The "Great Britain" and the Greenville NRHS Board Meeting
April 2nd to 23rd, 2007

Don Winter

This trip report covers both our visit to the United Kingdom for the "Great Britain" steam-hauled mainline railtour and our visit to Greenville, SC, for the NRHS Spring 2007 Board meeting. The exigencies of the calendar and travel time made it unrealistic for us to return home between the two, and for us to take our usual Amtrak journeys to and from the Board Meeting (although the "from" segment is debatable).

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

Departing Tehachapi

Our first leg starts with a short hop from Los Angeles to San Francisco (starting and ending at Bakersfield proved incompatible with other realities, such as not wanting to drive in the mountains after dark, followed by the transatlantic leg from SFO to London Heathrow. We leave home just before 11 am, drive down to Los Angeles Union Station, where we park the car for the duration, and take the MTA Flyaway bus from Union Station over to LAX. We're in plenty of time for our first flight, and in fact are moved to an earlier flight to SFO to ease the connection time there. At SFO, we have to transfer from the United terminal to the International terminal, requiring a second pass through security.

On the second flight, I adjust my watch to British Summer Time, this triggering the first of a series of relatively-minor "losses" on this trip when my watch takes a nosedive during the process and requires manual resetting (since it can't contact the time server from within the aircraft). This process will have to be repeated several times during the trip, until the automatic setting can be triggered when we get back home.

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Arriving London

After an uneventful flight, we land at Heathrow several minutes early, pass through immigration and customs, and as we walk to the Heathrow Express station discover that the large suitcase has been split along the top, just above the zipper, and that the TSA lock is missing on that part of the suitcase. A later check shows that we are missing a pair of Chris' socks and her bag of hairclips. We take the next Heathrow Express in to Paddington Station and then a taxi over to the Mornington Hotel on Lancaster gate in Bayswater, a few minutes walk away (without luggage, that is), and are there by 3 pm.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-3-07

Heathrow Express

14xx

Heathrow-Paddington

Class 332 EMU

N/A

After settling in, we walk back to Paddington and take the Bakerloo Line over to Waterloo, where we check out the International part of the station for Thursday morning, and then walk down to the Ian Allan bookshop on Lower Marsh. On the Bakerloo Line, we note that Regents Park station is closed for rebuilding, and that continual PA announcements relate delays on other lines due to signal troubles and the like. Returning to the hotel after buying some books and a DVD, we then eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant between the hotel and Paddington.

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

A Day in London

This day we have dedicated to doing some things in London that we didn't manage to do on our lengthy visit back in 1979, or that are new since then. We walk to the Lancaster Gate tube station (closer to the hotel than Paddington, but less convenient for most of our planned destinations), and take the Central Line east to Bond Street and the Jubilee line to Southwark, walking thence to the Tate Modern (which is not the site of the Hogarth exhibit we wish to visit), and walk north across the Millennium Bridge over the Thames to St. Paul's Cathedral (which we had not been able to visit in 1979 due to a service at the time we had planned to visit). This time, the cathedral is open, so we walk slowly around the suberb main interior level and then the crypt, paying attention to the tombstones and memorial stones there. We do not climb up to the whispering gallery!

From St. Paul's, we walk west on Fleet Street, and then north and west through the Inns of Court to the Old Curiosity Shop ("established 1725", but no longer in the same business), just east of Aldwych, which may or may not be the shop described by Dickens in the eponymous book, and then north, east, and north again to the Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, where we tour the several floors of the house and buy a book on "Dickens' London". Many of the London-area places to be found in Dickens' novels lie to the west and northwest of St. Paul's, in areas such as Clerkenwell, Holborn, and Fleet Street, through which we have walked, or will walk, today. (Some of this area was devastated during the WWII 'Blitz', rendering the Dickens locations completely unrecognizable or extinct, today.)

Following our visit to the museum, we walk south again, east to Faringdon Street, and south to the railway station at which we board a train heading south through the Snow Hill Tunnel.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-4-07

First Capital Connect

1325

Faringdon-Wimbledon

Class 319 EMU

N/A

4-4-07 Southwest Trains 1420 Wimbledon-Vauxhall Class 455 EMU N/A

 The train takes us through Blackfirars station, across Blackfriars Railway bridge (under which we had already walked on the south bank), and south on the original London, Chatham & Dover city line to Loughborough Junction, continuing through Herne Hill, Tulse Hill, Streatham, Sutton, and the 'wall of death' descent west of the latter, to Wimbledon. At one point on this ride, Chris calls attention to the southern aspect of Knight's Hill Tunnel, on the segment of line coming in from Peckham Rye. At Another point, we pass over the South Circular Road, on a bridge that I remember from below from my family's trip around that road back in 1961. At Wimbledon, we change onto a train heading back towards London, which we leave at Vauxhall and take a Victoria Line tube train under the Thames to Pimlico.

From the latter, we walk northeast to the Tate London, site of the Hogarth exhibit, which we then visit. After the visit to the exhibit, we buy its catalog, walk back to Pimlico, and take the Victoria Line north to Oxford Circus and the Central Line west to Marble Arch. Emerging onto Oxford Street, we buy a replacement suitcase and then walk back the half mile or so, west on Bayswater Road to Lancaster Gate and the hotel. For dinner, we eat at the nearby Swan public house.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Built to a design of Sir Christopher Wren after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, the cathedral, completed in 1710, has become known as 'the most beautiful baroque building in Britain. The cathedral is in the form of a Roman Cross, with twin towers flanking its west front and a huge dome over the  intersection of the transepts and the nave. The dome reaches 365 ft. above the base of the cathedral. Interior decorations are by a number of British artists. Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Christopher Wren, and Sir Arthur Sullivan are buried in the crypt, which also contains memorials to many noted people in English and British history. The City of London presses so hard against the cathedral that it is impossible to take the full measure of its external appearance from anywhere around. The upper exterior's south and southwest aspects can be seen from across the Thames, hemmed in by an ever increasing number of tall buildings.

Thameslink/Capital Connect Routes

The present-day Thameslink north-south connection through central London was created in 1868, when the so-called 'widened lines', parallel to the Metropolitan Railway between King's Cross-St. Pancras and Moorgate, operated by the Great North and Midland Railways, met the connection built northward from Blackfriars to Farringdon Street by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway in 1866. Although not used between 1968, when cross-London freight services ended, and the re-establishment of passengers services in the late 1980s, this line has now been developed into a major cross-capital passenger link, whose services are, in 2007, based mainly on using the former Midland Railway's line to the north, and the former London Chatham & Dover lines to the south, connecting onward to lines of other constituents of the former Southern Railway.

The connections south of the Thames use the LCDR's city line, between Blackfriars and Herne Hill, and onto the LCDR mainline there, before the routes disperse onto the myriad lines in south London, with the Southeastern & Chatham-era connection eastward to London Bridge, via Metropolitan Junction, also taking a large fraction of the traffic, which mostly continues on the former Southeastern Railway line to Sevenoaks and the former London, Brighton & South Coast line to Brighton. The number of junctions and interchange points along these routes serves to provide a thick web of rail-borne public transit throughout south London, taking the place the UndergrounD system takes in meeting north, east, and west London's transport needs.

Although there is 25kV AC catenary in Faringdon Street station, erected as part of the electrification from the Midland line to Moorgate, there is also 750V DC third-rail in the station, with the changeover occurring while the train is stopped in the station, and on all the lines we traverse south of this point, today.

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

A Day Trip to Paris

We're taking the opportunity to ride through the Channel Tunnel while we're staying in London, so this morning we walk over to Paddington and take the Bakerloo line over to Waterloo, where we enter Waterloo International, which is run more like an airport than a railway station, so we have to go through security, etc. The waiting area is also more like an airport than a station, and the boarding process resembles the airline cattle call.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-5-07 Eurostar 0910 BST Waterloo-Paris Nord Class 373 EMU N/A
4-5-07 Eurostar 1607 CEDT Paris Nord-Waterloo Class 373 EMU N/A

 The Eurostar train accommodations are much roomier than an aircraft would be, however, and the on-board service is excellent (English breakfast on the way over, a light 'dinner', Parisian-style, on the return, both included in the price). We run via the traditional LCDR route out, through Herne Hill again, and past Sole Street bank, and then cut over to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link at Southfleet. Speeding up to full line speed (well over 100 mph), we head southeast through Ashford International (making a stop there) and then enter the Channel Tunnel at Dollands Moor.

