25th February 2006

Pathfinder Tours
The Welsh Whistler

Locos Used 40145, 47714 & 47805
Stock Used 5376+5350+4902+5009+5322+1863+3107+3112+3069+17107

1Z47 : Crewe to Cardiff Central
1Z48 : Cardiff Central to Crewe

Loco(s) Route
40145 Crewe - Stafford - Portobello Jn - Perry Barr North Jn - Aston - Proof House Jn - Birmingham New Street - Sandwell & Dudley - Wolverhampton - Stafford - Stone - Stoke-On-Trent - Stockport - Manchester Piccadilly - Deansgate - Eccles - Newton-le-Willows - Warrington Bank Quay - Frodsham Jn - Chester - Wrexham General - Shrewsbury - Hereford - Abergavenny - Newport - Cardiff Central
40145 Cardiff Central - Newport - Chepstow - Gloucester - Cheltenham Spa - Abbotswood Jn - Droitwich Road [MP 60.25](1)
47714 + 40145 (2) Droitwich Road [MP 60.25] - Bromsgrove - Longbridge - Kings Norton (3) - Bordesley Jn - St Andrews Jn - Proof House Jn - (3) Birmingham New Street
47805 (4) Birmingham New Street - (5) Soho South Jn - Galton Jn - Dudley Port - Wolverhampton - (5) Bushbury Jn - Stafford - Norton Bridge - Stoke-on-Trent - Kidsgrove (6) - Alsager - (6) Crewe

Notes :
(1) 40145 suffered a burst air pipe (pipe leading to the Brake Feed Cut Off Valve) at MP60.25 which was on the approach to Stoke Works Jn.
(2) 40145 powered to the summit of Lickey then was tick-over only to Birmingham New Street.
(3) Booked route was: Kings Norton - Selly Oak - Birmingham New Street.
(4) plus 40145 dead-in-tow.
(5) Booked route was: Birmingham New Street - Aston - Bescot Jn - Portobello Jn - Bushbury Jn.
(6) Booked route was: Stoke-on-Trent - Stockport - Manchester Piccadilly - Newton-le-Willows - Warrington Bank Quay - Weaver Jn - Crewe. Passengers for other stations were returned home by road.

Sources : Richard Rooker, Mark Honey, Mark Hornby, Pete Rogers, Jim Murphy
Andy Pullar & Rob Fraser

Tour Review 1
(by Mark Honey)

40145 waits to leave Crewe in the morning (photo: Jim Murphy)

I was looking forward to this on the basis that (a) EE heritage thrash is always good for a day out, (b) it gets people together you haven’t seen for ages and (c) there hasn’t been anything really worth booking on for the last couple of months.  I’m still getting over the Choppers to Carlisle and back if you really must know. Cue then a marathon who-can-stay-awake-the-longest day which tested the mettle of everyone involved…

When you pull together a like minded crowd of Class 40 bashers, the front coach tends to resonate to conversations about the NorthWales Coast in the 1970s, trips to Skeggy on a Saturday in 1984 or whatever.  More importantly, you tend to be well over 30 to remember the halcyon days of bashing 40’s – and early starts and late finishes don’t agree with you. So, feeling WELL over 30, I stumbled bleary eyed on to Crewe station at 05.40, knowing that at least I’d stayed in Crewe (and would be that night too) and perhaps dragging myself out of bed at 05.00 wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  I’d even been a good lad – no beer OR curry the night before, although the mobile ghetto that was coach A had a few in there that had overdosed on both.  Good idea at the time- but not for the rest of us

A pause here for a rant.  Some of the standard class Mk I’s and II’s aren’t too bad on the Riviera set that gets slung out on enthusiast jobs, but the MkII that formed Coach A was nothing short of a heap of scrap metal on a set of wheels.  There might be those who suggest a caged door be put over the gangway to pen in the hard core at the front, so it doesn’t matter what the interior looks like, but with stained, tatty seats, floors soaked with water and two vestibule toilets that were worse than those found in an Bedouin outhouse off the Dhaka road is totally unacceptable.

