1st March 1997

Mercia Charters
The Maiden Voyager

Loco Used 31407, 31466, 37220, 37222 & 56110

Route :
1Z37 :
Ealing Broadway to Newcastle
1Z38 : Newcastle to Ealing Broadway

Loco(s) Route
37220 + 37222 Ealing Broadway - Reading - Didcot East Jn - Didcot North Jn - Oxford - Banbury - Leamington Spa - Kenilworth - Coventry
31407 + 31466 Coventry - Birmingham Interenational - Proof House Jn - Birmingham New Street - Soho South Jn - Perry Barr North Jn - Bescot - Walsall - Ryecroft Jn - Park Lane Jn - Water Orton - Tamworth - Burton-on-Trent - Derby - Chesterfield - Sheffield - Wincobank Jn - Aldwarke Jn - Swinton - Doncaster - (via ECML) - York
56110 York - (via ECML) - Newcastle
56110 Newcastle - (via ECML) - York
31407 + 31466 York - Milford Jn - Moorthorpe - Swinton - (reverse of outward route) - Coventry
37220 + 37222 Coventry - (reverse of outward route) - Ealing Broadway

Sources : Denzil Morgan & Richard Hughes

Tour Review
(by Ian Jessop)

Everybody where I work thinks I'm mad, travelling to the other end of the country just to get on a train, when there are perfectly good ones a couple of hundred yards away... It's true, of course, there are. But, well, only one 91 has ever failed with me on board in however many years they've been running. Yes, I did get an nb tractor out of it, but last Saturday, I scratched two. I would be most grateful if we kept this to ourselves, however, because if it got around at work that I had gone to Leamington Spa in a car, to get a train to Newcastle and then gone back to Leamington again, then life at work would be strained to say the least. Some things are best left unsaid no matter how honest you may be.

So it was, that I closed the front door behind me at 0315, at this point not caring what happened during the rest of the day, just as long as I could get some sleep...

We arrived at Leamington Spa in plenty of time, although our driver nearly drove right past the station (I won't mention who was navigating...) The tour arrived on time behind 37222 and 37220. We found our seats, though we needn't have bothered, there were plenty to choose from, and settled down. That was something else that we needn't have bothered doing, as the first engine change was only around the corner, at Coventry. The tour had started at Ealing Broadway at 0500, with the stock coming direct from Bounds Green, or Ferme Park hauled by the 37s. They were tired, what with having to get up early and been allocated to an engineers train at Peterborough that night, were in need of a bit of a rest... so off they went to Bescot for a snooze. A long while later, after seeing just about everything that Coventry station has to offer, our pair of peds showed up. They were booked off Toton, to run straight onto the tour... they missed. After backing out, they had another run at the train, and this time, succeeded so we settled back in our pews.

We got through New Street without too much ado. Then did a big and tortuous circuit over the top of Brum, going via Bescot (get yer notebooks ready lads) and Sutton Coldfield to Water Orton, then straight up the main line to Derby and Sheffield. Everything was going great now. The 31s were going like hell, not even the flying ballast at Clay Cross could stop them, even though I'm sure it stopped my heart! We were booked to run straight through Sheffield station, which, surely, was a bit optimistic... So, yeah, we stopped and the driver looked on as the station staff messed about, walking up and down the train, even looking at the back of it at one point (fascinating, I'm sure) but never actually touching it. After what must have been ten minutes we left the station and Sheffield, but didn't get very far...

The 31s were still up for it, and we batted through Meadowhall ("there's shopping malls coming out of the walls") but soon started to slow once more, and stopped in the platforms at Rotherham Masborough. I stuck my head out of the window to see what I could see, and found that I could see nothing. But I could certainly hear something... I slapped the side of my head (some would say not hard enough) but the sound was still there. Fire bells. Ooops! Eventually we got to Doncaster and a fitter trudged along the platform to stop the bells, which he did, and the driver reluctantly agreed to continue to York, where an engine change was booked to take place. It seems, however, that the ringing started again soon after we got out of Donny, because once at York, the driver was heard to say something along the lines of 'I can't believe that I've just come all the way from Sheffield with f*@%!#g bells ringing in my ears!' as he emerged from the cab to the sound of quadraphonic bells.