Within the tunnel, after some 25 minutes, we brake heavily and then come to a stop, still within the tunnel. A Eurotunnel freight shuttle has broken down ahead of us, and we wait half an hour for it to be removed, for a total of 59 minutes in the tunnel. Even at 180 mph on the LGV Nord, we don't make up much time into Paris Gâre du Nord, and are some 26 minutes late arriving. This would still have left time to visit Nôtre Dame and its environs, if we could have purchased metro tickets. But the Metro ticket machines will not accept anything other than Euro coins, of which we don't have enough for the round trip, no-one wants to help (probably because we enquire in English), and the line at the ticket office is too long for the time we have available. So, we just walk around the station vicinity, including the bridges over the throat painted by the Impressionists, and have tea and coffee in a cafe on a balcony overlooking the station interior. Gâre du Nord has 21 total ground-level platforms, with 18 of them under the main double roof. The RER and Metro concourse is below, with those trains themselves at a level below that.

The French Eurostar terminal is less like an airport than that in England, but has an overpowering odor of perfume from the duty-free shops we're forced to walk past, requiring Chris to use her asthma inhalers. On the return trip, I note for the second time today that the hedgerows in the countryside near the English Channel seem to have vanished entirely. For the northern half of the LGV Nord (approximately Arras to Lille), the line runs more or less along the trench lines of the Western Front of WWI, from 1914-18. The major river crossing is of the Somme, a name synonymous with the pointless waste of human life by the military brass (in this case, Earl Douglas Haig).

The trip back to Waterloo is uneventful, although arriving 13 minutes late due to a delay in Calais and slow passage through the tunnel. At Waterloo, we try to buy an all-line timetable, but are unsuccessful (they're all sold out). As we head for the Tube, the PA is requesting that "Inspector Sanders" report to some office. This is code for an emergency, and a few moments later, as we descend to the Bakerloo line platforms, the PA is calling for all passengers to leave the station. We promptly do this by boarding a tube train and heading away northwest, returning to Paddington and walking back to the hotel.

We've eaten enough today that we don't need dinner, but we do walk back to Paddington, late in the evening, to buy a couple of sandwiches at the food shops there, eating them in the hotel room before bed.

Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994, after seven years of construction and more than a century of prior attempts. On opening, it connected directly with the new LGV Nord lines in France, all the way to Paris and part of the way to Brussels (with extensions opening all the way to Brussels, later). These lines, and the tunnel, are electrified at 25 kV AC, with overhead catenary, and are built to the European Loading gauge (larger than that in Great Britain). On opening, the connections in England were the standard Kent Coast lines, on the traditional Boat Train routes, electrified at 750 V DC, third rail, in the late '50s and early '60s. The first segment of the high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link opened in 2003, with a connector to the former LCDR main line (once, also, Boat Train Route 2) just west of the Medway valley. Changeover between the 25 kV catenary and the 750 V DC third rail occurs on the connector between the CTRL and the traditional main line. There is a connector from the LCDR main line to the tracks into Waterloo International west of Wandsworth Road, and south of Vauxhall, in inner south London.

The Channel Tunnel is some 200 miles north of Paris, at its southern portal, with the northern portal only 90 miles from London. In November, 2007, the second stage of the CTRL will open, taking the trains into London St. Pancras (international), at 25 kV AC and continental loading gauge all the way.

Friday, April 6th, 2007

The "Great Britain" Steam Excursion

This morning is free time, so we take a walk around Hyde Park before checking out of the hotel and taking a taxi over to Paddington for the start of our nine-day excursion with Railway Touring Company. However, we fail to notice my Pacific Railroad Society jacket tucked under a pillow, and inadvertently leave it behind, even as we intentionally (and by arrangements) leave half of our luggage in the luggage storage room for retrieval when we get back on April 14th.

At Paddington, I go out to the end of Platform 1 and take photos of the general train traffic in and out of the station, meeting some photographers (some of whom will be travelers on the excursion) in the process. When our train arrives, I take photos of it, and in the process run into Norm Severin, with whom we were in Italy in 2006, who has also booked through IRT. Chris has stowed our bags in the car provided for the purpose, and meets me by our Premier Class Coach B, where we prove to be seated with the Severins for the tour. For this leg, they're facing forward and we're facing backward, but the train runs approximately half the trip in each direction, so we both get plenty of time facing forward. (There are three other IRT people on this trip, but we meet them only briefly.)

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-6-07 West Coast Railways 1242 Paddington-Bristol TM 1st Class Mark 1s 71000

The arriving trainset has two West Coast Railway diesels—Class 47 47245 and Class 57 57601hauling it into the station, with former BR 8P 4-6-2 71000 Duke of Gloucester trailing, ready to haul the train on departure. When we leave, the two diesels stay behind, but then follow us on a later path through the intensive train service on this segment of line.

Consist as it stands in the platform at Paddington:
8P 4-6-2 71000 Duke of Gloucester
Support    W17041
Coach A    99127
Coach B    99371 Victoria
Kitchen         1961
Coach C    99350
Coach D    99348
Coach E    99121 Julia
Club Car    99923
Coach F    99128
Coach G    99125 Jessica
                    1861
                99304 (used for baggage)
Class 57    57601
Class 47    47245

The support coach will vary, depending on the steam locomotive(s) heading the train. Other coaches will take the place of those at the rear (behind Coach G) on other days, and be completely absent on others. For the Kyle trip, nothing behind the Club Car is in the consist.

We run down the Down Slow line as long as we're on the four-track section of line as far as Didcot. (A perennial factor on the pathing and timing of this excursion will be the need to fit a train that is limited to 75 mph maximum, or perhaps slower in some cases, through an intensive timetable of services scheduled at over 100 mph (and faster in some cases, where we have diesel haulage restricted to 90 mph). This results in us using the slow lines, being put in the loops (double-ended sidings) provided for the purpose of getting faster trains past slower ones, and in some cases taking a slower alternative route while one or more faster trains pass by on the main high-speed line.) At Challow, between Didcot and Swindon, we take one of those loops so that the train can stop to service and water the steam locomotive. Unfortunately, the engine has used more water than anticipated, so the water tanker must make a second trip, with time to refill in between, to complete filling the tender, making us more than an hour late thereafter. We take the Badminton route between Wootton Bassett and Bristol, rather than the original Great Western main line through Bath, probably for pathing reasons.

Train 1Z71, Friday 6th April, 71000 Duke of Gloucester

Sched Actual Station

1242

1242

Paddington (platform 1)

1304

 

Slough

1325

1336

Reading

1347

1355

Didcot Parkway

1357
1410

1410
1510

Challow

1422

1520
1545

Swindon

1504

1617

Bristol Parkway

1522

1632

Bristol Temple Meads (4)

At Bristol Temple Meads, the passengers are taken down into the pedestrian subway and out through a storage area to the buses that will take us to various hotels. At the Jury's Inn, the check-in process goes quickly, but the elevators carry us up to the rooms somewhat less quickly. Here, we discover the jacket is missing, and have to arrange for the telephone to work to call the hotel in London to have them set it aside for us awaiting our return. For dinner, we walk to the revitalized harbour area behind the hotel, crossing to the other side of the water, and eventually find a fish-and-chip shop just off the harbour. Bands playing in the bars just across the harbour from our room are quite noisy, but the biggest disturbance of the night is the false fire alarm, setoff by teenagers on our floor, that requires us all to decamp to the street outside the hotel at 2 am.

The Great Western Railway main line

The Great Western Railway main line between London and Bristol, designed and engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was opened in stages between 1837 and 1841, as a double track line to the broad gauge of 7 ft ¼ in. It has very gentle gradients up the valleys of the Thames and a tributary all the way to Swindon, with a maximum of 1 in 754 (0.133%). Narrow gauge conversion took place in 1892 after decades of dual gauge with a standard gauge rail added to the broad gauge formation. The line onwards from Wootton Bassett was built as a 'cutoff' on the South Wales main line, and opened in 1906. It has steeper gradients than further east, but the steepest gradient on today's run is the 1 in 75 (1.33%) descent into Bristol, on the line segment built as part of the Severn Tunnel route in the 1870s. Paddington station itself was opened in 1854, and expanded later.

The line is four track as far as Didcot, and double track thereafter, all signaled for current-of-traffic operation, with 25kV overhead electrification as far as Heathrow Junction only.

