15th April 2006

Heartland Rail

HST Used 43070 & 43087
Stock Used 44069+42309+42086+42085+40810+41189+41081+41108

1Z27 : Gloucester to Penzance
1Z28 : Penzance to Gloucester

HST Route
43070 + 43087 Gloucester - Standish Jn - Westerleigh Jn - Bristol Parkway - Bristol Temple Meads - Taunton - Exeter St. Davids - Newton Abbot - Totnes - Plymouth - Liskeard - Bodmin Parkway - Par - Truro - Penzance
43087 + 43070 Penzance - (reverse of outward route) - Gloucester

Source : Mark Honey

Tour Review
(by Mark Honey)

I’ve been quite slack this year when it comes to tours. I’ve only done one this year mainly due to work commitments and other things that have got in the way. Plus there hasn’t been that much that has whetted my appetite if the truth be known. So when Heartland Rail announced to the world that it was going to re launch it’s charter business in 2006, it seemed a good opportunity to see what they planned to do. Moreover, HR have a couple of HST sets, one of which they planned to use on a number of charters, so it seemed too good a chance to miss when HR announced they were taking an HST set from Gloucester to Penzance and back. After all, I don’t believe there has been a HST charter programme in anger since the days of Hertfordshire Railtours ‘125 Specials’ – unless anybody else knows otherwise…

So, where have HR been and why the re-emergence? HR operated the previous set of tours with pairs of class 47’s and Mk.III’s, but with another operator’s safety case. Therefore, HR did not have the control over the operation. The granting earlier in the year of a passenger operator’s licence by the ORR to Cotswold Rail meant that HR, being part of Cotswold Rail, could now be run totally ‘in house’. A lot easier to plan, maintain and cost. Indeed doing it all in house meant that fares could be kept down as there were no tiers of costs to be accounted for to sub contractors who in the past had provided drivers, guards and the like.

So, fast forward to April 15th and 07.30 on Gloucester station. In rides a ‘Rio’ Midland Mainline HST set with 43070 and 087, the silver and Hornby power cars on at each end. The Rio sets were originally meant for the replacement Manchester – St.Pancras service when the West Coast route was shut and the SRA stumped up a large amount to put many sets of both MML and VXC through a refurbishment. Cotswold Rail has two sets on its books. In case you’re wondering why ‘Rio’, it is said that the project was named after footballer Rio Ferdinand as at the time, he was transferring from Leeds to Manchester – as were MML sets. So there you go.

So out the door at 08.00 and we called at the usual blades of grass, such as Cam & Dursley, Yate, Filton Abbeywood etc before arriving at Bristol Temple Meads. My wife and I were settling in very comfortably into the 1st class seats and downing the first coffee of the morning! We arrived at BTM a couple of minutes down, but the handful of minutes allowed at the stop put us back to right time. The run to Exeter gave the chance for the power cars to really blow out the damp as they worked the set train up to 125mph. With the majority of the HST fleet undergoing re-engineering in the near future, the sound of a screaming Paxman Valenta will soon become scarce. At least the handful of 125 group individuals seemed to appreciate it!

We trundled through Exeter St David’s and opened up for the run along the sea wall. Although the sun had been threatening to come out, the further south we got, the more it darkened over. After passing through Teignmouth we headed inland and into the climbs. Going up Dainton, the power cars sounded superb and many heads hung out of the windows to listen to them scream. Dropping into Totnes however, there was an ominous silence from the front power car and sure enough we were brought to a stand on Hemerdon bank as Network Rail enquired as to why we were attempting to climb the bank with one power car. The fact that we had just about made it to the summit didn’t seem to register. So, it was a set back to the centre roads at Totnes to see what the problem was. CREL’s fitters crawled all over the front power car to find the fault. During this time, it appeared that we might have to set back to Newton Abbot to get a good run up to get over the bank. However, the fault was found – a broken wire! A quick fix later and the front power car burst into life. Exhalations all round…

Now an hour late, we stormed to Plymouth and a very fast crew change later we were off over the Tamar Bridge at Saltash and into Cornwall. Having a wander through the train, it was nice to see many families on board, lots of children excited at just coming on a day out. It made my wife and I determined to bring our young daughter next time. Many of the train’s customers admitted they didn’t get out by train much if at all. What was more worrying in a sense was that a lot admitted they didn’t know where to start in terms of planning a journey and that the perception of high fares put them off straight away. It was nice to see lots of smiling faces, smile at the vast amounts of food and drink that some of them had brought and to listen to anecdotes, stories and tales about different journeys they had made. It definitely was a good atmosphere. Adding to this, the staff presented a 40th birthday surprise cake to a passenger which added to the small touches that made the day a bit different.

