6th May 2000

Pathfinder Tours
The Oil Leake

Locos Used 47780, 56131 & 58016
Stock Used 4939+4946+5008+4916+4996+1813+35469+3144+3100+3110

Route :
1Z36 : Reading to East Leake
1Z37 : East Leake to Reading

Loco(s) Route
58016 Reading - Didcot - Swindon - Chippenham - Bath Spa - Dr Days Jn - Stapleton Road - Bristol Parkway - Yate - Cheltenham Spa - Abbotswood Jn - Stoke Works Jn - Barnt Green - Kings Norton - St Andrews Jn - Birmingham New St
56131 (1) Birmingham New St - Proof house Jn - Landor St Jn - Water Orton - (2) - Kingsbury Jn - Tamworth - Burton-on-Trent (up goods)
58016 (3) Burton-on-Trent (up goods) - Lichfield Trent Valley HL Jn - (4) - Lichfield HL Goods Loop Jn - Down & Up Goods Loop
56131 (1) Down & Up Goods Loop - Lichfield HL Goods Loop Jn - Lichfield Trent Valley HL Jn - Branston Jn - Birmingham Curve Jn - Mantle Lane - Wigston North Jn - (5) - Wigston South Jn (Up & Down Slow)
58016 (3) Wigston South Jn (Up & Down Slow) - Leicester (Up & Down Slow) - Loughborough South Jn - East Leake
56131 (1) East Leake - Loughborough South Jn - Leicester (6)
58016 (3) Leicester - Loughborough - Trent South Jn - Sheet Stores Jn - Stenson Jn - Burton-on-Trent - Lichfield Trent Valley HL Jn - Lichfield City - Brownhills
56131 (3) Brownhills - Lichfield City - Lichfield Trent Valley HL (7)
47780 (8) Lichfield Trent Valley HL - Blake St - Aston - Proof House Jn - Birmingham New Street
56131 Birmingham New Street - Selly Oak - Kings Norton - (reverse of outward route) - Reading

Notes :
(1) 58016 on rear.
(2) Booked route was via Whitacre Jn but direct route taken instead.
(3) 56131 on rear.
(4) Booked to go to Brownhills branch but abandoned due to lack of pilotman. Traversed curve to WCML instead and reversed to retrace our steps.
(5) Stopped on curve between Wigston North & South Jn's.
(6) Booked route was via Nuneaton and Lifford curve to Birmingham New St but we were re-routed as EWS/Railtrack had aranged for a traversal of the Brownhill line after all.
(7) Due to reverse and take Cross-City line to Birmingham - 58016 was however failed at this point due to a brake problem and we had to wait 90 minutes to be rescued.
(8) 58016 on front (not powering?) with 47780, 56131 (dead) on rear. Arrival at New St was 189 minutes late!!
(9) 58016 was due to take train back to Reading (via Selly Oak from New St) but owing to it failing, 56131 made the journey, the train going via St Andrews Jn.

Source : Gary Thornton (joined/left train at Birmingham New Street)

Tour review
(by Gary Thornton)

Back from Belgium and straight on to another UK railtour. My experiences on tours in April were, to say the least, unfortunate. How would this trip match up then? It was advertised to cover the Brownhills and East Leake freight branches as well as the Coalville through freight line - motive power being provided by a Class 56 and 58. From my perspective I needed both branches and also the curve onto the Coalville line so happily parted with my 40-odd quid. Joining at Birmingham New Street also gave the chance for a relatively late start and early finish too (famous last words...).

With almost perfect timing it also turned out that there would be the Fishwicks charter to Minehead in at New Street just a few minutes before us and this was due to be hauled by DRS traction. Sure enough I got a message just before getting to New Street that 20308 & 20311 were at the helm. Over to platform one to watch it arrive (what a lovely sound the pair of choppers made!) then we ducked over to platform 11 where our train had just arrived. 56131 had pulled in light engine and was to be our prime mover out of New Street - somewhere at the other end of the station was "bone" 016 which had brought the train up from Reading (and now relegated to the back of the consist).

Both locos were required haulages for me so the day was off to a good start....

Departure from New Street was bang on time and we headed for Burton-on-Trent via Water Orton, Whitacre Junction and Kingsbury Junction. Surprise by a few on board to see no sheds on Saltley then we had a chance to view all the new units waiting acceptance outside the Alstom works.

At Water Orton West Junction we took the "mainline" route to Burton-on-Trent so even at almost the earliest stage we had deviated from the booked route! Disappointing for anyone who required the Whitacre Junction to Kingsbury Junction stretch, I doubt the Pathfinder apology over the PA did much for them. Me, I got it for the first time a couple of weeks ago so wasn't so upset by the diversion! At Kingsbury Junction there was a Class 66 waiting the road north so presumably we'd been routed this way around it.