BR 8P 4-6-2 71000

Duke of Gloucester was built in 1954 as a replacement for Princess Anne, the ex-LMS Turbomotive destroyed in the Harrow & Wealdstone accident in 1952. The locomotive was never a good steamer, and was never regarded well by crews in its operational days. When its preservation owners came to restore it, they discovered that neither the blastpipe nor the ashpan had been built to the proper dimensions (both were too small), sufficient to explain the poor steaming, and both were "restored" to their designed dimensions. The locomotive has since performed very well, and vies with the Coronation class 4-6-2s, also four-cylinder engines, for the highest performing steam locomotive on the main line in preservation.

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

We have an early start this morning, due to the need to make an outbound trip to Penzance with diesel traction before our return trip with double-headed steam. There is an early breakfast provided at the hotel, but since we'll be fed breakfast on the train (not everyone will—it depends on the class of travel the passenger has paid for), we stop there only long enough to get some tea and coffee before boarding the bus over to Temple Meads station. Our train boards at one of the far platforms, so we have to go down through the pedestrian subway to get to it. 

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-7-07 West Coast Railways 0716 Bristol-Penzance 1st Class Mark 1s 47245
4-7-07 West Coast Railways 1254 Penzance-Bristol 1st Class Mark 1s 6024+5051

 On the way down, those of us in Premier Class are served a full Great English Breakfast (porridge or cereal, bacon, fried egg, fried bread, potatoes, baked beans, mushrooms, fried tomato, toast or croissant, coffee or tea), as we speed towards Penzance with our Class 47 diesel, with a brief stop at Plymouth on the way. The diesels hardly notice the 1 in 64 (1.56%) westbound climb to Dainton, or the 1 in 46 (2.17%) climb to Rattery, in South Devon.

1Z23, Saturday 7th April (WCRC Diesels)

Sched Actual Station

0716

0720

Bristol Temple Meads (15)

0737

0739

Worle

0804

0802

Taunton

0817

0811

Tiverton Parkway

0831

0824

Exeter St Davids

0840

 

Dawlish Warren

0850

0846

Newton Abbot

0902

0902

Totnes

0919

0918

Ivybridge

0930
0952

0931
0951

Plymouth (3)

1001

1001

Saltash

1016

1019

Liskeard

1035

1041

Par

1041

1047

St Austell

1100

1102

Truro

1116

 

Camborne

1124

1127

St Erth

1131

1135

Penzance (2)

In Penzance, Chris and I first head off to find a sporting goods shop, at which to buy her a replacement set of walking shoes, since hers had broken (!) on our first full day in London. We also patronize a pet shop to buy some toy mice for our little Chessie (and our other cats) before walking back to the seafront and the station to photograph the waiting steam locomotives. There are no facilities for turning a trainset in Penzance, so when we reboard, Chris and I are facing forwards, and will do so all the way to Thurso except for the return from Kyle of Localsh to Inverness.

The return trip from Penzance to Bristol, now behind our double-headed steam locomotives, features more meal service at our seats, and another, longer, stop at Plymouth, where we get some more steam engine photos. As we pass Bodmin Parkway, the Bodmin & Wenford's train is in the station, with restored 2-6-2T 5552 on one end and 2-8-0T 4247 on the other, and whistle signals are exchanged. The climbs of the two (eastbound) infamous South Devon banks, Hemerdon (1 in 42, 2.4%) and Dainton (1 in 45, 2.2%, eastbound), with a train resembling in length and weight the Saturday holiday steam expresses of decades past, are quite thrilling.  At Totnes, the South Devon Railway's train is in the Riverside station, and again whistle signals are exchanged with its small locomotive, 0-6-0 Pannier Tank 1369, newly outshopped in resplendent green paint. Descending Wellington bank (1 in 80, 1.25%), from Whiteball summit, southwest of Taunton, we run quickly, but of course nowhere near City of Truro's fabled 100 mph in 1902. Both of our engines go through to Bristol, a variance from the plans which called for one of them to come off at Taunton. Just south of Bristol, there's a wonderful side-on view of the Clifton Suspension bridge, another design of I.K. Brunel, built 1838-56.

1Z24, Saturday 7th April, 5051 + 6024

Sched Actual Station

1254

1256

Penzance (platform 1)

1306

1308

St Erth

1324

1321-22

Camborne

1344

1340

Truro

1407

1400

St Austell

1415

1405

Par

1441

1431

Liskeard

1513
1606

1512
1627

Plymouth (platform 8)
(water)

1628

 

Ivybridge

1643

1700

Totnes

1656
1708

1709

Newton Abbot

1721

 

Dawlish Warren

1736
1806

1730
1809

Exeter St Davids

1829

 

Tiverton Parkway

1845
1856

1840

Taunton

1933

1920

Worle

1958

1942

Bristol Temple Meads (4)

In Bristol, we bus back to the hotel, and soon go to bed, without the need for finding dinner!

The Bristol and Exeter Railway

The Bristol & Exeter was also built by Brunel, to his broad gauge, and started from a station at Bristol Temple Meads that was built at right angles to the terminal platforms of the Great Western Railway's original station, which explains why the later through platforms and their magnificent overall roof, are built on such a tight curve. The line was opened in stages between 1841 and 1844, and runs south from Bristol, past Weston-super-Mare and through Bridgwater and Taunton to reach Exeter from the north.

The South Devon Railway

Also engineered by Brunel, the South Devon Railway was started as a single track broad-gauge line powered by an 'atmospheric' tube buried beneath the rails, conceived as a solution to running over the hills of south Devon, since it was not initially thought that steam locomotives would be equal to this task. The idea worked in principle, but the engineering and materials of the time were not up to the task and the idea was abandoned before the line ever reached those steep gradients. One of the pumping stations, at Starcross, is still in existence and has been restored as a museum of the 'atmospheric railway'.

Opened to Teignmouth in May, 1846, and Newton Abbot in December that year, the railway was locomotive-hauled at first, with the atmospheric propulsion opening to Teignmouth in September 1847, and Newton Abbot in January, 1848, lasing only until September, 1848 when locomotive haulage resumed. The rest of the line, to Totnes in July 1847, and Plymouth Laira in May 1848, was never run by atmospheric propulsion. The South Devon banks, two in each direction between Newton Abbott and Plymouth, had to be operated by steam-haulage after all. The broad-gauge line was double-tracked in the later 1850s, and standard-gauged in 1892.

The Cornwall Railway

The Cornwall Railway was formed to build from Plymouth to the port at Falmouth. The segment nearest to Plymouth required the lengthy construction of the Royal Albert bridge at Saltash, opened as single track, broad gauge, in May 1859, and still single track in 2007. The line onwards was also built by Brunel, single track, broad gauge, with many wooden viaducts (replaced by stone viaducts in the 1880s), and was opened to Truro along with the bridge in May, 1859. Standard gauge since 1892, the line was mostly doubled at the time of the viaduct replacement in the 1880s. Some of it was singled in the late 1960s, and most of that double again in the 1990s or 2000s, except over a couple of viaducts between Liskeard and Bodmin Road, where the singled line is still single for structural reasons.

The West Cornwall Railway

The West Cornwall Railway took over, and rebuilt, the earlier Hayle Railway (opened 1837-43), and opened in stages from Penzance eastward between 1852 and 1855, initially to narrow gauge, with broad gauge added in 1866 to permit through running to London. Doubling took place between 1903 and 1930.

All of these lines became part of the Great Western Railway before 1900, were converted to standard gauge (with final removal of the broad gauge in 1892), were part of British Railways from 1947 to 1994, and now have passenger services operated by First Great Western and Virgin Cross Country. These lines were heavily patronized on summer Saturdays in the 1950s and early 1960s, during the heyday of the two-week summer holiday at an English holiday resort, with trains that were steam hauled until the last year or two of that period. None of these lines have been electrified.

GWR 'Castle' class 4-6-0 5051, Earl Bathurst

Castle class 4-6-0 5051 was built  in May, 1936, as a member of a class of four-cylinder locomotives introduced in August, 1923 as the (then) top line passenger locomotives on the Great Western Railway. Withdrawn by British Railways in May, 1963, it was purchased for preservation in 1969 and restored to operation in 1979.

