22nd March 2003
|Locos Used||34067 & 47747|
|47747||London Paddington - Reading - (via Didcot avoiding line) - Oxford - Banbury - Tyseley - Landor Street Jn - Water Orton - Whitacre Jn - Burton on Trent - Derby|
|34067||Derby - Burton on Trent - Kingsbury Jn - (via direct routing) - Water Orton - Saltley Loop - Landor Street Jn - Tyseley - Banbury - Oxford - Oxford D/UP Loop - Reading - London Paddington|
(1) The return with 34067 was originally due to run Derby - Leicester - Nuneaton - Water Orton but was changed to the above route a week or so before the tour
(2) The return trip after Reading was due to run via Ascot - Clapham Junction - Kensington Olympia - West London Jn - Acton Wells Jn - West Ealing - Greenford South Curve - Paddington but tour participants were told on leaving Oxford that this had been changed and the train would run direct to Paddington as originally planned.
Source : Terry Jackson (joined/left the train at Reading)
& Scott Spencer
(by Terry Jackson)
The outward leg ran generally ran to time although a couple of checks between Water Orton and Derby meant the arrival at Derby was a couple of minutes late. I believe that the tour was scheduled via the direct line between Water Orton and Burton although we in fact went via Whitacre Jn.
34067 was late arriving at Derby to pick up the tour, allegedly due to a couple of minor problems which were corrected. As a result we left Derby over 20 minutes late but, with the omission of a scheduled operating stop at Leamington Spa, we suddenly found ourselves running almost 20 minutes early which meant that we spent almost 90 minutes taking water in the loop at Oxford. When we eventually left, we were told that the tour would now run direct to Paddington instead of taking the scheduled diversion via the Southern route. This was obviously as much a surprise to the signalling staff at Reading as to everyone on the train as the train was given the road from Platform 9 across the complete layout onto the Southern. Mayhem then ensued with main line services being held whilst the footplate crew phoned the box and the road was reset. Who was it who said that the secret of running any organisation well was communication.
34067 looked superb and performed well with a max. of 76 and a lot of good running.
The Coaching Stock
For my taste, I always think that the idea of painting modern stock in a Pullman style livery doesn't really work but the coaches were clean and in better condition than some of the railtour stock currently in use elsewhere. There were a few minor gripes such as the apparent lack of a public address system which meant that all announcements (such as changes to the route) had to be made by stewards scurrying up and down the coaches, the coaches are all given names (I was in Sir Galahad) which is all very well when joining the train but how the hell do you know which coach you are in from the inside and toilets which were very clean but had no water to the sinks (well not in the one next to Sir Galahad).
This is where I think that Wessex Trains could lose a lot of support from the enthusiast sector if they are not very careful. The advance publicity indicated that the return route with 34067 would be via Leicester and Nuneaton. I know a number of people booked for the tour with this section in mind but it was chopped about a week before the tour ran. No explanation was given prior to the tour and none of the stewards apparently knew why it had been changed. The return from Reading to Paddington was changed to the roundabout route described above allegedly for engineering works but again a lot of people needed a curve somewhere on the revised route with one or two booking for that reason. Again this was changed quite literally at the last minute and again no reason was given as to why. Was there any reason why the train could not have gone round the diversion anyway as scheduled anyway.
This all means that for the track enthusiast you would be well advised to leave booking for the Excalibur Express services until the latest possible moment otherwise you might finish up paying a lot of money for nothing. You have been warned. It might just be cheaper to wait for a tour with an operator who will deliver what they promise trackwise.
Timings (Booked Only)
(from Terry Jackson)
|11.09||Heathrow Airport Jn||08/03|
|Slough||08.10a ~ 08.14d|
|M.C||Location||Booked (out)||Booked (rtn)|
|Reading||08.32a ~ 08.37d||18.23a ~ 18.30d|
|17.73||Didcot North Jn||09/01||18/02|
|-||Oxford D/UPL||-||16w54a ~ 17w48d|
|Banbury||09*37a ~ 09*39d||16/28|
|19.71||Leamington Spa||09/59||15*24a ~ 16*06d|
|42.21||St Andrews Jn||10/34||14/45|
|42.57||Landor St Jn||10/37||14/43|
|-||Saltley||-||14w13a ~ 14w42d|
|0.00||Reading||18.23a ~ 18.30d|
|44.79||Mitre Bridge Jn||20/00|
|46.64||Acton Wells Jn||20/08|
|48.15||Acton West Jn||20/13|
|51.60||Greenford South Jn||20/27|
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