27th March 2004

Branch Line Society
Birch Coppice Pioneer

Locos Used 66128 & 67007
Stock Used 5278+4946+4915+21245+3144+4996+5389

1Z29 : Ealing Broadway to Birch Coppice
1Z30 : Birch Coppice to Ealing Broadway

Loco(s) Route
67007 Ealing Broadway - Acton Main Line - Acton Wells Jn - Dudding Hill Jn - Brent Curve Jn - (via MML, Down Silkstream Flyover, Bedford (fast line), Sharnbrook U&D Slow) - Wigston South Jn - Coalville - Birmingham Curve Jn - Branston Jn - Wichnor Jn - Tamworth HL - Kingsbury Jn - (3) - Water Orton - Park Lane Jn - Walsall - Walsall Freight Terminal
66128 (1) Walsall Freight Terminal - Walsall Tasker Street
67007 (2) Walsall Tasker Street - Walsall Freight Terminal
66128 (1) Walsall Freight Terminal - Walsall - Park Lane Jn - Water Orton - Hams Hall West Arrival Line - Whitacre Jn - Kingsbury Jn - Birch Coppice - Headshunt
67007 (2) Headshunt - TNT Terminal
66128 (1) TNT Terminal - Headshunt
67007 (2) Headshunt - Birch Coppice - Kingsbury Jn - Whitacre Jn - Hams Hall Arrival Line
67007 Hams Hall Arrival Line - Whitacre Jn - Kingsbury Jn - Wichnor Jn - Burton-on-Trent - Stenson Jn - Sheet Stores Jn - (via MML, Leicester U&D Slow, U/D Slow between Wigston North & South Jns, Bedford Up Slow, Sharnbrook U&D goods) - St Albans - (via Hendon Chord) - Brent Curve Jn - (reverse of outward route) - Ealing Broadway

Notes :
(1) 67007 on rear.
(2) 66128 on rear.
(3) Was shown on NR timings as booked via Whitacre Jn but travelled direct (as per the tour brochure).

The following has been received from NJ (Gas) Hill regarding traversal of the Hendon Chord by railtours:
"A single track link, northwards out of the Up & Down Hendon lines, on the six track section of the MML out of London from West Hampstead to Silkstream Jn, trails into the Down Fast between Hendon station and the flyover which takes the Hendon lines over the fast pair to merge with the slow lines at Silkstream Jn. Traversal of this chord was included in the specification for our Birch Coppice Pioneer railtour of 27 March 2004 (though cautiously the route advertised to customers was "via Hendon Chord or Silkstream Flyover). It was not traversed outward from Ealing Broadway on the day, though the omission was rectified in the evening southbound. This followed advice from our EWS driver that the signal for access to the chord from the Down Hendon had not been operative for several years, not a disadvantage to operating flexibility in practice because a 15mph speed limit out onto the Fast Lines was usually disruptive to the pathing of MML expresses. The tour came off the Dudding Hill line at Brent Curve Jn and crossed immediately onto the Down Fast there, a not uncommon move with freight trains instead of going north Slow Line. On 11 November 2006 exactly the same was done with Pathfinder's tour to Edwalton, despite the fact that the chord had been advertised as an attraction in their route and the Network Rail timings showed DHL from Brent Curve Jn then FL from Hendon, with a footnote in the EWS Charter Train Notice:

1. Hendon: Customer request to run via the Hendon Chord (sic) line

Putting together information from several sources, the signal concerned has been defective probably since the mid-1980's, with some components cannibalised that long ago to fix faults on another West Hampstead PSB worked signal nearby - not a problem day-to-day as the signal was never used anyway. The situation is known to the drivers who sign the route and presumably to the signalmen and their managers. As the latest Quail still shows the chord as bi-directional, it seems that the unavailability of the route is not officially permanent in Network Rails' records. Nevertheless, it is very surprising that their Timing Offices blissfully continue to book railtours (at least) via a route impossible for so long." 