GWR 'King' class 4-6-0- 6024, King Edward I

The King class was a more powerful development of the Castle class, introduced in 1927, with its dimensions finagled to give it the highest tractive effort of any locomotive in Britain at the time. No. 6024 was built by the Great Western Railway in 1930, also with four cylinders, withdrawn by British Railways in 1962, purchased for preservation in 1973, and restored to operation in 1989. The King class remained the top line passenger locomotives on the lines of the GWR and its successor until replaced by diesel locomotives in the early 1960s.

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Like the first morning from Paddington, we aren't leaving Bristol until midday. This gives us time to get up and have breakfast, check out, and then walk over to Temple Meads station, starting out by going to the Princes Wharf area that we had seen across the harbor on Friday evening. This turns out no longer to be open as a museum (but will re-open after some redevelopment in a year or two), that still has a few rail vehicles present under the wharf cranes, along with the platform that once permitted boarding for rides behind an industrial steam locomotive.

From here, we walk along the opposite side of the harbor from the street that the bus has used to get us to and from the hotel, and then along that street to the station, arriving in plenty of time for a visit to WH Smith's, some photos in the station, and then a visit to the cafe for some coffee before our train pulls in, already behind 71000. The train is in the same order and direction as Saturday afternoon, so we're still facing forward. (Temple Meads is on a 90-degree curve, between the alignments of the original GWR and B&E stations, with a freight bypass that should have permitted turning the train had anyone been interested in doing so.)

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-8-07 West Coast Railways 1215 Bristol TM-Preston 1st Class Mark 1s 71000

The first part of today's trip retraces the Friday arrival as far as Filton, whence we join the route through the Severn Tunnel and then pick up the South Wales Main Line as far west as Maindee East Junction, just across the river Usk from Newport, Mon., where we turn north onto the North and West line along the Welsh Marches, climbing through Pontypool Road and again up Llanvihangel bank through Abergavenny. We make a watering stop at Hereford, during which there's an opportunity for more pictures, join the Central Wales line at Craven Arms, pass between Wenlock Edge and the Long Mynd, and arrive at Shrewsbury to the west of the huge still-operational signal box at Severn Bridge Junction. We can't continue on the North &West route from Shrewsbury to Crewe and then head north on the West Coast Main Line from there, due to a track and signaling maintenance possession on this Easter Sunday, so we go via Chester instead, making another watering stop at Chirk (no passengers off the train this time, because there's no platform), along the way to Chester.

After running northeast across the Cheshire marshes, we join the West Coast Main Line south of Warrington Bank Quay and head north, past the Vulcan Foundry at Earlestown, under the Liverpool and Manchester, and north through Wigan to Preston, where we leave the train for the night. As we're boarding buses (in the space once occupied by the demolished East Lancashire platforms at Preston station) to head for the Marriott resort hotel in an old manor house at Broughton, seven miles north, 71000 and its support coach head for its base at the East Lancashire Railway in Bury, southeast of Preston. The trainset goes north to West Coast Railways' base at Carnforth for the night.

1Z43, Sunday 8th April, 71000

Sched Actual Station

1215

1214

Bristol Temple Meads (4)

1227

1226

Filton Abbey Wood

1245

1236

Severn Tunnel Junction

1300

1258

Maindee North Junction

1326

1339

Abergavenny

1357
1419

1407
1434

Hereford (platform 3)
(water)

1442

1448

Leominster

1512

1513

Craven Arms

1551

1545-48

Shrewsbury (platform 4)

1616

1616

Gobowen

1621
1651

1625
1654

Chirk (water)

1704

1707

Wrexham General

1723

1724

Chester

1734

1738

Helsby

1751

1751

Warrington Bank Quay

1802

1802

Wigan North Western

1824

1825

Preston (platform 4)

Since we had both lunch and dinner on the train, we've no need for more food at the hotel, and spend a restful evening before bed.

The Severn Tunnel and the South Wales Main Line

The double track Severn Tunnel was started in 1873 and opened in 1886. It connected the line north from Bristol with the existing South Wales Railway west from Gloucester, opened on the section west of Chepstow (which is east of the Severn Tunnel) in June, 1850. Initially broad gauge, the South Wales Railway was converted to standard gauge by 1872 (by which time it was part of the GWR), and is today a four track railway, with two track devoted to high speed passenger trains, and two tracks used mainly by freight trains and the slower passenger trains. Today's passenger trains on this line are operated by First Great Western, Virgin Cross-Country, and Central Trains.

The North and West Route

The line from Newport to Pontypool was built by the Monmouthsire Railway & Canal Company as a standard gauge line, opened to Pontypool as single track in July, 1852, and as double track in 1854. This line was absorbed by the GWR in 1880. The line from Pontypool to Hereford was opened in December, 1853, by the Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford, the same date the the line onwards to Shrewsbury was opened by the Hereford & Shrewbury. These lines, double track from an early date, were in the ambit of the London & Northwestern Railway, but the area was of such importance to the GWR that they eventually became a joint line of the GWR and L&NWR.

The route between the northwest and the southwest holiday resorts via the North & West line and the Severn Tunnel saw the second busiest flow of holidaymakers into the southwest in the 1950s and early 1960s, after the routes between London and the southwest. The holiday trains on the North & West route were steam hauled up to a later date than those on the ex-GWR main line from London. Today, passenger trains on this route are operated by Arriva Trains Wales.

Shrewsbury and Chester

Shrewsbury & Chester were joined by the Shrewsbury & Chester Railway in October, 1848. This standard gauge line was part of the GWR empire by 1861, with through services from Paddington via Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Developments by British Railways favored the ex-L&NWR route from London to Chester, and the Shrewsbury & Chester line north of Wrexham is now a single track, with no open intermediate stations on that section. Chester General station was a joint station of the GWR and L&NWR from the start. Today, passenger trains on this route are operated by Arriva Trains Wales.

Chester and Warrington

The Birkenhead, Lancashire & Chester Junction Railway opened the line from Chester to Warrington  in December, 1850, with various intermediate stations opening in 1851 and 1852. In the ambit of the Grand Junction Railway from the start, the line naturally became part of the London & Northwestern Railway when that line was formed by merger. The double track line is still the main route between Manchester and Chester, with passenger trains operated by Arriva Trains Wales.

The Grand Junction (West Coast Main Line)

The first line north of Warrington, the Warrington & Newton Railway, was, effectively, a branch from the Liverpool and Manchester, between Warrington and Earlestown, opened in July, 1831, the southern part of which still forms part of the West Coast Main Line. The Warrington & Newton was purchased by the Grand Junction Railway in June 1835, the latter having opened its line from Birmingham to Warrington in 1834. The Grand Junction joined with the London & Birmingham and others to form the London & Northwestern Railway in 1846.

The line into Wigan from the south was opened by the Wigan Branch Railway in September, 1832. The Preston & Wigan opened its line between those town in October 1838, having in the meantime merged with the Wigan Branch to form the North Union Railway, in May 1834. The NUR formed a part of the West Coast Main Line from the start, also becoming part of the L&NWR when it was formed. The connecting line between Winwick Junction, on the Warrington & Newton, and Golborne Junction, on the Wigan Branch of the NUR (all, by now, part of the London & Northwestern Railway) was opened in 1864. All of these lines passed to the London, Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923, and to British Railways in 1948.

The lines between Warrington and Preston were electrified with 25kV overhead catenary in the 1970s, as part of the northern extension of the West Coast Main Line electrification. Today, long-distance passenger trains are operated by Virgin West Coast and Virgin Cross Country, while local passenger trains are operated by Northern Trains.

Monday, April 9th, 2007

This is a 'Bank Holiday' in the UK, and thus part of the long weekend as far as track and signaling maintenance possessions are concerned. For this reason, we can't head north until later in the day than one might expect. After breakfast, while we're hanging around the hotel area, we meet Mike Hyde, the RTC Tour Manager, who is also a member of the NRHS (and the UK Chapter) and is the first Brit. we meet who know where Tehachapi is without being told! (Another RTC person with whom we chat quite a bit is Chris Lewis, who is the "car host" for a group of coaches that includes ours.) The weather is heavily overcast this morning for the first time since Wednesday in London.

