3rd November 2001

Pathfinder Tours
The Northern Lights &
Nor' by Nor' West

Locos Used 50031 & 60073
Stock Used 4902+5009+4927+5040+4963+1863+21272+3112+3140+3098

Route :

The Northern Lights
1Z27 : Cardiff - Blackpool North
1Z81 : Blackpool North - Cardiff

Nor' by Nor' West
1Z27 throughout

Loco Route
50031 Cardiff Central - Newport - Severn Tunnel Junction - Pilning - Bristol Parkway - Westerleigh Jn - Gloucester Yard Jn - Cheltenham Spa - Worcester Shrub Hill - Kidderminster - Stourbridge Junction - Galton Jn - Soho North Jn - Perry Barr North Jn - Bescot Stadium - Portobello Jn - Bushbury Jn - Stafford - (via WCML) - Preston - Blackpool North
60073 (1) Blackpool North - Preston (via up goods line) - Wigan North Western - Springs Branch Jn - St Helens Central - Sutton Oak (Hays Chemicals)
50031 (2) Sutton Oak (Hays Chemicals) - (reverse of outward route including Preston down goods line) - Blackpool North
50031 Blackpool North - (reverse of outward route) - Cheltenham Spa - Gloucester - Chepstow - Severn Tunnel junction - Newport - Cardiff Central

Notes :
(1) 50031 on rear.
(2) 60073 on rear.

Source : Gary Thornton.
(travelled on Nor' by Nor' West throughout)

Nor' by Nor' West Tour Review
(by Gary Thornton)


50031 at Blackpool North at the conclusion of the Nor' by Nor' West mini-tour.

My second railtour of the day! I arrived into Blackpool on Hertfordshire Rail Tours "Blackpool Illuminations (check out that Tour Review if you want) but with a "minus 3" at Blackpool my catching the Pathfinder mini-tour was not a certainty.

A rather swift move was required between trains as we arrived behind 67015 to find 60073 already on the mini-tour and about ready to go. 

Safely on.....and we sat for 8 minutes before departing...oh well, so much for the rush!

The mini-tour was one of those to have suffered in the latter stages - with even the plan to traverse the Haydock branch having been abandoned after the tickets had been sent out. It was therefore a simple "out-and-back" from Blackpool to the short Hays branch in St Helens.

Found a seat (from the many to chose from) with some colleagues in first class and coughed up my 18 for a ticket. The 60 was a winner for haulage for me and I also required the Hays branch...otherwise I probably would have been enjoying (?) some tram bashing in Blackpool.

At Preston the tour ran through the station on the up goods line - after some discussion with a colleague we decided it is the "loop" line that is shown in red in the latest Baker, so some new track scored there too.

An operational stop at St Helens Central enabled at least one crank to bale ("scored the 60, I'll be home three hours earlier than planned") and another to get on. We ran onto the 1mile 11 chain long Hays branch 30 minutes late....

....and left it again 45 minutes late - and that being despite the 65 minute allowance given to cover the two and a quarter miles!

What happened was somewhat amusing but a good example of the state of today's railtour scene....we staggered on to the branch and ambled down to Ravenhead Junction (30 chains from St Helend Central and 61 from the end of the branch). Here we stopped. After a few minutes we moved about  a coach length forward then stopped again.

After a few more minutes the 60 was shut down and the crew were seen walking past to the other end of the train.

WHAT?!? 30 chains down a 1 mile 11 chain branch - come on, that's taking the piss!

As I wanted to enjoy listening to 50031 on the way back to Blackpool myself and a couple of others started to walk back down the train. We noticed that the crew had only gone about two coaches back and were in deep discussion by the track with one of the train organisers. Someone listening to the conversation commented on why we'd only managed such a short distance down the branch - the crew had run out of point clips so we couldn't go any further.

So, with "x" many weeks prior notice (where "x" is nowadays something like 13 or even more) and yet somehow between Railtrack and EWS they can still cock-up operations on the day....wonderful! It wouldn't be so bad if it was a major reason like no track (had that happen before!) but for a simple lack of a couple of point clips...quite unbelievable!

We soon had it confirmed that the organisers were having none of it and the crew agreed (or were told) to go and get some point clips to enable us to travel further down the branch.

This they duly did and we made it further down - still not all the way but probably to within about a trains length of the Railtrack limit. Was hard to tell as the track does a sudden right turn under an overbridge, at a former junction with other long-lifted lines. 60073 stopped under the bridge so we couldn't actually see the end-of-line and have to trust this was indeed the Railtrack limit.

Track scratched and I wandered back to coach A and enjoyed 50031 back to Blackpool - where we arrived at 17.41 instead of 17.04 as booked. The main tour was booked out again at 18.13 but with the stock having to be taken out and the 50 run-round I didn't hang about and instead headed off into Blackpool for a meal. I suspect it left late as a call from a friend who was at Stafford about 8.30pm confirmed it hadn't reached here and it had been due at 8.14pm.

