15th April 2006
|HST Used||43070 & 43087|
1Z27 : Gloucester to Penzance
1Z28 : Penzance to Gloucester
|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
(by Mark Honey)
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!
Timings (Booked Only)
|Location||Booked (out)||Booked (rtn)|
|Horton Road Jn||08/01||21/33|
|Gloucester Yard Jn||08/03||21/31|
|Cam & Dursley||08.11a ~ 08.13d||21.18 ~ 21.21|
|Yate||08.26a ~ 08.28d||21.05a ~ 21.07d|
|Bristol Parkway||08.35a ~ 08.40d||20.53a ~ 20.56d|
|Filton Abbey Wood||08.46a ~ 08.48d||20.48 ~ 20.50d|
|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|
|Cowley Bridge Jn||09/51||19/30|
|Exeter St. Davids||09/53||19/28|
|Plymouth||10/51||18.18 ~ 18.29|
|St. Budeaux East Jn||10/55||18/10|
|St. Pinnock Viaduct East||11/17||17/48|
|Bodmin Parkway||11.23 ~ 11.26||17.39 ~ 17.42|
|Par||11.35 ~ 11.39||17.26 ~ 17.29|
|St. Austell||11.45 ~ 11.48||17.17 ~ 17.20|
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