11th October 1997

Pathfinder Tours
The Current Orbiter

Locos Used 47306, 47572, 73128, 73131, 86636, 87101, 90017, 90138 & 92015

Route :

Loco Route
90017 Preston to Northampton via Crewe - Stafford - Wolverhampton - Birmingham New St. - Rugby
86636 Northampton to Southend Victoria via Milton Keynes - Watford Junction - Camden Jn - Camden Road Jn - Channelsea Jn - Stratford - Shenfield
90138 Southend Victoria to Liverpool Street via Shenfield - Stratford
73128 + 73131 Liverpool Street to Victoria via Reading Lane Jn - Camden Road Jn - Gospel Oak - Willesden Junction High Level - South Acton Jn - New Kew Jn - Clapham Junction - Stewarts Lane
47306 Victoria to Tonbridge via Brixton - Tulse Hill - East Croydon - Redhill - Tonbridge - Paddock Wood (reverse) - Tonbridge
92015 (1) Tonbridge to Willesden (No. 41 Signal) via Orpington - Bromley South - Brixton - Factory Jn - Kensington Olympia - Willesden West London Jn
87101 Wilesden (No. 41 Signal) to Crewe via Watford Junction - Milton Keynes - Rugby - Coventry - Birmingham New St. - Wolverhampton - Stafford
47572 Crewe to Preston via Wilmslow - Heald Green - Manchester Piccadilly - Bolton

Notes :
(1) plus 47306 dead in tow.
86636 replaced 90017 at Northampton instead of Rugby as booked
73131 + 73128 working on diesel power until after New Kew Jn

Source : Richard Hughes
(On the train throughout)

Tour Review
(by Ian Jessop)

I have to say, before anything else, that I thought that this tour was a rather good idea. All electrics, the whole tour...nothing but electrics...it's so different, you just can't knock it. And even now, it remains a good idea, in fact especially now, it remains a good idea. On the day this tour featured over 100 miles of class 47 haulage, and it was all booked class 47 haulage, not one of those miles was the result of an engine failure...

So come on then, who's going to be the first to run an all electric tour of this sort of complexity?

Our little group had an interesting start to this one. For the first time, we ventured to Manchester Piccadilly in a car, a first for all of us. For reasons that will become clearer later (honest!) we caught the 0517 down to Crewe, to catch the tour. Yes, I did know that the 0517 is a...well a...erm, sorry, I just can't bring myself to say it...if you don't know, then you're not going to find out from me. Pretty much on time, the tour arrived at Crewe, unannounced. Most people had congregated outside the buffet on platform 6, but the train wasn't put right in front of us, we had to traipse over the footbridge to platform 12. There was a (not very) bright red 90 on the front, the tour having started at Preston, so all us part timers shuffled down to see that it was 017, then got aboard...and fell asleep (well, that's what I did...)

I managed to awake at most of the strategic points along the route. I remember Stafford, and passing non-stop through Wolverhampton, and a rather bleary looking New Street, but that may have just been my eyes, then again... A London bound Virgin followed us from Wolves to New Street, but to our surprise, we set off before it. Our train was booked to pick up at International, and we fell into the 'outside' platform (No 1?) and the skip at the front of the VT service slid in alongside us. But, once again, we departed first! At Coventry we were dumped into the bi-directional platform 2, and the now familiar skip clanked in alongside, on platform 1. Now this is where things start to get a bit spooky. Once again we got away first...and don't forget that this is the WCML, the place were many charter trains have been lost, never to be seen again.

We arrived at Rugby for a locomotive change, to be greeted by our very own announcement. The whole station was told that we should get back on the train, and that our loco change was now to take place at Northampton. This change was to originally be at Northampton, but was changed to Rugby...so go figure! So we all got back on board, and fell off the train again at Northampton, where the loco change took what felt like a long time, and disrupted the service trains a little. Still, all well that ends well, we changed to 86636 and set off for sunny, erm, Southend. On departure I fell asleep again (well I'd been up all night, in fact I'd been at work most of it!) Apparently we picked up a few Southerners, and a few Northerners with priv travel, at Watford. Then we made our way over the North London line from Camden to Stratford, thence straight to Southend without passing go. When we arrived here it was a bit wet, but even so, what with being a tough (stupid?!) Yorkshireman, after taking a photo or two of our fresh loco (90138) I ventured into the town centre for a quick scout around...let me tell you, a complete waste of time. Sure there are all the big shops and fast (sic) food places, but it's still a bit of a horrid place. I did manage to find a Virgin there though! [ahem]

The next bit was easy, Southend to Liverpool Street. Simple. Even Failtrack managed to get it right, so it must be easy. For this bit we were in the last coach, and there is a scary bit of track on the branch. The coach seemed to pitch and roll, toss and turn, seemingly to the brink of coming off, and throwing us all into the adjoining field. Take note if you're planning a trip down there...and maybe go and see a doctor...

