4th September 2004
The Pieces of Eight
|Locos Used||60003, 60040, 66039, 66208, 66525 & 66528|
1Z53 : Reading to Burton-on-Trent Goods
1Z54 : Burton-on-Trent Goods to Reading
Loco(s) Route 66039 Reading - Didcot Parkway - Didcot North Jn - Oxford - Banbury - Leamington Spa - Coventry [P3] - Birmingham International [P2] - Stechford - Aston - Perry Barr North Jn - Bescot (1) - Walsall [P1] - Hednesford - Rugeley - Stafford [P6] 66525+66528 Stafford [P6] - Norton Bridge - Madeley - Basford Hall Jn - Crewe Gresty Lane - Nantwich - Shrewsbury - Wellington - Oxley - (via Oxley Chord) - Bushbury Jn - Stafford U&DGL 66528+66525 Stafford U&DGL - Colwich - Lichfield HL Goods Loop Jn (via down & up Goods loop) - Wichnor Jn - Burton-on-Trent UGL 60003+60040 (2) Burton-on-Trent UGL - Birmingham Curve Jn - Coalville Jn - Knighton Jn - Wigston South Jn - Hinckley - Nuneaton - Abbey Jn - Water Orton (down slow) - Park Lane Jn - Walsall (platform avoiding line) - Bescot UGL 66208 Bescot UGL - Perry Barr North Jn - Aston - Stechford - Birmingham International [P5] - (reverse of outward route) - Reading
(1) Was booked to change locos in Bescot U&DGL but unable to do so as there was a freight train in the loop whose driver had been delayed as Birmingham New Street had been evacuated after a gas leak in one of the tunnels.
(2) 66525+66528 on rear.
Source : Gary Thornton (joined/left the train at Birmingham International)
With no tours of any consequence over the Summer, the Pieces of Eight was the first tour of the Autumn Season. It was a bit of a shock when the alarm went off at 0415! It was also a bit of a shock when Dan (my lift) appeared shortly after... We successfully negotiated various automotive routing perils to find the stock already in when we to arrived at Reading. 66039 (first scratch of the day) at the helm.
I was pay on the day, but the seat next to Dan was available so I was allocated that one. Reading was departed on time, and little did we know of what was to follow. For the Quail brigade the first point of salivation was the shuffle via the Moreton Cutting crossovers to pass 66141. We crossed from the reliefs to the mains and the back, effectively looping '141 on the reliefs. You may ask why we weren't on the down main in the first place, the answer lies in the mind of the signaller (who is unavailable for comment).
Picking up at Didcot and Banbury we took the centre roads at Leamington and headed for Birmingham International. A gen call confirmed that various large and/or bearded bashers had been spotted getting 390s in.
Arrival at International brought forth the first hint of a farce unrolling in front of us. New Street South Tunnels were shut owing to a gas leak. New Street station itself was still open but this would soon change. We were routed via the Aston - Stechford line so perhaps we would slip past unaffected. Fat chance! We slipped out of International on time, and took the right fork at Stechford. Good progress was made, and by Perry Bar North Junction the miracle of pathing time made us 11 minutes early. One signal section south of the final pick up at Thame Bridge Parkway we ground to a halt. The PA sprang into life announcing our peril. Although we were good to go, and our replacement locos were waiting at Bescot. There was a slight problem with a freight train occupying the reversible goods loop at Bescot where the change was due to take place. The driver of said inter-modal was at New Street which had just been evacuated...
As we waited, a procession of Virgins went by. Tucked in amongst them there were Freightliners and 150s. After an hour of this there was a toot from the front end and we slipped into Tame Bridge 39 minutes late. Our final crop of passengers boarded, having waited patiently for the train, with it visible just off the platforms. The freight train driver had arrived by cab.
At Bescot we took the platform line, and turned right towards Walsall. 66525+66528 were waiting in the up goods loop. We were hoping for a 57, but with Freightliner's ongoing loco and driver shortages two 66s were going to have to suffice. In light of the circumstances having to move the loco change to Stafford counted as getting off lightly. The 66s followed on behind and at Stafford there was a photo opportunity with red and green sheds side by side.
'039 came off, and '525+'528 dropped on. Stafford was departed about 15 late, the loco change having extended the booked pathing slot slightly. Talk then moved to whether we would manage to traverse the Gresty Lane Curve. Taking the Down Independent Fast at Basford Hall made it difficult for NR to deny us the curve, and finally after turning left at Salop Goods Junction the hurrah went up. We had made it. The PA announced that we were the first loco hauled charter to traverse the curve, the BLS having taken a 101 round the curve in 2001 (7th & 14th December).
Having accomplished the primary objective the rest of the day, the sun and alcohol started to take their toll. The rest of proceedings were interspersed with sleep! We completed our lap of the midlands, taking in Shrewsbury and the Oxley chord. Back at Strafford we were routed into the Royal Mail platform. As usual at mail terminals we were trapped on the train by the higher than normal platform. A selection of late running services went past whilst the driver ran the 66s round.
