16th June 2001
"The Weymouth Wanderer"
|D9000||Lancaster - Barnt Green - Worcester Shrub Hill - Cheltenham Spa - Bristol Parkway - Lawrence Hill - North Somerset Jn - Bath Spa - Trowbridge - Westbury - Castle Cary - Yeovil Pen Mill - Dorchester West - Weymouth|
|D9000||Weymouth - (reverse of outward route) - Barnt Green - Selly Oak - Birmingham New Street - Aston - Bescot - Wolverhampton - Stafford - (via WCML) - Lancaster|
(1) : Route confirmation required.
Source : Ralph Barrett
(joined/left train at Barnt Green)
Additional route information provided by Nigel Rollings
Tour review :
by Ralph Barrett :
Fragonset Charters's Weymouth Wanderer's first pick up of the day was Lancaster, at the unsociable hour of 04:30. Wee bit too early for me. I opted to join the railtour at Barnt Green at the slightly more sociable 08:07
Deltic D9000 appeared right on time with a motley collection of West Coast Railways maroon stock . I was pleased to see that the first class was at the front of the train, as I had a reservation for coach A. As the train passed I noted with some dismay that coach A was a Mk2 air conditioned coach (coffin), although it took me several moments to work out why it appeared so strange.
Coach A was an ex-Manchester Pullman saloon coach, built specially for the Euston - Manchester electrification in 1966. This was a first for me, as I'd never previously travelled in one of these Mk2 Pullmans. I found it quite interesting sitting in my seat and trying to take in all of the interior details, as these coaches are different from all other ex-BR coaches that I've travelled in. Like travelling for the first time in a DB or SNCF coach - everything was different to 'usual'. Seats are adjustable and recline as usual. However, seats also can slide forward and back - like on a car. Double glazing appears to be very odd, as several inches separate the two pains of glass. Internal pane appears to be hinged so that the inside can be cleaned (some chance) !
Interesting coach, but it was still a coffin. Also both toilets were locked out of use, and the windows were dirty. I also found this Pullman coach stuffy, as though the air-conditioning was just circulating stale air. So I moved two coaches back into a slightly more agreeable Mk1 FO. Rake of stock used on this tour appeared to be pretty grotty. I suspect that West Coast Railways have sent all of their best stock to Fort William, for the Mallaig steam specials. Attention to detail is important on railtours - none of the toilets had any soap.
When booking on the Weymouth Wanderer I had made a mental note to try out Fragonset's Griddle car, which sounds like a good way of passing the time whilst 'on the move'. However, Fragonsets RKB? was not in the consist, and was reported to be still being at Derby. So all we had was a small miniature buffet.
Train was routed via Worcester, and then we had an extremely slack schedule to Bristol Parkway. Driver kept speed down around 80mph south of Worcester to try and kill some time, but we still approached Westerleigh junction about 20 minutes early, and there are no spare platforms at Parkway. We were halted on the curve at Westerleigh, and eventually overtaken 'wrong-line' by the Virgin West Coast set that runs summer Saturdays only to Paignton.
After picking up our final few passengers at Parkway, we were stopped in Bristol on the curve at Dr. Day's junction, to wait for an all stations stopper to Westbury to proceed us. This meant stop/start for the Deltic all the way to Westbury. Why do the Railtrack timetable planners excel in pathing railtours behind all-stations stoppers ? If we'd been given the road, we'd have been no bother whatsoever to this service train.
Had a good fast run from Westbury to Castle Cary, as most of this route is 90/100mph. Indeed the Berks and Hants would make an excellent route for a Deltic hauled railtour, as its now a pretty fast route.
We had a long stop at Castle Cary, where we had to wait for a northbound sprinter to clear the long single line section from Maiden Newton. This turned out to be a nice photo stop, although only the front three coaches were on the platform. Meant that most of the passengers at the rear of the train weren't aware that they could detrain and stretch their legs for twenty minutes or so.
During the Castle Cary stop, I noted that the Pullman saloon looked much nicer from the outside that inside. Pullman appeared to be painted in the same livery as the Northern Belle coaches. I think that originally, Northern Belle intended to use these ex-Manchester Pullman coaches, and I suspect that this coach was specially painted for VSO-E, as a 'prototype'. Certainly a nice paint job all the same. Also of interest was that the Pullman has been converted to air brake operation. The Manchester Pullman rakes were infamous for being vacuum brake only during their BR career. This meant that the Pullmans could not be hauled by Class 87s.
After a pleasant run along the single track section to Dorchester West, we turned right, and proceeded down the bank into Weymouth. Visit the beach, visit the quay ? Go shopping, or visit the arcades ? Nay - pile into a nice pub for lunch, and a few beers. Is that the time ? Time to get back to the station for the return trip. Hic.
D9000 stormed out of Weymouth, our driver realising that this will probably be his only chance to drive a Deltic up this famous bank. What bank ? Was that really 1-in-50 ? Oh well, turn left and back through Dorchester West for the long single line to Castle Cary. Another fast dash along the Berks and Hants to Westbury, and then back to Bath along the Avon valley - nice scenery. We got through Bath and also Bristol without stopping, and arrived a few minutes early at Bristol Parkway.
Another very slack schedule allowing 78 minutes to get from Parkway to Worcester. After a fast run along ex-Midland metals, we were eventually 'put in' to fester on the loop between Abbotswood junction and the Worcester line at Norton junction. One has to ask why Fragonset bothered going via Worcester, as this appeared to add an extra hour to the journey in each direction ! Everybody could have had an extra hour in bed, and Fragonset could have stopped the train at Cheltenham Spa instead of Worcester ?
A Deltic has only been up the Lickey bank on five occasions as far as I can remember. This was D9000's fourth climb to date, the other Deltic being 19 on a VSO-E Cheltenham races special. Another storming run, with speed falling from 61mph at Bromsgrove to 39mph at Blackwell with load 9. I baled out at Barnt Green, where D9000 made an excellent departure to the north, the conditions for recording being excellent. Guess who forgot his to pack his mini-disc recorder :-(
Another good D9000 railtour, where the loco performed faultlessly as far as I know. Shame about that West Coast Railways stock. Some of the those carriages could do with a clean, and some repair work. And Fragonset need to pack some soap next time... and also remember to attach that Griddle car ;-)
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