16th December 2000

Pathfinder Tours
The Siberian Hamster

Locos Used 56033, 56046, 58047, 60036, 66054 & 66098
Stock Used 4991+2833+1813+4998+4956+4999+5005+4959+3148+3115+3107+6311

Route :
1Z42 : Banbury to York
1Z43 : York to Banbury

Loco(s) Route
66054 (1) Banbury - Leamington Spa - Coventry - Birmingham International - Proof House Jn - Birmingham New Street - Soho South Jn - Perry Barr North Jn - Bescot Yard
56033 (2) Bescot Yard - Walsall - Ryecroft Jn - Park Lae Jn - Water Orton - Kingsbury Jn - Burton-on-Trent - Stenson Jn - Sheet Stores Jn - Toton Jn - Pye Bridge Jn - Kirkby Summit Jn - Shirebrook Jn - Woodend Jn - Worksop Yard
60036 Worksop Yard - Brancliffe East Jn - Firbeck Jn - St Catherines Jn - (3) - Decoy North Jn - Doncaster - Shaftholme Jn - Temple Hirst Jn - Hambleton South Jn - Gascoigne Wood Jn - Church Fenton - York
66098 (4) York - Hambleton North Jn - Temple Hirst Jn - Joan Croft Junction - Applehurst Junction - Hatfield & Stainforth (5)
56046 approx 5 chains towards Doncaster (draw up to signal)
66098 (4) Hatfield & Stainforth - Thorne Junction
56046 Thorne Jn - Kirk Sandall Jn - Bentley Jn - Hexthorpe Jn - Mexborough - Thrybergh Jn - Aldwarke Jn - Masborough Jn - Beighton Jn - Chesterfield - Ambergate Jn - Derby (up goods)
58047 Derby (up goods) - Burton-on-Trent - Kingsbury Jn - Water Orton - Landor Street Jn - Proof House Jn - Birmingham New Street - Soho South Jn - Perry Barr South Jn - Aston - Stechford - Birmingham International - Coventry - Leamington Spa - Banbury (1)

Notes :
(1) Tour started from Banbury due to flooding in Oxford area. Original route was from Reading to Banbury via Didcot Parkway and Oxford but buses used to pick-up (and drop-off) passengers at these stations.
(2) was due to be 58045 but faiedl by driver due to electrical fault. Replacement 58043 then also failed by the driver and 56033 substituted instead.
(3) Booked to have traversed the Low Ellers Curve but didn't as Up Yard was blocked by freight stock. Traversed St Catherines Curve instead. Offer was made by EWS to do the Low Ellers Curve in the evening, but this was to be at the expense of the Doncaster avoiding line and adding on about an hour. A poll was taken and it was decided by majorityon board  not to change the return routing in order to traverse the Low Ellers Curve.
(4) 56046 on rear.
(5) stopped about 0.25 miles beyond station to reverse. 66098 uncoupled and 56046 drew train up to signal then, owing to points failure, 66098 was coupled up again and took the train to Thorne Jn to permit the reversal. 66098 uncoupled and left at Thorne Jn.

Source : Gary Thornton (joined/left train at Coventry)

Tour Review
(by Gary Thornton)

The annual Christmas "spinner" from Pathfinder comes round yet again.

Problems with flooding in the Oxford area could have resulted in the postponement of this tour, but a Banbury start and hastily arranged road coaches for the Reading, Didcot and Oxford passengers ensured the day went ahead. The stock had come up from London via the Chiltern line to Banbury. Originally booked for a Freightliner 47 to start the day, continuing loco problems forced the substitution of an EWS loco instead (nothing new there then!).

