21st April 2003
Past Time Rail
The Red Dragon
|Locos Used||60009 "Union of South Africa", 67005, 67012 & 67028|
1Z44 : Finsbury Park to Carmarthen
1Z45 : Carmarthen to Finsbury Park
|67028||Finsbury Park - Freight Terminal Jn - Camden Road - Gospel Oak - Kensal Green Jn - Willesden Junction HL - Acton Wells Jn - Acton Main Line - Reading - Didcot - Swindon - Chippenham - Bath Spa - North Somerset Jn - Bristol Temple Meads|
|60009||Bristol Temple Meads - Dr Days Jn - Filton Jn - Patchway - Severn Tunnel Junction - Newport - Cardiff Central - Barry - Bridgend - Court Sart Jn - Jersey Marine North Jn - Felin Fran - Morlais Jn - Llanelli - Carmarthen|
|60009||Carmarthen - (reverse of outward route) - Bridgend - Pontyclun - Cardiff Central - (reverse of outward route) - Bristol Temple Meads|
|67012 + 67005||Bristol Temple Meads - (reverse of outward route) - Finsbury Park|
(1) Route confirmation required from Finsbury Park to Reading & return.
Sources : Alan Savage & Terry Jackson (both joined/left the train
(from Terry Jackson)
When I first saw details of this tour advertised, I reckoned that it would give me FOUR sections of new steam track and it all seemed too good to be true. Then in the week before the tour, reality set in with the Swansea avoiding line being dumped and the tour returning via it's outward route through Felin Fran. No reason was given for the change either before the tour or on the day and, when I asked why, I was told that Network Rail had simply changed the route when the timings were issued. This begs the question of why someone doesn't demand the reason for the changes that Network Rail often make to tour routes without any explanation. After all, the tour operators are customers of Network Rail and are entitled to know why changes are made.
Monday the 21st dawned and I made my way to Sunningdale to catch a train to Reading to conect with the tour only to find that all services to Reading were suspended due to a fatality on the line. The BBC website on the following day provided the explanation that someone had decided to take a stroll along the line between Bracknell and Wokingham and had electrocuted himself. The driver of the first train off Reading to Waterloo spotted the body but was unable to stop before hitting it.
So it was back to the car for a quick drive to Reading to park in the station car park. BIG MISTAKE. What I didn't realise (although well known to the locals) was that First Great Western are so short of cash that they charge full weekday parking rates on Bank Holiday Mondays, hence it cost me £12-60 for a day's parking. It only goes to show that Ken Livingstone and police speed cameras are not the only experts at daylight robbery these days.
Anyway I eventually joined the throng of fellow enthusiasts waiting on the footbridge at Reading to await the arrival of the tour behind 67-028. Perhaps I should explain here that waiting on the footbridge is the only practical way of knowing which platform a charter service will use since First Great Western (who else) steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the existance of any charter services on the departure indicators and only reluctantly advise passengers about such services when they are actually arriving at a platform. I believe that this is known as customer care.
67-028 duly arrived on platform 9 and we left a few minutes late. Services between Reading and Didcot were being delayed due to a lightning strike (natural variety, not the RMT sort) near Tilehurst but once clear of Didcot we settled down to a steady run to Bristol which we reached near enough right time.
Here the train was due to reverse with 60009 plus it's service coach attached to what was the rear of the train. 60009 looked absolutely brilliant and we set off for Wales in high hopes of some good running. Once clear of Filton Junction and on the main line, 60009 ran well when given the opportunity to the first scheduled stop at Newport where the engine took water. This was completed and we set off on time for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan line via Barry. It was now that we were given the news that my second bit of new steam track had bitten the dust. Due to shortage of time at Carmarthen, the off train activities including the visit to the Gwili Railway had been cancelled and the Past Time stewards came round with refunds for those of us who had booked for them. It was disappointing although I had always thought the time we were due to have at Carmarthen would have been very tight.