Leaving Stafford we headed south and crossed over to take the curve off the WCML round the back of Lichfield Trent Valley and up towards Burton-on-Trent. At Burton we were greeted by the sign of 60003+60040 waiting on the curve from the Ivanhoe Line. With only the single island platform at Burton we were routed into the reversible goods loop to perform the attachment. The 60s came onto the rear and the 66s were left attached, it being easier to drag them back to Bescot than find a driver and path for them from Burton.
The Ivanhoe line through Coalville has a very low passenger speed limit, the timings being set for somewhere in the region of 20mph. This is fine for observing the various freight installations and industrial archaeology en route, however pressure ventilated stock relies upon travelling at a moderate speed for it's airflow. Things were starting to get uncomfortably warm.
Despite being fitted for multiple working, there are few trains where pairs of 60s are actually used. The upshot of this is that when 60s are asked to work in multiple they have a habit of objecting. Things weren't quite at the one loco going forwards one loco going backwards stage, but it did seem that '040 was having a sulk in second position. '003 was doing a steam loco impersonation at the front. 90% of the tour must have scratched these locos, only the main 60 men having covered them on their previous workings in the last century.
(These were: 60003 Hull - Doncaster on 2/10/1994 with the Paragon Paradox, 60040 Waterloo - Salisbury on 14/11/1992 with the Solent & Wessex Wanderer.)
Coming off the Ivanhoe line we got a bit of speed up and the cooling breeze woke many from their slumbers. We headed off for the new Nuneaton flyover - passenger track - but a new configuration for many. Heading west we took the Sutton Park line at Water Orton, heading for Bescot again.
Coming into Bescot we were routed into the Up Goods loop, opposite side of the line to the reversible loop we were denied earlier in the day. More red pen for the Quail boys, if only they had an up to date to map to apply it to. Both pairs of locos were removed and 66208 (last scratch of the day) was attached for the run back to Reading. First set down came at Tame Bridge, some 60 chains from the loop.
As usual with the home run on a tour the main interest was how early we could get back. The final reckoning was just 5 minutes early back at Reading, although at points we had been as good as 15 minutes up.
Some people will complain about the lack of 57 or missing out on the first loop at Bescot, but basically the tour did what it set out to and must be regarded as a success. Hopefully the rest of the autumn tours will be to the same standard. The question of how many people will produce just for 66s remains to be seen.
Timings (Booked & Actual)
(booked courtesy of Pathfinder Tours,
actuals from various including Gary Thornton/Alan Sheppard/Nigel Benning)
|17.12||Didcot Parkway||06.40a ~ 06.43d||06.41 + 06.43||21.09a ~ 21.11d||20.57 ~ 20.58||87.11|
|17.76||Didcot North Jn||06/46||06/46||21/06||20/48||86.27|
|50.18||Banbury||07.22a ~ 07.28d||07.23 ~ 07.29||20.29a ~ 20.32d||20.15 ~ 20.18||54.05|
|79.61||Coventry||08.03a ~ 08.08d||08.01 ~ 08.08||19.44a ~ 19.47d||[P4]
19.41 ~ 19.44
|90.37||Birmingham International||08.23a ~ 08.27d||08.24 ~ 08.27||19.22a ~ 19.30d||19.20 ~ 19.30||13.66|
|100.05||Perry Barr North Jn||09/00||08.43 ~ 08.45||19/01||19/04||4.18|
|103.43||Tame Bridge Parkway||09.03a ~ 09.05d||09.53 ~ 10.01||18.53a ~ 18.56d||18.58 ~ 18.59||0.60|
|Bescot U&DGL // UGL||09L12a ~ 09L50d||10/06 (Bescot)||18L13a ~ 18L47d||18.23 ~ 18.56||0.00
|1.73||Walsall||09*58a ~ 10*05d||10/11||18/05||18/17||73.79|
|26.36||Stafford||11/07a ~ 11*12d||10L51 ~ 11L27|
|49.09||Basford Hall Jn||11/36||11/50|
|50.53||Crewe Gresty Lane||11/52||12/00|
|111.21||Stafford Road Jn||13/14||13/09|
|112.32||Bushbury Jn||13/25||13.13 ~ 13.15|
|Stafford U&DGL||13L43a ~ 14L05d||13.31 ~ 14.33|
|17.15||Lichfield HL Goods Loop Jn||14/28||14/54|
|17.34||Lichfield TV Jn||14/32||14/55|
|22.44||Wichnor Jn||14*45a ~ 14*56d||15/03|
|Burton-on-Trent UGL||15L06a ~ 15L26d||15.10 ~ 15.38|
|0.70||Birmingham Curve Jn||15/33||15/41|
|6.43||Moira West Jn||15/51||15/59|
|14.25||Mantle Lane TC||16/18||16/22|
|31.39||Wigston North Jn||16/50||17/12|
|47.09||Nuneaton||17c08a ~ 17c10d||17.35 ~ 17.37|
|61.68||Park Lane Jn||17/35||17/56|
Timings continue in first table.
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