Myself and a friend arrived into Coventry to find out the train was about 15 minutes don away from Banbury and with "shed" 66054 in charge - boring, but at least one I required for haulage! The train rolled into Coventry exactly 15 minutes down and we took our seats in coach D, the leading one. The shed "yinged" its way to Birmingham International where we met up with another railtour which was in process of having 35005 "Canadian Pacific" added on the front. We gathered up some more passengers and left them to it. Birmingham New Street next stop and, for no apparent reason, a lot longer one than scheduled. Departure was not until 09.18, 23 minutes astray from plan.

Our first loco change was in Bescot yard and we got there via Soho and Perry Bar Junctions. Our booked motive power forward was 58045 but shortly after arrival there was an announcement to say the driver had failed the "bone" due to an electrical fault. Bit disappointing for me as I needed 045! The replacement was announced soon after as 58043....not one I needed. Then, a few minutes later and yet another announcement - the  driver had failed that one too!! Farce time already so it seemed. Some speculation about what we would have forward then came the news it was to be 56033 "Shotton Paper Mill". Another dud loco for me but at least we'd have it at our nd of the train (the booked "grid" later in the day would be on the other end).

56033 duly appeared and was hooked on. Brake test complete and we eased out of the yard 28 minutes late - so, in fact, the two failures hadn't really cost us so much time after all. Leaving the yard we took the spur across the mainline to the Walsall line - a quick check in the Baker rail atlas confirming that this was in fact required track for me (all dozen or so yards of it!). The usual stagger to Walsall ensued but even so we didn't stagger to schedule as we gained a few minutes back to that planned. From Walsall we took the Sutton park line towards Water Orton. Although originally advertised to go via Whitacre Junction, the timing sheet confirmed we ere no going to....and we didn't. In the direction of Burton-on-Trent we saw quite widespread flooding in the surrounding fields. The new depot at Central Rivers (for Virgin Trains) looked quite advanced as we sped past it - the track is now in place. Not long now I guess before it starts to see the new plastic Multiple units ordered by Virgin :-(

Our last advertised pick-up point was at Burton-upon-Trent. Grid 033 was not sounding all that healthy but the driver was certainly getting a good performance from it - loads of thrash and some decent speeds achieved. Only a short run before we turned off onto the Castle Donnington line at Stenson Junction. This took us to Sheet Stores Junction and onwards to Toton where we had an unscheduled crew change. Someone said they could see accident damaged 67002 over on the depot. Will this loco be repaired....or not...?

Being located only a couple of coaches away from the buffet and it being Christmas I needed no further excuse to make a few visits to sample the real ales on board. I avoided the 10.5% brew though as I think a pint of that and I'd have written off the rest of the tour recovering from it! At Pye Bridge Junction we turned off onto the line to Shirebrook - a guaranteed staggering route and this time was no exception. We eventually wound up at Worksop where we were routed into the yard for our next loco change. 60036 "GEFCO" was waiting for us by the disused signalbox at he yard entrance. 56116 was busy shunting an MGR on the track adjacent to us so this gave us some entertainment whilst we dropped off 56033 in favour of 60036.

Such was the timings that, despite quite a slow journey from Bescot, we had arrived into Worksop yard only one minute behind time. A relatively swift loco change then saw us departing four minutes early....

....what - a Pathfinder tour running EARLY? ...I don't believe it ;-)

Sorry Pathfinder - couldn't resist that comment, but you have to admit it is quite a rare occurrence these days!

From Worksop yard we headed towards Sheffield, but only as far as Brancliffe East junction here we took the South Yorkshire Joint line towards Doncaster. Having traversed this line a number of times before I used it as an opportunity to go for a wander down the train to socialise with one or two other colleagues sat elsewhere in the train. As we approached Doncaster we ere booked to traverse the Low Ellers Curve into Doncaster Up Decoy yard. This curve has only rarely been covered on railtours in the past few years and there were people on board for whom this would be the only new track of the day (I personally did it on a Pathfinder trip last year). We were stopped at St Catherines Junction for a few minutes. The reason soon became clear - we weren't going to traverse the Low Ellers curve owing to no through route in the yard being available to us, they were all occupied by freight stock! Good old EWS  yet again managing not to deliver the goods on a railtour that they themselves were involved in organising!!

