2nd December 2000

Pathfinder Tours
The Grassington Excursion

Locos Used 56058 & 56127

Route :

Loco(s) Route
56058 Cardiff Central - Newport - Severn Tunnel - Bristol Parkway - Cheltenham - Worcester Shrub Hill - Worcester Tunnel Jn - Droitwich Spa - Kidderminster - Galton Jn - Birmingham New Street - Water Orton - Burton-upon-Trent - Derby - Chesterfield - Barrow Hill Jn - Beighton Jn - Rotherham Masborough - Swinton - Hare Park Jn - Turners Lane Jn - Altofts - Leeds avoiding curve - Skipton
56127 (1) Skipton - Rylstone
56058 (2) Rylstone - Skipton
56127 Skipton - (reverse of outward route) - Rotherham Masbourgh - Meadowhall - Sheffield
56127 Sheffield - Dore South Jn - Chesterfield - (reverse of outward route) - Worcester Tunnel Jn - Hereford - Newport - Cardiff Central

Notes :
(1) 56058 on rear.
(2) 56127 on rear.

Source : Tony Neath
(joined/left train at Cheltenham)

Tour Review
(by Richard Hughes)

The principal motivation for my joining this tour was its destination of Rylstone Quarry, a required branch, but, as originally advertised, I wasn't particularly attracted to it. A pair of 33s was to have been the main haulage, nice little engines, but no possibility of a scratch. A 66 was promised from Rylstone back to Preston, though; not a very exciting class of engine, but almost certainly a required one would materialise on the day. However, a change in the  promised motive power to Class 56s, nice big engines, one out for a second one back, made the trip considerably more appealing. Discussions with some friends indicated we could muster a party of four, and the necessary arrangements were made.

Also modified was the route; the original plan to run north along the WCML through Preston, and then the Carnforth to Skipton line, was abandoned ostensibly due to planned engineering work between Crewe and Warrington. Instead a route via Derby and Wakefield was substituted. We decided on Kidderminster as our joining point, although the train itself originated at Cardiff Central. So on the Saturday morning I found myself on the 03.09 train out of Blackpool North en route to Preston. Whilst waiting at Preston to be collected, some diversion was provided by a few freights and other movements through the station. Quite busy, in fact.

Soon two of my accomplices, Chris and Keith, turned up, and we drove off to pick up the last of our party, Nick, at Leyland, before continuing south along the M6. Fortunately we had allowed plenty of time for the drive, as a stretch of motorway was down to a single lane, causing a long tailback even this early in the morning, and costing us at least 20 minutes. No further problems were encountered, and we were on the platform in good time for the train.

Motive power gen proved accurate, and expected loco 56058 rolled in, a few minutes late. Keith and Chris were happy with this engine, but Nick and I had had it on an A1A tour back in 1996. Still, you can't win 'em all. We had seats in Coach A, which turned out to be at the rear on the outward run, and about 7 coaches beyond the platform end, so we boarded halfway along the 13-coach rake and walked through the train to find our places. I was mildly surprised to find the Standard Class section was confined to the rear three vehicles, all the rest being First Class or Premier, indicating that the clientele was not confined to the usual railtour rabble. In fact, most of the rabble seemed to have also been allocated seats in Coach A, making the journey rather lively. The comic possibilities of belching and farting had already waned for me long before I left school, but they are still apparently strong for many. Oh, how we laughed.

We departed and headed for Birmingham via Stourbridge, and daylight soon arrived, revealing  clear skies and a potentially fine day. After picking up at New St., the train continued past Saltley, where 66021, 60093, 08413 and 08543 were seen, and 60055 shortly afterwards at Kingsbury. We bowled along through Tamworth and Burton, and arrived at Derby 10 minutes up on the schedule. After waiting time here, the last official pick-up point, we set off again in bright sunshine northwards to Chesterfield. A mobile phone message received shortly before we reached Chesterfield informed us that MML trains between Sheffield and Chesterfield were being diverted via Barrow Hill because of a fatality on the line. No effect on our train, which was booked to run that way anyway, but as we turned right at Tapton Jn, we were surprised to see, on the main line just north of the junction, a swarm of men in HV vests milling around a shapeless form covered with a tarpaulin. Grim.