So, with 40145 looking very smart after it’s winter overhaul, we were off.  She sounded as good as ever as we roared out of Crewe and south via Stafford, Bushbury Junction, Bescot and into New St.  Comment was raised about EWS planning to resurrect some Class 37’s.  If they do look closely at those rotting in the sidings at Bescot, they might change their minds…

After picking up those sensible enough not to have gone to Crewe, we continued north via Stafford, Stone and Stoke and thence to Manchester Piccadilly.  So far so good and although the atmosphere was subdued a bit because of an early start, we were looking forward to a thrash down the Marches line.  So we rattled eastward via Earlestown to Warrington and across to Chester.  40145 sounded great as she blasted through that tunnel on the Chester line whose name escapes me, but was a highlight for me at least.  Into Chester, turf off the normals who though that it was a convenient way to get to Cardiff – off you get and wait for your plastic – and a wait for the single line to Wrexham.  This put us around 25 minutes down which wasn’t made up.  The run along the Welsh marches route, picturesque as it is, was punctuated with a few good thrash spots but nothing really to write home about.  I’ve certainly heard 145 being driven much harder than this.

So to Cardiff and a four hour break.  A few of us headed out of town to escape the fact that 400 odd cranks were going to descend on the city centre and got fed and watered very acceptably without a wait.  It was back to the station before 18.00, again boot the normals off who wanted to go to Newport and a move to the other end of the train to listen to 40145 do its stuff.  It sounded pretty good storming out of Newport and heading towards Chepstow, but the mouth waterer was of course the Lickey. Between Chepstow and Gloucester I don’t remember much as I was staring at the inside of my eyelids. But after Cheltenham, people started to move into position.

It was between Abbotswood Junction and Stoke Works Junction (the loop to Worcester for those not in the know) that there was suddenly a harsh brake application and we ground to a halt.  All head outs out of droplights saw a green light ahead, so what had happened?  TPWS?  We stood for around 30 minutes until we were told it was an air pipe fracture which had caused the brakes to lock on.  To cut a long story short, we sat for around 3 hours before Cotswold Rail’s 47714 gingerly backed down onto the front, having been scrambled from Gloucester.  During this time, the atmosphere had really degenerated.  Crying children, irate adults, hammered cranks and one or two scuffles and disagreements.  Everyone was really fed up now and I was exhausted.  47714 worked the train as far as Birmingham New Street because the loco and crew had to be back at Gloucester.  I have to say with both locos under power, we flew up the Lickey – but it wasn’t quite the same.

At New Street the 40 was shut down and 47805 sent from Crewe took over.  The route back was paired down – we were supposed to run via Stoke, Manchester Piccadilly and Warrington to Crewe but in the event we ran via Stoke direct to Crewe with buses laid on for the others.  God alone knows how those with onward rail connections coped.  And what about those with young families?  I hate to think...

So, we finally slunk into Crewe 90 minutes late at 01.00 (ish) – and I’d been up for 20 hours and was completed wiped out.

Verdict?  Do you really want to know?  Alright then.  A VERY heavy day, not really anyone’s fault and the failure was simply bad luck. I was told it was minor, but it couldn’t be accessed to be fixed at the lineside.  By the time we left the train it resembled a Shanghai sh*thouse and I pitied the poor sods that had to clean it out.  I will continue to support the CFPS in their endeavours on the main line because if we don’t, we don’t get.  Just look at 46035, pioneer of private main line diesels, but will not run on Network Rail again.  I am looking forward to June when 40145 creaks its way along the Whitby branch. I’m sure things will be better by then, but such a long day, compounded by a failure at the end of it really tested many tired people’s resolve.

Mark Honey (CFPS Member)

Webmasters footnote:
Mark's review has prompted a few comments from other tour participants, not to be seen as one-sided I am more than happy to give them an airing too;

1. Just as a side note I thought it was a good tour in spite of everything. Got home at 2am, so not too bad. And tell that Mark Honey fellow that I'd been up for 40 hours by the time I went to bed so quit whining! ;o)

2. Having read the review more thoroughly I don't think some of the comments paint a true or favourable picture. Following the failure of 40145, the atmosphere was fairly upbeat. The only 'scuffle' I heard about was something at New Street, I believe it was on the platform and could hardly be described as such. Also the reference to penning the occupants of Coach A in is not particularly friendly.

The CFPS and Pathfinder have struggled to make the two previous tours pay their way, they have only run due to some frantic negotiation and cost cutting between the CFPS, Pathfinder and Riviera, and when they did run, were exceptionally good trips (Kyle and Euston). There have been a couple of other tours that have been disappointing, namely the Fusilier Farewell and the Western tour that was heavily delayed at York. Both these have put many railtour travellers off booking future trips. The review on your site may deter more potential customers.

The Railtour market seems to be struggling at the moment, and if it dies, so will the chances of heritage power on the mainline, so we may well lose the opportunity to travel behind D1015, 40145 and 55009/55019 and others at speed. Also some of the CFPS' takings may well have to pay for the delay/rescue, so it is important that future tours sell well.

