16th July 2005

Irish Rail
Farewell to the 121's

Locos Used IE 124 & 134
Stock Used 1555+1539+1550+1510+1515+1508+3161


Loco(s) Route
134 + 124 Dublin Connolly - Maynooth - Mullingar - Edgworthstown - Sligo
124 + 134 Sligo - (reverse of outward route) - Dublin Connolly

Sources : Andy Pullar & Mark Honey

Tour Review 1
(from Andy Pullar)

A tell tale whistle reverberated around Basford Hall Yard as 40023 backed onto the train as replacement engine for 86229 that had headed the 2115 out of Euston. The whistle increased in crescendo as 40023 clattered its way up the Chester Independent Line before changing tune to a mighty roar as the driver opened up once clear of the Crewe area.

All too soon Holyhead and the rendezvous with the MV St.Columba was reached and the whistle was left behind for a track and loco bash of the Emerald Isle. A C class loco was bashed to Dublin Connolly from Dun Laoghaire's Carlisle Pier on the Boat train and the train to Sligo was boarded with the expected 121 pairing of 134 and 135.

135! Should that not be 124. Then it dawned and I woke up. It wasn't September 1980 and I wasn't on the 1825 from Dublin to Sligo. I was half asleep on the MV Ulysses arriving at Dublin Ferryport having suffered a trip to Holyhead on a Voyager to Brum (I have arranged a session with the chiropractor as a result) and a 175 forward (make that two as everyone got turfed out at Crewe as the unit we were on was being swapped - so much for a through service). No wonder I was dreaming of 40s on the Irish Mail relief.

Still there was soon to be a reminder of my travels in the 1980s however as the bus crossed over the track running down the middle of Alexandra Road just after leaving the Ferry Terminal. Thanks to a ride in 051 I could silently shout Track Not Required to no one but myself. I also got detained by Port Security for train spotting sometime later on in the 1980s but that is another story. Who said this is only a modern phenomenon in the pursuit of our hobby?

To prove that this was the beginning of the 21st Century and not the 1980s relived there was time to note the DMU working the Rosslare service instead of the pairs of 121s I remember or the 071s of more recent times. Interestingly the service still departs from the terminus roads and heads north a short distance before reversing and heading south passing through Connolly station on the through platforms.

There was also time to take in a short ride on the LUAS as far as O'Connoll Street (Abbey St stop) and the ATM to top up my stock of EUROs depleted by a recent trip to Germany. Being me I had to spice this up by leaving my camera bag on the tram which pulled away just as I realised. There was nothing for it but to leg it after the tram and hope it stopped long enough at a set of lights for me to catch up or I got a coronary. I got a bit worried when I managed to get the attention of the driver with a wave only for him to wave back! I thought I was going to have to leg it to Tallacht. Fortunately the driver got the message after a couple of road junctions and the next station passed and I was re-united with my camera bag.

My training for 2012 over I headed back to Connolly via the ATM to find the object of the exercise had replaced the Rosslare service in platform 1. Time for a few photographs, collect my ticket and watch the service train depart somewhat late behind 072. The advance publicity had suggested that it would be the service train turned over to 121 haulage one last time but this plan had been changed at the last moment; to the chagrin of some of my fellow travellers. Thus I took my place in one of the Cravens coaches that formed the additional service for special ticket holders only with proceeds going to the Railway Children charity.

No schedule had been issued with the tickets proclaiming valid on the service train only such was the apparent last minute decision to alter the plans. A few people had obtained copies of the special train notice but there was no general communication of timings or stops en-route on what was a straight out and back run. So it was play it by ear time.

Photo opportunities were grabbed at Mullingar and also at Dromod. At Dromod it was also possible to briefly visit the fledgling narrow gauge set up adjacent to the station. Sadly no time for a closer inspection of the available track as all too soon it was all back on board for the final stretch to Sligo. A lot of money has been spent recently on upgrading the line and making changes to the track layout at various locations particularly at Mullingar where the main line platforms became redundant when the Connolly - Galway services were withdrawn.

During the journey my GPS clocked a maximum speed of 73.9 mph - not bad for something almost as old as me. Then it was arrival at Sligo which has also undergone some changes with the glass removed from the station canopies and the Loco Depot that I griced in the 1980s marked by a couple of track panels still to be carted off and the turntable (used by the 1987 RPSI steam excursion) no longer linked to the rest of the IR network. At least the Sligo Quay line was still in place behind the signal box. The tradition of arrivals using one platform and departures another was still being observed and before we arrived in Sligo 072 had reversed out of the station to run round and back into the departure platform allowing the Charity special to arrive.

134 & 124 at Sligo (photo: Andy Pullar)

I had overheard that the special train was booked to depart at 1405 so after taking the necessary photos for posterity there was time to inspect the nearby hostelry and the adjacent Spar for sustenance.

My plan had involved forsaking the ferry back to Holyhead (as Britain's Railways are no longer capable of running a service on Saturday nights Sunday mornings in the 21st Century and I did not fancy the bus ride to Manchester) in favour of a Cheapo late evening flight to Stansted and a cross London dash for the last train home

With the originally advertised use of the service train I had included a side trip to the LUAS Green line and the ghosts of the Dublin and South Eastern in my itinerary. The later departure from Sligo made this somewhat tenuous and after much soul searching I leapt on the 1325 for some 072 thrash back to Dublin rather than the continue with the 121s. The service was due to become sprinterised like the Rosslare service in the not too distant future so I might not get another chance for an 071 even if it was hauling coffins.

The service train got back to Dublin some 20 minutes late though I didn't notice anything to suggest why and duly headed off to the Green Line via a walk over the Liffey and up Grafton Street as there is no connection between the LUAS lines currently. Remarkably all went smoothly and my trousers didn't fall down at the airport when Security insisted belts and shoes be removed for x raying. Didn't have any of this 30 odd years ago (the trousers fell down for other reasons back then! Only joking in case my wife is reading this.)

