30th March 2002

Pathfinder Tours
The Cumbrian Mountain Express

Locos Used 47726, 47770 & 60009 "Union of South Africa"

Route: 1Z50

Loco Route (1)
47770 Nottingham - Loughborough - Leicester - Hinckley - Nuneaton - Birmingham New Street - Stafford - Crewe
60009 Crewe - (via WCML) - Farrington Jn - Lostock Hall Jn - Blackburn - Clitheroe - Hellifield - Settle - Appleby - Carlisle
47726 Carlisle - (via WCML) - Crewe - (reverse of outward route?) - Nottingham

(1) Route confirmation required.
(2) Tour originally advertised to use 46201 "Princess Elizabeth".

Source : Mark Honey
(joined/left the train at Nuneaton)

Tour Review
(by Mark Honey)

Early start for this one, got up at 6.00 to do the Cumbrian Mountain Express (CME) from Nuneaton.  Good idea of Pathfinder to do it from Nottingham (!), as it meant some 47/7 haulage to Crewe.  For me, Red Duffs are the scourge of my life, having failed behind far too many and when they're only a peripheral part of the tour, they do make me cross my fingers.  Am I being too cynical?

Anyhow, 47770 rolled in on time and criss-crossed its way up the West Coast Main Line as far as Crewe with the usual Saturday closures to contend with.  A more or less right time arrival at Crewe saw the star of the day back on - A4 60009 'Union of South Africa'.  Having watched the usual stampede for windows for those with camcorders and sound equipment, we set off north up the West Coast.

It was a good load for 60009, load 14 including the support coach and thankfully, packed out.  The weighed in at some 540 tonnes gross, so they tell me. This was the first crossing of the S & C for over three months, due to the Virgin weekend diversions taking up all the available paths.  CME''s are always popular and today was a fix for those with withdrawal symptoms.  For those of you not from this planet, the S & C is uphill for about 35 miles and downhill for the rest. A4's were very good on the flat, but were not designed as slogging hill climbers, so this would either be a disaster or the Gods would smile and give us good weather.

One problems seems to be the unwanted number of steam labelled speed restrictions on both the WCML and the S & C.  Don't know where these came from - but 30 mph restrictions through Winsford and Warrington Bank Quay meant that our young, go-getting crew could not put their caps on back to front and bring out the shades and cruise.  Regardless, it was a bit slow-slow-quick-quick-slow and needed effort from the crew to get Number 9 moving quickly again.

The best effort was from the climb from Wigan  - about 1.5 miles of 1 in 100-ish and as we'd been checked before Wigan, to breast this at 43 mph - not a bad effort at all.

We curved off at Farington Junction, with everyone hanging out of all available windows and unexpectedly stopped at Cherry Tree instead of Blackburn as the water hydrant at the latter was out of order.  The crew changed and Carlisle men took over, but their efforts were perhaps even more appreciated.  Dropping through Hellifield, we accelerated to about 60 down towards Settle Junction before that pain the backside speed restriction over the A65 road bridge at the Junction just before the climb.  So with 540 tons to shift, this is we settled in for slow, slippery slog.  However, the day was dry and bright, the sun was out and the Carlisle crew were experts - having No.9 up to 40 mph by Stainforth Tunnel -a cutting usually full of leaves and permanently damp which has seen many machines slip.  Fortune favoured us and we cruised on.  The climb, interrupted by an easing through Horton in Ribblesdale saw us average 40 mph and on to Ribblehead Viaduct with steam to spare. Cracking effort.

After Garsdale, the S & C is back to 60mph and No.9 took full advantage of this, having us in to Carlisle nearly 10 minutes early.  The short break saw us regain a Red Duff, this being 47726 (no electric available at Crewe to run light to Carlisle then?) which again raised a few eyebrows as to its mechanical viability, but took us back without problems.

A good day, sterling effort from the A4, a full train and right times.  Could you ask for more?

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