11th December 2004

Past Time Rail
The Merchant Venturer

Locos Used 67002 & steam: 6024
Stock Used (1) 35469+5008+4996+1813+3100+3110+3131+80041+3144+3133+35333

Route :
1Z27 : Taunton to Paddington
1Z28 : Paddington to Taunton

Loco(s) Route
67002 Taunton - Weston-super-Mare - Bristol Temple Meads
6024 Bristol Temple Meads - North Somerset Jn - Bath Spa - Chippenham - Swindon - Didcot Parkway - Reading - Maidenhead - Slough - London Paddington
6024 London Paddington - (reverse of outward route) - Bristol Temple Meads
67002 Bristol Temple Meads - (reverse of outward route) - Taunton

Notes :
(1) 35333 in consist only when 6024 was on the train. 3133 was removed during the layover in London due to dragging brakes and was not used on the return journey.

Sources : various including Richard Rooker & Andy Pullar

Tour Review
(from Andy Pullar)

I was suffering from a shortage of steam after overdosing on the Jingpeng Pass a couple of months before. Coupled to this was a serious bout of nostalgia caused by wallowing in 1980s bashing notes brought out of storage for the pages of The Railtour Files.

I scanned the steam info. web site for a suitable cure. It stared out at me from the web page. then I noticed cancelled next to it. So I booked on the Merchant Venturer. GW Steam is not my favourite but not having managed steam haulage into or out of Paddington (I had to leap from my previous attempt at Reading because of late running) there were certain compensations for riding this train; providing the loco didn't fall over that was. My need for a steam fix would be satiated and I would be back before my leave from family duty ran out.

The only other question was how to get to the start of the tour from sub tropical Northern Hampshire without spending a fortune on hotel rooms (with or without the offer of personal extras - sorry that was China and no I did not). There was only one answer. Turn the clock back to the late 70s and early 80s and travel to Plymouth on the overnight before getting to Taunton on the first train back. A festering time of 40 minutes at my former home station was about 40 minutes more than I would normally care to spend in this vibrant metropolis at five in the morning (or evening for that matter) and class 52s had long gone but it was a move full of nostalgia nonetheless.

Friday night found me checking out the haulage on platform 1. Thankfully FGW had got rid of their 47s (and by coincidence were to celebrate this achievement the very same weekend) and a lamb in mutton clothing was champing at the bit in the form of Pendennis Castle (a good omen if ever there was one). A reasonable night's semi doss and a swift transfer by tram found me boarding the Skip 2 hauled Merchant Venturer at Taunton's reinstated down main platform - a new experience for me it has to be said.

An on time departure was made but it soon transpired that I shouldn't have worried about the steam loco. It was the stock that was dodgy. Premier Dining FO 3133 was the culprit with dragging brakes that caused a delay in section just west of MP154 II. A delay of 40 minutes ensued whilst the brakes were isolated and permission was received to venture forth once more. Some 20 minutes of this arrears was made up by omitting the operational stop in the loop at Yatton and a smart loco change at Temple Meads reduced the deficit even further to a mere six minutes. It was noted that the charter had caused some problems for the ordinary Joe with the first of the day's Virginians running via Westbury as a result.

My previous King haulage (behind KGV) had ended ignominiously at Taunton with a hot box on the tender. No problems with KE1 however as my GPS calculated speeds will testify. The route had been changed at the last minute to run via Box Hill when someone woke up to the fact that there was an engineers possession affecting the advertised route via Bristol Parkway. Is this the 21st Century or what! The only other problem was my seat was back to the engine but even six coaches back a fine thrash could be heard. The up relief was taken from Didcot with Earl Bathurst (nee Drysllwyn Castle) giving loud blasts on the whistle from behind the fence of the Railway Centre (wild animals in zoos sprang to mind). A short section of up main running was enjoyed between Southall and Acton West before a switch back to the relief lines to pick up a pilot driver and enter the gloom that is Paddington's platform 10.

A saunter round Hyde Park and the mean streets of London in search of Motor Books filled out the time made most pleasant by learning the outcome of the midday match at a refreshment stop. 1 nil to the Everton. 1 nil to the Everton. Doesn't that sound good? No. well it does to me.