We walk around the nicely-wooded hotel/resort grounds, and note that we can hear train horns from not far away, and eventually board the first bus to head for Preston station, where we watch as one of the WRC diesels brings the trainset in from Carnforth, with LMS 4-6-2 6233 on the rear, and then the 4-6-2 cuts-off and pulls forward to reverse into the adjacent platform for watering. We're pleased to see that the trainset was not grossly rearranged or turned around overnight.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-9-07 West Coast Railways 1350 Preston-Glasgow 1st Class Mark 1s 6233

After the South Devon banks on Saturday (and Llanvihangel on Sunday), today continues with two more of the most famous grades in British steam history—as with all such, almost anonymous with diesel and electric traction: Shap and Beattock. Not far north of Preston, Bill Ford, our seatmate across he aisle (with his wife Anne) tries to greet his relatives who live locally,  at a local road crossing, but both sides are thwarted by the excess steam on this coolish and humid morning. After running along the only stretch on the WCML where one can actually see the Irish Sea coast, just north of Lancaster, we pass the WCR base at Steamtown, Carnforth, and turn northeast, past the fully-repaired site of the recent Virgin Trains derailment at Lambrigg crossovers, near Grayrigg loops (where we stop to let several service trains pass at high speed), and the viaduct on the "little Northwestern", overgrown on the top with trees, after 40+ years of disuse, before making our assault on Shap. Duchess of Sutherland seems to have no trouble with the latter (steepest portion 1 in 73, or 1.37%), with slowest speed on the climb 47 mph, somewhat to our surprise with this train and no banking engine (no, the diesel is not still on the back).

We make a watering stop at Penrith, with the train not on the platform, and a pathing stop at Carlisle at which we are able to get off the train and get photos of the engine (especially from the taxi ramp at the north end of the station). Crossing into Scotland, we pass the infamous Lockerbie and then make a spirited climb of Beattock bank (steepest portion 1 in 69, or 1.45%, topped at 26 mph), before making another water stop at Abington, at which we're not allowed off the train because there's no platform. Approaching Glasgow in the dark, we take an alternate route passing to the north of Motherwell, so that service trains can pass us, before arriving in Glasgow Central and transferring to local hotels on buses.

1Z33, Monday 9th April, 6233 Duchess of Sutherland

Sched Actual Station

1350

1352

Preston (platform 6)

1416

1425

Lancaster

1427
1440

1430

Carnforth Goods Loop

1459

1442

Oxenholme

1513
1526

1452
1531

Grayrigg
(two nb trains overtake)

1605
1627

1602
1623

Penrith
(water)

1648
1657

1648
1657

Carlisle

1748
1758

1754
1806

Beattock

1832
1905

1817
1905

Abington
(water+ nb train passes)

1926

1929-34

Carstairs

2002

 

Holytown Junction

2013

 

Uddingston

2029

2033

Glasgow Central (11)

Our hotel in Glasgow (Lang's, next to the bus station on the site of the former Buchanan Street railway station) is very much into modern architectural and interior decor features. Again, we've had lunch and dinner on the train so we have no need to do anything except go to bed. Our room is a smoking room, and gives Chris trouble with her asthma this evening and in the morning.

Preston & Lancaster and Lancaster & Carlisle

The Lancaster & Preston Railway opened in June 1840.The first section of the Lancaster & Carlisle, from Lancaster to Oxenholme (and the branch onwards to Windermere), was opened in September, 1846, with the line opened through to Carlisle in 1847. Both railways became part of the London & Northwestern on its formation, and later of the LMS and BR in 1923 and 1948, respectively.

The lines between Preston and Carlisle were electrified with 25kV overhead catenary in the 1970s, as part of the northern extension of the West Coast Main Line electrification. Today, long-distance passenger trains are operated by Virgin West Coast and Virgin Cross Country, while local passenger trains are operated by Northern Trains.

Caledonian Main Line

The Caledonian Railway opened throughout from Carlisle to Glasgow (St. Rollox) in February, 1848, having mastered the steep grades of the route up through Annandale and over Beattock bank, and down the valley of the Clyde through Symington and Carstairs..The line first entered the center of Glasgow at Buchanan Street station, in November, 1849, moving to Glasgow Central when that station opened in 1879.

The lines between Carlisle and  Motherwell were electrified with 25kV overhead catenary in the 1970s, as part of the northern extension of the West Coast Main Line electrification, meeting the electrification from Glasgow to Motherwell, completed in 1967. Today, long-distance passenger trains are operated by Virgin West Coast and Virgin Cross Country, while local passenger trains (and the Caledonian Sleepers) are operated by First ScotRail.

LMS 8P 4-6-2 6233, Duchess of Sutherland

William Stanier's second class of four-cylinder Pacifics for the LMS was introduced in 1937, to operate the newly-introduced Coronation Scot streamlined train between London and Glasgow. Duchess of Sutherland, however, was built without the streamlining that first adorned many of her sisters, and was built in July, 1938. Withdrawn by BR in 1964, the engine was preserved by Butlin's Holiday Camps, and has since changed ownership twice, being acquired by here present owners in 1996. She was restored to full main-line working order in 2001.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Once again, our start is not first thing in the morning (but not as late as Friday and Monday), so we have breakfast at the hotel before taking the first offered bus down to Glasgow Central. On the way through the city center (which we had seen only on a different route through the one-way streets, and in the dark, the previous night), we pass by the curved overall roof and then the facade of former North British Railway station at Queen Street, whose tunnel appears to pass directly beneath the bus station (formerly Buchanan Street railway station) east of our hotel. At Central station, I take some photos of the station, and observe a couple of provocatively dressed young women (micro-skirts, towering heels, etc.), who prove to be traveling on our train as a publicity event for Johnnie Walker scotch, along with a bagpiper who pipes us of of the station but does not travel with us. When our train pulls in (diesel on the rear, pulling it in, steam engine Union of South Africa on the other end), I walk out to the end of the platform to take some photos.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-10-07

West Coast Railways

1026

Glasgow-Perth

1st Class Mark 1s

60009

4-10-07

West Coast Railways

1304

Perth-Inverness

1st Class Mark 1s

61994+60009

Today, we have steam haulage over two more of the famous banks from steam days, on the Highland Main Line north of Blair Atholl. (The more northerly of these, at least, is more difficult headed southward, which we will do this coming Saturday.) However, first we have to get to, and then run along, the Caledonian's northern main line, from Glasgow (originally, Buchanan Street, now operated from Queen Street) to Stanley Junction (no longer a junction except end-on with the former Highland Railway line), north of Perth.  We start from Glasgow Central, on the south side of the city center, since that is most convenient to where our trainset arrived last night. By Cumbernauld, we're on the former Caledonian line north through Stirling and then northeast through Gleneagles, turning north again to enter Perth, where the two young women leave the train with their chaperone.

1Z93, Tuesday 9th April, 60009 Union of South Africa

Sched Actual Station

1026

1026

Glasgow Central (11)

1103

1050

Coatbridge Central

1115

1111

Cumbernauld

1130

1129

Larbert Junction

1148

1145

Stirling (platform 2)

1155

1154

Dunblane

1229

1238

Perth (platform 7)

Here, the second steam engine, The Great Marquess, is added to the front of the one already on the train, with some difficulty in getting the couplings tight enough to compress the buffers, resulting in a considerably late departure. Eventually, we depart, well out of our path (as is reflected in the variant stops shown in the schedule and actual timings table, below). The occasional slack action suggests the problem was not completely rectified, however. North of Blair Atholl, we cross the last two major mountain ranges of the trip from Penzance to Thursothe Grampians and the Cairngorms—with a maximum gradient of 1 in 70 (1.43%) on Dalnaspidal, the south slope of Druimuachdar, over the former, and 1 in 60 (1.67%) on the south slope of Slochd, over the latter.

We make a water stop at Aviemore, where the location of the footbridge at the rear of the train means that covering both sides of the locomotives requires walking the full length of both platforms, twice, which I discover I can do with relative ease (which I wouldn't have been able to do a year earlier). Descending from Slochd towards Inverness, we cross the viaduct over Culloden Moor, site of the battle in 1746 in which the Hanoverian troops finally caught up the Jacobite army, and eliminated it from any future trouble by total decimation. (We hear more about that on our visit to Skye, on Wednesday.)

1Z93, Tuesday 9th April, 60009 Union of South Africa + 61994 The Great Marquess

Sched Actual Station

1304

1346

Perth (platform 7)

1317

1358

Stanley

1330
1331

1413
1429

Dunkeld & Birnam

1348
1349

1449

Pitlochry

1403
1407

1504

Blair Atholl

1450
1451

1542
1548

Dalwhinnie

1505

1601

Newtonmore

1511
1512

1605

Kingussie

  1619
1647
Kincraig

1535
1615

1654
1734

Aviemore
(water)

1628
1645

pass

Carrbridge

1709
1717

1804

Tomatin

1727
1743

pass

Moy

1754

 

Culloden Moor

1804

1839

Inverness (platform 2)

Arriving in Inverness, for the first time we are the folks who have the hotel at the station, the Royal Highlander. Since we've been fed on the train as usual, we don't need much to eat and settle for a medley of the biscuits we've acquired at various hotels.

