4th June 2005

Steam Dreams
The Cathedrals Express

Locos Used 31128, 31454 & steam: 6024
Stock Used 35333+5237+1961+5236+9392+13440+13474+5171+1840+5216+5222

Route:
1Z96 : London Victoria to Weymouth
1Z97 : Weymouth to London Victoria

Loco(s) Route
6024 (1) London Victoria - Stewarts Lane Jn - Latchmere Jn - Kensington Olympia - Mitre Bridge Jn - Willesden SW Sidings - Acton Wells - Slough - Reading - Newbury - Lavington - Heywood Road Jn (2) - Westbury - (2) Fairwood Jn - Clink Road Jn - Frome - Castle Cary - Yeovil Pen Mill (3) - Dorchester West - Weymouth
31454 + 31128 (4) Weymouth - Dorchester Jn (4) - Poole - Bournemouth - Brockenhurst - Southampton Central - Eastleigh - Winchester - Worting Jn - Basingstoke - Southcote Jn - Reading - Wokingham - North Camp - Guildford

Notes :
(1) 31128 on rear.
(2) Diverted via Westbury (rather than the avoiding line as booked) due to the failure of 31128 (see review below), to allow repairs to be undertaken on the 31.
(3) 6024 was booked to come off at Yeovil Pen Mill but stayed on due to the problems with 31128, the plan then being for 6024 to work back to Yeovil for coaling & watering, the train being diesel-hauled over this leg with 6024 being re-attached at Yeovil. This plan then changed however as 6024 had run out of coal, so it was hauled back to Yeovil by 31128 which had been repaired at Westbury. As a result of the late running and delay getting 6024 coaled & watered it was decided to run diesel-hauled back to London.
(4) Was booked reverse of outward route but diverted due to the late running. From Basingstoke the booked route was: Basingstoke - Woking - Weybridge - Surbiton - Wimbledon - Clapham Junction - Longhedge Jn - Stewarts Lane Jn London Victoria but it was diverted as given above and terminated at Guildford. Use of service trains at various stages was offered to tour participants to get them home.

Sources : various including Richard Rooker, Ben Couldwell, Malcolm Thompson & John Clifford

Tour Review
(from Malcolm Thompson)

As you probably know, the normal situation for steam trains leaving London Victoria is for the diesel which has brought in the ECS to be uncoupled but to bank the train to Grosvenor Bridge and then to drop away. According to the notices that I was shown, this is exactly what was supposed to happen on Saturday. 31128 would then run light engine to Yeovil Pen Mill ready to take over from 6024 for the last leg of the journey to Weymouth while 6024 went for turning and servicing at Yeovil steam centre. However, this is not what actually happened as, for reasons that weren't explained on the day (but believed to be due to crewing problems - I suspect that the driver of the 31 did not sign the road from Victoria to Yeovil), the diesel remained coupled to the rear of the train (increasing the load to the equivalent of 14 coaches).

The first sign that all was not well was at Reading when there seemed to be difficulties releasing the brakes. We got underway about 10 minutes late and were still about 10 late when we arrived at Newbury Racecourse for water where we were booked just 13 minutes for a water stop. Needless to say, we lost our path and had to wait for a Turbo and an HST to pass before we departed at 11.28, about 40 minutes late.

During the stop at Newbury Racecourse, it was announced that 31128 had failed and we would be diverted into Westbury (we should have used the avoiding line) in order for a fitter to try to effect repairs using parts from one of the other Fragonset 31s that was stabled there. We were still about 40 minutes late when we arrived at Westbury at 12.19, but this had increased to over an hour by the time the necessary parts had been purloined and we departed at 12.42

Arrival at Frome for another water stop was at 12.55 (65 minutes late). Again, not enough time had been allowed for the water stop - only 12 minutes, we needed 30 minutes and departed at 13.25 (83 minutes late).

Between Frome at Yeovil Pen Mill, it was announced that instead of coming off the train at Yeovil, 6024 would now work through to Weymouth on the outward journey and would then work back to Yeovil light engine for turning and servicing. The return journey was to be re-timed, but would now be diesel-hauled to Yeovil where the King would be re-attached.

Arrival at Yeovil Pen Mill was at 14.04 (86 minutes late). A few minutes were saved by not changing locos and we departed 71 minutes late at 14.11. Up until this time, the King had more or less maintained the point-to-point timings in spite of the 100+ tons of scrap at the rear of the train, but we were now faced with the climb to Evershot which ends with about a mile and a half at 1 in 51. The Kings began the climb unassisted but was down to less than 10 mph and so the 31 cut in and gave a bit of assistance (I'm pretty confident that, had the extra weight of the 31 not taken its toll on the lower slopes, the King would have got up the bank without too much difficulty). The exertions of the bank resulted in a 5 minute stop just short of Maiden Newton and another 6 minute stop at Dorchester West being required, presumably to bring the fire round, and we arrived in Weymouth at 15.18 (95 minutes late). So, 24 minutes (including 11 minutes at Maiden Newton and Dorchester) were lost by 6024 + load 14 between Yeovil and Weymouth on timings for a Class 31 + load 10. We will never know what would have happened had it been 6024 + load 11 (if the 31 had been removed at Yeovil as had been planned at one stage) or 31128 + load 10 (the original plan), but I strongly suspect that the former would have done better than the latter! Note that it had already been decided that 31454 would run light engine from Westbury to Weymouth in order to assist 31128 on the return to Yeovil - such was FM Rail's confidence in the latter loco!