(a concerned CFPS member)

3. ...and responses from (a) David Peacock and (b) Charles Paget of Riviera Trains;
(a) Noted your correspondents comments regarding coach A, whilst the occupants who inhabit coach A continue to behave like animals we will not use one of our refurbished 2a’s as the lead vehicle. The stock was fully serviced on Canton (I know as I was there), despite this it was in one hell of a state on arrival at Crewe.

(b) As David has rightly stated we have no option but to ensure that a “suitable” Mk2a barrier vehicle is on the end of the typical Pathfinder train formations to cater for the clients who regularly frequent this vehicle and behave in a far from satisfactory manner. I am sure these customers don’t live like animals in their own homes; so why do we have to put up with it? If they do then we certainly don’t want to know!

When these customers demonstrate that they can treat Coach A with respect and they don’t dump rubbish all over the floor, leave cans strewn everywhere in pools of alcohol, treat the toilets with respect and leave the vehicle at the end of the day having made some attempt to bag all the rubbish up, then we will be more than happy to provide a better vehicle.

Of the three footex trains we ran last Sunday to Cardiff (31 vehicles) not one of them was as bad as Coach A was last Saturday night and that says it all!

So, the last messages are certainly clear - it's up to us to police ourselves a little better else suffer the consequences.

The following reply was received from Mark Honey in relation to his review and subsequent comments made;

1/ If people want to stay up for 40 hours, that’s fine by me. It doesn’t mean I have to. There were others on board, some with families, others who were senior citizens, concerned about how they might get home, some having used connecting trains to get to the tour. I could go further by saying that more than one person asked the stewards about missing connecting rail services and got the reply ‘take it up with the train operator’.  No doubt this will raise even more irate debate, but it’s what I got told by people who’d asked the question. I appreciate that Pathfinder did everything to get passengers back to the joining stations, but it will put people off who maybe had to shell out a small fortune for taxis or whatever because they couldn’t get home. Fact.

2/ There were three of us in a vestibule who had to try and deal with a scuffle as we stood waiting for the rescue locomotive – over a can of beer that had ‘fizzed’ into someone’s face allegedly.  It also started to get a bit heated in places when people moved from carriage to carriage as many had congregated in the vestibule ends and they became pressure spots. Most people had been up for a long time and when tiredness and alcohol kicks in, people start to get more aggressive. Simple fact of life.

3/ Please read the review properly – I was suggesting that why should dedicated enthusiasts put up with filthy toilets with no toilet paper with water all over the vestibule floors?  It seemed to me that because the diehard enthusiasts tend to congregate at the front, they’ll put up with substandard facilities? It is unacceptable.

4/ I am fully aware that it is important that tours sell well.  I do my best to support tours like this by buying merchandise and travelling on the charters – as we all do, no doubt.  I am also, incidentally, a CFPS member. I also noted in the review that it was sheer bad luck that 40145 failed like it did.  I would suggest that this machine is in the best condition it has ever been, which is down to hard work and tremendous effort. You are correct; there have been some great heritage main line tours.  However, people do get put off when things go wrong.  In the grand scheme of things, I would suggest that many of the tour travellers that day were not diehard Class 40 enthusiasts, but out for the day behind heritage traction, a trip to Cardiff, all manner of reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the day went well – it was a good day until things started to go wrong. Many tour reviews penned on the Six Bells website have made references to instances like this in the past, such as dodgy stock, lack of heating, bad catering provision, bad planning and organisational issues. And of course the ubiquitous railtour ‘farce’… Let’s hope that with Pathfinder now in the hands of Riviera Trains and FM Rail, having the relevant safety case, operators licence and access to locomotives, stock and crews ‘in house’, some tiers of cost can be taken out of the equation to allow tours to run with more financial stability.

Tour Review 1
(by Solomon Riley)

I was pleased that 40145 was ready at Barrow Hill in time for railtour duty. Well done to CFPS, Barrow Hill and other volunteers who beat the deadline time and within the budget!

I joined at Birmingham New Street and happy to see the 40 again, enters platform 6, left little late, takes usual route which used by the 40s in the BR days till the rare loop at Sideway Loop that gives us a track bash by a 40 is nice one while the 06.06 Reading-Manchester Piccadilly XC by boring Virgin Voyager 220 passed over before Stoke-on-Trent, I noticed surprising that recently closed Etruria station has still station name, not removed yet!! , saw snowy hills when passed Macclesfield then usual Class 40 route through Manchester and Cheshire, arrived Chester early to allow us to photo the 40 with nice sunshine!