We took the curve from St Catherines Junction to Doncaster Down Decoy yard and in doing so passed 66513, a required sight for me, on a southbound freightliner. Had we gone booked route I suspect we may not have seen it. All credit to Pathfinder, they were soon in touch with senior EWS management about the situation and soon after a steward came round the coach to say there was a possibility the curve could be covered on the return leg later in the day. Two catches though - 1) it would put an hour or so on the journey time (yeah...and the rest...) and 2) it would mean missing out on the Doncaster avoiding line between Bentley Jnction and Hexthorpe Junction. A poll was taken of the passengers and the result was that the majority wanted to miss the Low Ellers curve out and stick with the booked route on our way home. It was also reported that EWS have confirmed the curve WOULD definitely be covered on a future Pathfinder tour.

A slow run through Doncaster then onwards on the ECML to York. At Hambleton South Junction we diverged away from the ECML towards Gascoigne Wood Junction. From here we headed via the Sherburn Curve to Church Fenton and onwards to York. Liberal timings helped us approach York about 10 minutes early, but signal checks ensured we did not arrive until pretty well the booked time (15.00). We had an hours break here and I'd arranged to meet a friend so we went off to while away the time in a nearby pub.

60036 "GEFCO" on arrival at York.

Returning to the station and I was just in time to see 56046 being added to the back of the train. After taking a couple of photos I headed up to the front (my end of the train anyway) to view 66098 which was already attached. Not a bad record so far, only 56033 being "dud" for haulage. We left York about on time and headed south along the ECML until Joan Croft Junction where we took the freight line towards Applehurst Junction. Good news was given out along the way - having missed out on a 58 earlier in the day, EWS had agreed to provide one for the journey home, 58047 being sent out to meet us at Derby.

56046 & 66098 are captured in the failing light at York.

 Some slow running had managed to leave us 20 minutes late by the time we reached our reversal point. We were scheduled to make the reversal at Hatfield & Stainforth but had ran about quarter of a mile past the station on the up slow in order to pass the points that would allow us to change direction and head towards Doncaster.

...but they didn't. 66098 was promptly uncoupled and ran off the train. A few minutes later and we started moving back towards Hatfield & Stainforth station, but only a few chains to (I assume) the signal protecting the points, where we stopped. After a while with  nothing happening we heard the sound of a 66 ("our" 66 as it turned out) approaching, then there was a bump in our coach as 66098 buffered back up to the train. OK, so what was going on...? The sound then of the shed being coupled back up to us just as there was an announcement to confirm that the points in front of us had failed! In order to reverse we would have to continue about another mile and a half to Thorne Junction where it would be possible to reverse.

This we did and 66098 was uncoupled for a second time before we finally got going behind 56046 "properly". We eventually passed through Hatfield & Stainforth station at 17.28, now 50 minutes late. Probably a good job in hindsight then we weren't going to do the Low Ellers curve on the way home!

The Doncaster avoiding line was duly covered then we headed south via Mexborough, Thrybergh Junction and the former Rotherham Masborough station. We missed out Sheffield altogether by taking the "old road" through Beighton to get to Chesterfield here we paused briefly for a crew change. As we approached Derby there was the start of a farce as we were held outside for ages - shouldn't have been for lack of platform space as we were due to stop in the "up goods" adjacent to the station. Eventually we got a green with a left "feather" so at least we were getting put into the goods and not platformed. As we waited there was a flurry of activity with a Virgin Cross Country service through (47's top-and-tail) and a couple of MML services  through too. A light engine 56 appeared heading north - 56046 - so we were definitely getting something else on the front! We finally set off 82 minutes late but, being in the rear coach, we had no idea what was powering until an announcement was made to confirm it was indeed 58047. Good - my fifth "winner" out of the six locos we'd had.