Enjoyable as part of my whole day out, shame Haydock wasn't done but due credit must go to the train organisers for standing their ground on the Hays branch! On checking out my scribblings after the event I also notice I scored my last "tin rocket" (class 153) for sight during the course of the tour.

Gary Thornton.

Route and Timing's (Booked & Actual)
(by Gary Thornton)

"The Northern Lights" timings:
(booked only)

M C Location Out   Return M C
0 00 Cardiff Central 06.51d   23.49a 237 01
11 60 Newport 07.12a ~ 07.14d   23.24a ~ 23.27d 225 21
21 49 Severn Tunnel Junction 07/24   23/08 215 32
28 45 Pilning 07/32  
32 11 Patchway 07/38  
33 33 Bristol Parkway 07.48a ~ 07.50d  
38 03 Westerleigh Jn 07/58  
46 16 Charfield 08/05  
59 41 Standish Jn 08/23  
65 51 Gloucester Yard Jn 08/29  
  Chepstow   23/01 28 04
  Lydney   22/53 200 08
  Gloucester   22/34 180 55
66 38 Barnwood Jn 08/30   22/28 179 58
72 01 Cheltenham Spa 08.36a ~ 08.39d   21.18a ~ 21.20d 174 15
79 12 Ashchurch 08/47   22/10 167 04
89 79 Abbotswood Jn 08/56   22/01 156 17
93 66 Worcester Shrub Hill 09.08a ~ 09.10d   21.52a ~ 21.55d 152 30
99 45 Droitwich Spa 09/18   21/45 146 51
105 27 Hartlebury 09/23   21/40 140 69
109 01 Kidderminster 09.27a ~ 09.28d   21.29a ~ 21.32d 137 15
115 60 Stourbridge Junction 09.38a ~ 09.40d   21.15a ~ 21.16d 130 36
120 78 Rowley Regis 09/49   21/05 125 18
124 04 Galton Jn 10/03   20/58 122 12
125 30 Soho North Jn 10/05   20/57 120 66
128 10 Perry Barr North Jn 10/15   20/48 118 06
132 47 Bescot Stadium 10/23   20c39a ~ 20c41d 113 49
136 64 Portobello Jn 10/30   20/34 109 32
139 32 Bushbury Jn 10/36   20/29 106 64
153 09 Stafford 10.53a ~ 10.55d   20.14a ~ 20.16d 93 07
158 38 Norton Bridge 11/03   20/08 87 58
169 40 Madeley 11/12   19/58 76 56
177 46 Crewe 11c27a ~ 11c31d   19c38a ~ 19c45d 68 50
186 32 Winsford S.B. 11/40   19/25 59 64
193 67 Weaver Jn S.B. 11/46   19/18 52 09
199 69 Acton Grange Jn 11/50   19/12 46 34
201 56 Warrington Bank Quay 11/52   19/11 44 39
205 12 Winwick Jn 11/55   19/08 41 01
213 36 Wigan North Western 12*07a ~ 12*16d   19/01 32 59
221 07 Balshaw Lane 12/26   18/54 25 08
223 10 Euxton Jn 12/28   18/49 23 05
228 47 Preston 12/38   18/42 17 49
236 75 Kirkham North Jn 12/48   18/27 9 21
242 78 Poulton-le-Fylde 12/55   18/19 3 18
246 16 Blackpool North 13.04a   18.13d 0 00

Nor' by Nor' West timings:

M C Location Booked Actual   Booked Actual M C
0 00 Blackpool North 13.24d 13.50   17.04a 17.41 42 43
2 06 Carleton Crossing LC 13/28 ??/??   16/58 17/36 39 27
3 18 Poulton-le-Fylde 13/30 13/57   16/55 17/34 38 15
9 21 Kirkham North Jn 13/42 14/02   16/48 17/25 32 22
17 16 Preston Fylde Jn 13/55 14/14   16/37 17/15 24 27
17 49 Preston Goods Lines 13/57 14/16   16*24a ~ 16*34d 17/14 23 74
18 65 Skew Bridge 14/01 ??/??   16/16 17/12 22 58
19 18 Farington Curve Jn 14/02 14/24   ??/?? 17/09 22 25
23 05 Euxton Jn 14/06 14/28   16/11 ??/?? 19 38
25 08 Balshaw Lane 14/16 14/36   16/09 17/01 17 35
32 59 Wigan North Western 14/23 14/46   15c57a ~ 15c59d 16.48 ~ 16.49 9 64
34 02 Springs Branch Jn 14/24 14/51   15/55 16/45 8 41
41 32 St Helens Central 14*36a ~ 14*38d 15.06 ~ 15.10   15*41a ~ 14*43d 16.26 ~ 16.26 1 11
41 62 Ravenhead Jn 14/48 15.13a ~ 15.16d   15/28 16.17a ~ 16.25d 0 61
42 43 Sutton Oak 15.08a 15.59   15.18d 16.07 0 00

Key;
a : arrival time
d : departure time
c : crew change
* : operational stop

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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