5th May 2003

North-East Railtours
(no tour name)

Locos Used 37411 + 37426
Stock Used 21241+3096+13230+13229+1730+5028+4831+1859+4832+4856+35185

1Z37 : Newcastle to Oban
1Z38 : Oban to Newcastle

Loco(s) Route
37411 + 37426 Newcastle - (via ECML) - Edinburgh Waverley - Haymarket - Falkirk High - Greenhill Upper Jn - Lenzie - Cowlairs North Jn - Westerton - Dalmuir - Dumbarton Central - (via WHL) - Oban
37411 + 37426 Oban - (reverse of outward route) - Newcastle

Sources : David Russell (on the train throughout)

Tour Review
(by David Russell)

The train at Oban (photo : David Russell)

There isn’t much passenger track in the UK that I haven’t covered, and the only branch of any significant length that I had never travelled over was the line from Crianlarich to Oban. Bizarrely, I’m ending up doing the line on two consecutive months, and the first of these was on Monday May 5th when North East Railtours ran its excursion from Newcastle to Oban.

This was my first outing on a North East Railtours train. NER seems to operate 2 or 3 excursions each year, normally using the SRPS stock, which sometimes has the added bonus of a pair of Class 37s as motive power. Today’s tour was to feature a pair of 37s throughout, the same locos having worked to SRPS tour to Mallaig two days earlier.

Departure from Newcastle was at 05.35, which meant an 03.15 start from my house, picking up my brother and then a drive up the A1 to Newcastle. I could have left home quite a bit later as I found myself driving into the station car park shortly after 04.45.

37426+37411 arrived from Tyne Yard at around 05.20, and it was just light enough for a couple of photos before boarding the train in coach A (a Mk 1 BCK) behind the locos. There was some nostalgia here, as it must be quite a few years it is since I spent the day in a compartment coach on the main line in the UK. Departure from Newcastle was bang on time, and the train headed north, picking up at Cramlington, Morpeth and Alnmouth. Although most of us in coach A were enthusiasts, this was largely a ‘normals’ day out. Included in the luggage were a couple of mobility scooters and at least one zimmer frame – reflecting the age range of some of those on board.

The tour was slackly timed going north – I’m told the tour had the same path on the West Highland as last year’s tour to Fort William, but the train left Newcastle an hour earlier than last year.

After a stop at Edinburgh, we continued via the E&G to Cowlairs where the train veered right (what had happened to Eastfield?). The train was booked to stop at Cadder Yard for 11 minutes, and then at Craigendoran Junction for 25 minutes, but in both cases failed to do so, resulting in the tour reaching Gaerlochhead some 40 minutes early – where we passed the unit we should have passed at Craigendoran. Some time was lost between here and Glen Douglas as 37426 had to do most of the work as 411 was suffering one or two problems. These seemed to rectify themselves later, and the 37s produced plenty of noise as they tackled the West Highland’s gradients. By the time Crianlarich was reached, it was raining, and the train was held for time here.

It was then on to my required track, celebrated by the opening of a Belgian beer (maybe not appropriate, but enjoyable nevertheless!). Like much of Scotland, it was very picturesque, running alongside Loch Awe for much of the route. The ScotRail Class 156 unit was passed at Taynuilt before the last part of the journey to Oban for a 3 hour break.

Running round the 37s at Oban took some time, as only the locos had to be split because of the track layout. After running round, the stock was taken out and moved into the other platform. These manoeuvres gave plenty of opportunity for photos before having a wander into town for a souvenir before departure.

I think this was the first tour I’ve ever travelled on where I’ve been booked in different coaches on the outward and return legs! Because of the new HSE ruling, fare paying passengers are not allowed to travel in the end vehicles if they are Mk. 1 coaches. (Locos are included as ‘end vehicles’.)  This meant that nobody could travel in coach A on the return. The simple answer was for all those in A to move to the opposite end of the train (Coach L – Mk. 1 BSK 35185) for the return leg. This meant that we would be right behind the locos for the whole day. Full credit to North East Railtours and the SRPS for doing this, which meant the tour didn’t have to run with an empty coach at both ends, and also kept the enthusiasts happy.