Roj Fraser gives the following as the mileages covered, based on GPS readings;

Loco From - To M.C
67007 Tamworth HL - Walsall Freight Terminal 23.68
66128 Walsall Freight Terminal - Tasker Street PDC 0.24
67007 Tasker Street PDC - Walsall Freight Terminal 0.24
66128 Walsall Freight Terminal - Birch Coppice Neck 23.34
67007 Birch Coppice Neck - TNT Logistics Depot 0.33
66128 TNT Logistics Depot - Birch Coppice Neck 0.33
67007 Birch Coppice Neck - Hams Hall Arrival Line 7.17
67007 Hams Hall Arrival Line - Tamworth HL 8.72

Sources : Alan Sheppard, Mark Herriott, Paul Cunday & Roj Fraser

Tour Review
(from Ken Strachan)

Let’s start this tour in the middle, which is quite logical by Nuneaton standards. I bought a book on the bookstall – stop me if I’m going too fast – which catalogued about the last 40 years of BLS tours. It is clear from this history, that the BLS usually pick up the punters on quite a local basis. On this occasion, however, Gas Hill must have had a rush of blood to the head, picking up from Ealing Broadway, and all shacks on the Midland Main Line. This suited me down to the ground. Having been brought up on crimson lake, the Derby to Manchester line, the S&C, and other such wonders of the Western world, the Midland is my second favourite line after the GC; and tends to offer a longer run these days.

I considered parking at Nuneaton, getting plastic to Leicester and down to Kettering; but it was Bertie Buses from Nun to Leicester, and I had a time limited pass out from the missus. So it was M6 (weeping mildly when passing over the GC trackbed) then A14 (another trackbed near Lilbourne) and Kettering for the pickup. Short term parking only near the station, so £4 ching in the car park. Just as I walked over to the station, 67.007 (licenced to haul railtours) hove into view with a rake of purple coaches. Not often you see a proper train on the Midland these days. My knees went all wobbly.

We had a 22 minute fester to admire the wooden station buildings and nice iron canopies, and if we really felt brave, to get our teeth into the mountains of bumf provided by the BLS and its mates. Seriously, I do like a good tour booklet; and the detailed maps are very useful; but the leaflet regarding the new uses of Birch Coppice Colliery from iM Properties provided unintentional amusement. About half way down this mini-library, we pulled out North. As we passed Wigston Junction – having lost 7 minutes on a 22 minute run – the reason for buses from Nun to LR became clear – there was a red shed lurking under the first road bridge, with a PW train in tow. Oh well. We turned onto the Ivanhoe line – suitable for gardeners? – which is almost my commuter run these days, having covered it three times on tours in the last year or so. Birmingham Curve Junction was marked by 66.712 heading North (East) with a Freightliner; and by a Cadillac Escalade parked outside someone’s house. How many rap singers are there in Burton-on-Trent? There was also a rather mangy fox snuffling about in the sidings – we’d have offered him a lift to the Brush Works, but we were going the wrong way. After an 11 minute fester on the curve, we were 30 down at Branston Junction - a fine pickle so early in the day.

However, a bodge was in hand. We were meant to travel via Kingsbury, doing a handbrake turn right after an eight minute fester – a tricky manoeuvre, if you think about it. However, we cut the corner and went straight through to Water Orton, which allowed us to catch up 17 minutes by Park Lane Junction. The usual pleasant run through Sutton Park; we kept going at Ryecroft Junction, in case someone tried to steal the hubcaps. (There are some interesting former trackbeds in this area; a useful proportion having been built over in the last five years. One guy has a brick arch bridge in his back garden. However, the local yoof can be unpleasant) We emerged from Park Street Tunnel and stopped at Walsall, where we noticed a gaggle of unit spotters on the platform; and lost five minutes dropping a gentleman straight out of a “Before” picture in a Weight Watchers ad’. Perhaps we would go faster now? Not specially; we were only drawing into the Freight Terminal, to attach 66.128 as our pushmepullyou.

A word about this ‘ere Freight Terminal. One end of it looked like a parcels terminal alright, looking a bit silly in the current political circumstances vis-à-vis the GPO; but the “Steel Terminal” looked conspicuously like a cement terminal to us – unless some clever bod has invented a way of unloading rebar from trains by sucking it up through pipes. If they have, I’ll patent it… remnants of earlier times included an old telegraph pole, a derelict office, and a wagon height gauge. Later budgets were obviously a bit tighter, as a sliding canopy from a Tiphook Rail wagon had been “recycled” as a dry(ish) storage area. Enough of the hardware; we were bemused to see a woman and her young son waving vigorously at the train as it passed them, adjacent to the new Portakabin “offices” in the cement terminal. They had four waving sessions in all as we shunted up and down, then raced us back to Walsall station on foot – and very nearly beat us!