So here we are, running 20 minutes early and with a 7 minute reversal booked at Burton-on-Trent. Time for some photos? Nope - we pulled up in the up goods line which doesn't have a platform! Worst still, we were then told the new crew hadn't arrived so we would need to wait booked time.

.....and beyond......

We finally departed in the direction of Lichfield at 11.26, 15 minutes down. What an entertaining 45 minutes....not. Half the train seemed to have the same idea as me - use the dead time to visit the buffet for the first (or second, or third) beer of the day.

Sat now in the rear coach I was chatting to some friends as we approached Lichfield Trent Valley Junction where, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the front of the train turning right and dropping away round the curve. Hang on - that's the curve to the West Coast Mainline - we're not supposed to be going that way! Oh no, here we go again.... We stopped in the "down and up goods loop" adjacent to the WCML. Dud track for me but I'll bet there were a few smiling faces from those who "scratched in" this piece of track (wasn't there Denzil...?).

A quick PA announcement was made to prove that "team orange" were also on the ball - no reason offered for the second diversion of the day but a promise to let us know as soon as they found out. A fellow passenger beat them by several minutes - he received a call on his mobile to say the crew did not know the Brownhills line and there was no pilotman available to escort us either, so we were not going and had been shoved where we were, out of harms way!

Pathfinders next announcement confirmed what those of us in coach A already knew - we were reversing here and heading off to East Leake. They had however requested that we be allowed to proceed in our now (potentially) early path and had also requested EWS and Railtrack "get their act together" (my words, not Pathfinders) and allow us to traverse the branch later in the day.

Our nearby passenger then received another phone call which suggested the "run early" plan was doomed to failure before it was started - some of the signal boxes on the Coalville line were not yet opened. Hmmmm, remind me, why do I spend loads of my hard earned cash just to travel around all day over dud bits of passenger track...?

We left to head back from whence we'd come about 40 minutes early but half of this was destroyed as we sat at Wichnor Junction waiting the road.

We then took the (required by me) curve onto the Coalville line a few minutes later, still not knowing how far we would get before grinding to a halt at a signal waiting for a signalman to turn up (or not, as the case might be...). Usual stagger over the Coalville line ensued but at least we were still about 20 minutes early. We made it as far as Bagworth Junction where we were booked a 20 minute pathing stop - the stagger meant we arrived just 1 minute ahead of plan....and take the 20 minute pathing stop we did. We left just 3 minutes up on schedule. By Knighton Junction a continued stagger at slow speed meant we were now 14 minutes behind plan. Great!

No choice here but to turn right and head south along the Midland Main Line, but only as far as Wigston South Junction where we would stop to reverse. This was achieved using the up/down slow line on the triangle between north and south junctions. No time was gained an we ran into Leicester still around quarter of an hour adrift. Some rare track through the station though - we were booked to traverse the up/down slow, which we did. Departing Leicester 66226 and 66214 were noted, along with another unidentified class member. 58042 and a couple of 60's were also seen. 66217 was then passed on a freight working. We continued along the reversible slow line to Syston South Junction where we took the down slow as far as Loughborough South junction. Here we branched off on to the East Leake (Hotchley Hill) line.

Some interest as we climbed past the back of the Brush works - 47825, 47221, a Class 92 [Alan Vickers says his son had it as 92040] and Deltic D9016 (the purple peril) were seen along with a class 56 ( the "works shunter" presumably?). We traversed this branch up to the British Gypsum works at East Leake where a brief pause was made before heading south again.

Craig Simmons provided this photo of 56131 at East Leake station

Our nearby colleague received another call around here to confirm that EWS/Railtrack were indeed intending to get us to Brownhills before our return to Birmingham. Route was to be to Leicester, reverse, then via Loughborough and the Castle Donnington line to Burton-on-Trent. Some generous scheduling got us back into Leicester about on time and at last we got a few minutes to grab a photo or two.

Time to throw the timing sheet away now (though some had already I suspect) as we went off onto bits of track not intended when the tour was originally planned! It was hoped we'd get to Lichfield City around 6pm where a set-down stop was arranged. Now maybe I'm being a bit thick, but quite why anyone would intend getting off before doing the Brownhills line rather baffles me. I'd have thought a stop after doing the line would have been more a more sensible plan. It was now being envisaged that we would get back to Birmingham at about 8pm - or about 110 minutes late. If the train could be routed via the Cross-City line however then about 30 minutes could potentially be saved. Not so much chance then of beating the years current lateness record of 165 minutes, set on 1st April by another tour operator.....