Many diehard HST enthusiasts will tell you that the Class 43’s make all their ‘interesting’ noises in the lower revs, before the whistle drowns everything out. In places along the Plymouth – Penzance section there are 60 mph stretches where you hear the power cars at their best. I remember years ago waiting for the next southbound diversion over the Settle & Carlisle at Ais Gill summit and hearing the Valentas climbing at 60mph long before the HST appeared into view.

We called at Par and St Austell to set down the passengers who wished to visit the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligon and rolled into Penzance an hour late. Not that many complained – there isn’t much to do at Penzance apart from turn around and go back again. If you want to do the tourist thing, there are things to do outside the town. So my wife and I raided the local Wetherspoons and went shopping. A right result on the latter; a sports shop was having a clearout at silly prices, so this was well and truly raided! We’ve also decided that all policewomen in Penzance have to be under 5 ft tall, judging by the size of the two that tried to arrest a drunk outside the station.

Talking of raided, Jo Parcell, who runs Heartland Rail, spent the time in Penzance raiding the pasty and cream tea shops to provide something a bit different on the way back. A nice touch. Another amusing sight was Chris Smetham, the driver, returning with the biggest kebab known to man, which would keep a family fed for a week…

So it was back the way we came, an uneventful run, a 17 minute early arrival into Bristol Temple Meads (who let us straight in and out – miracles will never cease) and back to Gloucester.

Verdict? Everyone seemed happy, lots of smiling faces and good comments about the day on the way back. There are some more ambitious tours with the HSTs, such as one from Wolverhampton to Blair Atholl that should be a riot. It’s been a while since one went over Shap and Beattock. Bring it on!

Mark Honey

Timings (Booked Only)

Location Booked (out)   Booked (rtn)
Gloucester 08.00d   21.35a
Horton Road Jn 08/01   21/33
Gloucester Yard Jn 08/03   21/31
Standish Jn 08/07   21/26
Cam & Dursley 08.11a ~ 08.13d   21.18 ~ 21.21
Charfield 08/21   21/12
Yate 08.26a ~ 08.28d   21.05a ~ 21.07d
Westerleigh Jn 08/31   21/01
Bristol Parkway 08.35a ~ 08.40d   20.53a ~ 20.56d
Filton Abbey Wood 08.46a ~ 08.48d   20.48 ~ 20.50d
Stapleton Road 08/53   20/44
Dr. Days Jn 08/54   20/43
Bristol East Jn 08/55   20/42
Bristol Temple Meads 08.57a ~ 08.59d   20.39a ~ 20.41d
Bristol West Jn 09/00   20/38
Parson Street ?   20/36
Worle Jn 09/12   20/19
Uphill Jn 09/14   20/16
Bridgwater 09/22   20/05
Cogload Jn 09/26   20/00
Taunton 09/30   19/56
Tiverton Parkway 09/39   19/43
Tiverton Loops 09/40   ?
Cowley Bridge Jn 09/51   19/30
Exeter St. Davids 09/53   19/28
Dawlish Warren 10/02   19/19
Newton Abbot 10/12   19/09
Totnes 10/23   18/58
Ivybridge 10/36   18/45
Hemerdon 10/43   18/40
Lipson Jn 10/48   18/33
Plymouth 10/51   18.18 ~ 18.29
St. Budeaux East Jn 10/55   18/10
Saltash 10/58   18/06
St. Germans 11/03   18/01
Liskeard 11/12   17/53
St. Pinnock Viaduct East 11/17   17/48
Largin 11/18   17/47
Bodmin Parkway 11.23 ~ 11.26   17.39 ~ 17.42
Lostwithiel 11/30   17/35
Par 11.35 ~ 11.39   17.26 ~ 17.29
St. Austell 11.45 ~ 11.48   17.17 ~ 17.20
Burngullow Jn 11/51   17/14
Probus 11/58   17/07
Truro 12/04   17/00
Penwithers Jn 12/06   ?
Baldhu 12/11   ?
Camborne 12/22   16/47
St. Erth 12/30   16/39
Long Rock 12/37   16/35
Penzance 12.40a   16.30d

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