29th November 1997

Hertfordshire Rail Tours
The Saint Nicholas Fayre

Loco Used D9000 'Royal Scots Grey'
Stock Used Set BN96 (13 mark 1 coaches)

Route : 1Z71 throughout

Loco Route
D9000 London Kings Cross - (via ECML) - York
D9000 York - (via ECML) - London Kings Cross

Source : Gary Thornton (on the train throughout)

Tour Review
(by Gary Thornton)

When first advertised this "Merrymaker" did not exactly attract my attention. Alright 19.50 from London to York for a six hour break was reasonable value, but would I possibly do with such a long layover in York? Now don't get me wrong, I am not knocking the place - in fact I rate York as the best city in England - it's just that I've been there nine times already this year alone! However, add in the use of Deltic 9000 and the fact that my mileage for 1997 behind this magnificent machine was around 200 short of 4,000 and the pro's began to outweigh the con's. It should also be remembered that it was on this Saturday one year ago that D9000 returned to mainline service. Yes, it really was a year since we had stood on that rather cold Berwick platform watching what should have been the railtour of the decade go up in smoke (and nearly the platform canopy too)!

Departure from London was at a very respectable 0823 and when I walked into the station at just after 0730 the sound of twin-Napiers was already there to greet me. A chance to meet and greet a few friends and soon it was departure time.

Pulling away from platform 1 was quite a leisurely affair, but once in Gasworks Tunnel D9000 was opened up to tackle the gradient out and, in true Deltic style, the train and surroundings were enveloped in blue-white exhaust! As we left the tunnel a quick look through the white haze in the first coach showed this was not a usual Deltic railtour - quite a number of the "normals" who were in this coach looked less than impressed with the smoke and smell (remember, this was a Merrymaker tour aimed at the ordinary public, not enthusiasts)!

Progress through the London suburbs was swift with little to report - oh, except a rather out-of-place looking class 321 on Hornsey depot in Silverlink County livery. First stop was at Potters Bar, followed by Stevenage. For the latter stop we were routed onto the slow at Woolmer Green Junction and there we stayed all the way to Peterborough, our last pick-up point. Speeds were reasonable, but nothing to write home about, to be expected I guess, as we were on the slow. Mind you, as someone commented, running over jointed track in a rake of mark I's filled with ordinary passengers - was like being back in the 1970's on a real Deltic hauled train!

As we left Peterborough even the stabling point was a bit dead with only a handful of locos present. At this stage we were still being kept well out of GNER's way - Peterborough PSB having chosen to send us along the "down slow/down Stamford" line as far as Helpston. Once on the ECML proper and the speed quickly rose. Grantham and Newark were soon behind us and then we slowed for a booked pathing stop at Carlton Loops, but soon power was back on as we had a green without the feather. Presumably the chasing 91 was still a way behind us so we accelerated away again, towards Retford.

Along this stretch I put our speed just shy of the 100mph mark (at long last, RESCO have given the certification for the three-figure maximum!) but then our luck ran out and we were looped at Ranskill to let a GNER service past. As we entered the down loop, an RfD duff (47205) was entering the up loop on a freightliner working. With the 91 past us we made our way back onto the mainline and continued our way north. I was hoping we would storm through Doncaster (the best way to see that station) but we were slowed on the approaches. It did however give the opportunity for the driver of D9000 to open her up as we came under the bridge and through the station. Quite a treat I expect for those on the station. Some more high speed running and, after being held outside the station (to allow a Virgin service out), our arrival at York's platform 10 was one minute early.

What did I do with my six hours in York? Well I decided to try and do some Christmas shopping then pay a visit the railway museum (well, using our tour tickets we could get reduced price admission). All went well for about ten minutes then I met up with two others from the tour who were headed for a suitable watering hole (no, not The Maltings, where most of the other Deltic bashers had headed). You guessed it, they talked me into joining them! By 3 o'clock we had sampled several of York's finest drinking establishments (and one not so fine) when I decided it was time for going to the NRM, or else writing off the rest of the afternoon in an alcoholic haze!