Then it was back to Liverpool St in time to catch the steamy 31176 on the 2314 Liverpool St to Norwich to connect with 37025 on the 0048 Cambridge Peterborough. Oh Rats! I've dozed off again.

Andy Pullar

Tour Review 2
(from Mark Honey)

Saturday the 16th turned out to be a difficult day if you wanted to sample a railtour. Pathfinder ran their ‘Celtic Survival Course’ to Scotland with a pair of DRS bonnet bangers as star billing, Hertfordshire ran their GBRf-a-thon, Past Time Rail were booked to take a pair of siphons in the Pwllheli direction and you could even have a jaunt from Lancaster to Ravenglass with a pair of 37s and 8F 48151. If that wasn’t enough, Ecclesbourne Valley Railway ran a gala….There are others I’m sure I’ve missed.

But Friday found me in Ireland for Saturday’s Farewell to the Class 121 tour which was straightforward enough – a round trip to Sligo from Dublin Connolly. Originally it had been the intention to run an extended 08.30 Sligo service train, but it was decided that it would be better to run a separate tour 20 minutes after the service train. With the intention of donating as much cash as possible to the Railway Children organisation, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss and had to be done. Plus I’d never had a pair of 121’s before so again, it had to be done.

Having (just about) secured a 72 hour pass out, me and a colleague took the early Air Fungus flight from Birmingham to Dublin on Friday morning and thought the best way to start the day would be a spin from Heuston to Galway and back with 071 no. 084. This treated us to a storming run, especially on the way back and whet the appetite for the following day. Not, however, until we’d nipped over to Connolly to do 074 on the 18.25 Sligo to Mullingar to bring 072 back. The latter was especially noisy and sounded superb. Back at Connolly for 9 o’clock and over to the Porterhouse for a few beers. And some more. And one or two more…

Needless to say, it was late when we rolled in and having had seemingly only a few minutes sleep we rolled over to Connolly for the 08.50 departure to Sligo. The first eyebrow-raiser was that we had to collect our tour tickets from the ticket office – with one queue. The clocked ticked past 08.30 when I finally picked mine up and there were many still waiting…

It was good to see so many familiar faces appearing on the platform, some having sensibly flown over the day before, the ‘rougher’ individuals having come over on the overnight ferry from Holyhead. It was also good to see many RAIL staff, the journal having helped organise the trip. It has to be said that the principle organiser, Hassard Stacpoole, had worked tirelessly to ensure everything went smoothly on the day and the effort paid off – and did not go unnoticed.

It was a ‘sit anywhere’ train of 5 Cravens plus the genny van and having dumped our stuff in the rear coach (where the buffet was located!!) we wandered forwards to see the two stars of the day, 124 and 134, that were already ticking over. Any initial thoughts as to their health were dispelled as it was apparent that they’d been ‘worked on’ in order to make sure they performed well.

Before departure however, it was all fingers to the shutters as 072 roared out of the station with the 08.30 Sligo service train. After it had disappeared, the comments about how rateable GM power can actually be made it even sadder that there are hundreds of GM machines of such capability in the UK that would have a much larger following if the silencers were taken off! The flip side of the argument was measured with the fact that the railways aren’t run for enthusiasts, but Ireland offers the closest 1980’s UK ‘re-enactment’ of the rail network that we all hanker after. This was made all the more visible by the fact that a charter service was changed from a service train at very short notice. Remember when BR could offer an additional or a relief at the drop of a hat?

Anyhow, we set off more or less on time and accelerated round the curve towards Croke Park Stadium, 124 clearing it’s exhausts as we did so, laying a smokescreen over Dublin. The 121’s set quite a pace and as we progressed towards Mullingar, we enjoyed a 70mph+ sprint.

134 & 124 at Mullingar (photo: Mark Honey)

I won’t go into major detail about the route, suffice to say that it’s single track for most of the way and impromptu photostops were taken if needed. We only crossed 074 coming the other way through the journey (don’t ask me where!) with the first Sligo – Dublin of the day and the 121’s performed superbly throughout. At Mullingar, interest was shown in 076 parked in the mothballed part of the station on the line that led to Athlone (I think!) which is now mothballed, but used to carry the Galway traffic before the trains were rerouted. We all took advantage of the photostop opportunity.

Arrival at Sligo was several Guinness’s later (around 15 minutes late) where we timed it perfectly to see 077 lift it’s heavy timber train up the gradient from the docks to the station throat. Usually it does it in two portions, leaving half of it in the station, but as out charter and the service trains took up both platforms, the timber train had to come out all at once. The thrash was immense, the noise awesome and the pace walking!

We had about one and a half hours to kill so 6 of use trooped off to the pub for a couple of Guinness’s (what else would you do?) and sloped back for departure at 14.00. The service train was well in front of us and we were able to hear the 121’s in glorious stereo as we headed back. Arrival back into Connolly was all too quick and the end of a great tour. There was even time to cover 075 on the 18.15 Sligo to Mullingar!

Verdict? Fantastic tour, great camaraderie and the usual high standards of hospitality that only IE and the Irish people in general can offer. I also have it on good authority that the Railway Children raised €10,000 on the day so it was well worth it. On another note, none of us were spoken to like idiots or children all day – IE staff let us wander around, take our pictures and generally do as we pleased without derogatory comment or with the dreaded Heath & Safety Book being waved at us in anger when a toe went over the yellow line. No-one misbehaved or stepped over the mark and relations were great all day. Plus, nobody got killed, maimed or disfigured. A refreshing attitude. Which is as it should be.

Mark Honey

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