We arrived at Cardiff and veered left towards the Barry line and the first section of new steam track for the day. I always think that this section of line is quite interesting especially in the Barry area but you can have too much of a good thing. It transpired that main line services were being diverted via this section due to works on the main line between Cardiff and Bridgend and it was no doubt due to this that we crept from signal to signal all the way to Bridgend losing well over 30 minutes in doing so. Once clear of Bridgend, a short burst of speed brought us to Port Talbot where it was announced that we would be taking water. Time had been allowed in the schedule both ways to take water in the area of Felin Fran but the journey around the Swansea and District line was slow and we eventually joined the main line just before Llanelly about 45 minutes late. We didn't pick up any time on the short journey to Carmarthen and I got my second bit of new steam track with the curve into Carmarthen station. Any hopes of pulling back some time were dashed when it was announced that Network Rail had rescheduled us to depart from Carmarthen 45 minutes after our booked time.
It was interesting to note that Carmarthen station was able to show our train on the departure indicators (although in English only) but this was probably due to the fact that the station is run by Wales and West and not First Great Western.
With the A4 duly turned on the triangle, we left about 50 minutes down and returned via our outward route to Bridgend taking water at Llangennech on the Swansea and District. Once again progress around the latter line was slow and even when we regained the main line at Port Talbot we progressed in fits and starts. At Bridgend we carried on up the main line to Cardiff, the engineering works having cleared, and Newport where we again took water. The journey on to Bristol was slow and uneventful with an arrival time some 50-55 minutes late.
The train was due to reverse here again but, as the support coach had not been shunted at Carmarthen, it had to be removed here before our diesels could be coupled for the return to London. The main surprise was that our motive power for the return was to be 67-012 and 67-005 double heading. Departure from Bristol was 70 minutes late but the running from here was very fast indeed with some lightning accelerations. Bristol to Swindon took 33 minutes and Swindon to Reading 28 minutes. With the stock limited to 100 mph, this was excellent running and, although I got off at Reading, I was subsequently told by a friend that Finsbury Park was eventually reached only 20 minutes late.
Another good tour and day out although missing out part of the advertised route that a lot of people needed and the Gwili Railway visit was disappointing. The A4 looked superb and seemed to run freely when given the opportunity which unfortunately wasn't often. The tour was fully booked and I think proved that, given the right itinerary and timings, steam tours will still sell well.
Timings (Booked Only)
|Location||Booked (out)||Booked (rtn)|
|Holloway South Jn||06/31||22/49|
|Freight Terminal Jn||06/33||22/46|
|Camden Road East Jn||06/36||22/33|
|Kensal Green Jn||06/54||22/14|
|Wilesden Junction HL||06/55||22/13|
|Acton Wells Jn||06/57||22/10|
|Acton Main Line||06/59||22/09|
|Ealing Broadway||07.06a ~ 07.10d||22.01a ~ 22.03d|
|Slough||07.34a ~ 07.38d||21.47a ~ 21.49d|
|Reading||07.58a ~ 08.00d||21.29a ~ 21.32d|
|Didcot Parkway||08/16||21.10a ~ 21.12d|
|Swindon||08.36a ~ 08.38d||20.47a ~ 20.49d|
|Wootton Bassett Jn||08/45||20/40|
|North Somerset Jn||09/16||20/07|
|Bristol East Jn||09/17||20/06|
|Bristol Temple Meads||09L18a ~ 09L56d||19L40a ~ 20L05d|
|Bristol East Jn||09/57||19/38|
|Dr Days Jn||09/59||19/37|
|Severn Tunnel Junction||10/24||19/14|
|Newport||10.44a ~ 11.14d||18.42a ~ 19.02d|
|Port Talbot Parkway||12/46|
|Court Sart Jn||12/51|
|Jersey Marine North Jn||12/53|
|Pembrey & Burry Port||13/55|
|Carmarthen||14.20a ~ 16.05d|
|Pembrey & Burry Port||16/27|
|Jersey Marine North Jn||17/34|
|Port Talbot Parkway||17/43|
Timings Continue in first table.
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