Liverpool Street was where the railtour really started, and almost finished too. Here a pair of class 73s backed onto the train (131 & 128) but somewhere along the way they'd had a bit of a tiff... By the time they were coupled up they were not speaking to each other, they could not be operated in tandem because of the 2 blokes for the run. One did not know the route, the other had not signed 73s. The front engine could not haul the whole train because these things are only 600 hp, and there were a few stiff little climbs en-route. All in all, a bit of a mess. Until our caped crusader came along and did his marriage guidance bit, and got them to give it another go. (Or something) A rattle, some clag, a cheer, and off we jolly well went. No doubt the top men at Liverpool Street breathed a sigh of relief as we paddled off, bound for Victoria; about 10 minutes on the Circle Line, about 1 hour 35 minutes by JBs... We did the Reading Lane to Navarino Road curve, then apparently (I was getting some ZZZzzzs again!) went straight round the North London line to South Acton, then via Chiswick to Crapham Junction (were I awoke briefly, but for long enough to see a single EPS tractor sandwiched by barrier wagons in the yard - I think it was 601) and then over the bridge into Victoria.

Once again everyone piled off the train and made their way to the front to phot the JBs. After a while someone wandered out onto the concourse, and discovered something of a bazaar taking place! Soon the word got around that there was free beer just around the corner and it became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop...ok, so that's an exaggeration, but I'm sure you get the idea. A few of the real ale swillers declined the offer of free Courage, but most of the neds off the tour took advantage and visited the stand several times during our short stay! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, "The Slapper" (47306) was getting rather attached to the far end of the train, and was soon ready for action. On leaving Victoria, our route was through Brixton, Tulse Hill, Selhurst, and East Croydon to Redhill and Paddock Wood. At PW the 47 ran-round the train pretty quickly and took us back to Tonbridge. (This was all as booked by the way) We were pathed into the Up Slow Loop at Tonbridge for 30 minutes, while a few EMUs took priority, the exact opposite of Birmingham to Rugby earlier in the day.

Shortly before we left the loop 92015 screamed in front of us. It wasn't going fast or anything, it's just that these things do make quite a row. This was our next engine, and was attached to the front of the 47. This was Pathfinders first class 92, and it all took place in the dark! From Tonbridge we went up through Orpington and Herne Hill to Brixton, then past Kenny O' and to Wembley Yard, where the 92 and 47 were both removed and replaced by 87101. By this time I was really knackered, so the commentary will now get very scarce...I even slept right through the loco change at Wembley and most of the way to Crewe, which was reached via Birmingham.

From Crewe the tour had to return to Preston, and this was all originally to have been done with the 87. Now do you remember that I said it would become clear why we travelled down to Crewe on the 0517 ex Man Picc? Well, the main line was closed for engineering work by the time we were due back (2250 at Crewe) so the 87 was taken off here and a RES 47 took it's place. 47467 was, supposedly, originally allocated to the tour, and it was seen at Crewe when we passed in the morning, but obviously someone breathed on it during the day, and 572 substituted. (Well, have you seen the state of 467 lately? It's a wonder it's still in traffic at all!) As we were to pass through Man Picc, those awfully nice fellas at Pathfinder (?) had a stop put in there, and even at Bolton too. (You can file that last one under 'strange but true') After spending what felt like 3 days on board, home was finally in our grasp, as the train took a left turn at Wilmslow and headed past the airport branch and, er...stopped. Then up to the next signal and stopped again...and so on, most of the way to Longsight and beyond. At this point in the journey we were down to a single steward, who came through to tell us what he'd just been told. Now, apparently there had been an earlier failure and this was causing congestion...and this was at midnight! It may seem funny to hear now, but at the time it was pretty depressing. We sat and sat outside Piccadilly station, while a few trains zipped past, bound for the bay platforms. Eventually we got in, and used platform 13 which seems to be the norm for railtours that are actually allowed to stop there these days, irrespective of the direction they're going in.

So, tired and bedraggled, we left the train and the station, got back into the car and headed out of Manchester onto the M62, none of us having a clue as to the directions...needless to say we left by an entirely different route to the one that we'd come in by in the morning...

Ian Jessop.

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