5th February 2000

Hertfordshire Rail Tours
The Dartmoor Pony

Loco Used 66066

Route :
1Z40 : Finsbury Park - Meldon Quarry
1Z41 : Meldon Quarry - Finsbury Park

Finsbury Park - Gospel Oak - Acton Wells Jn - (GWML) - Reading - Exeter St Davids (via Westbury and Frome avoiding lines)
Exeter St Davids - Meldon Quarry
Meldon Quarry - Exeter St Davids
Exeter St Davids - (reverse of outward route, except via Westbury station) - Finsbury Park

Source : David Clark.
(on main tour throughout)

Tour review (by David Clark) :

This tour was from Finsbury Park to a former Southern Region branch to Okehampton and Meldon Quarry utilising one of EWS's Class 66 locomotives all the way.

A very early departure from Scunthorpe (Actually 3.30am!!!) saw us drive to Stevenage. We got there in plenty of time, and ended up trying to put money in to the ticket machines. In the end we found out that the ticket office was opening up soon and caught the 6.30 WAGN service to Kings Cross (well Finsbury Park actually) via the Hertford Loop.

During the journey down we passed another set of coaching stock for another tour. After joining the main line at Alexandra Palace we saw the RCS green Southern Stock and 66066. The coaching stock came in to Finsbury Park in enough for an on-time departure.

We departed on-time and became early on out schedules by Camden Rd East Junction. The journey along the North London Line was slow as we crossed over the running lines from St Pancras and Marylebone. We passed over the West Coast Line at Willesden Junction and headed round towards Acton Wells Jct. On Old Oak Common was noted two 37s and a 73. No sign of the 67 though.

We came off the North London Line and headed on to the Great Western Main Line. Like most times Acton stabling point was surrounded by Foster Yeoman/ARC wagons. We did see though 66096, 66097 and 66174. None of which were required for sight.

Arrival at Ealing Broadway was 9 up on the schedules but departed on-time. This was the feature of much of the days running with early arrivals at stations and on-time departures from them. The other pick-up points were Slough and Reading. Departure from Reading saw speed picked up all the way to Heywood Rd Jct to take the Westbury avoiding line. Just before Fairwood Jct I noticed a Foster Yeoman 59/0 in original livery and a 66. I though typical!!, I required one 59 for sight and it was a Foster Yeoman one!!! Another piece of fast running saw is running early on our schedule s and arrived in to Exeter St Davids 19 early.

We wandered around Exeter, before deciding to go back to the station. Back there we saw a number of Wales and West 150s, Great Western 125s and a couple of South West Trains 159s. On the depot was a 150 and a 153, not a single 50, 33 and 37 in sight compared to 1987, the last time I was there.

The 66 ran round the train and we all clambered aboard. Departure from Exeter was at 11.58 and we took the Barnstaple branch as far as Crediton. Just one more note about Exeter is that one of the level crossings at one end of the station has five tracks and is quite busy while the people of Lincoln are complaining about two tracks and a few units now and again.

Soon after leaving Exeter 60099 was seen on the freight yard on a rake of wagons. The second sight of a 60 at Exeter after we saw 60033 on what looked like Steel Scrap. Passing Cowley Bridge Jct, the scenery changed. The line followed the river and at Crediton it was again clear that a number of people had come out to see the train. The junction was taken for the freight line to Meldon Quarry. Apart from the scenery there is not a lot that can be said about the line. Okehampton was reached and the restored station looked nice, but we were to return there later. We were soon approaching Meldon Quarry ground frame. People started moving towards the front of the train as only two coached were to be in the platform (including the generator car).

In the complex was 08937, one coach from 4 CEP 1589, sleeper vehicle 10595 and a buffet coach from another South West Unit. We got off the train and took a walk along the old track bed to Bude and it was also on the former line down towards the Gunnislake Branch. The scenery was spectacular and it wasn't until we walked back towards the quarry we saw how steep the line was. We decided to wander underneath the viaduct. Well the structure was similar to that of the Bridge over the River Kwai. We were warned about a steep path that led to the bottom of the valley. It was a steep path and quite muddy, but we managed to get down to the bottom and back.

The train had gone out of the station to enable the loco to run round. As soon as the train came in we boarded, and as other people walked down past us it was quite am using to see the faces of people as I sat reading the Pathfinder Tour brochure. The train departed on time and made out towards Okehampton. We arrived at Okehampton four late. We saw that many of the locals were out to see us. In fact the train was advertised outside the station. So we were celebrities for once!!! The town itself was quite nice but was at the bottom of a steep valley and a bus was laid on for those people unable to get down. We wandered back to the train for our journey home.