As this was my fifth visit to the NRM this year I did not find much new and I couldn't even enjoy some shunter haulage on the brake van rides (got D2860 earlier this year on one visit). Something about being too cold...perhaps EWS are in charge and these rides are covered by the "no railtour without train heating between October and May" rule? Instead I settled for a quiet sit down in the South Hall. So comfortable was the leather covered platform seat I chose...I actually fell asleep! I am sure it was because it was quite warm in there and had nothing to do with the pub crawl (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!). At least my little nap killed a little more time - and amused one passing gentleman who, as I returned to the land of the living, said he had been wondering if I was one of the museum props!

Departure from York was just before six o'clock. With the first six carriages being four first class dining and two buffet's, none of us mere mortals with standard class tickets could hear much of 9000's performance. Most of the way back we did not seem to be pushing it speed wise (mind you at three hours for 188.5 miles, we didn't really need to). Having dropped off passengers at Peterborough, Stevenage and Potters Bar we were soon running through Finsbury Park and into Kings Cross and an on-time arrival. Interestingly, and unusually, we were brought into platform 3. Now with 69 feet 6 inches of Deltic and 13 mark I coaches on , I'm sure our back end was well foul of the cross-over! How Railtrack got out of that one I'm not sure, I decided it was time to head for home and left them to it!

So, all in all, a slightly strange tour for D9000 - I have to say this is the first mainline Deltic outing I've been on where most of the first coach windows remained shut during the journey! I understand HRT even had a complaint from someone about the smoke, smell and noise. Really, some people do need educating!!

Gary Thornton.

Timings (Booked and Actual)




Booked Actual   Booked Actual
0.00 Kings Cross 08.23d 08.23   20.55a 20.56
1.43 Holloway South Jn 08/28 08/27   20/50 20/54
2.41 Finsbury Park 08/30 08/28   20/46 20/51
4.78 Alexandra Palace 08/32 08/30   20/42 20/49
12.57 Potters Bar 08.41a ~ 08.44d 08.38 ~ 08.44   20.31a ~ 20.34d 20.39 ~ 20.41
20.25 Welwyn Garden City 08/51 08/52   20/25 20/32
23.73 Woolmer Green Jn 08/54 08/55   20/22 20/28
27.45 Stevenage 08.58a ~ 09.01d 08.59 ~ 09.01   20.15a ~ 20.18d 20.21 ~ 20.22
31.74 Hitchin 09/05 09/07   20/09 20/12
44.10 Sandy 09/16 09/20   19/57 20/05
58.70 Huntingdon 09/28 09/34   19/48 19/47
69.26 Holme 09/42 09/46   19/39 19/36
76.29 Peterborough 09.50a ~ 09.53d 09.54 ~ 09.56   19.28a ~ 19.31d 19.25 ~ 19.28
84.64 Tallington 10/03 10/09   19/20 19/17
99.61 Stoke Jn 10/19 10/22   19/10 19/07
105.38 Grantham 10/24 10/26   19/04 19/02
109.56 Barkston South Jn 10/28 10/28   19/00 18/59
120.08 Newark North Gate 10/38 10/36   18/52 18/51
126.20 Carlton-on-Trent Loop 10*42 ~ 10.52 10/43  
138.49 Retford 11/04 10/53   18/38 18/38
152.00 Loversall Carr Jn 11/16 11/11   18/28 18/28
155.77 Doncaster 11/18 11/15   18/25 18/25
160.16 Shaftholme Jn 11/22 11/18   18/20 18/22
169.16 Temple Hirst Jn 11/29 11/25   18/14 18/15
174.75 Hambleton North Jn 11/33 11/29   18/09 18/10
182.79 Colton Jn 11/42 11/34   18/03 18/04
188.40 York 11.48a 11.47   17.56d 17.56

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