It had rained during our stop at Oban, and I expected 37426+37411 to struggle up the 1 in 50 gradient. However, the driver was very skilful and the locos managed it with no problems, but plenty of noise! Maybe it was me, but I thought the locos were louder on the return journey.

I’d pre-booked dinner on the return journey. This was a 3-course meal served by the SRPS volunteers, who steward the train. With a large number of staff, and customers all over the train, the SRPS have obviously got a routine in preparing for the meal, and items for dinner arrived gradually - first the paper placemat, followed by a knife & fork, then a plate, next some butter, then a spoon, then some bread, and finally the tomato soup!  The next course was roast turkey with cream sauce, duchesse potatoes, peas and carrots, followed by meringues and fruit cocktail with cream. Finally, coffee with after eight mints. Excellent value at only £8.

Dinner was finished as we skirted round Glasgow, following the same path as the outward journey. A stop was made at Edinburgh before heading down the East Coast Main Line back to Newcastle. Having been up 18 hours by now, I have to confess I don’t remember that much about that part of the journey. The train lost a few minutes time, but 26 minutes recovery time between Cramlington and Heaton ensured a 9 minute early arrival back at Newcastle.

This was a somewhat long but thoroughly enjoyable tour, no doubt helped by the fact I was sat at the ‘sharp end’ all day. I’m looking forward to my next tour over ScotRail’s scenic lines, next month behind two Deltics for five days. Thanks to all the SRPS volunteers for all their efforts to make it an enjoyable day.

David Russell

Timings (Booked Only)

Location Booked (out) Booked (rtn)
Newcastle Central 05.35d 23.45a
Heaton South Jn 05/40 23/42
Cramlington 05.49a ~ 05.54d 23.06a ~ 23.08d
Morpeth 06.03a ~ 06.08d 22.54a ~ 22.57d
Alnmouth 06.25a ~ 06.30d 22.36a ~ 22.39d
Belford 06/49 22/20
Berwick 07.06a ~ 07.11d 22.03a ~ 22.05d
Reston 07/21 12/52
Grantshouse 07/26 21/47
Dunbar 07/36 21/37
Drem 07/46 21/27
Monktonhall Jn 08/00 21/13
Portobello Jn 08/02 21/11
Edinburgh Waverley 08.06a ~ 08.10d 21.04a ~ 21.06d
Haymarket 08/14 21/01
Haymarket West Jn 08/15 20/58
Newbridge Jn 08/21 20/49
Winchburgh Jn 08/25 20/46
Linlithgow 08/30 20/42
Bo'ness DS 08*33a ~ 08*50d -
Polmont Jn 08/56 20/38
Falkirk High 08/59 20/35
Greenhill Upper Jn 09/07 20/31
Lenzie 09/20 20/22
Cadder Yard 09*22a ~ 09*33d -
Cowlairs East Jn 09/38 20/16
Cowlairs North Jn 09/41 20/14
Westerton 09/51 20/07
Dalmuir 09/58 19/54
Dumbarton Central 10/05 19/42
Dalreoch 10/06 19/41
Craigendoran Jn 10*15a ~ 10*40d 19/33
Helensborough Upper 10.45a ~ 10.48d 19.20a ~ 19.22d
Garelochhead 10.59a ~ 11.01d 18.52a ~ 19.08d
Glen Douglas 11/14 18/41
Arrochar & Tarbet 11.23a ~ 11.25d 18.29a ~ 18.31d
Ardlui 11.39a ~ 11.41d 18.12a ~ 18.14d
Crainlarich 12.01a ~ 12.04d 17.50a ~ 17.54d
Tyndrum Lower 12.13a ~ 12.15d 17.39a ~ 17.41d
Dalmally 12.33a ~ 12.35d 17.16a ~ 17.18d
Taynuilt 12.54a ~ 12.58d 16.55a ~ 16.57d
Connel Ferry 13.10a ~ 13.12d 16.42a ~ 16.44d
Oban 13.25a 16.25d

Timings continue in first table.

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