The chance of 3 hour 4 mins non-stop from Chester to Cardiff Central was spoiled by Chester signaller that stopped at red signal on Down Slow line at Roodee Junction before the viaduct, waited for 10 mins to access single line to Wrexham and then saw the Northern Belle VSOE charter from Cardiff Central to Chester which hauled by 67020 passed the 40 charter at south of Gobowen at 11.38, and stopped at Coton Hill and Shrewsbury station, I filmed the large signalbox with 40145 is brilliant!

The beauitful Welsh Marches scenery by the non-stop run through Craven Arms and Hereford with brilliant view of snowy mountain.

Stop at Pontrilas at red signal for one minute due to ATW service train behind the 40! Grrr!

Finally arrived Cardiff Central at 14.15 and filmed the 40 with the big Man Utd Manager Sir Alex Ferguson poster at Millennium Stadium and nearly 4 hour break with cold wind that led me into Ian Allan Bookshop to read the books and went to resturant to warm me inside in the City Centre!

On the return journey, I waited to film the complete 40 charter on platform 2 from platform 3 where I stand but disappointed that signal changed at last minute to platform 1, thank you very much to Cardiff signaller!

Departed at 18.06 and went non-stop for 1 hour 33 mins with possible to complete booked 2 hours 18 mins non-stop run, but suddenly stopped at milespost 60.25 location at Droitwich Road at 19.39 hours in the very black darkness with green signal ahead! Everyone led out of window to witness the problem, wait and wait till the problem is found that braking pipe fractured and Cotswold Rail's Anglia liveried 47714 rescued us, I sleep till 47714 pulled the train that made me woke up and just half hour to Birmingham New Street, platform 8, 47714 detached quickly back to Glouester and unbranded Virgin liveried 47805 took over and departed with dead 40 directly to Crewe via Stoke-on-Trent.

I got home by taxi from Birmingham to Leicester with one railtourer while other taxi carry 3 for Derby, Burton-on-Trent and Chesterfield and another taxi carry 2 to Kidderminster which all are paid by FM Rail!

Verdict: Enjoyed the day with lovely blue 40 but in the end with failure of the 40 is not our fault for everyone, life always happened like this, I had a very bad tired due to long day of 5.00am that I left home till 1am!

I will continue to go on next 40145 charter because the 40 is great interesting locomotive for loco-hauled trains!! :-)

Solomon Riley

Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Janet Cottrell, Jim Murphy & Solomon Riley)