Caledonian (north main line)

Although the suburban Glasgow routing, built by the Caledonian Railway, that we take from Glasgow Central to Coatbridge dates from the later 19th century, the route into which we turn at Coatbridge is one of the earliest in Britain, and the earliest in Scotland—the Monkland & Kirkintilloch, dating from 1826, which became part of the Caledonian in 1846 as that line searched for an entry to Glasgow. We stay on this routing for only a couple of miles, before diverging northeast, onto a line built by the Caledonian as far as Greenhill (just west of Falkirk), in 1848, and the Scottish Central thence to Larbert, Stirling and Perth, completed to Stirling in March, 1848, and Perth in May, 1848. The line north of Perth, heading for Aberdeen via Forfar, was opened in August 1948 by the Scottish Midland Junction Railway, later part of the Scottish Northeastern Railway.

Both Scottish Central and Scottish Northeastern eventually became part of the Caledonian Railway, the LMS in 1923, and BR in 1948. As far as Stanley Junction, north of Perth, where the line of the Highland Railway began, these lines still exist, as double track main lines, with passenger services operated by First ScotRail. Except in the vicinity of Glasgow Central, they have not been electrified.

Highland Main Line

The Perth & Dunkeld Railway was built between Stanley Junction and Dunkeld in 1856. The Inverness & Perth Junction Railway was built between 1861 and 1864, from Dunkeld north to Aviemore, via Blair Atholl and Druimuachdar Pass, and continued on the Inverness via the lower Spey Valley and Forres, a route no longer in existence. The cutoff route via Carrbridge and Slochd Summit was built in 1898, by the Highland Railway, to which the I&PJ had passed. Much of the line was doubled in stages between 1897 and 1909, was single again in the late 1960s, and some of it doubled again in the 1990s.

The line became part of the LMS in 1923 and BR in 1948. Today's passenger services are operated by First ScotRail, with the exception of one long-distance train to London operated by GNER.

ex-LNER A4 4-6-2 60009, Union of South Africa

Like the LMS 4-6-2, the LNER A4 was designed, by Sir Nigel Gresley, to run a streamliner, in this case the Silver Jubilee, a train between London and Newcastle on the East Coast Main Line, introduced in 1935. These three-cylinder locomotives were outfitted with beautiful chime whistles, and some of them had corridor tenders for working nonstop between London and Edinburgh. Union of South Africa was one of the locomotives built to run the new Coronation streamliner, in 1937, and as such had a corridor tender (as it does now). It was withdrawn in 1966, directly into preservation, and was restored to mainline standards in 1971. It's most recent overhaul was completed in 2006.

Although designed for the East Coast Main Line, this locomotive is appropriate for today's routing, since in 1964 and 1965, it operated the Scottish region's three-hour expresses between Aberdeen and Glasgow over the Caledonian route.

ex-LNER K4 2-6-0 61994, The Great Marquess

The LNER K4 is another three-cylinder locomotive designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for a specific purpose, this time for running trains on the West Highland line between Glasgow, Fort William, and Mallaig. The locomotive was built in 1938, withdrawn in 1961, and sold directly into preservation. Its most recent overhaul to mainline standards was completed in early 2007.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

We have a very early start this morning, so there's no prospect of breakfast (or even coffee and tea) at the hotel or in the station before we board our reduced trainset (this is an optional excursion, and not everyone signed up) in the north side platforms, before dawn. The train is in platform 6, but since there is an adjacent platform on the other side of the train that provides easier access to the locomotive, most people board on that side! Because this is a separate excursion, we have different seats (in coach D), sitting with Norm Severin and (supposedly) Bob Butler, one of the other IRT bookings. However, when Norm takes the window seat (and I complain about his bag taking up 50% of the overhead rack space), Bob decides to sit in a vacant seat at the 2-person table across the aisle, where he will have a window. We thus don't get to chat with him during this trip.

Unlike the previous, sunny, days of this trip, today is cloudy with patches of rain, all day long.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-11-07 West Coast Railways 0619 Inverness-Kyle of Localsh 1st Class Mark 1s 61994
4-11-07 West Coast Railways 1413 Kyle of Localsh-Inverness 1st Class Mark 1s 61994

 The first part of today's trip uses the same route as the first part of the Far North line—along the south shore of Beauly Firth and then north along the back side of the Black Isle to Dingwalland is our first experience of a line operated by Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB). This causes delays at crossing points (whether there's an opposing train or not) well beyond those that would be required to operate semaphore signals and exchange physical tokens. There are many crossing points on this trip, only a couple of which are actually occupied by opposing trains. In fact, the first opposing train we meet is at Achnasheen, the watering stop (and the usual photo opportunity).

1Z42, Wednesday 11th April, 61994

Sched Actual Station

0619

0617

Inverness (platform 6)

0645
0654

0646
0656

Muir of Ord

0707
0708

0708
0714

Dingwall

0737
0738

0744
0747

Garve

0815
0846

0831
0913

Achnasheen
(water,opposing train)

0921
0922

0949
0952

Strathcarron

1000

1033

Kyle of Lochalsh

At Kyle of Localsh, where light rain is falling, we board buses (three in total) for a tour to Eilean Donan Castle (exterior pictures only), where there's just time for photos in the rain, toilets and buying tea, and we almost miss the bus, and then across the Kyle bridge to the Isle of Skye. We drive northwest along the road on the northeast side of the island, and have about 45 minutes in Portree (time for some people to patronize a pub., even though it's not actually raining at this moment) before returning the way we came to trainside at the Kyle.

On the way back, on the same route as we came out this morning, we have to stop with the rear of the train across a level crossing while the radio tokens are exchanged (due to the layout being insufficient for a train of this length when stopped at the Stop sign), and have another watering stop at Achnasheen, and on arrival at Inverness have to pull past the station on the north avoiding line and then back into the south/east side of the station, at which we had arrived on Tuesday, because the steam locomotive is not allowed deep in the north side platform.

1Z43, Wednesday 11th April, 61994

Sched Actual Station

1413

1420

Kyle of Lochalsh

1453
1454

1459
1500

Strathcarron

1527
1527

1541
1608

Achnasheen
(water, opposing train)

1633
1634

1639
1642

Garve

1709
1710

1709
1710

Dingwall

1721
1727

1723
1724

Muir of Ord
 (opposing train)

1750

1757

Inverness

The Kyle line

The Inverness & Ross-shire route from Inverness to Dingwall, shared by the Kyle line and the Far North line, opened in July, 1862. The Dingwall & Skye Railway's Kyle line opened from Dingwall to Stromeferry in 1870, and was extended to Kyle in 1895. The line passed to the Highland Railway, the LMS in 1923, and BR in 1948.  Passenger trains are now operated by First ScotRail. The entire line has always been single track with passing places, except for a short segment between Clachnaharry and Clunes that was double track between 1914 and 1966. The signaling was converted from manual block with semaphore signals to Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB), with no signalboxes and lineside signals, in the 1980s. The Ness Viaduct had to be replaced after it was swept away by floods in 1989. There is a 10 mph speed limit on the swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry. The points at Dingwall have to be manually set for the Kyle line or the Far North line by the driver of a northbound or westbound train.

Skye

The island of Skye is the semi-mystical destination of the Road to the Isles (although that actually goes to Fort William and Mallaig, not the Kyle), and is the focus of the song that symbolizes the end of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. It is also the destination of one of the two off-train excursions provided on this train (the other being to John O'Groats, which we do not take because of the lateness of the train).

Skye is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, and one of the closest to the mainland (being just across Kyle Akin). For centuries (until 1493), it was the seat of the Lord of the Isles. Like the northern mainland, it was subject to the "clearances", but in favor of cattle (which had been there for centuries), not just sheep. The cattle were driven to market (from 1502), including forcing them to swim, elephant-style, across Kyle Rhea, just up the coast from Kyle Akin (or the Kyle of Localsh, as the railway preferred). Much of the island is mountainous, including the Cuillins so prominent in song (in the Road to the Isles), and none of it is more than five miles from the sea. Our excursion takes us up through the Braes, along the southeast coast, to the island's capital of Portree, and return after a break long enough for those not eating on the train to get lunch.