66.242 passed us in Walsall, hauling ballast. Somehow, we lost 7 minutes between leaving the freight terminal and leaving Walsall – don’t ask. We passed back through Sutton Park, wondering why two full ballast wagons had been left on their own dedicated track panel at Sutton Coldfield station (the disused one). At Park Lane Junction, the signalman kindly gave us precedence over 66.143, running light; so we arrived for our first visit to Hams Hall only 9 down. The remnants of old power station track layouts were quite confusing – the man with the 1946 OS map was popular. Moving on to Kingsbury, at least parts of 08.886, 866 (?), and 957 were seen in the scrapyard; further away, the numbers looked like 12098 and 13309. Even without looking up previous records, that sounds uncomfortably like what was there last time I called, two or three years previously. No matter; the highlight of the tour was approaching, as we thrashed our way up the hill on the relaid Birch Coppice branch; including the lowered section where you may remember local residents worrying about noise levels. As it happens, I was photting this branch at Christmas. The incoming train was late, and I was getting anxious. The guy who lived in the second cottage from the railway popped out of his house, so I asked him if he had heard a train go by. “We don’t always hear them”, he said. Bananas, anyone?

There are all kinds of old colliery branches in this area – if you visit the site of Baddesley Ensor pit, I am told you can see rails of two gauges still set in concrete. One of the old colliery lines, to Birch Coppice #4 pit, is now a footpath, crossing TNT’s internal lines.

The only timing point shown on the timesheet was the Exchange sidings; but we passed right through them, into the headshunt, and back down into the TNT warehouse complex, stopping a mere engine length or so from the buffers. TNT were displaying their road/rail vehicles – one a Unimog, the other of less obvious parentage. In any case, the true anoraks were identifying the VW gearboxes visible in stillages on the other side of the train. “I think you’ll find that’s an LT 5-speed 1998-1999, with the 2.61 second gear”… “I think you’ll find it’s a 2.62, actually…..”. Meanwhile at the headshunt, an enterprising local was using a Range Rover to conquer the mountainous terrain and phot the train.

The run off site, down the branch to Kingsbury, and into Hams Hall again to take the 66 off, was of course an anticlimax; despite 66.187 passing us at Hams Hall, hauling steel bars. However, speaking of anoraks, there is a trailer parked near Whitacre Junction carrying the bare bodyshell of a Ferrari 250GT, circa 1962; just thought you ought to know that. We were 37 down leaving Hams Hall, and 28 down at Stenson Junction; but somehow caught up 12 minutes by Sheet Stores. We had caught up another minute by Leicester, where yet another 66 –146- passed us with a box wagon consist. Things went pear shaped again by Market Harborough, where we were minus 39. I was glad to get off at Kettering, before things got even worse!

In all, a good day out; but as I suspected, not a good day for taking the missus. Too much fester, not enough mountains!

Ken Strachan

Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from various including Alan Sheppard)

M.C Location Booked Actual   Booked Actual M.C
0.00 Ealing Broadway 07.38d 07.39   21.13a 21.24 354.45
0.56 Acton West 07/40 07/44   21/11 21/23 353.69
1.35 Acton Main Line 07/41 ?   ? ? 353.10
2.20 Acton Wells Jn 07/45 07/46   21/00 21/18 352.25
5.14 Dudding Hill Jn 07/55 07/55   20/51 21/08 349.31
6.17 Brent Curve Jn 07/58 07/57   20/48 21/02 348.28
7.12 Hendon 08/01 07/59   20/46 ? 347.33
8.05 Silkstream Jn 08/03 08/11  
15.30 Radlett booked to stay
on Down Slow
DS to DF   20/33 ? 339.79
20.03 St Albans City 08.16a ~ 08.19d 08.32 ~ 08.33   20.12a ~ 20.17d 20.41 ~ 20.44 335.04
25.33 Harpendon 08/24 ?   20/06 ? 329.55
30.32 Luton 08/30 08/38   19/57 20/29 324.56
40.31 Flitwick 08/43 08/48   19/44 20/20 314.57
49.29 Bedford South Jn 08/50 08/53   19/33 20/13 305.59
49.78 Bedford 08/54 08/55   19/31 20/12 305.10
50.48 Bedford North Jn 08/54 08/55½   19/30 ? 304.40
56.65 Sharnbrook Jn 09/27 09/08   19/21 19/56 298.23
65.24 Wellingborough 09/38 09/18   19/10 19/46 289.64
67.13 Harrowden Jn 09/45 09.23 ~ 09.38   19/02 19/44 287.75
70.73 Kettering South Jn 09/51 ?   18/56 19/37 284.15
72.14 Kettering 09.54a ~ 10.16d 09.50 ~ 10.17   18.48a ~ 18.51d 19.28 ~ 19.31 282.74
74.59 Kettering North Jn 10/19 10.21 ~ 10.24   18/45 19/24 280.29
83.07 Market Harborough 10/28 10/33   18/35 19/14 272.01
96.09 Wigston North Jn 10/38 10/42   18/25 18/41 258.79
97.58 Knighton Jn 10/42 10/44   ? 18/38 257.30


