8th April 2004
St Pancras Farewell
|Locos Used||45112 & 47355|
1Z44 Derby - London St Pancras (1)
1Z45 London St Pancras - Leicester
1Z46 Leicester - London St Pancras
1Z47 London St Pancras Derby (1)
|47355 (2)||Derby - (via MML) - London St Pancras|
|45112 (3)||London St Pancras - Kettering - Corby - Manton Jn - Oakham - Langham Jn - Melton Mowbray - Systone Jn - Leicester|
|45112 (3)||Leicester - (via MML) - London St Pancras|
|47355 (2)||London St Pancras - (via MML) - Derby|
(1) For staff only.
(2) 45112 on rear.
(3) 47355 on rear.
Source : Richard Rooker on all 4 trains throughout
(by Chris Morley)
45112 prior to departure from Derby (photo: Richard Rooker)
My first visit to St. Pancras was on a warm Saturday morning in the Spring of 1977. After walking into the station through the arches at the front I stood and stared at my first view of the amazing Barlow trainshed dating from 1868. Although streaks of sunlight penetrated the roof, the overall impression was one of deep gloom and diesel fumes compared to the cleaner and lighter Kings Cross. At the buffer stops stood several work stained class 45s, their low Sulzer rumble complementing the rattle of the class 127 DMUs. The huge bulk of the Peaks made it seem like these were engines from a different age. In fact the only sign of modernity was a single rake of air-con Mk2s which eventually trundled out behind another 45, bound for Sheffield. I'm sure that very little had changed at St Pancras since the end of steam and the Midland Railway influence was unmistakable. Quite simply it oozed steam age atmosphere....
My first journey along the line to Bedford in early 1978 behind 45104 highlighted the fact that the MML was truly a throwback from another era. Semaphore signals were everywhere and at Bedford Midland I alighted at the run-down Victorian station with the characteristic Midland Railway wooden awnings. On that trip however I realised that modernity was approaching fast - I had already seen new pylon supports by the trackside & posters on the old station advertised the new electric trains ('capable of 100 mph !'). To the North I could see a new & modern station was half completed. Within a few years the semaphores, Midland station, jointed track and DMUs were all history. The arrival of HSTs in 1983/4 meant the end for almost all the Peak hauled trains, although a few commuter workings clung on to 1988. To me the class 45s were the essential Midland loco and St. Pancras and the MML seemed sadder & empty when they were gone. To this day, I’ve never travelled on a loco-hauled service train from St. Pancras that wasn’t hauled by a class 45.
About a month ago I heard from a friend that MML were planning to run a farewell to St. Pancras special with 45112. Ears were kept close to the ground and on the morning the tickets went on sale, my friend Phil hurried along to St. Pancras and badgered the unfortunate booking clerk until 4 savers to Leicester were produced along with seat reservations. Phil was highly motivated to get these tickets – while living in Sheffield he had scratched 49 of the class 45/1 subclass. And the one he never had? – you guessed it, 45112 no less! Talk about a jammy git!
Thursday April 8th dawned fine and bright. Amazingly, FGW link and the blunderground worked perfectly and so I emerged onto the St. Pancras concourse just after 10 a.m. Within a few minutes I heard a rumble and 47355 arrived with a rake of eight IC liveried mk2s, it’s black Fragonset livery contrasting nicely with the coaches and the multi-liveried HSTs. At the North end 45112 looked superb in her proper BR blue livery. A large crowd of enthusiasts went up to look at and photograph the loco. Most of these were fare-paying passengers who soon joined the train, although there were probably 30-40 photographers and video veg who recorded the last Peak departure at 10.37. The 10mph speed restriction ensured a leisurely start and plenty of time to view the ‘Interim’ station that MML will have to use from Tuesday 13th April. In my opinion it looks awful, totally out of keeping with the Victorian masterpiece it stands in front of. Surely the best brains of British engineering and architectural design could have produced something far more sympathetic to the original station than a bland concrete box?
Once clear of the concrete carbuncle, 45112 opened up with the timeless Sulzer rumble and hiss. Despite having 400 tons to pull the Peak quickly gathered speed. I made a point of getting my head out to view Mill Hill Bdy, where I used to spot from the station car park as a kid. In 1977 I wouldn’t have ever imagined passing here on a blue 45/1 hauling a rake of mk2s in the 21st century. On returning to my seat a bottle of Champagne was produced to celebrate Phil’s clearance of the subclass and so the next 30 minutes are a bit vague. We sat in Bedford for a few minutes before proceeding on the slow line past Sharnbrook and Wellingborough. A stop was booked at Kettering where a few people got off. Thereafter we were routed via Corby and over the Harringworth viaduct. Before Manton Jcn. the only ‘train’ we saw was a track repair machine in Corby tunnel. I believe the line was opened just for the passage our special.
After Oakham the Peak put on a spurt of speed before slowing slightly for Melton Mowbray. Our progress remained unhindered and we arrived in Leicester dead on time at 13.12 (passing 60005 and a forlorn looking mainline blue 58005 on the site of the old MPD). Here was a good opportunity to stock up on beers and take a photo in the classic platform. Departure was dead on time at 13.22 and a fairly fast run to Kettering ensued, where we stopped for some time at the up slow Platform. Unfortunately the loco was close to the end of the platform and this restricted the view and any photo opportunities. Departure from Kettering was slightly late and after a quick dash to Wellingborough we were again put on the slow lines to allow a 170 to pass.
