Posted in Railways on Friday 18th June 2010 at 10:40pm

After weeks of wondering if this ambitious trip would make it off the block, I finally found myself on Wolverhampton station with the monitor listing the 07:29 to Inverness. Notwithstanding all the problems with Network Rail's train planning, froth over changes of traction, and my own work tribulations, I was reliably informed that the train was on it's way. With commuters stunned out of their everyday complacency by a platform change, there were just a few of us - clearly tour participants - lingering on platform 1 as 37608 and 37610 thundered around the corner on a rake of eight coaches. Swiftly boarded, found my home for the next four days and settled in for the long ride north. There was a real sense of excitement onboard - something which was really great to feel involved in, given the rather muted and cynical reactions which seemed to have seeped from real life into this most unreal of hobbies lately. No-one seemed to mind the lack of a Class 20 given a winning pair of noisy and capable Type 3's on the front, and once the excellent food started arriving from the Kitchen Car, all other gripes and groans seemed forgotten as our seating bays entered into a discussion of the route ahead.

First proper sight of 37608 and 37610 at Warrington Bank Quay
First proper sight of 37608 and 37610 at Warrington Bank Quay

An early arrival at Warrington allowed the first real chance to get a look at - and a picture of - the locos. By now, news had reached us that the plan was to run the leading loco around at Carlisle, as double-heading wasn't permitted over the Tay Bridge. Whether both locos would be returned to the front at Aberdeen remained to be seen. The day was really warming up now, and it was good to just relax and let the buzz of rumours and wonderings wash over me. I skimmed a few work emails and noted that the world was running smoothly without me - both a blessing and a curse in these times of self-justification in the public sector. In any case, it was wildly different from the days when I seemed to be at the beck and call of any emergency which flashed through the department. Counted my blessings, drank coffee and ate far too much as we sped through the familiar and much loved Cumbria scenery towards Carlisle and our next break.

Following a run around to meet weight restrictions over the Tay Bridge, 37610 leads at Carlisle
Following a run around to meet weight restrictions over the Tay Bridge, 37610 leads at Carlisle

With the locos reconfigured we set off, again heading into the wonderful scenery which blesses the northern reaches of the West Coast Mainline. Felt a pang of regret when we passed Carstairs that I wasn't turning west and heading for Glasgow - but the thought of the coming days of travel soon dispelled this. Instead, mulled over my plans for an Ayrshire tour with AC Electrics which I decided I must share with Spitfire people soon! Through the busy yards at Mossend and Coatbridge which kept the spotters very busy for a while, before heading back into more rural scenery around Stirling. With the sun still high, the journey took on a new character here as we made slow, lazy progress along the Alloa branch towards Dunfermline. We lost a lot of time here, and slotting into the busy service north of Edinburgh saw us get back onto the mainline an hour late. This meant the break at Aberdeen was lost, but we were on time and in our booked path - which on this line with long sections and few slots was a blessing. Instead, we managed a few minutes on the freezing platform at Dyce, watching planes take off from nearby Aberdeen airport. One enterprising passenger also made a dash to the local fish and chip shop in the short time available!

The last leg of the journey ran smoothly, and I enjoyed the chance to take in a line I see very rarely. The approach to Inverness along the coast was, as ever stunning - though this way into the City lacks some of the drama of arriving via the Highland Mainline. The evening sun was still in the sky as we drew into the station, and wearily but happily trudged off to the various hotels and guest houses which must have seen an excellent trade from the tour. Made the familiar and quick walk over to the river, and to the Columba Hotel, home for the next few days and still as comfortable and calm as ever. Almost embarassed to present my dishevelled and travel-weary self to the perfectly turned out receptionist. Settled into my cool, quiet room and prepared for a lazy start tomorrow. An epic journey today, but a great start to the trip.

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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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