18th December 1999
Past Time Rail
The Christmas Chester Chuffer
|Locos Used||steam 45110 & Electric 90038|
(* - support coach for 45110, not in formation behind 90038)
|90038||Finsbury Park - Camden - Watford Junction - Northampton - Birmingham International|
|45110||Birmingham International - Aston - Walsall - Rugeley - Crewe - Chester|
|45110||Chester - Wrexham General - Shrewsbury - Wolverhampton - Bescot - Aston - Birmingham International|
|90038||Birmingham International - Finsbury Park (route as outward)|
Source : Gary Thornton.
(joined/left train at Northampton)
(by Gary Thornton)
For the second time in three weeks I decided to venture out on a "normals" tour and again took the Premier Class option which included full dining (Christmas menu of course!). To add some interest to this outing it also featured the use of a kettle - 1935 built "Black 5" 45110 from the Severn Valley Railway.
As with the last posh-nosh outing I again had the luxury of a local pick-up so didn't roll out of bed until a few minutes before my lift to the station turned up. Just time at Northampton to view 66170 and 90144 passing through on freight workings before the arrival of our train was announced. I was pleased to see a freight grey liveried 90 pull in and even more pleased to discover it was 90038 which I required for haulage.
We headed north just as daylight came in and just before Rugby the coffee arrived - followed quickly by the rest of breakfast. We were already at a stand in Birmingham International (platform 5) when we finished the last bit of toast and cup of coffee. That of course after the compote of fruit and grill tray! I wandered off the train and up to the front to confirm we now had steam power at the head - 45110 in BR black livery.
The run to Chester was to take us about 3.5 hours so there was no real need for speed. The route was to Stechford then via Aston and Bescot where we turned right towards Walsall. As we passed Bescot yard I noted various locos including 20165, 92030, 37377, 58032, 66064, 37051, 37688, 66140, 08695 47357 & 58043. After Walsall we took the line to Rugeley and as we climbed the 1 in 87 gradient towards Bloxwich there was the chance to savour 45110 working hard. Before the summit however we halted at Bloxwich North where the first watering stop had been arranged. Time to get off and watch a fire hose being hooked up to 45110's tender and a few hundred gallons get pumped in.
After about a half-hour we were on our way again, passing through Rugeley and joining the West Coast Main Line and then heading for Stafford. As we shot through Stafford a rake of blue/grey coaches was spotted at the platform with a 60 at the head - most probably the Pathfinder Christmas "Spin & win" tour.
I was surprised to see we were given the fast lines to Crewe - presumably not much about as we cruised along to eventually arrive in Crewe at 11.35, 15 minutes early. As we approached the station I counted three Freightliner 66's in the yards but as usual they were too far away to identify (why can't they have big numbers like the EWS ones?). Loads of stuff on Crewe diesel depot including 47547, 47501, 47596, 47338, 47188, 37380, 47484, 47326, 47519, 47749, 37903, 47762, 66101, 47306, 90039, 86261, 66177, 66021 and 47798 (one of the "royal" spoons and named "Prince William").
We were booked for a 40-odd minute "operational stop" at Crewe so there was a chance to get off and take a leg stretch. Glad I did as I soon heard a familar hum and wandered to the south of the platform in time to see a green Deltic (D9009 I assume) heading towards the carriage sheds with a rake of "Regency Rail" stock. I later heard that this was from the DPS's own tour that had been postponed due to the Deltic failing! My leg stretch was cut short as we were served the light lunch whilst at Crewe - a bowl of soup and sandwiches followed by a mince pie and cream. The only other excitement (if it could be classed as such) was being passed by a group of Freightliner engines coupled together - consisting of 86623, 86620, 86636, 57001 & 86609.
All that was left now was the short sprint to Chester where we had a break of almost three hours. I took the opportunity to watch the train being shunted into the sidings alongside the station (and next to 37429 stabled there). Once the shunt was complete 45110 was taken off and moved over into one of the bay platforms to be watered (and the crew fed!). I took time out then for a walk towatds the city centre, though in the event I chose to divert and have a walk along the canal - much more fun I suspect than jostling amongst the Christmas shopping crowds!
Our return route was different from how we arrived, taking us via Wrexham and Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton. The days highlight for me was the attack on Gresford Bank - several miles of 1 in 82 on the approach to Wrexham. With eleven on 45110 fair barked up the gradient much to the enjoyment of those on board and also those at the trackside. Rather dissapointing to note however just how many photographers were standing on the wrong side of the boundary fence to get their photos and video footage - this is the sort of practice frowned upon by authority and for good reason too.
We slowed to pass through Wrexham station and were surprised to see the platforms deep with people - tail end of a football match perhaps? Nope! As we pulled away from the station we passed a Load-Haul liveried 56 on a rake of blue/grey coaches with 60088 on the other end - the Pathfinder trip again! I remembered then that it was due to lay-over at Wrexham for a short time so it was I guess an every-one off type of lay-over.
The remainder of the journey to Wolverhampton was spent enjoying a full three course Christmas meal with all the trimmings. A glass of mulled wine combined well with the couple of glasses of Australian Chardonnay and warmth of the coach to make for a calm relaxing ride, disturbed on odd occasions though by the big supply of party poppers provided by the staff.
From Wolverhampton we traced the familiar route (familiar to class 37 bashers on the fNW services anyway) via Bescot to Aston, then took the direct line to Stetchford for a short sprint back to Brum International. Some spirited running from Cosford and slack timings had seen us turn an eight minute deficit into a 22 minute early arrival. Here we said goodbye to 45110 and regained 90038. A cry of anguish from me as I watched a northbound Virgin service turn up with 87013 in charge - one of only two 87's I need for haulage!
The chance for a quick departure from International was scuppered by the arrival of a 323 unit bound for Coventry and....you guessed it....we got the road as soon as the 323 had departed! A stagger ensued to about Tile Hill by which time the 323 must have pulled out a bit of a lead on us as we suddenly sped up and shot through Coventry at about 50mph. A lightning run to Rugby (set-down point) and equally fast from there had us into Northampton some 15 minutes early :-)
Verdict : Good day out and a good performance from our kettle. Food and service excellent too. Only one real moan - mobile phones. Why do people insist on using them right in the middle of eating a meal??
"Hello dear - I'm on the train. Guess what, I'm eating a meal".
I've heard that one of the other tour operators that offers
the full dining option actually operates a "no mobile phones" policy
in the dining section at all times. Damn good idea too - should be considered by
other tour operators also.
Route and Timing's (Booked and Actual)
|Holloway South Junction||06/06||-||:||21/32||-|
|Kings Cross Freight Junction||06/09||-||:||21/26||-|
|Camden Road East Junction||06/20||-||:||21/20||-|
|Camden Road Junction||06/22||-||:||21/18||-|
|Willesden West London Jn||06/30||-||:||21/12||-|
|Harrow & Wealdstone||06/39||-||:||21/02||-|
|Milton Keynes Central||07.16a||-||:||20.28d||-|
|Perry Bar North Junction||09/32||09/33|
|Rugeley North Junction||10/57||10/52|
|Milford & Brocton||11/08||??.??|
|Crewe Steel Works||12/33||12/32|
|Beeston Castle & T SB||12/43||12/43|
|Chester South Junction||15/43||15/42|
|Wolverhampton North Jn||17/57||18/01|
|Perry Bar North Junction||18/28||18/20|
a : arrival time
c : crew change
d : departure time
o : operational stop
W : Watering stop
/ : passing time
??.?? : missed timing point (probably to busy eating!)
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