Departure time came and we departed on time and the 66 made pulled no punches as it quickly moved down the line, and as we got closer to Exeter the light got dimmer. Near Crediton there was a poor fox which had avoided the hound but got hit by the train. Departure from Exeter came and the journey was quite quick and so any time lost was made up by Taunton. We were soon approaching Westbury. There were two 66s and a 59 (Any gen on these will be welcomed!). We had a quick run from Westbury to Newbury from where we were pathed behind a Thames Service.

However, we arrived at Reading early and sat in the platform for 12 mins. To add salt in to the wounds a stopped to Ealing Broadway was pathed in front of our train. We did see however, 47806 depart Reading to Poole. We departed Reading spiritedly but by Twyford were switched to the slow lines. By Slough we were a minute down but moved quickly then to Ealing Broadway where we were on-time. A spirited departure from Ealing was halted by a signal check near Acton where more wagons were seen as well as 66096. We climbed Acton bank towards Willesden and made out to Camden Rd East Junction.

Problems though arose at Camden Rd Station which could have affected the rest of the journey. 66126 was sat in the station on an intermodal train. It halted our progress as the train covered the junction down to Kings Cross Freight Terminal Jct. We were soon on our way and was able to get in to Finsbury Park 10 late, just in time to get out 365 to Stevenage.

Yet again we had a long drive back to Scunthorpe and arrived home at 1am!! It allowed me to reflect on another good tour with a good route, but a Brush 4 instead of a 66 might have been nicer. Okehampton was a interesting place to visit and I hope that the Exeter to Meldon Quarry line proves a success.

David Clark

Route, Distances and Timing's (Booked & Actual)

M C Location Booked Actual : Booked Actual
0 00 Finsbury Park 07.43d 07.43 : 21.42a 21.52
1 57 Kings Cross Freight Terminal Jn 07/49 07/47 : 21/36 21/43
2 11 Camden Road East Jn 07/56 07/50 : 21/33 21/39
3 47 Gospel Oak 08/03 07/55 : 21/26 21/28
7 54 Kensal Green Jn 08/13 08/04 : 21/18 21/20
7 76 Willesden Jn High Level 08/15 08/06 : 21/17 21/18
8 61 Acton Wells Jn 08/17 08/08 : 21/15 21/16
9 33 Acton Main Line 08/23 08/12 : 21/12 21/12
10 68 Ealing Broadway 08.27a 08.16 : 21.08d 21.07
-- -- - 08.29d 08.29 : 21.06a 21.06
14 18 Southall 08/36 08/36 : 21/00 21/01
16 37 Heathrow Airport Jn 08/38 08/38 : 20/58 20/59
23 48 Slough 08.46a 08.45 : 20.50d 20.51
-- -- - 08.47d 08.49 : 20.48a 20.49
29 31 Maidenhead 08/54 08/55 : 20/38 20/38
36 13 Twyford 08/59 09/01 : 20/30 20/30
41 10 Reading 09.05a 09.09 : 20.22d 20.22
-- -- - 09.08d 09.10 : 20.19 20.07
42 74 Southcote Jn 09/13 09/13 : 20/04 20/03
58 18 Newbury 09/27 09/27 : 19/47 19/44
71 41 Bedwyn 09/38 09/38 : 19/36 19/32
84 05 Woodborough 09/48 ??/?? : 19/26 ??/??
93 18 Lavington 09/55 ??/?? : 19/17 ??/??
99 57 Heywood Road Jn 10/03 10/02 : 19/11 19/08
??? ?? Westbury --.-- --.-- : 19/09 19/06
102 14 Fairwood Jn 10/05 10/03 : 19/06 19/03
105 36 Clink Road Jn 10/08 10/07 : 19/02 19/00
107 38 Blatchbridge Jn 10/10 10/10 : 18/59 18/58
120 27 Castle Cary 10/26 10/22 : 18/48 18/47
142 67 Cogload Jn 10/50 10/42 : 18/30 18/28
147 70 Taunton 10/56 10/46 : 18/26 18/25
162 04 Tiverton Parkway 11/08 10/59 : 18/13 18/13
177 30 Cowley Bridge Jn 11/23 11/11 : 17/59 18/00
178 50 Exeter St Davids 11r35a 11.16 : 17r56d 17.57
--- -- - 11r58d 11.58 : 17r30a 17.25
179 70 Cowley Bridge Jn 12/02 12/02 : 17/23 17/17
185 46 Crediton 12t10a 12.11 : 17t10d 17.04
--- -- - 12t11d 12.11 : 17t09a 17.04
203 45 Okehampton 12/40 12/50 : 16.30d 16.34
--- -- - --.-- --.-- : 14.40a 14.36
205 53 Meldon Quarry 12r55a 13.10 : 14r25d 14.25

a : arrival time
d : departure time
r : reversal of direction
t : stop to pick-up/drop-off token
/ : passing time

All distances, in miles and chains (M & C), are taken from the timing sheet given out on the train. No attempt has been made to verify the mileages given.

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