23rd March 2006
The Somerset and Dorset Railtour
||steam : 76079 (runnning as 76009) and 34067 'Tangmere'
||Load 13 (450 tons)
Route: 1Z76 throughout
|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)
(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
(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;
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
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.
Timings (Booked and Actual)
(from Andrew Pullar)
||08.20a ~ 08.36d
||08.46a ~ 08.51d
||16.48a ~ 16.52d
||08.56a ~ 09.25d [P2]
||09.44a ~ 10.19d [P2]
||16.41a ~ 16.43d
|Tiverton Junction (DPL)
||09.47a ~ 10.16d
||10.52a ~ 11.38d
|Cowley Bridge Jn
|Exeter St Davids
|Exeter Queen Street Bridge
||12.03a ~ 12.27d
|Exeter St Davids [P3]
||11.12a ~ 11.21d
|Chard Junction SB
||11.43a ~ 11.52d
||12.13a ~ 12.33d
|Yeovil Pen Mill
||13.01a ~ 13.27d
|Clink Road Jn
|North Somerset Jn
|Bristol East Jn
|Bristol Temple Meads
||15.11a ~ 15.16d
|Bristol West Jn
|Weston super Mare
||15.51a ~ 16.06d
|Highbridge and Burnham
Timings continue in first table.
Back to "The Railtour Files"