23rd March 2006

Past-Time Rail
The Somerset and Dorset Railtour

Locos Used steam : 76079 (runnning as 76009) and 34067 'Tangmere'
Stock Used Load 13 (450 tons)

Route: 1Z76 throughout

Loco(s) Route
34067 +76079 (1) Minehead Ė (West Somerset Railway) Ė Bishops Lydeard Ė Norton Fitzwarren Ė Taunton
76079 +34067 (2) Taunton Ė (via Tiverton Down Loop) Ė Exeter St DavidsĖ (via Reversible Down Line) - Exeter Queen Street (3)
76079 +34067 (2) (4) Exeter Queen Street Ė Exeter St Davids (4)

Notes :
(1) locos both tender first 34067 leading.
(2) 76079 piloting 34067 both locos boiler first.
(3) Train stalled with front of leading loco under road bridge.
(4) Train set back (under gravity) to Exeter St Davids and charter terminated.

Source : Andrew Pullar

Tour Review
(by Andrew Pullar)
I am sure most people know this was a tour that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons; the initial problems getting onto NR metals from the West Somerset Railway and getting no further than Exeter before being terminated after failing to make it to the top of the incline into Central station. Much hot air has been expounded in the railway media and web forums about what caused the problems and being an ex-railman I will not go there. I much prefer for the dust to settle and the facts become known (please Network Rail Ė no secrecy).
 
Instead I will concentrate on how it was for me as in my advancing years I have been trying to turn back the clock and ink in some kettle mileage on what is left of my favourite member of the Big Four; the Southern. It especially appeals when it includes sections of the main line to the West Country (as that was where I was brought up close to a former SR branch) and involves a pair. However I am wary of booking these things these days owing to the cost of getting to and from the pick up and set down points and the impression that the train will be cancelled at the last minute or be spoon hauled for most or all of the day. Added to this is the nightmare scenario of heavy delays such that you get back to your starting point after all the public transport home has ceased leaving you stranded. I wonít mention operators that go bust or hide behind dubious conditions of carriage or Iíll frighten myself too much and never venture out again.
 
For these reasons (especially the thought of forking out for a spoon) I had delayed booking for the S&D Railtour despite the temptations of the Tangmere and 2MT combination, some new sections of route for steam for me to ink in and the prospect of a thrash up the 1 in 37 from St Davids to Central. Given the allowed top speed of 76079 of 60 mph and high speed running wasnít going to be the order of the day and so the bank to Central would most likely be the highlight (little did I know). However I succumbed and duly rang the booking line at the beginning of the week the train was due to run. I was told we only have one place left how many seats did you want? (Donít try to pin the extra two carriages on me please. I only took one seat honest).
 
Next thought. How to get to the train? Nothing for it but to sample the 57602 hauled Night Riviera along the B&H and bail out at Taunton at two in the morning. Great. What next? The bus leaves at 05:35. Of course do what anyone else would do and start walking towards Minehead in the pitch black trying to avoid the oncoming traffic and the thoughts of all the strange creatures lurking in the Somerset countryside (I wasnít counting myself). Eleven miles later and I was gazing at a fine view of the Bristol Channel waiting for the bus watching newspapers being transferred from delivery lorry to newsagent (not quite the same as waiting for 73 haulage at one of Londonís finest but I did save two quid on the bus fare).
 
47703 was visible on the blocks at Minehead station attached to the railtour stock as I staggered off the bus; best place for it next to it being cast adrift in the Bristol Channel (close but no cigar). A sense of foreboding enveloped me like a mist off the Bristol Channel but having got thus far there was no turning back. Strangely enough my first thought was how many coaches? Various kettles were being warmed up for the start of the WSRs now legendary weekend commemoration of the S&D and BoB and MT were simmering on the business end of the train. So far so good I thought as I followed instructions to locate my seat and claim my ticket. First problem to overcome was the wrong seat number which meant disturbing a PTR steward on the platform (well I am brave). "Not C16F but F16F. Itís the buffet car and youíre next to it". Sorted? Of course not. Instead of right seat but wrong coach it was right coach but no seat. The seats were numbered from 1 to 14 and then from 17 to 24. Back to the steward (I am also foolhardy) to point this out. The solution was to renumber the seats 17 to 24 as 15 to 22 using paper bags from the buffet moving people so I could sit down. (I myself being unworthy of office would simply have claimed an unoccupied seat 23 or 24 and saved a bag or two to add to the 2 quid). A nice touch to the WSR was the renaming of Minehead and other stations on the line after locations on the Somerset and Dorset. That would confuse anyone from abroad getting out the back of a lorry. 76079 was even renumbered to a long gone classmate allocated to the S&D; 76009.
 
All this excitement before the train had moved which it eventually did; some 17 or so minutes late. This didnít much matter as when Bishops Lydeard was reached it became clear that all was not quite ready for the venture out onto the big railway on the other side of the fence. Everything was eventually in order and the simmering beasties were let out to run tender first to the last pick up of the day at Taunton for a run round and almost railtour standard time departure towards the next port of call; the erstwhile Tiverton Junction station and a pathing stop. Cue more time lost as pieces of apparently late running plastic and flying bananas were glimpsed through the carriage window heading for the English Riviera (unfortunately to return). A path finally cleared for our train and the end of the trip was nigh though we didnít know it at the time.
 