Running on past Beighton Jn and the former Treeton Jn, with the trackbed of the closed line to Tinsley visible on the left, we reached Masborough Sidings Jn, where we paused briefly for a crew change; 66196, 66080, and 66176 were all loitering in the vicinity. Through Masborough and Moorthorpe, we branched off and joined the ECML at South Kirkby Jn, leaving it again shortly afterwards at Hare Park Jn. 66516 passed by with a freightliner as we ambled towards Wakefield, avoiding the town by taking the east curve at Calder Bridge Jn. There was a short stop at Turners Lane Jn to allow a unit ahead, but this train caused us no further delay. Passing Stourton Freightliner Terminal netted the spotters another couple of engines, 57004 and 47224, as we headed for Holbeck and the Engine Shed Jn - Whitehall Jn curve to avoid Leeds.

We approached Skipton on time, and looked out for the second 56, which gen suggested was 56127. I was rather hoping that the gen was wrong, as this was another dud engine for me, having had it on "The Cream T" 5 years earlier, and pretty decent mileage as well. Alas, an engine in fairly scruffy Transrail livery appeared, and my hopes were dashed, but all three of my companions were able to reach for their red pens and mark a line in their Platform 5 books. We stopped a short distance beyond Skipton station to attach the grid, and 56127 quickly buffered up to our coach, leaving 56058 on what was now the rear of the train.

We departed 15 minutes early on the schedule, branching immediately onto the Rylstone line, and crossing over the Leeds line shortly after. We made slow but steady progress along this 9-mile freight line, and the sunshine brought out plenty of photographers to record the train's progress through the North Yorkshire scenery. A PA announcement warned of the dire consequences of leaning out of the window as we passed through the wagon loading area due to limited clearances, and threatened that the HSE would stop the train unless all windows were closed and all the passengers were seated on the approach to the quarry. Such a reaction proved unnecessary, and arrival at the Tilcon quarry site at Rylstone was 12 minutes early. A short excursion platform has been built within the works site, complete with nameboard, "Swinden Quarry", allowing passengers the rare luxury of actually being permitted to get off a train at the end of a freight branch. The day's objective for many was a visit to the nearby village of Grassington, which hosts a "Dickensian Christmas Festival" at this time of year, and a fleet of road coaches was waiting at Rylstone to convey everyone the last few miles to the village.

A very picturesque place, Grassington, but personally I would prefer to visit when it's not wedged with tourists. The two hours or so for exploration seemed plenty, and after a wander round, we headed back to the coach park and returned to Rylstone. After arrival of the last coach back from Grassington, we set off back down the branch, leaving 13 minutes early, with 56058 back in charge. A signal stop of 6 minutes before Skipton, and then we stopped in the same spot as earlier, a short way past the station, to reverse. The itinerary suggested that 56058 would bring up the rear and be removed later at Sheffield, but in fact it was uncoupled here instead, and 56127 was in sole charge for the rest of the day. We headed off back towards Leeds, still a few minutes early, but signal stops at Wortley Jn and Whitehall Jn put the train slightly behind schedule. This small delay unfortunately was the start of a series of checks and stops, and we staggered fitfully along for most of the way to Sheffield. At first I assumed we were stuck behind a stopping unit, but it was soon learnt that a freightliner had been allowed ahead, and that it was struggling.

The freightliner finally turned off and out of our way at Rotherham, and we had a brief burst of speed until we slowed for the Sheffield stop. Without the need to remove an engine which was no longer there, the stop was cut from 10 down to 2 minutes. Progress was now a good bit better, but there were still several checks from either signals or emergency speed restrictions, but we did at least get to hear a bit of thrash. Approaching Chesterfield, the offending freightliner was briefly glimpsed waiting at Tapton Jn, having traversed our outward route from Masborough. This time the railtour was given priority, but the poor regulation had already cost us around 50 minutes, and we more or less maintained this deficit until my pals and I detrained at Kidderminster. We walked to the platform end to watch 56127 depart, and noticed a smell of burning emanating from the loco, which seemed to be concerning the traincrew as well, and there was a few minutes' extra delay whilst an investigation of the grid's nether regions was carried out. Nothing untoward was found, and the train resumed its journey to Cardiff. I assume it made it OK, as I heard nothing to the contrary. The remaining passengers were treated to a different route after Worcester, via Hereford, on account of engineering work on the Cheltenham line.

A fast car back to Preston got me to the station just in time for the last Blackpool train, or actually in plenty of time, as the train was half an hour down. I was entertained in the meantime by various drunks vomiting. And so endeth a good day out. Naturally I was somewhat disappointed by not getting any required engines, but a gloriously sunny day and some decent Class 56 mileage, and, not least, a lengthy stretch of new track, were compensations. Score : 9/10.