Location Booked Actual
Crewe 06.01d 06.02
Crewe Basford Hall Jn 06/07 06/05
Madeley 06/17 06/13
Norton Bridge 06/28 06/22
Stafford 06.33a ~ 06.35d 06.28 ~ 06.31
Stafford No.4 06/36 06/32
Bushbury Jn 06/54 06/51
Portobello Jn 06/59 06/55
Darlaston Jn 07/02 06/58
Bescot Jn 07/04 07/02
Perry Barr North Jn 07/11 07/10
Aston 07/16 07/17
Proof House Jn 07/20 07/22
Birmingham New Street 07.23a ~ 07.27d 07.25 ~ 07.29
Soho South Jn 07/32 07/35
Galton Jn 07/34 07/37
Dudley Port 07/37 07/40
Wolverhampton 07/46 07/47
Wolverhampton North Jn 07/48 07/49
Bushbury Jn 07/52 07/50
Stafford No.4 08/06 08/00
Stafford 08.07a ~ 08.09d 08.02 ~ 08.09
Norton Bridge 08/15 08/18
Stone 08/22 08/24
Sideway Loop 08*31a ~ 08*37d 08.37 ~ 08.39
Stoke Jn 08/39 08/40
Stoke-On-Trent 08.41a ~ 08.43d 08.42 ~ 08.44
Kidsgrove 08/51 08/52
Congleton 08/56 08/57
Macclesfield 09/03 09/05
Cheadle Hulme 09/12 09/14
Adswood Road Jn 09/13 09/16
Edgeley Jn No.1 09/14 09/17
Stockport 09.16a ~ 09.18d 09.20 ~ 09.21
Heaton Norris Jn 09/19 09/23
Slade Lane Jn 09/22 09/27
Ardwick Jn 09/24 09/29
Manchester Piccadilly 09.28a ~ 09.30d 09.31 ~ 09.33
Manchester Oxford Road 09/32 09/35
Deansgate 09/33 09/36
Castlefield Jn 09/34 09/36
Ordsall Lane Jn 09/35 09/37
Eccles 09/40 09/41
Astley 09/48 09/45
Newton-Le-Willows 09/54 09/52
Earlstown 09/56 09/56
Winwick Jn 10/00 09/58
Dallam Jn 10/02 10/00
Warrington Bank Quay 10.03a ~ 10.05d 10.03 ~ 10.05
Acton Grange Jn 10/09 10/09
Frodsham Jn 10/15 10/14
Helsby 10/20 10/19
Mickle Trafford 10/27 10/23
Chester 10.34a ~ 10.38d 10.29 ~ 10.38
Chester South Jn 10/39 10/39
Saltney Jn 10/41 10/53
Wrexham General 10/55 11/09
Ruabon 11/00 11/25
Chirk 11/05 11/30
Gobowen 11/16 11/33
Shrewsbury 11/37 11c58a ~ 11c59d
Sutton Bridge Jn 11/39 12/03
Dorrington 11/47 12/11
Marsh Brook LC 11/57 12/21
Craven Arms 12/01 12/25
Bromfield 12/05 12/30
Woofferton 12/11 12/38
Leominster 12/17 12/44
Moreton-On-Lugg 12/29 12/53
Shelwick Jn 12/33 12/58
Hereford 12/35 12/59
Tram Inn 12/43 13/08
Pontrilas 12/48 13.14a ~ 13.15d
Abergavenny 12.59a ~ 13.01d 13/28 (station)
13.29 ~ 13.29˝ (sigs)
Little Mill Jn 13/10 13/35
Maindee North Jn 13/21 13/48
Newport 13/25 13/52
Marshfield 13/34 13/59
Cardiff Central 13.42a ~ 18.00d 14.14 ~ 18.06
Marshfield 18/09 18/14
Newport 18/16 18/20
Severn Tunnel Jn 18/31 18/30
Chepstow 18/41 18/38
Lydney 18/50 18/45
Awre Jn 18/55 18/51
Gloucester 19/12 19/04
Horton Road Jn 19/13 19/05
Barnwood Jn 19/14 19/07
Cheltenham Spa 19/20 19/17
Ashchurch For Tewkesbury 19/28 19/23
Abbotswood Jn 19/37 19/31
Droitwich Road (1) ??/?? 19.38a ~ 22.32d
Stoke Works Jn 19/47 22/36
Bromsgrove 19/49 22/37
Barnt Green 19/56 22/42
Longbridge 19/59 22/44
Kings Norton 20/04 22/49
Selly Oak 20/08 DIV
Proof House Jn DIV 23/01
Birmingham New Street 20.18a ~ 20.21d 23.03 ~ 23.21
Proof House Jn 20/24 DIV
Aston 20/27 DIV
Perry Barr North Jn 20/33 DIV
Bescot Jn 20/40 DIV
Darlaston Jn 20/41 DIV
Portobello Jn 20/46 DIV
Wolverhampton DIV 23/40
Bushbury Jn 20/53 23/43
Stafford No.4 21/05 23/54
Stafford 21.06a ~ 21.08d 23.55 ~ 23.57
Norton Bridge 21/16 00/05
Stone 21/22 00/12
Stoke Jn 21/31 00/20
Stoke-On-Trent 21.33a ~ 21.35d 00.21 ~ 00.24
Kidsgrove 21/43 00/34
Congleton 21/48 DIV
Macclesfield 21/55 DIV
Cheadle Hulme 22/04 DIV
Adswood Road Jn 22/05 DIV
Edgeley Jn No.1 22/06 DIV
Stockport 22.08a ~ 22.10d DIV
Heaton Norris Jn 22/11 DIV
Slade Lane Jn 22/16 DIV
Ardwick Jn 22/18 DIV
Manchester Piccadilly 22.21a ~ 22.24d DIV
Manchester Oxford Road 22/26 DIV
Deansgate 22/27 DIV
Castlefield Jn 22/28 DIV
Ordsall Lane Jn 22/29 DIV
Eccles 22/32 DIV
Astley 22/37 DIV
Newton-le-Willows 22/43 DIV
Earlstown 22/46 DIV
Winwick Jn 22/49 DIV
Dallam Jn 22/53 DIV
Warrington Bank Quay 22.55a ~ 23.01d DIV
Acton Grange Jn 23/06 DIV
Weaver Jn 23/12 DIV
Winsford SB 23/20 DIV
Crewe Coal Yard 23/28 DIV
Crewe 23.30a 00.55

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