Normally I give the UK railway system a very wide berth on a Sunday - too much puddling about being diverted, transported about on buses etc. This Sunday however promised the chance to experience "Mother Napier" on a service train - Anglia Railways having booked D9000 "Royal Scots Grey" for a round trip from Norwich to London.
The offer of a lift from home to Norwich resolved any doubts I had on whether to go for this outing and a little after 9am my doorbell went and stood on my doorstep were Ralph and Andy, my travelling companions for the day. A fast Fiat Punto ride to Norwich took up most of the morning but at least we arrived with plenty of time to get lunch before the 13.00 departure. With tickets duly acquired (including weekend first upgrades for the outward leg) we wandered up to the Coach and Horses pub for a pint and bite to eat. Good value place - well cheap beer and huge helpings of food were sampled, though the late arrival of Andy's roast chicken had him flapping a bit (pun not intended).
Another advantage of this particular watering hole is the ability to buy two pint takeaway packs of beer :-) At 12.55 myself and Andy were trundling up the platform with several such packs of ale in our hands! No real need to go and view our motive power - the sound as we left the pub of twin Napiers on tick-over told us all we needed to know.
The FO's at the front of the train were well filled but I spotted a 4-seater bay in the leading coach with only one person - Mark, another friend, being the occupant - what luck! We pulled out of Norwich bang on time (maybe even a few second early) and it was about this time that Andy discovered that by putting his ear to a plastic pint glass up against the window the sound of D9000 was magnified somewhat. I can concur it worked a treat - though it made consuming the beer a little difficult and the pint glasses were very soon put their intended use.
We hit the ton once away from Norwich and most of the way south the speed was held in the high 90's. With plenty of familiar faces about it was a very sociable train ride. At Ipswich we noticed 86237 on a northbound service, receiving attention from several orange-vested officials. Looks like it wasn't going much further.... Not much else of note except a rapid emergency stop made just south of Witham as we were accelerating away (later confirmed as a circuit breaker trip on D9000). As we neared the London suburbs it became a bit of a stagger as we swapped over to the slow lines due to engineering works (37114 seen on one engineering train). Arrival into Liverpool Street was about 5 minutes down.
With a 90 minute fester here before the 16.30 return working it was a case of getting a few photos of D9000 then hang around waiting for the incoming stock to arrive. D9000 was attached quickly and a place was secured in the leading coach (the DBSO). Not for long though as an Anglia Railways employee appeared and slapped seat reserved labels everywhere :-( Turns out the only coach completely free of reservations was coach D so a quick move was required. Coach D was one of those horrible high-density seating mark 2f's - acceptable if you're a 3 foot midget but a bit of a crush for the four of us all in one seating bay.
We departed Liverpool Street on time and the current disadvantage of a Deltic on mark 2's was soon evident - as D9000 powered away from the platform our coach lighting faded....and died. Coach C followed suit. Our coach never recovered so we enjoyed a journey to Norwich in the dark (HSBC Rail sends another bill to Deltic 9000 Locomotives Ltd for another set of knackered coach electrics!). To be fair, the stock arrived behind an 86 with the lights in C and D already out so the electrics were already well suspect.
In common with the outward leg, D9000 just couldn't quite keep up with the class 86 timings (despite a good amount of 90+mph running) and we rolled into Norwich about 10 minutes down. Time to grab some photos and say goodbyes to various friends and acquaintances, then for me it was back to being the tail gunner in a Fiat Punto for a few hours.
Nice sociable day out - may there be many more!
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