Over recent years the track layout at Exeter St Davids has been remodelled and so the ascent to Central Station is now approach controlled at 15mph along platform 1 or 3 (unlike my previous non stop run up the bank along the through road hauled by 40118). The layout at St Davids is also such that using platform 3 means starting the climb to Central on what was the down line in the good old days when the place was awash with mechanical signals. Thus the seeds were sowed. Walking pace was attained on exit from the tunnel still on the down line to ease drag. The leading loco,76079, got its nose under the bridge at the west end of Central station but just as you began to believe you would reach the top the leading engine went for a spin and that was that; stuck on the bank well and truly bowled. Iíll leave Network Rail to explain.
 
Eventually gravity came to the rescue and a sorry bunch of inCANXiduals were unceremoniously turfed out onto platform 3 as the train was allowed to propel back into St Davids station. Then came the final farce of the day to round off the disappointment. The original message put about was that the reason for being detrained was to allow the train to be propelled into a siding to get a diesel attached to the rear to assist the train up the bank. People left their bags on the train because of this and waited patiently around the station (assuming that the nice shiny 66 in Riverside Yard was the assisting loco). And waited and waited and waited. A couple of hours passed before an announcement was made that people could travel back to Taunton on service trains at no cost to themselves. No mention of terminating the train was made though it was obvious that this was your lot. To cap it all those that had left bags on the train had to wait even further until a path could be found to allow the train out of the siding (with no sign of a diesel) and back into the station. Not a lot of happy bunnies it had to be said. I headed off to drown my sorrows and take a side trip to Exmouth and back for the hell of it before heading home in a 159 (well I got to Yeovil Junction unlike a lot of other disgruntled souls).
 
In fairness to PTR a letter of apology was sent out in the post with an offer of a complimentary ticket on one of their future charters. However, if mention of this had been made at Exeter and curtailment of the trip had been announced more clearly a lot of mental anguish (and some just mental) may have been avoided. I understand road transport was arranged from Taunton back to Minehead.
 
The one train on offer that appealed to me was one I was going to book on anyway; the Strong Countryman with a pair of kettles from Salisbury to Weymouth and return a few weeks later. It was even picking up at my current home station so in the end I saved considerably more than just £2. Even the booked spoon turned out to be a pair of Goyles but thatís another story. Not bad for the last seat in the thirteenth coach.
 
One last thing. I wonít be trying to walk to Minehead from Taunton in the dead of night ever again, £2 or no £2.
 
Andrew Pullar

Timings (Booked and Actual)
(from Andrew Pullar)
 
Location Booked (out) Actual   Booked (rtn) Actual
Minehead 07.20d 07.37   18.37a CANX
Blue Anchor 07.33d ?   18.24a CANX
Washford 07.40d ?   18.17a CANX
Watchet 07.48d ?   18.09a CANX
Williton 07.54d ?   18.00a CANX
Crowcombe 08.10d ?   17.43a CANX
Bishops Lydeard 08.20a ~ 08.36d ?   17.23a CANX
Norton Fitzwarren 08.46a ~ 08.51d ?   16.48a ~ 16.52d CANX
Taunton 08.56a ~ 09.25d [P2] 09.44a ~ 10.19d [P2]   16.41a ~ 16.43d CANX

 

Location Booked Actual
Tiverton Parkway 09/43 ?
Tiverton Junction (DPL) 09.47a ~ 10.16d 10.52a ~ 11.38d
Cowley Bridge Jn 10/36 ?
Exeter St Davids  10/39 11/56 [P3]
Exeter Queen Street Bridge n/a 12.03a ~ 12.27d
Exeter Central 10/44 reverse
Exeter St Davids [P3] DIV 12.41a [P3]
Exmouth Jn 10/48 CANX
Pinhoe 10/53 CANX
Honiton 11.12a ~ 11.21d CANX
Chard Junction SB 11.43a ~ 11.52d CANX
Yeovil Junction 12.13a ~ 12.33d CANX
Yeovil Pen Mill 13.01a ~ 13.27d CANX
Castle Cary 13/44 CANX
Blatchbridge Jn 14/02 CANX
Clink Road Jn 14/07 CANX
Fairwood Jn 14/14 CANX
Westbury 14/23 CANX
Bradford Jn 14/34 CANX
Bathampton Jn 14/48 CANX
Bath Spa 14/52 CANX
North Somerset Jn 15/07 CANX
Bristol East Jn 15/09 CANX
Bristol Temple Meads 15.11a ~ 15.16d CANX
Bristol West Jn 15/21 CANX
Worle Junction 15/46 CANX
Weston super Mare 15.51a ~ 16.06d CANX
Uphill Jn 16/11 CANX
Highbridge and Burnham 16/19 CANX
Bridgwater 16/27 CANX
Cogload Jn 16/35 CANX

Timings continue in first table.

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