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

The weather is back to glorious sunshine, today, and will remain that way for the remainder of the tour. Departure today is late enough that we can actually get coffee in the station (and may have been able to in the hotel) before leaving. In fact, our train is over half an hour late backing into the platform, due (we hear) to a dispute in the yard about how much coal could/should be loaded on 48151's tender for the two-day round-trip to Thurso. There may also have been difficulty because this locomotive must use the vacuum brakes on the dual-braked train, whereas the others have all used the air brakes. Eventually, we leave for the far north about 30 minutes late, a tardiness that will only increase as the day goes on.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-12-07 West Coast Railways 0815 Inverness-Thurso 1st Class Mark 1s 48151

West and north of the 10 mph for the bridge over the Caledonian Canal, the 8F 2-8-0 has this longer train running faster than the 6P5F 2-6-0 had us running the day before. It also sounds different, because this is the first loco we've had with only two cylinders! Beyond Dingwall, also operating on RETB, we run along the north side of Cromarty Firth, and then turn across country to the south side of Dornoch Firth, past Tain. At the latter, we have our first water stop of the day, scheduled for 30 minutes but ultimately lasting over 45 minutes, due to both the loss of our original path amongst the opposing trains, few though they may be on this single track line with passing places, and the difficulties of doing what we need to do on a line outfitted with RETB and spring-switches, designed for the passage of diesel multiple units (DMUs) that never need to reverse (except at Georgemas Junction and the termini) or have locomotives run around their trains.

At Tain, we have to pull forward beyond the spring switch (and thus into the next block), and reverse into the southbound platform for the watering (during which we are allowed off the train, but have to leave the platform and walk west either into the yard area on the north side, or into a park on the south side (the station lies east-west) to get to the locomotive). While we're doing this, a local teenager shows up with his bagpipes and serenades the assembled throng, making £64 in the process. Once the watering is done, and a northbound train has passed, we have to reverse out of the south end of the station and pull back into the northbound platform before we can depart for the north.

We then run west, up the Dornoch Firth, cross over the river, climb over a hill, and run east back along the north side, past Rogart, where there is a DMU driving car, three green-painted coaches, and a small diesel shunter (the accommodations at Sleeperzzz, an unusual hotel) in some tracks on the north side of the line, west of the station, and The Mound where the Dornoch Branch once left to the south, and turn northeast alongside the North Sea for a spell, before turning away again to climb northwest and then northeast, up to the County March summit, and then descend east to Georgemas Junction. Along here, there is another lengthy watering stop at Helmsdale, at which we're not allowed off the train until after some delay to move the train into the succeeding block and then set back into the other platform for a service train to overtake us, and then set back into the previous block and pull forward into the original platform. With the watering and then the passage of a southbound service train, we're at Helmsdale almost two hours.

At Georgemas, there's another complicated procedure due to the exigencies of the signaling and trackwork. To pass a DMU service train (which happens before and during our arrival, resulting in a 20 minute delay prior to actual arrival),  get the steam locomotive to run around the train, and to put a diesel locomotive that is already here on the other end for the morning return this far, requires some complex shunting from one platform to the other, going into and out of a blocks in which we will not actually be traveling (towards Wick), in the process, before the locomotive can run around the train (requiring passage of the loco. into and out of the last block we had run in before arriving at Georgemas Junction), and then pushing the train towards Wick again, so that the loco. can clear the points for the line towards Thurso, requiring another entry to and exit from that block in which we will not be traveling. This all takes an hour, after which our arrival in Thurso (which requires a reversal of direction at Georgemas Junction, onto a line accessible from one track only) is almost five hours late! A bus trip to John O'Groats, northernmost point in contiguous Great Britain, is offered, but we don't take it.

1Z44, Thursday 12th April, ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 48151

Sched Actual Station

0815

0847

Inverness

0838
0839

0922
0928

Muir of Ord

0849
0850

0938
0942

Dingwall

0907
0908

1003
1004

Invergordon
(opposing train)

0921
0922

pass

Fearn

0928
0958

1028
1116

Tain
(water, opposing train)

1018
1019

1141

Ardgay

1035
1043

1205
1208

Lairg

1058
1058

1228

Rogart

1115
1116

1253
1257

Brora

1131
1201

1319
1513

Helmsdale
(nb & sb trains, water)

1242
1243

1606
1608

Forsinard

1314
1329

1710
1810

Georgemas Junction

1345

1827

Thurso

None of us knows where our walking-distance Station Hotel actually is, but we soon find it. Chris and I are roomed in the Coach House out back, which looks like it had been specially converted for the occasion, with hardboard (Masonite) paneling, held on by screws and painted a horrible dark green, ceiling lights set up to resemble stars in a skyscape, and no lighting suitable for reading. (The latter is often inadequate, but here there's none at all.) For dinner, we patronize the nearest fish-and-chip shop, bringing the stuff back to the room to eat.

The Far North Line

The Inverness & Ross-shire route from Inverness to Dingwall, shared by the Kyle line and the Far North line, opened in July, 1862. The line from Dingwall to Invergordon was opened in March, 1863, to Meikle Ferry in June, 1864, and Bonar Bridge (Ardgay) in October, 1864. The Sutherland Railway line on to Golspie was opened in April, 1868, the line privately built by the second Duke of Sutherland on to Helmsdale in June, 1871, and through to Wick and Thurso by the Sutherland and Caithness Railway in July, 1874. All of this passed to the Highland Railway (formed in 1865), to the LMS in 1923, and to BR in 1948.  Passenger trains are now operated by First ScotRail.

The entire line has always been single track with passing places except for a short segment between Clachnaharry and Clunes that was double track between 1914 and 1966. The signaling was converted from manual block with semaphore signals to Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB), with no signalboxes and lineside signals, in the 1980s. The Ness Viaduct had to be replaced after it was swept away by floods in 1989.There is a 10 mph speed limit on the swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry. The points at Dingwall have to be manually set for the Kyle line or the Far North line by the driver of a northbound or westbound train.

ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 48151

The only two-cylinder locomotive that hauls us on this tour, 48151 was built for the War Department in 1940, to an LMS standard design of 1935, and was taken into LMS stock after the war, passing to BR in 1948. It was withdrawn in the 1960s, and is now owned by West Coast Railway Company. In preservation, it has been given the totally ersatz name Gauge O Guild.

Friday, April 13th, 2007

After a quick breakfast in the hotel, we check out and walk back to the station with our hand luggage (the tour is transporting the suitcases between hotels), watch a service train leave from the single platform (the station facilities are all closed up), and then watch as our train is assembled and brought into the platform for boarding. We're glad it isn't raining, since there's not place to shelter while all this is going on.  

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-13-07 West Coast Railways 0920 Thurso-Inverness 1st Class Mark 1s 48151

 Today's route is the reverse of yesterday's. This time, the process of reversal at Georgemas Junction doesn't require running locomotives from one end of the train to the other, but the length of the train and the position of the points connecting the Thurso line into the north track does require that the end of the train that had been leading from Thurso (diesel-hauled) proceed into the block leading towards Wick before the steam engine on the other end will clear the actual junction at the other end. Again, as RTC manager 'Les' states it, we're trying to do something the system isn't designed to do. Once we leave Georgemas, the locomotive is limited to 35 mph, because it is running in reverse, so the scheduled point-to-point timings are longer than those on Thursday.

1Z45, Friday 13th April, ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 48151

Sched Actual Station

0920

0922

Thurso

0935
0950

0937
0950

Georgemas Junction

1025
1029

1027
1032

Forsinard
(meet opposing train)

1111
1141

1118
1147

Helmsdale

1203
1204

1205
1207

Brora

1231
1238

1232
1237

Rogart
(meet nb service train)

1307
1308

1255
1307

Lairg

1328
1328

1317

Ardgay

1354
1413

1341
1403

Tain

1421
1422

1411
1412

Fearn

1438
1439

1428
1431

Invergordon

1504
1508

1453
1505

Dingwall
(meet opposing train)

1523
1524

1517
1520

Muir of Ord

1554
1559

1547
1550

Welsh Bridge
(reverse)

1601

1553

Inverness (platform 2)

Once we're headed south with the 8F 2-8-0 leading (and without the diesel), watering stops proceed without fuss (although it's interesting to see the watering hose laid across the footbridge at one such stop), and we maintain our path against opposing (and following, where needed) trains, arriving in Inverness a little early. Chris and I are in the same hotel next to the station as previously, but a different room. We go to the Eastgate shopping center next door to the hotel, to buy a new battery for my travel alarm before it fails completely (it had been dying the previous night), and then get dinner from a local fish-and-chip shop (at which Chris gets a Scotch Pie and chips). We go to bed early, mindful of our very early start on Saturday morning.