M.C Location Booked Actual
110.07 Bagworth Jn 11/02 11/20
112.26 Coalville Jn 11/17 11/33
113.19 Mantle Lane 11/25 11/34
116.73 Lounge Jn 11/34 11/45
121.00 Moira West Jn 11/42 11/57
126.53 Birmingham Curve Jn 11/53 12/14
127.32 Branston Jn 11/55 12.17a ~ 12.24d
131.39 Wichnor Jn 12/01 12/30
138.75 Tamworth HL 12.07a ~ 12.10d 12.40 ~ 12.41
144.56 Kingsbury Jn 12/18 12/46
? Whitacre Jn 12*23a ~ 12*31d DIV
148.51 Water Orton 12/36 12/50
150.26 Water Orton West Jn 12/38 12/52
151.21 Park Lane Jn 12/40 12/54
162.71 Ryecroft Jn 13/06 13/12
163.32 Walsall 13/08 13.15a ~ 13.19d
? Walsall Brook Siding 13/10 13.22 ~ 13.23
163.67 Walsall Freight Terminal 13L13a ~ 13L33d 13.29 ~ 13.35
164.04 Walsall Tasker Street 13.36a ~ 13.42 13.42 ~ 13.44
164.19 Walsall Freight Terminal 13.46a ~ 13.52d 13.51 ~ 13.53
? Walsall Brook Siding 13/55 14.00a ~ 14.02d
164.54 Walsall 13/57 14/06
165.11 Ryecroft Jn 13/59 14/09
176.61 Park Lane Jn 14/20 14/26
177.56 Water Orton West Jn 14/23 14.29a ~ 14.31d
179.31 Water Orton 14/25 14/33
180.56 Coleshill 14/27 14/38
? Hams Hall West Arrival Line 14/31 14.40a ~ 14.42d
181.64 Whitacre Jn 14/36 14/47
184.16 Kingsburty Jn 14/40 14/53
185.22 Kingsbury Branch Jn 14/43 14/56
? Kingsbury Shunt Frame 14.45a ~ 14.50d 15/00
187.48 Hall End Jn ? 15/17
187.70 Birch Coppice Exchange Sidings 15.00a 15/23
188.18 Headshunt ? 15.25a ~ 15.33d
188.53 TNT Warehouse ? 15.39a ~ 15.43d
189.09 Headshunt ? 15.49a ~ 15.53d
189.36 Birch Coppice Exchange Sidings 15.25d 16.00a ~ 16.01d
189.58 Hall End Jn ? 16/04
? Kingsbury Shunt Frame 15.35a ~ 15.40d 16.19 ~ 16.20
192.02 Kingsbury Branch Jn 15/47 16/21
193.08 Kingsbury Jn 15/50 16/25
195.40 Whitacre Jn 15/54 16/29
196.00 Hams Hall Arrival Line 16L00a ~ 16L30d 16.33 ~ 17.07
196.40 Whitacre Jn 16/40 17/11
198.72 Kingsbury Jn 16/47 17/15
199.78 Kingsbury Branch Jn ? 17/17
205.53 Tamworth HL 16.54a ~ 16.57d 17.21 ~ 17.23
213.09 Wichnor Jn 17/04 17/29
218.44 Burton-on-Trent 17/08 17/34
224.23 North Stafford Jn 17/13 17/39
224.67 Stenson Jn 17/13 17/41
237.21 Sheet Stores Jn 17/42 17/58
237.63 Trent South Jn 17/45 17/59
238.45 Ratcliffe Jn 17/47 18/02
245.32 Loughborough 17/56 18/12
248.28 Sileby Jn 18/02 18/19
251.03 Syston South Jn 18/10 18/24
255.68 Leicester (U&D Slow) 18c17a ~ 18c19d 18.32 ~ 18.34
256.41 Leicester South Jn 18/21 18/36

Timings continue in first table.

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