Posted in Railways on Saturday 11th September 2010 at 10:09pm
I was surprised and impressed by Doncaster yesterday - once I'd negotiated the strange Frenchgate centre which now dominates one whole side of the town at least. The streets were laid out with an international market, and there was quite a buzz around. I realised later that this was St.Leger Festival week - a race meeting, cunningly turned into a bigger cultural event. Nonetheless, there were plenty of happy faces and well-turned out people wandering about which can't be bad for business. Doncaster at 04:30 however was a different proposition, and negotiating the same street was a complicated slalom around delivery vans and bored security guards who were determined to stop passage, with absolutely no authority at all. Not sorry to get to the station, which was still locked up on arrival. Watched the usual crowd of faces assemble, as ever feeling a little reassured that I'd ended up in the right place at the right time!
Once onto the station, it was only a matter of minutes before 47760 arrived with the stock. The plan had been to squash all the passengers travelling down to London into the first three coaches - but since plenty of stewards had turned up for the start, we were able to head straight for our allocated seats for the day. The concept of running the positioning move to London as a passenger train was an enlightened one - more miles for the money, and a chance to sample an uninterrupted dash down the East Coast Main Line early in the morning. There was a fair turn out too, meaning this otherwise empty train made a little money for Spitfire too! We set off almost exactly on time, and headed out of Doncaster via the complex alternative routes around the station. The exact route is hard to pin down as it was dark, but I'm fairly certain the flyover didn't figure, sadly. From here, it was a fairly sleepy run down to London, with the sun rising somewhere around Peterborough. Caught up with the usual bunch and wondered if we'd managed to respect the 10:30 beer curfew imposed by the loco owning group? After a storming run down, there was a chance to get a picture of the 47 on the blocks and a decent coffee before getting back on board for the main event.
Now this is where it began to get really interesting. After a storming start, and a thunderous passage of the tunnels outside Kings Cross, we were soon speeding through the suburbs. The Deltic was doing what it was designed for - sustained periods of high-speed running on a fast route. With the countryside flashing past and the Napier engines singing at the front of the train, settled in to enjoying the day. The weather was mostly fine as we dashed north - with just one or two showers. Plenty of beer and a chance to catch up with friends also made for an excellent trip. Once again the veterans of Coach K managed to alienate another passenger seated with us - although I'm not quite sure how as he only lasted about ten minutes this time...seems my record is getting steadily worse! After pick-ups at Potters Bar and Peterborough, it was a none stop run to York where we deposited some day trippers and picked up some cranks for the journey to Newcastle. Again, some fine running along the flat, fairly featureless line here. Arrival over the Tyne was as ever quite an event, and there were plenty of photographers out to see us. So many in fact, that the platform end turned into a bit of a scrum. Abandoned hope of a picture at this point and wandered into town.
Only a short break, and with Newcastle City Centre full of home fans, as ever on these trips it seems, this made getting provisions for the way home a challenge. A series of text messages ensured beer supplies were sorted, so back to the station to get a shot of the stock arriving in the now very bright and sunny afternoon. Back on board for a prompt departure, and a run via the coast. This line struck me as a far more interesting route than the ECML when I last covered it and it didn't disappoint today with coastal views, tall ships and plenty of people out to see us pass. Back to York for a pick-up, where some fairly inattentive station staff seemed oblivious to a number of 'normals' boarding. Some of them had a very interesting trip back today no doubt! Another fantastic ride south, with a few periods of one-engine running which were, we were informed, for driver familiarisation purposes. It didn't affect the trip for me, and we stayed just a little late from some slow running around the coast. There were some moments of very high speed too, for balance! With lunch served in Premier Class we also got to sample the roast lamb, which was excellent and soaked up some of the beer. Got thinking as we sped south, what a civilised way to travel this is!
Arrival at the 'Cross was a little late, which meant a tight turnaround. Soon we were off with 47760 back in charge, for the return positioning working to Doncaster. We were chasing a possession here, with the lines due to close around 20 minutes after our booked arrival, and us running about 20 late! This seemed to spur the driver on, and after a few slacks south of Peterborough it was a decent run at high speed for the rest of the way. Arrived only a few minutes down, and stumbled onto the platform about sixteen hours after I'd left, having done well over 850 miles on the ECML today! Today's trip was a textbook railtour - interesting traction, varied routes, something for normals and cranks alike - and this was reflected in an almost entirely full train. A grand day out, andjust as a fancy dress party spilled noisily and colourfully out of a bar and onto the street.
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.