Anyway, as we arrived at Weymouth, we were told that the return departure time would be 17.33 (60 minutes later than booked). Arriving back at the station shortly after 5 p.m. there was no sign of the train. We were then told that 6024 had run out of coal (due to the unplanned extra mileage from

Yeovil) and it had been necessary for a 31 (I'm not sure whether it was 454 or 128) to haul the King back to Yeovil and that it had only just arrived back at Yeovil (I believe that were other farces involving TPWS, problems coupling the 31 to the King, but I don't know the details and late running Wessex Trains services). The decision had been taken that the train would now return diesel-hauled (by both 31's) via Bournemouth, setting down at Basingstoke, Reading and Guildford to Alton, with passengers being carried by South West Trains or First Great Western from Basingstoke or Reading to Maidenhead and London. South West Trains had also agreed to allow passengers to travel on the 18.00 or 19.00 service trains from Weymouth to Waterloo. Unfortunately, the 18.00 service train wasn't an option for anybody who had left bags etc on the train as the stock was still in the sidings - it only re-appeared just in time for passengers to retrieve their belongings and catch the 19.00 - apparently there were brake problems after the 31's had been re-attached.

We decided to stick with the train (to see just how badly the 31's performed). Departure was at 19.22 and, as expected, the 2x31's + load 10 staggered up Bincombe Bank. However, after that, I have to say that the running was pretty good with only one brief stop at Brockenhurst between Weymouth and Basingstoke. We were even routed through the down platform at Bournemouth, overtaking a Poole - Waterloo service train - very handy as this we later caught this train from Basingstoke to Waterloo, arriving in London at about 22.20 (only about half an hour after we should have arrived at Victoria on the charter).

As things turned out, the day was not too bad as we had 6024 all the way from Victoria to Weymouth and a pair of 31's (which I do quite like, when they work!) from Weymouth to Basingstoke, but it would probably have been so much better if 31128 had been detached at Victoria in the morning as it should have been.

footnote:  6024 returned with it's support coach from Yeovil to Old Oak Common later in the evening, passing Reading at about 10 p.m. - passengers who had stayed on the 31's to Reading may even have seen it pass through, just to rub sand in the ointment!

Malcolm Thompson

Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from various including John Clifford)

Location Booked Actual   Booked Actual
Victoria 08.27d 08.27   21.51a DIV
Grosvenor Bridge Jn ? 08/30   ? DIV
Stewarts Lane Jn 08/32 08/32   ? DIV
Longhedge Jn 08/35 08/33   21/42 DIV
Latchmere Jn 08/40 08.36a ~ 08.40   21/40 DIV
Kensington Olympia 08.48a ~ 09.02d 08.49 ~ 09.02   21.33a ~ 21.34d DIV
North Pole Jn ? 09/07   ? DIV
Mitre Bridge Jn 09/08 09/08   21/28 DIV
Willesden WL Jn ? 09/09   ? DIV
Willesden SW Sidings ? 09/11   21L07a ~ 21L25d DIV
Acton Wells Jn 09/16 09/14   21/04 DIV
Acton Main Line 09/20 09/20   21/00 DIV
Ealing Broadway ? 09/23   ? DIV
Southall 09/29 09/31   ? DIV
Airport Jn 09/32 09/37   20/48 DIV
Slough 09/40 09/45   20/40 DIV
Maidenhead 09.48a ~ 09.49d 09.54 ~ 09.56   20.30a ~ 20.32d DIV
Twyford ? 10/06   ? DIV
Reading 10.05a ~ 10.14d 10.15 ~ 10.25   20.15a ~ 20.16d ?
Southcote Jn ? 10/31   20/10 ?
Theale UGL - -   19w30a ~ 20w03d DIV
Newbury Racecourse 10w36a ~ 10w49d 10.47 ~ 11.28   19/17 DIV
Bedwyn 11/08 11/50   19/03 DIV
Woodborough 11/24 12/02   18/48 DIV
Lavington 11/32 12/08   18/40 DIV
Heywood Road Jn 11/40 12/16   18/33 DIV
Westbury DIV 12.19a ~ 12.42d   - -
Clink Road Jn 11/47 12/53   18/26 DIV
Frome 11w50a ~ 12w02d 12.56 ~ 13.25   18w08a ~ 18w22d DIV
Castle Cary 12/23 13/45   ? DIV
Yeovil Pen Mill 12L38a ~ 13L00d 14.04 ~ 14.11   17.25a ~ 17.35d DIV
Maiden Newton 13/18 14/49   17/01 DIV
Dorchester West 13/31 15.01 ~ 15.06   16/49 DIV
Weymouth 13.43a 15.19   16.33d ?


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