Snooze time the rest of the way home - after Burton we headed back to New Street by the regular passenger route (i.e. not via Whitacre Junction). To save a run-round at New Street we headed to Coventry via Soho Junctions and Perry Bar - a partial repeat of the route we'd taken in the morning! Deja-vu...except it was now dark.

We baled from the train at Coventry to find it raining quite heavily, despite being very cold. Our arrival was at 21.14, 71 minutes behind plan. Te train was due to continue to Banbury where it would terminate as the line south from there was still closed. Buses then for the Oxford, Didcot and Reading passengers.

Not a bad day out all in all - but disappointment for those wanting the Low Ellers Curve and further "proof" that things still have a long way to go if confidence is to be restored in railtours generally.

 Gary Thornton.

Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Gary Thornton & Melvin Teale)

Location Booked Actual Booked Actual M.C
Reading 06.18d --- (Bus) 22.04a --- (Bus) 203.74
Didcot East Jn 06/36 --- - --- -
Didcot Parkway 06.37a ~ 06.39d --- (Bus) 21.41a ~ 21.43d --- (Bus) 186.62
Didcot North Jn 06/42 --- 21/39 --- 185.78
Oxford 06.53a ~ 06.55d --- (Bus) 21.22a ~ 21.24d --- (Bus) 176.31
Wolvercot Jn 06/59 --- 21/17 --- 173.40
Heyford 07/11 --- 21/07 --- 164.51
Aynho Jn 07/16 --- 21/02 --- 158.62
Banbury 07.24a ~ 07.35d ~ 07.50d 20.54a ~ 20.55d 22.05a ~ 153.58
Fenny Compton 07/46 08/02 20/46 21/52 144.78
Leamington Spa 07.56a ~ 07.58d 08.16 ~ 08.17 20.31a ~ 20.32d 21.38 ~ 21.38 133.49
Milverton Jn 08/02 08/20 20/28 21/34 132.61
Kenilworth 08/08 ? 20/21 ? 128.75
Coventry Park Jn 08/13 08/30 20/15 21/18 124.60
Coventry 08.17a ~ 08.20d 08.32 ~ 08.35 20.03a ~ 20.05d

21.14 ~ 21.16

Birmingham International 08.33a ~ 08.36d 08.53 ~ 08.55 19.49a ~ 19.51d 20.57 ~ 20.58 113.39
Stechford 08/45 09/00 19/44 20/49 109.06