As we traversed the line to Brownhills I was conversing with several of the Pathfinder Stewards and one interloper from Mercia Charters (whose tours always run to time, don't they Denzil...?) discussing Belgian Railways, the trip over to Belgium the previous week and future plans for more trips (though Mr Morgan was keeping very tight lipped there).

On the way back to Lichfield Trent Valley it was confirmed that we would be reversing to take the Cross-City line which was good news for those with connections to make. We pulled up at the platform at Lichfield Trent Valley to make our reversal....

.....and we sat...and sat....

...then came a PA announcement - the gremlins had struck and 58016 was experiencing some brake fault or other. A few minutes later came the unfortunate news that the crew had failed 58016. We were stuck now waiting a rescue locomotive (but quite why 56131, still stuck at the rear of the train, wasn't run round wasn't ever explained).

Sunset over the flats of Lichfield was really exciting, honestly.

I was getting a bit bored by this time and as a result did something I'll not often admit to in public - I borrowed a copy of a certain very regularly published railway magazine from a fellow passenger for a read. Oh dear, how the mighty have fallen. I abandoned my subscription to said magazine about two years ago and I can't say I have ever regretted it. Scanning through the sad pretence for a railway enthusiast magazine that was before me confirmed I was right to quit when I did - if anything it was worse than I remember. This issue just seemed to be mostly full of news taken from other sources, adverts with little relevance to rail enthusiasts and a long rambling article about a railway station (nice pictures - but did it really have to take up so many pages?).

Gen suggested rescue from Saltley would be by 47789 (good - a required haulage) but in the event dud 47780 turned up. It was quickly coupled up and departure was made at 20.37 so it was looking now like the record for late running for a railtour in 2000 was going to be beaten! Fairly boring run to Birmingham New Street and arrival was (finally) at 21.21 - 3 hours and 9 minutes late. To achieve this the booked run in via the Lifford Curve was abandoned. Don't think too many people were all that bothered about that (though doubtless someone was looking forward to getting it "in the book").

Congratulations Pathfinder you are the new holder of the "latest tour award", having beaten the previous record by 26 minutes!

At New Street 47780 disposed of the errant bone and 56131 took the train on its way back to Reading (via same route as used in the morning). With a booked arrival of 22.16, and the train still over 3 hours late when it left, I'm glad I wasn't travelling back to Didcot (a usual joining point for me)!

Verdict : Actually a good tour, despite the trials and tribulations on the day. Again, the problems were not of the tour operators making, but at least on this occasion EWS and Railtrack did "get it together" and manage to make sure we did cover the "primary" track as advertised.

Gary Thornton.

Timings (Booked and Actual)
(from Gary Thornton & Alan Vickers)


Location Booked Actual   Booked Actual



Reading 06.10d ?   22.16a ?



Didcot Parkway 06.28a ~ 06.30d ?   21.56a ~ 21.58d ?



Challow 06/39 ?   21/46 ?



Uffington 06/41 ?   21/44 ?


Swindon 06.53a ~ 06.56d ?   21.30a ~ 21.33d ?



Wootton Bassett Jn 07/03 ?   21/24 ?



Chippenham 07.14a ~ 07.16d ?   21.11a ~ 21.13d ?



Thingley Jn 07/19 ?   21/08 ?



Bathampton Jn 07/27 ?   21/00 ?



Bath Spa 07.30a ~ 07.33d ?   20.55a ~ 20.57d ?



North Somerset Jn 07/46 ?   20*26 ~ 20*38 ?



Dr. Days Jn 07/48 ?   20/24 ?



Stapleton Road 07/50 ?   20/22 ?



Filton Jn 07/54 ?   20/18 ?



Bristol Parkway 07.57a ~ 08.00d ?   20.14a ~ 20.16d 23.01 ~ ??.??



Westerleigh Jn 08/06 ?   20/08 22/55



Yate 08/09 ?   20/05 22/53



Charfield 08/15 ?   19/59 ?



Standish Jn 08/26 ?   19/48 22/38


Gloucester Yard Jn 08/36 ?   19*33 ~ 19*40 22/32


Barnwood Jn 08/37 ?   19/31 ?


Cheltenham Spa 08.44a ~ 08.52d ??.?? ~ 09.00   19.22a ~ 19.25d 22.23 ~ 22.25


Ashchurch 09/00 09/07   19/14 22/15


Abbotswood Jn 09/12 09/16   19/05 ?


Stoke Works Jn 09/22 09/24   18/55 ?


Bromsgrove 09/24 09/26   18/53 ?


Barnt Green 09/29 09/30   18/50 ?


Longbridge 09/35 09/35   18/48 ?


Kings Norton 09/41 09/40   18/39 ?


Bordesley 09/50 ?   DIV ?


St Andrews Jn 09/51 09/50   DIV ?