Back at Paddington and the charter was waiting to leave from platform 1. Oh joy. The seating has been reshuffled to accommodate the premier noshers following the removal of 3133 and I'm sitting in a different vehicle with my back to the engine again still some six coaches from the front. And of course it was now dark. Despite this the run back to Bristol was very enjoyable with main line running from Paddington to Hayes and west of Reading apart from the water stop at Challow.

Back at Temple Meads some six or seven minutes early after a pathing delay at Swindon bore testament to the fine running of the King. Sadly in this day and age Kings don't get replaced by Republics but by Skip 2 slipping out of Barton Hill as the charter stopped in the platform. I am sure it was a fine run back to Taunton but I had to get back home before I got turned into a pumpkin.

The 21.30 tram to Paddington whisked me back to Reading in time to board the 23.10 for Basingstoke. Alas the Network Rail Fairy Godmother had waved her tragic wand and turned the railway back into a basket case before I could get home. Not only was the tram I was on not going to reach London until 00.12 after arriving at Reading at 22.53 but the train to Basingstoke was a bus due into Basingstoke at half past pumpkin time.

Oh well plenty of time to practice the grovelling before I got home. The wait in the bus at Reading for the driver to show up was a most unpleasant experience as a group of drunken oaths of box sexes descended having been refused entry to a night club. I could most definitely do without a yob sitting behind me shouting to all and sundry that he was going to be sick at any time and I was to be the recipient. I know I have this effect on many a sober person but at least they keep it to themselves.

Fortunately at the last moment another bus turned up that was running direct to Basingstoke and they all piled off. I stayed put preferring the peace and tranquillity that had descended to getting back to Basingstoke at reasonable speed. What a comedown to an otherwise enjoyable day. From being in the exalted company of a King to enduring the attentions of revolting peasants.

Off with their heads.

Andy Pullar

Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Richard Rooker & Andy Pullar)

Location Booked Actual   Booked Actual
Taunton 07.25d 07.26   22.27a 22.14
Cogload Jn 07/31 07/32   22/22 22/10
Bridgwater 07.36a ~ 07.38d 08.16 ~ 08.19   22.13a ~ 22.15d 22.02 ~ 22.04
Highbridge & Burnham 07/44 08/25   22/07 21/59
Uphill Jn 07/50 08/32   22/02 21/51
Weston-Super-Mare 07.53a ~ 07.56d 08.35 ~ 08.40   21.56a ~ 21.58d 21.43 ~ 21.47
Worle Jn 08/00 08/44   21/53 21/39
Yatton 08.06a ~ 08.24d 08.49 ~ 08.50   ? ?
Parson Street 08/37 08/55   ? ?
Bristol Temple Meads 08.40a ~ 09.25d 09.00 ~ 09.31   21.01a ~ 21.37d 20.53 ~ 21.24
Bristol East Jn 09/27 ?   20/58 ?
North Somerset Jn 09/28 ?   20/57 ?
Bath Spa 09/41 09/49   20/37 20/36
Bathampton 09/44 09/53   20/31 20/29
Thingley Jn 09/53 10/01   20/17 20/21
Chippenham 09/55 10/02   20/12 20/17
Wootton Bassett Jn 10/06 10/13   19/59 20/07
Rushey Platt 10/12 ?   ? ?
Swindon West Loop 10*15a ~ 10*53d ?    
Swindon 10/56 10/56   19.26a ~ 19.51d 19.28 ~ 19.59
Uffington 11/09 11/08   19/13 19/17
Challow 11/11 11/10   18.26a ~ 19.08d 18.18 - 19.11
Wantage Road 11/14 ?   18/20 ?
Foxhall Jn 11/23 ?   18/11 ?
Didcot Parkway 11/26 11/27   18/09 18/05
Didcot East Jn ? ?   18/08 ?
Reading West Curve ? ?   17/48 ?
Reading 11/50 11/52   17.43a ~ 17.45d 17.43 ~ 17.44
Twyford 11/58 11/58   17/35 17/34
Maidenhead 12/06 12/07   17/28 17/27
Slough UGL 12/16 ?    
Slough 12/17 12/17   17/20 17/21
Heathrow Airport Jn 12/25 12/27   17/11 17/13
Southall 12/27 12/30   17/05 17/06
Ealing Broadway ? 12/34   ? ?
Acton West 12/31 12/35   16/58 17/01
Ladbroke Grove 12/34 12/41   16/54 16/54
Paddington 12.39a 12.46   16.50d 16.49

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