Location Booked Actual
Proof House Jn 08/48 09/03
Birmingham New Street [P2] 08.51a ~ 08.55d 09.06 ~ 09.18
Soho South Jn 09/00 09/24
Soho East Jn 09/02 09/25
Perry Barr West Jn 09/05 09/28
Perry Barr North Jn 09/07 09/30
Newton Jn 09/14 09/37
Bescot Yard (Up & Down Goods) 09L17 ~ 09L42 09.41 ~ 10.10
Bescot Jn 09/48 DNP (1)
Pleck Jn 09/52 10/17
Walsall 09/55 10/20
Ryecroft Jn 09/58 10/23
Park Lane Jn 10/24 10/40
Water Orton West Jn 10/27 10/43
Water Orton 10/30 10/44
Kingsbury Jn 10/34 10/48
Tamworth 10/40 10/51
Wichnor Jn 10/47 10/59
Burton-on-Trent 10.53a ~ 10.55d 11.05 ~ 11.07
North Stafford Jn 11/04 11/13
Stenson Jn 11/05 11/14
Sheet Stores Jn 11/27 11/31
Trent East Jn 11/29 11/33
Toton Jn 11/31 11/35
Toton Centre 11/32 11c36 ~ 11c38
Trowell Jn 11/35 11/41
Langley Mill 11/40 11/46
Pye Bridge Jn 11/47 11/52
Sleights S.B. 11/50 11/55
Pinxton 11/51 11/56
Kirkby lane End Jn 12/02 12/07
Kirkby Summit 12/03 12/08
Mansfield Woodhouse 12/12 12/15
Shirebrook Jn 12/17 12/26
Elmton & Creswell Jn 12/24 12/32
Woodend Jn 12/33 12/38
Shireoaks East Jn 12/35 12/40
Worksop Yard (Up Recp 1) 12L40 ~ 13L00 12.41 ~ 12.56
Shireoaks East Jn 13/03 12/59
Brancliffe East Jn 13/07 13/03
Firbeck Jn 13/44 13/35
St Catherines Jn 13/52 13.46 ~ 13.50
Low Ellers Curve Jn 13/55 DNP (2)
Doncaster (Up Decoy) North Jn 13/59 (UD) 13/58 (N. Jn)
Doncaster 14/03 14/04
Shaftholme Jn 14/07 14/10
Temple Hirst Jn 14/16 14/23
Hambleton South Jn 14/21 14/29
Hambleton West Jn 14/30 14/30
Gascoigne Wood Jn 14/37 14/34
Church Fenton 14/41 14/41
Colton Jn 14/54 14/46
York [P10] 15L00a ~ 16L00d 14.59 ~ 16.02
Colton Jn 16/06 16/08
Hambleton North Jn 16/12 16/14
Temple Hirst Jn 16/17 16/19
Joan Croft Jn 16/24 16/36
Applehurst Jn 16/26 16/41
Hatfield & Stainforth 16.33a ~ 16.53 ~ 17.13
Thorne Jn --- 17.19 ~ 17.25
Hatfield & Stainforth ~ 16.38d 17/28
Kirk Sandall Jn 16/42 17/31
Bentley Jn 16/48 17/35
Hexthorpe Jn 16/55 17/39
Mexborough 17/00 17/45
Thrybergh Jn 17/04 17/48
Aldwarke Jn 17/06 17/51
Masborough Jn 17/09 17/55
Beighton Jn 17/15 18/05
Chesterfield 17c29 ~ 17c31 18.18 ~ 18.20
Clay Cross South Jn 17/36 18/27
Ambergate Jn 17/45 18/36
St Mary's Jn 17/57 18/58
Derby Up Goods 18c01 ~ 18c03 19L02 ~ 19L25
L.N.W. Jn Derby 18/12 19/30
Stenson Jn 18/17 19/34
North Stafford Jn 18/18 19/35
Burton-on-Trent 18.24a ~ 18.25d 19.40 ~ 19.42
Wichnor Jn 18/31 19/48
Tamworth 18/38 19/55
Kingsbury Jn 18/45 20/00
Water Orton 18/55 20/04
Landor Street Jn 19/01 20/12
Proof House Jn 19/04 20/14
Birmingham New Street [P9] 19.07a ~ 19.13d 20.18 ~ 20.25
Soho South Jn 19/20 20/31
Soho East Jn 19/22 20/33
Perry Barr West Jn 19/25 20/38
Perry Barr South Jn 19/28 20/39
Aston 19/32 20/44

Timings continue in first table.

The train started and finished at Banbury due to floods in the Oxford area. Buses were used to transfer passengers from Reading, Didcot and Oxford to/from Banbury.

DNP - Did Not Pass
(1) departing from Bescot Yard "down goods" the line taken was to the "up Wednesbury goods" and then to the "down Bescot" on Pleck Curve i.e. Bescot Junction was not travelled over).
(2) Traversed St Catherines Curve, not Low Ellers Curve.

Timings by myself (Coventry to Coventry) with those between Banbury & Coventry provided by Melvin Teale.

Mileage are taken straight from the tour brochure and no attempt has been made to verify them. The change in mileage due to not covering the Low Ellers Curve and the additional mileage from Hatfield & Stainforth to Thorne Junction has not been accounted for. Mileages marked ** are approximate.

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