward to a nice warm carriage home! Rumours of a relief loco to provide heat proved unfounded, and we were soon off again in the dark and cold.

A variation in the route home took us through Ferrybridge, Sheffield and on to the Hope Valley line. Little to see in the pitch black, but some interesting running nonetheless. Regained our outward route via Guide Bridge and began the process of setting down some very cold, but mostly content passengers. We kept excellent time throughout the homeward run, and I soon found myself stepping off the train at Wolverhampton - and despite having enjoyed the run back, looking forward to my warm hotel room! Some quick goodbyes and over the bridge to fight my way out of the station through the Saturday night crowds, which again convinced me this wasn't a place to socialise often! Once again today, the rolling stock provider let down the Tour Organiser. The great shame is that people who planned a pleasant day out won't be privy to this, and will assume otherwise. Spitfire have provided an excellent programme of interesting trips this year, using locos which don't get an airing with other operators, and travelling over some less visited lines - not least today's trip. Long may they continue, and even more amazingly - despite all the gripes, railway politics and armchair-expert drivel they remain very nice people!

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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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