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

Location  Booked  Actual  Distance  : Booked  Actual  Distance
Cardiff Central 05.00 ? 0-00   23.00 ? 262-07
Newport  05.14a/05.16d ?/? 11-60 : 22.38a/22.41d ? 250-27
Bristol Parkway 05.43a/05.46d ?/? 33-33  
Cheltenham Spa 06.42a/06.45d ?/? 72-01  
Worcester Shrub Hill 07.12a/07.15d ?/? 93-66  
Maindee North Jn   22/36 ? 249-40
Abergavenny    22/18 ? 231-02
Hereford    21.52a/21.54d ?/? 206-71
Worcester Foregate St.   21.11a/21.14d ?/? 178-12
Kidderminster  07.33a/07.36d ?/07.42d 109-01 : 20.47a/20.50d 21.66a/21.42d 162-66
Stourbridge Jn 07/43 07/51 115-60 : 20/36 21/28 156-07
Rowley Regis 07/55 08/03 120-78 : 20/25 21/17 150-69
Galton Jn 08/01 08/07 124-04 : 20/15 21/12 147-63
Soho South Jn 08/04 08/09 125-62 : 20/12 21/07 146-05
Birmingham New St 08.09a/08.13d 08.13a/08.17d 127-63 : 20.03a/20.06d 20.57a/20.59d 144-05
Landor St. Jn 08/18 08/23 129-28 : 19/59 20/50 142-39
Water Orton 08/27 08/29 135-34 : 19/52 20/41 136-33
Kingsbury Jn 08/30 08/32 139-29 : 19/46 20/37 132-38
Tamworth 08/34 08/36 145-10 : 19/41 20/30 126-57
Burton-on-Trent  08/49 08/47 158-01 : 19/29 20/17 113-66
Derby  09.11a/09.14d 09.00a/09.16d 169-02 : 19.14a/19.16d 19.59a/20.02d 102-65
Ambergate Jn 09/25 09/28 178-75 : 19/02 19/45 92-72
Clay Cross South Jn 09/34 09/37 189-03 : 18/52 19/34 82-64
Chesterfield  09/38 09/47 193-13 : 18/48 19/29 78-54
Beighton Jn 09/50 09/58 202-41  
Treeton Jn 09/54 10/00 205-58  
Masborough Sidings Jn 09.57a/09.59d 10.04a/10.07d 207-54  
Masborough North Jn 10/14 10/11 209-17  
Dore Station Jn   18/39 19/19 70-24
Sheffield    18.21a/18.31d 19.09a/19.11d 66-34
Nunnery Main Line Jn   18/19 19/06 65-77
Wincobank Station Jn   18/16 19/02 63-22
Aldwarke Jn 10/18 ? 211-41 : 18/11 ? 58-29
Swinton  10/22 10/23 213-52 : 18/07 18/50 56-18
Moorthorpe  10/30 10/32 221-28 : 17/59 18/26 48-42
South Kirkby Jn 10/32 10/34 222-15 : 17/58 18/24 47-55
Hare Park Jn 10/39 10/44 228-14 : 17/52 18/16 41-56
Crofton West Jn 10/47 10/47 229-43 : 17/51 18/13 40-27
Calder Bridge Jn 10/54 10/51 230-55 : 17/50 18/10 39-15
Turners Lane Jn 10/57 10/57 231-25 : 17/48 18/07  38-45
Altofts Jn 11/02 11/02 234-37 : 17/46 18/00 35-33
Methley Jn 11/04 11/04 235-74 : 17/43 17/56 33-76
Engine Shed Jn 11/14 11/18 243-57 : 17/34 17/37 26-13
Whitehall Jn 11/16 11/19 244-09 : 17/33 17/36 25-61
Wortley Jn 11/20 11/20 244-54 : 17/28 17/26 25-16
Apperley Jn 11/28 11/26 250-34   17/21 ? 19-36
Shipley  11/33 11/33 254-26   17/15 17/09 15-44
Keighley  11/40 11/40 260-41   17/02 16/53 9-29
Skipton (platform) 11.54a/11.56d 11.54a/11.57d  269-56   16.48a/16.50d 16.41a/16.42d 0-14
Skipton (signal L4045) 12.01a/12.24d 12.00a/12.09d 269-70/0-00   16.35a/16.43d 16.30a/16.38d 9-14/0-00
Rylstone  13.09a 12.57a 9-14   15.50d 15.37d 0-00

a : arrival time
d : departure time
/ : 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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