© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011
"There's a Deltic hauled special going from
Shrewsbury in a couple of weeks time - do
you fancy a trip" mentioned Dave ("you can't
beat a good day out gricing").
"Sounds good - let's do it!"
I first discovered the Deltics in the early 1960s
when, as a schoolboy number cruncher, I visited Northallerton
station on the east coast main line. It was really the steam locos
we wanted to see - especially the A4s (and preferably not
another WD 2-8-0, please) - but the Deltics were special even
then. Looking north down the long straight main line, trains
appeared as a black spot, which gradually became larger and
audible, ideally with a plume of steam and smoke. With the
Deltics, you seemed to sense that throbbing hum even before
the black spot appeared - the sound seemed to carry for many
miles across the flat lands. And they really seemed to thunder
through the station - the Peaks and EE4s were much more
But a purple one! Really!
The colour doesn't matter, of course, when you're in the train.
This tour, organised by Pathfinder Tours, started from Newtown
(this diary entry gets stranger by the minute), picking up at
Welshpool (I don't think there have been too many Deltics down
the Cambrian), then Shrewsbury. It continued via Gobowen,
Wrexham and Chester, then joined the west coast main line at
Warrington. Last pick-up point was Wigan, before taking the
familiar route via Blackburn to the Settle and Carlisle.
I haven't been on too many railtours recently - the timekeeping
can be a nightmare when there are connection to make on the
homebound journey, and some of the participants, clearly soccer
hooligans in training, can mar the trip somewhat. With this one,
there weren't any connections to make - we'd take a chance on
the latter. I must admit to wishing I hadn't read the Heritage
Railways digest the previous evening - a correspondent
complained of nazi-saluting lager louts on a recent Deltic-hauled
special. I needn't have worried. This train seemed to run on, or
ahead of time, throughout (apart from one station stop....). And
our fellow travellers? Couldn't have been nicer! (I have to admit
that I was possibly the youngest at our end of the coach!)
Apparently, a substantial number of tickets had been allocated
to booking agencies in Newtown and Gobowen - most of the
travellers were just members of the public on a day out,
substantially outnumbering the gricers.
Having left Blackburn much earlier than scheduled, we were
soon through Hellifield and onto the former Midland main line.
"Last time I was hauled by a Deltic up here was in January 1969",
I mentioned to Dave "on the Last Day of the Waverley Route
special" (see Last Day of the Waverley Route). We were early
arriving at, and leaving, the obligatory photo stop at Garsdale -
which meant we were early at Carlisle - getting on for half an
Time for a few snaps of the train - and to say hello to my son,
who was just passing through on an Edinburgh-bound HST! - and
then a stroll into Carlisle, where we found our way to the castle
- well worth a visit.
The return run, down the main line before retracing our steps
from Wigan, was excellent - we made up time all the way to
Chester, where a lengthy pause was scheduled. Might we get
away early? We did - but to no avail. The lengthy pause was
obviously to await a northbound Shrewsbury - Chester working
clearing the single track from Wrexham. So we got as far as
Saltney Junction - there to wait until the class 158 rattled
through, fortunately on time.
There was a worrying moment when the brakes didn't seem to
want to release at Wrexham...
...and finally, we were stopped outside Shrewsbury, to wait for a
Crewe-bound working to clear the junction - so that we were, in
the end, a couple of minutes late. But what a great trip it had
been. Can we have some more like this one please?