22nd April 2006

Pathfinder Tours
The Devonian

Locos Used 45112 & 47703
Stock Used ?????

1Z55 : Derby to Kingswear
1Z56 : Kingswear to Derby

Loco(s) Route
45112 Derby - Burton-on-Trent - Tamworth HL - Whitacre Jn - Water Orton - Proof House Jn - Birmingham New Street - Soho South Jn - Galton Jn - Stourbridge Junction - Worcester Shrub Hill - Cheltenham Spa - Bristol Parkway - Bristol Temple Meads - Taunton - Exeter St Davids - Dawlish Warren - Newton Abbot - Paignton - Kingswear
45112 Kingswear - (reverse of outward route) - Taunton
47703 + 45112 Taunton - (reverse of outward route) Water Orton - (1) - Tamworth HL - Burton-on-Trent - Derby

Notes :
(1) Unknown if train was booked via Whitacre Jn on return leg.

Source : Jon Littlewood

Tour Review
(by Jon Littlewood)

The only mainline certified Peak has seen very little railtour action over the last five years and nothing to rival its first Fragonset trip to Penzance in 2001. On that occasion, the relentless thrashing finally took its toll on the return approaching Bristol; not entirely surprising given that the journey amounted to a 525 ton test run and that 45112’s elderly power unit had been adjusted above its brochure 2500 HP. So, I had to sample this brute again on the mainline, even though I was a little concerned about its redundant and inactive lifestyle since last December, when it became a 7am failure on a charter from the East Midlands to Bath and Exeter, – hardly the sort of winter training regime that comes before a winning performance. Still, I was mildly optimistic as I counted the days until to my first railtour of 2006.

Burton on Trent was cold and grey and after a 15 late departure the nonsense began and the driver was probably close to failing 45112 again for a repeat of its misbehaviour in December (as if to re-enact that shamble for a new audience). We restarted and I paid my money with some trepidation. Voltage spikes were apparently tripping a main relay every few minutes and was also playing havoc with the ETH supply, which was mostly absent in half the train. I was allocated a window seat in the buffet and at this point I am going to have to do some serious moaning: No heat, no light, no hot water and a faulty window with interstitial condensation that prevented a view of any sort for the whole day. OK, I was a late booker; partly because I prefer to tour in a Mk1 buffet than in a sealed air-conditioned Mk2, but what kind of travelling experience was I being asked to endure exactly? I would have to use some colourful language to convey my true feelings on the matter, but let’s just say, I will now travel with Pathfinder/FMR only as a last resort, unless their management can provide some steady evidence (through this forum hopefully) that they want to provide a better standard of service for all passengers.

Our hopes for the engine drained away as we sat stationary for some considerable time near Stourbridge (more like Stourfridge from where I was sitting) and rumours were getting around that dreary 47703 would take over at Bristol. This depressed me so deeply that I started to consider my exit strategy. The stewards confirmed the rumours and I politely asked for my money back before alighting at Kidderminster - on the basis that I had come for a ride behind a Peak and that 45112 had not been fit for purpose from the start and was getting worse. The response was predictably corporate and not very thoughtful, given that I had parted with my money not more than an hour before. I got the jobsworthy reminder that all complaints must be dealt by head office, so I decided to stay aboard to see if we would actually get to Bristol. After all, there’s always the attraction of staying with a tour to see if things can get even worse.

Well, we made it to Bristol without much trouble and the boring 47 was there, but our crew had perhaps started to get the measure of 45112’s errant ways and the decision was taken to go on without assistance. I was pleased about this, but the run westward turned out to be a messy affair with frequent delays and a couple of stops caused by the engine shutting down. The grey gloom didn’t fully clear until we reached Paignton, at which point quite a few people wanted to de-train. We had regained some valuable time up to this point, but were then held on the wrong side of the level crossing, with an empty platform in view, for 20 minutes.

The better option was to go to sunny Kingwear (for Dartmouth), which as a destination, is very pleasant. Some interesting views of our huge multi-coloured 13 coach train were obtained; surely it is time to repaint those Virgin Mk2s? In contrast, an immaculate Hall class 7827 came in with a classy rake of period coaches looking as good as new and including an inspection saloon (or was it an autotrailer?) that appeared to provide a combination of view, decor and comfort that the modern railway has long since forgotten.

After a re-timed departure from Kingswear, our run from Paignton to Taunton was quite spirited; the driver had made it known that the engine was good apart from the frequent tripping-out. We were on full power going through Exeter, which must have been a sight to behold, but the following 20 mile assault on Whiteball bank stood no chance of being a classic; not after power was lost 5 times before the summit - though I doubt that many people were aware of this. The driver and travelling engineer deserve some applause for their fast reactions and for their frustrated efforts throughout the day.

Not very special 47703, was put on the front at Taunton, whilst the station buffet was deluged by fellow sufferers in need of a warm drink. Although the extra power ensured that all subsequent station departures were swift, we were nonetheless restricted to a slightly tedious maximum of 80 mph (without multiple operation perhaps?) - unless the 45 was being used only to get us up to cruising speed and the 47 used solo thereafter, unable to get much above 80 mph.

As darkness fell, so did the light levels in our coach, still without heating or hot water, as were a few of the other coaches. As our eyes got their ‘night vision’, we slowly got used to the darkness and enjoyed the ambience, until a thankfully on-time arrival. When another passenger asked me if the trip had been worth getting out of bed for, I had to say no. I’d give it 4/10, but only because the Peak actually made it to Kingswear. Message to Pathfinder Tours (2006) Ltd & FMR: sort it out.

Jon Littlewood

Timings (Booked Only)

Location Booked (out)   Booked (rtn)
Derby 06.48d   23.06a
Stenson Jn 06/55   ?
Burton-on-Trent 07.03a ~ 07.06d   22.46a ~ 22.49d
Wichnor Jn 07/13   ?
Tamworth High Level 07.19a ~ 07.21d   22.31a ~ 22.33d
Whitacre Jn 07/33   ?
Water Orton 07/56   ?
Birmingham New Street 08.07a ~ 08.13d   22.00a ~ 22.05d
Galton Jn 08/21   ?
Stourbridge Junction 08.36a ~ 08.39d   21.36a ~ 21.40d
Kidderminster 08.49a ~ 08.52d   21.23a ~ 21.27d
Droitwich Spa 09/03   ?
Worcester Shrub Hill 09.12a ~ 09.15d   21.00a ~ 21.05d
Abbotswood Jn 09/21   ?
Ashchurch 09/28   ?
Cheltenham Spa 09.34a ~ 09.37d   20.33a ~ 20.36d
Gloucester Yard Jn 09/43   ?
Standish Jn 09/49   ?
Bristol Parkway 10.16a ~ 10.19d   19.51a ~ 19.54d
Bristol Temple Meads 10.33a ~ 10.51d   19.38a ~ 19.40d
Worle Jn 11/11   19/19
Bridgwater 11/29   19/06
Cogload Jn 11/34   ?
Taunton 11/41   18.21 ~ 18.55
Tiverton Parkway 11/56   18/05
Exeter St Davids 12/13   17/49
Dawlish Warren 12/24   17/34
Newton Abbot 12/35   17/16
Paignton 12.50a ~ 12.55d   16.50a ~ 17.00d
Churston 13.14a ~ 13.16d   16.29a ~ 16.31d
Kingswear 13.30a   16.15d

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