Consequently our run to Bedford took some time, however we were signalled onto the up fast before Bedford station (passed at 60mph+) and I decided to time the loco up the hill to Leagrave (much of it at 1 in 200). In fact 45112’s speed settled at 72mph on the incline. In comparison to BR days, a 45/1 with 9 coaches would normally drop to just below 80mph on this stretch. Our 9th coach was in fact a dead 47 weighing about 80 tonnes more so I can happily say that 45112 was performing exactly as it should do. Once over the top, Luton was passed at 86mph and speed continued to climb on this undulating section, St. Albans being passed at the full 90mph (the limit was 80 in the Peak era). The view from my door window in the 4th coach brought back a lot of memories and I began hoping that 45112 would remain on full power down the dip towards Radlett. Unfortunately the brakes came on at 91 mph and so the magic 100mph still eludes me with a Peak. In fact there was an 80 mph TSR just at the bottom of the climb to Elstree and our Peak had to work hard to regain it’s momentum. 90mph was regained just South of Mill Hill, although it’s very noticeable that a Peak no longer overtakes every car on the M1 motorway and even the transit vans now go at nearly 90mph. There were no further checks on the approach and soon our speed came down to 10mph outside St. Pancras. We arrived on time having taken only 41 minutes up from Bedford, a fine performance with a 400 tonne load and a testament to the class 45, the definitive LMR diesel loco on this line. In fact an ITV camera crew filmed the historic arrival and the footage was seen later that day on the news channel. The whole day had gone like clockwork and the only improvement I could have wished for was a rake of authentic blue & grey coaches.
As we stood under the magnificent trainshed savouring the unrepeatable scene, word came round that the ECS to Derby would now be open to all ticket holders. It took all of 30 seconds to decide that a gratis trip to Derby behind low mileage 47355 would indeed be a good idea. We bundled back on and at 15.38 the last-ever locomotive-hauled train departed from St. Pancras for the North. The run was generally fast except for a prolonged stop at Flitwick to allow another MML train to pass. I got in some front coach action after passing through Leicester and enjoyed 90mph running for some time before slowing at Trent Jcn. A final treat was to view most of Fragonset’s fleet at Derby including 31233 & 31285 in their NR yellow livery and newly repainted 47145. All in all, a superb day out – I can only say that MML and Fragonset should run many more charters along these lines.
Having said that a 45/1 out of St. Pancras was a great idea, it has to be asked why none of the charter operators tried to do this since 45112 returned to the mainline several years ago? The 250+ available seats sold very quickly just by word of mouth and the internet, despite running on a Thursday. Properly advertised this train would have sold out many times over. There’s a lesson here for all the tour operators who are wondering what to do now that many classic classes have been withdrawn by EWS. The answer is to run tours with preserved engines that recreate the past exactly. A 45 to Sheffield, a 55 to Newcastle / York / Leeds, a 50 /52 to Paignton, a 33 from Waterloo to Exeter, a 40 Liverpool – York etc. All would appeal to those of us who like authentic BR blue traction on home ground.
Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Richard Rooker)
47355 - 1Z44 / 1Z47
|8.59||Sheet Stores Jn||08/18||08/21||17/53||17/55||119.58|
|9.21||Trent South Jn||08/19||08/22||17/52||17/54||119.16|
|24.39||Syston South Jn||08/30||08/33||17/41||17/43||103.78|
|29.30||Leicester||08.34a - 08.36d||08.37 - 08.39||17/36||17/37||99.07|
|32.46||Wigston North Jn||08/40||08/45||17/32||17/33||95.71|
|56.36||Kettering||09.02a - 09.05d||09.07 - 09.10||17/10||17/12||72.01|
|78.39||Bedford North Jn||09/24||?||16/43||?||49.78|
|79.21||Bedford South Jn||09/26||09/29||16/41||16/40||49.16|
|88.13||Flitwick||09/34||09/35||16/30||16.22 - 16.32||40.24|
|124.37||West Hampstead Thameslink||10/05||10/01||15/44||15/46||4.00|
45112 - 1Z45 / 1Z46
|4.00||West Hampstead Thameslink||10/44||10/44||15/13||15/15||95.07|
|49.16||Bedford South Jn||11/33||11/23||14/40||14/41||49.71|
|49.65||Bedford||11.35a - 11.38d||11.26 - 11.33||14/39||14/40||49.22|
|49.78||Bedford North Jn||11/40||?||14/38||?||49.09|
|72.01||Kettering||12.08a - 12.10d||12.07 - 12.10||13.48a - 14.07d||13.52 - 14.09||27.06|
|74.00||Kettering North Jn||12/13||?||13/45||13/48||25.07|
|115.05||Syston East Jn||13/05||13/07||-||-||-|
|115.29||Syston South Jn||13/06||13/08||-||-||-|
|-||Wigston North Jn||-||-||13/26||13/26||3.16|
a : arrival time
d : departure time
/ : passing time
All distances in miles and chains (M & C) were got
from various other tour reviews within this site.
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