Proof House Jn 09/54 09/52   DIV ?



Selly Oak   18/35 DIV



Birmingham New Street [P11] 09L57a ~ 10L11d 09.52 ~ 10.11   18L27d ~ 18L12a 21.21 ~ 21.31




Location Booked Actual


Proof House Jn 10/14 10/14


Landor Street Jn 10/16 10/15


Castle Bromwich Jn 10/24 10/20


Water Orton West Jn 10/29 10/21


Water Orton 10/31 10/21


Whitacre Jn 10/31 DIV


Kingsbury Jn 10/44 10/24


Tamworth 10/50 10/28


Wichnor Jn 10/58 10/34


Burton-on-Trent (Up Goods) 11.04 ~ 11.11 10.41 ~ 11.26


Wichnor Jn 11/17 11/36


Alrewas LC 11/22 11/39


Lichfield Trent Valley Jn ??.?? 11/48
? Low Level, Down & Up Goods line DIV 11.49 ~ 11.54


Lichfield Trent Valley HL 11/28 DIV


Lichfield City 11t34 ~ 11t34 DIV


Brownhills 11.54 ~ 12.00 DIV


Lichfield City 12t17 ~ 12t25 DIV


Lichfield Trent Valley HL 12/30 DIV


Lichfield Trent Valley Jn ??.?? 11/55


Alrewas LC 12/39 12/01


Wichnor Jn 12/46 12.04 ~ 12.26


Branston Jn 12/54 12/34


Birmingham Curve Jn 12/58 12/38


Moira West Jn 13/09 12.57 ~ 12.57


Lounge Jn 13/18 13/11


Mantle Lane 13/29 13/28


Bagworth Jn 13*40 ~ 14*00 13.39 ~ 13.57


Knighton Jn 14/21 14/35


Wigston North Jn ** 14/25 14/39


Wigston South Jn ** 14.28 ~ 14.32 14.40 ~ 14.48


Wigston North Jn 14/36 14/50


Leicester South Jn 14/42 14/53


Leicester (Up/Dn Goods) (Up/Dn Slow) 14c44 ~ 14c47 14.56 ~ 15.01


Syston South Jn 14/54 15/09


Sileby Jn 14/59 15/12


Loughborough South Jn 15/08 15/20


East Leake (British Gypsum) 15.40 ~ 15.50 15.46 ~ 15.55


Loughborough South Jn 16/25 16/22


Sileby Jn 16/33 16/29


Syston South Jn 16/39 16/36


Leicester [P4] 16.45a ~ 16.47d 16.47 ~ 16.54

At this point the booked and actual routes differ by 180 degrees - we were due to head south back to Birmingham via Nuneaton, but instead reversed and headed north again!

Booked route & timings :

M.C Location Booked Actual
17.36 Leicester [P4] 16.47d 16.54
20.52 Wigston North Jn 16/52 DIV
32.03 Hinckley 17/06 DIV
36.22 Nuneaton 17/16 DIV
46.66 Whitacre Jn 17/30 DIV
49.51 Water Orton 17/35 DIV
55.57 Landor Street J 17/43 DIV
56.15 St Andrews Jn 17/45 DIV
56.41 Bordesley Jn 17/49 DIV
61.08 Lifford East Jn 17/55 DIV
61.33 Lifford West Jn 17/58 DIV
62.03 Selly Oak 18/02 DIV

Actual route & timings :

Location Actual
Leicester [P4] 16.54
Syston South Jn 17/01
Sileby Junction 17/03
Loughborough South Jn 17/07
Trent South Jn 17/13
Sheet Stores Jn 17.15 ~ 17.15
Stenson Jn 17/48
Burton-on-Trent 17/55
Wichnor Jn 18/02
Lichfield Trent Valley HL 18/12
Lichfield City 18.15 ~ 18.15
Brownhills 18.32 ~ 18.43
Lichfield City 18/57
Lichfield Trent Valley HL 19L02 ~ 20L37
Lichfield City 20/46
Blake Street 20/55
Sutton Coldfield 21/00
Aston 21/11
Proof House Jn 21/18
Birmingham New Street [P10] (freedom!) 21.21a

** stopped on curve between Wigston North and South Junctions, therefore mileage is slightly reduced as South Junction was not reached. Ditto, the mileage from Wigston South Junction to East Leake should be slightly reduced, by same amount.

All distances, in miles and chains (M & C), are taken from the tour booklet. No attempt has been made to verify the mileages given. In the event most of the published mileages are totally incorrect based on the days events (irrelevant mileages are shown in brackets)! Those from Reading and Birmingham are representative of the mileage covered by 58016. East Leake to Leicester (56131) is OK too, otherwise its a case of getting your books and calculator out I'm afraid!

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