27th October 2007
Past Time Rail
The Western Refiner
|Loco Used||D1015 'Western Champion'|
1Z52 : London Paddington to Milford Haven
1Z53 : Milford Haven to London Paddington
|D1015||London Paddington - Ladbroke Grove - Slough - Reading - Didcot - Challow Down Loop - Swindon - Wootton Bassett Jn - Hullavington - Bristol Parkway - Patchway - Severn Tunnel Junction - Newport - Cardiff Central - Pontyclun - Bridgend - Neath - Landore Jn - Llanelli - Carmarthen Jn - Whitland - Clarbeston Road - Milford Haven|
|D1015||Milford Haven - (reverse of outward route) - Patchway (3) – Filton Abbey Wood - Dr. Days Jn - North Somerset Jn - Bath Spa - Chippenham - (3) Wootton Bassett Jn - Swindon - Didcot - (reverse of outward route) - London Paddington|
(1) D1015 carried a Pembroke Coast Express Headboard.
(2) Western Champion was named and numbered for the day as D1016 Western Gladiator on one side and D1021 Western Cavalier on the other.
(3) The train was booked via Hullavington as per the outward route but was diverted because of signalling failure on the line through Badminton.
D1015 at Milford Haven (photo: Nick Bartlett)
Source : Andrew Pullar (on the train throughout)
(by Andrew Pullar)
Some forty years ago I am supposed to have had my first Western haulage when my mother utilised a Pilgrims’ Express football special to get the family to South Wales to visit relatives. Unfortunately I don’t remember anything of the journey rail wise and my information of the charter is anecdotal from a source eight years or so after the event (19/08/1967 Plymouth to Cardiff). I have been trying to confirm the haulage and route details ever since. So, when Past Time advertised a charter to West Wales behind number 15, it just had to be done despite knowing my bank account had been severely depleted by booking on the Autumn Highlander. As originally mooted the day was to be a jolly from London Paddington to Pembroke Dock. However, when bookings finally opened the destination had changed to Milford Haven. This was somewhat disappointing as the only time I had been to Pembroke Dock was by class 119 cart in 1977. However, as I had only been to Milford Haven twice; the first loco hauled in 1978 [37177 on the 01.14 Bristol to Milford Haven mail] and the second by cart in 1984 [on the Dyfed Dragon Railtour]. On neither occasion did I hang around sightseeing so I was going to take the opportunity this time around timekeeping permitting. Though my main rail interest had been class 40 locos and track bashing I was brought up in Plymouth so there is a sentimental attachment to Whizzos. In D1015 I have been lucky enough to fill in some of the routes I missed for Western haulage in my formative years and Milford Haven was one of those areas I most definitely missed. Who needs a TARDIS!
Living some 17 miles south of Reading meant not having to travel overnight to get to this tour. However a family party in a local hostelry on the eve of the tour meant I didn’t get much sleep before having to get up at 04.00. I wanted to enjoy the trip from start to finish rather than miss out on 70 miles of thrash. My plans nearly went pear shaped when I checked my watch as I was walking to Basingstoke station and realised that I wasn’t going to make the 04:54 if I didn’t turn myself into Darren Campbell. After a heart attack inducing thrash of my own I got to the station with a couple of minutes to spare and promptly found the gate locked! It took me a few panicky moments before I realised that the main entrance was open rather than the usual side gate at this time of the morning. Still time so I dashed to where I had caught the train in the past, platform 4, to find it empty. Thinking the stock was late I started to relax till I noticed a 450 sitting on the other platform. Flapping nicely I leapt down the subway and up the stairs to discover I should have gone to platform 1 instead of platform 2. Gasping for breath I dived into the train just as the doors were being closed. I began to recover from my exertions in time to enjoy the scenic route via East Putney (the booked route for this train incidentally). The joys of sleep deprivation at my age (nothing to do with the Guinness I had been drinking at the party in the local)!
No further incident occurred and I soon found myself with time to kill at Paddington before the 0733 departure so I found a café that was open serving full English breakfasts at £4.00 a time (including toast and coffee). Just what the doctor ordered before a gruelling adventure to West Wales slumming it in the 2nd class to ensure I got to hear some Maybach music for part of the journey (the alternative would have been to have purchased the Premier First dining option mega-ching as the first class non dining is always in the middle of the consist on these trips).
The stock for the train complete with D1015 was already in the station when I eventually decided I had better finish my breakfast. After some photography and noting the loco had been disguised for the day as D1016 Western Gladiator on one side and D1021 Western Cavalier on the other I made my way to the back of the train (the diners were to have the honour of enjoying the thrash on the outward run) to find my seat looking forward to only my second Western haulage to South Wales in 40 years.
As can be seen from the timings Champion had no trouble keeping the twelve coach train to time bowling along in the high eighties and occasionally 90+ on the high speed stretches. The scheduled route was by way of Cockett Tunnel rather than the Swansea District line which made for a pleasant change from the yawn inducing Swansea District line as Landore Jn to Swansea Loop West was another line I hadn’t travelled over since the 1980s. Though it couldn’t be heard from 10 coaches back Champion looked the business through catching glimpses of the front of the train. Such was the generosity of the timings the tour arrived at Haverfordwest 33 minutes early which meant a an even fester waiting for a Milford Haven to Manchester 175 to clear the single line section. For some this was an opportunity to photograph Champion/Gladiator/Cavalier or raid the station buffet or both. Milford Haven was eventually reached on time and people headed off in various directions to spend the two hours allotted in various activities (including some piling into taxis for who knows where. My guess would be a CAMRA rated hostelry or they had been to Milford Haven before).