The somewhat unwell beasts were exchanged here for 56110 "Croft" (latin name: Biggus Griddus) which took us to Newcastle without any ado. Here we had a break of about an hour, so three of us from our party walked up to a very busy Burger King and stood eating our 'mystery meat' in the street. On this day, Newcastle were at home to Southampton, and a jazz band played in Northumberland Street. We listened as we munched, and nearly choked when they started playing "when the saints come marching in"! Either they were very brave, or very stupid! While I chewed my cold French fries, the grid was running-round the train at Heaton. It pulled into Central station shortly after we arrived back, we got on, and the grid whisked us back to York. That's it. Nothing happened and nothing went wrong. When you've done Newcastle to York as many times as I have, then it's difficult to find anything to say about it. Sure, there's Durham Cathedral and the Hambleton Horse, amongst other things to look at along the way, but I can't say that I notice them any more. So, anyway, nobody was sure just what would be waiting for us at York, it was known that 37710 and 37713 were available at Doncaster Carr Loco, but the 31s had been fixed and wanted to get home. They were put back onto the train, and once more set off with a vengeance.

The return journey was slightly different from the outward, as we went back to Sheffield via Pontefract (well, I did say slightly different!) Other than that it was the same route. Either the 31s fire bells had been fixed, or someone had set about the wiring with a pair of cutters. Whichever was the case, they stayed quiet for the return run. Once again confusion reigned as no problems were encountered getting through New Street. Rumours had been circulating that the 37s would be swapped at Bescot, but this proved to be untrue as the same pair of 220+222 showed up at Coventry just after us. Indeed, they had been seen ready to leave Bescot as we passed. So the beasts retired back to Toton, the tractors re-gained the helm, and we departed Coventry. Just outside the station we stopped. This was to be the longest delay of the day. Every now and again the train would creep forward a couple of feet and then stop. Had the tractors failed? No, had they hell! The problem was a dodgy brake pipe between the locos and stock. A brake test had taken place, but... So, we arrived back at Leamington Spa somewhat late, and very weary, and, for one of us at least, having to face the drive back to York.

It had been quite a simple railtour, no creaky freight branches, and only four loco changes, but had been a long day, admittedly by virtue of our long journey to get to it. I've no idea what Mercia Charters are planning next. They did give out questionnaires for the passengers to fill out so it should be what a few people want. Whatever it is, I hope it's as worth while (marks of 7/10) as The Maiden Voyager was, but how about starting somewhere further north next time fellas?

Ian Jessop.

Timings (Booked Only)
(from David Bellamy)

Location Booked (out) Booked (rtn)
Ealing Broadway 05.00d 23.00a
Southall 05/05 22/50
Maidenhead 05/20 22/36
Twyford 05/26 22/31
Reading 05.31a ~ 05.33d 22.23a ~ 22.25d
Didcot East Jn 05/48 21/57
Didcot North Jn 05/49 21/54
Oxford 06.00a ~ 06.13d 21.40a ~ 21.42d
Wolvercot Jn 06/21 21/37
Aynho Jn 06/36 21/24
Banbury 06/41 21/19
Fenny Compton 06/50 21/08
Leamington Spa 07.03a ~ 07.04d 20.54a ~ 20.56d
Kenilworth 07/20 20/46
Park Jn 07/24 20/43
Coventry 07L26a ~ 07L36d 20L29a ~ 20L41d
Birmingham International 07/50 20/17
Proof House Jn 08/00 19/59
Birmingham New Street 08.03a ~ 08.08d 19.42a ~ 19.55d
Soho South Jn 08/14 19/37
Perry Barr North Jn 08/22 19/32
Bescot 08/26 19/25
Rycroft Jn 08/33 19/20
Park Lane Jn 08/57 19/02
Water Orton West Jn 08/59 19/00
Kingsbury Jn 09/08 18/52
Tamworth 09.14a ~ 09.16d 18.42a ~ 18.43d
Wichnor Jn 09/24 18/34
Burton-on-Trent 09/31 18/29
Stenson Jn 09/40 18/24
Derby 09.46a ~ 09.50d 18.13a ~ 18.16d
Ambergate Jn 10/05 18/03
Clay Cross South Jn 10/16 17/53
Chesterfield 10/20 17/49
Dore Station Jn 10/30 17/38
Sheffield 10/34 17/32
Wincobank Jn 10/38 17/23
Aldwarke Jn 10/44 17/11
Swinton 10/51 17/09


Location Booked
Doncaster 11.04a ~ 11.11d
Temple Hirst Jn 11/26
Hambleton North Jn 11/32
Colton Jn 11/44
York 11L52a ~ 12L30d
Skelton Jn 12/32
Thirsk 12/49
Northallerton 12/57
Darlington 13/07
Tursdale Jn 13/19
Durham 13/25
King Edward Bridge South Jn 13/41
Newcastle 13.44a ~ 14.47d
King Edward Bridge South Jn 14/49
Durham 15/01
Tursdale Jn 15/07
Darlington 15/20
Northallerton 15/31
Thirsk 15/37
Skelton Jn 15/55
York 15L58a ~ 16L28d
Colton Jn 16/34
Church Fenton 16/40
Milford Jn 16/44
Moorthorpe 16/59

Timings continue in first table.

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