I headed down to the docks to get a glimpse of the expanse of water from which Milford Haven took its name (at least as far as the Railway was concerned). Such was the weather it was not possible to make out the other side because of low cloud which threatened rain all day. Thankfully the rain held off and in wandering around the new marina and its row of shops I found the old railway line to the Naval Dockyard had been turned into a pathway. This was a line that it had been hoped the Dyfed Dragon would have been allowed along but had been refused. So I used shank’s pony as the motive power to see what was missed. The track bed heads east first in a cutting then on a shelf just above the shore and takes about 20 minutes to walk before an inlet and the site of the Dockyard is reached. Further progress was halted by the swing bridge over the inlet having been left in an open position at the time the line was abandoned. There is some track still left here and an unloading facility can be seen on the other side of the inlet tantalisingly out of reach. Ferro-equine archaeology done I headed for the town but not finding any hostelries to my liking I headed back to the station and a meal in the Tesco’s café opposite (at least I could get some loyalty points).
Then it was just enough time to take some photographs of 1015 making a false start from the siding to platform the train in the station and then join the ruck to re-board the train as the half I was sitting in was off the platform. I assume this was the reason for the 15 minute late start though it didn’t matter much as there was a service train to cross at Haverfordwest that meant there was still 10 minutes to spare.
At this point it was mentioned by the Tour Organiser that engineering work had closed the line through Hullavington and the train would need to be diverted via Bath (NR Enquiries seems to suggest signal failure was the problem). There was therefore some bonus mileage to be had behind 1015 with me suitably positioned towards the front of the train. This news eased the pain in my knees from being cramped in second class and I enjoyed the run back in the gathering darkness as far as Patchway where the tour stopped for people for the Parkway set down stop to get off. There was a bus shuttle operating to Parkway and as we arrived so did a service train bound for Swansea heralded by the start of a fireworks display in someone’s back garden next to the station.
The tour set off through Filton Abbey Wood and turned onto the Doctor Day’s curve as expected where upon the Western was shut down. It was soon announced that the Driver didn’t have route knowledge via Bath and his relief who was waiting at Swindon was in a taxi heading for Bristol to take over the train.
The driver eventually showed up, and after letting a London bound from Swansea train pass us on the curve, we set off heading for railtour standard time. The front coach merchants were becoming somewhat boisterous by this time and a suitable accompaniment to Champion was given as the train passed though Bath at some 40 miles per hour. Some commendable running along the GW main line was interrupted by the occasional signal checks and the need to stop to set down at some of the intermediate stations. Railtour standard time had been avoided by 4 minutes when the tour ended. There was time for a few photos before beating a hasty retreat to Waterloo and the last train and long walk home.
The excitement hadn’t quite finished as I discovered at one in the morning I had no keys to get in the house and banging on the door didn’t wake anyone to let me in. My mobile phone battery was flat so I had to walk down to the pay phone to wake my son up to let me in! I then found out that not long after I left the party a fight had broken out and the Police had attended!
Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Andrew Pullar)
|London Paddington||07.33d [P9]||07.33||21.42a [P9]||22.37½|
|Ladbroke Grove||07/36 [ML]||07/36||21/39||?|
|Heathrow Airport Jn||07/44½||07/44½||21/31||?|
|Dolphin Jn||?||?||21/25 [ML]||?|
|Twyford West||?||?||20/58 [RL]||? [ML]|
|Reading||08.08a ~ 08.14d [P9]||08.07 ~ 08.14||20.50a ~ 20.52d [P5]||21.54½ ~ 21.57|
|Reading West Jn||08/16½||08/16½||20/49||21/53½|
|Tilehurst East Jn||08/18½ [ML]||08/18½||?||?|
|Didcot Parkway||08/30½||08/29||20/38 [ML]||21.13½ ~ 21.34½|
|Wantage Road||08/37½ [RL]||08/34½||20/34||?|
|Challow||08*42½ ~ 08*52½||08.39½ ~ 08.52½||20/32||?|
|Swindon||09.07a ~ 09.09d [P4]||09.07 ~ 09.09||20.18a ~ 20.20d [P3]||??.?? ~ 21.10½|
|Wootton Bassett Jn||09/16||09/15½||20/12||?|
|Bristol Parkway||09.44a ~ 09.46d||09.44 ~ 09.46½||19.44a ~ 19.46d||DIV|
|North Somerset Jn||DIV||19.52 ~ 20.33½|
|Filton Abbey Wood||DIV||19/45|
|Patchway||09/48||09/49||19/30||19.33½ ~ 09.39½|
|Severn Tunnel East||09/52||09/53||19/25||19/28½|
|Severn Tunnel West||09/57||09/57||19/19||19/22½|
|Severn Tunnel Junction||09/58 [ML]||09/58||19/18||19/21½|
|Maindee West Jn||10/10||10/07½||19/10||19/12½|
|Newport||10/11 [P2]||10/08½||19/09 [P3]||19/11|
|Cardiff Central||10.30a ~ 10.35d [P3]||10.25½ ~ 10.35||18.54a ~ 18.56d [P1]||18.53½ ~ 18.58|
|Margam Moors Jn||11/02||?||18/26½||?|
|Port Talbot Parkway||11/07||11.05 ~ 11.06||18/23||18/20|
|Swansea Loop West Jn||11/27||11/25||18/06||18/00½|
|Cockett West||11*35 ~ 11*45||11.33 ~ 11.38½||17/57||17/55|
|Pembrey & Burry Port||12/06||11/50||17/42||17/32|
|Haverfordwest||13*18 ~ 13*28||12.45 ~ 13.28||16*11 ~ 16*30||16.20 ~ 16.31|
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