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

Our departure from Inverness this morning is before 6 am, before there's much of a hint of daybreak The first tea and coffee, and any breakfast, is thus on the train. before departure, suitcases have to be delivered to the luggage car at the front of the train.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-14-07 West Coast Railways 0552 Inverness-Perth 1st Class Mark 1s 60009+61994
4-14-07 West Coast Railways 1250 Perth-King's Cross 1st Class Mark 1s 57601

One of the most interesting parts of today's trip is the start—the climb to Slochd summit directly from the sea-level start at Inverness, with several long stretches of 1 in 60 (1.67%). The potential for photography from the train is not great, since the light level is still rising just after dawn, but we're only a couple of coaches back from the steam locomotives and can hear the effort very well, especially after the day warms up enough to open the upper-level ventilators in the windows. Bill Ford manages to get a shot of the engines on Culloden Viaduct, but I don't even try.

We're allowed off the train at Carrbridge, where we have a pathing stop for a southbound service train to pass and to meet the northbound Caledonian Sleeper. The engines are off the ends of the platforms, so many people walk off the south end of the near platform, and across a rusty spur to a grassy bank which affords great pictures. The guard is very upset about this, and sends the RTC car hosts around to tell passengers not to do that again! What a waste of effort (but at least they can say they tried)! We have a watering stop at Kingussie, where the good shots of the steam engines again requires walking off the end of the platform, this time on the far platform (since we've stopped in the nb platform), and of course all the photographers do it again!

While we're at Kingussie, the southbound Royal Highlander HST for King's Cross comes through. There are some groups of passengers on the platform awaiting that train, and they seem bewildered when 150 other people suddenly invade that platform just before their train arrives. I'm on the footbridge when the HST arrives, and get photos of both trains side-by-side. Dalwhinnie bank, the southbound climb of the Grampians (long stretches of 1 in 80, or 1.25%), is also in this direction, and with the ventilator window wide open, we good a good listen to the sounds of the hard-working locomotives during that climb to the highest summit in Great Britain (2500 ft. lower than our house in Tehachapi, but well above tree level). As we slow to stop at Pitlochry, a tray of cutlery crashes to the floor in the serving area just behind our seats.

1Z71, Saturday 14th April, 61994 The Great Marquess +60009 Union of South Africa

Sched Actual Station

0552

0559

Inverness

0608

0615

Culloden

0628
0644

0635
0649

Moy
(sb service train)

0650

0659

Tomatin

0658
0659

0707

Slochd

0708
0737

0720
0743

Carrbridge
(sb train; nb sleeper)

0746
0751

0707
0758

Aviemore
(meet nb train)

0808
0857

0826
0915

Kingussie
(water, sb Highlander)

0902

0920

Newtonmore

0917
0921

0934

Dalwhinnie
(nb service train)

0952
0953

1009

Blair Atholl

1005
1025

1024
1029

Pitlochry
(nb service train)

1039
1040

1047

Dunkeld & Birnam

1053

1059

Stanley Junction

1105

1112

Perth (platform 7)

In Perth, the steam locomotives come off the train, but Chris & I need to find an ATM ("Cash Machine") in Perth so we will have cash for later in the day (for tips for the meal providers and servers, primarily, and a taxi at King's Cross), so we walk north out of the station to find one of these (it's closer than I had feared, and doesn't require visiting an open bank, which I had also feared, which is why we did this first) before returning to the platform. I still have time to get pictures of the steamers, and of the diesel backing onto the train. We are allowed almost two hours in Perth for this process, and have it complete just about an hour early, but of course we can't leave because of the pathing issues. Many of us wonder why we couldn't have left Inverness an hour later!

Weekend track maintenance at Ladybank, in Fife (which we discover from an announcement regarding trains in that direction instead being buses in the station forecourt), means we must (as listed in the route guide, but differing from the original brochure) take the route through Stirling and Falkirk, rather than across the Forth Bridge, so our route is the same as on Tuesday as far as Larbert Junction. Starting away from Perth, we're served lunch (in Premier Class), once again prepared in the kitchen car between coaches B and C and served by the folks from Gravy Train Catering, who turn out to be railway catering workers on holiday (vacation), just so that they can work this train, with the company owned jointly by the chief steward (Richard) and the chef.

From Larbert, the train turns east, through the Scottish Lowlands, past Falkirk and Polmont, where it has to wait for the passage of a service train from Glasgow (Queen Street) to Edinburgh, then through Linlithgow and Haymarket to Edinburgh, where it passes through Waverley station without stopping, a first for most of the people on the train, and then stops in the loop east of Prestonpans to let a GNER train for King's Cross and a Virgin Cross-Country Voyager DMU bound for somewhere in the southwest go past. East of Dunbar, the line reaches the North Sea (with a sea roke (fog) initially impacting visibility), and gradually turns south, past the huge Oxwellmains cement plant on the west side, and then up Cockburnspath bank, past where the Penmanshiel Tunnel used to be until its collapse in 1979, and then down Grantshouse bank (both of little impact to diesel or electric traction) towards Berwick-on-Tweed and England.

Passing into England, we cross the Royal Border Bridge over the Tweed (several miles south of the actual border), run along the North Sea coast with Lindisfarne Island in sight, and then pass Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick and its castle, the speed restriction for the severe curve at Morpeth, and Heaton traction and carriage depots on the east side, curving west through Newcastle station (without stopping, another first for most passengers), and then south over the King Edward VII bridge into Gateshead, continuing generally south past Tyne Yard (a shadow of its original intent), Chester-le-Street, Durham with its castle and cathedral in the loop of the river Wear, Darlington, where we pass the station on its east side, and the Vale of York to the stop in the magnificent curved station at York.

Peter Brumby had been a docent in the National Railway Museum today, and had been on the south end of the platform to meet the train (as his photos show), but apparently passes by us without recognizing who we might be (or we him) while we're standing on the platform. While we're in York, we hear repeated PA announcements about long delays to, and cancellations of, Trans Pennine trains due to "a lineside fire at Huddersfield". The Severins leave the train here, as do most of the serving staff (to return to their homes in Newcastle and other places in the north), even though the desert, cheese, and coffee portions of dinner remain to be served. I take the opportunity to move to the forward-facing side of the table for the rest of the trip back to London. Although we're half an hour late into Doncaster, we're only ten minutes late leaving, and a train that is due to pass us at a pathing stop later on leaves ahead of us!

South of Colton Junction, on the segment of the East Coast Main Line built in the early 1980s to avoid the Selby coalfield, there are three huge electric power stations, with their massive multiple cooling towers visible—Ferrybridge to the west, and Eggborough and Drax to the east, all in the the Aire valley. We stop briefly at Marshgate Junction (probably because of a train ahead of us leaving Doncaster), and then pass through Doncaster, with the former Great Northern and then LNER "Plant" on the west side of the station, without stopping. We see more huge power stations with many cooling towers off to the east—Cottam and West Burton on the Trent, and High Marnham at the end of the rump of the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway, are all there, although we can distinguish only two of them—and pass by the loop where the pathing stop was to be made, only to stop further south at Carlton Loop to let a Hull Trains DMU service go by.

We make a stop at Grantham, which may have been just to late for those expecting to catch a Central Trains service westward, there, take the slow line down Stoek Bank, and stop at Peterborough, both stops just a few minutes late, before taking the slow line again at Hungtingdon (where it restarts after a hiatus from Peterborough) and the Hertford Loop (a secondary main line that avoids the Welwyn Tunnel and Viaduct two-track bottleneck and lets faster trains go by us) from Stevenage to Wood Green, arriving in King's Cross some 24 minutes off the advertised time, as another GNER electric service pulls in alongside.

1Z71, Saturday 14th April, 57601 on the front, 47245 on the rear

Sched Actual Station

1250

1309

Perth (platform 7)

1256

 

Hilton Junction

1311

 

Blackford

1321

1340

Dunblane

1328

1346

Stirling

1338

1358

Larbert Junction

1346
1359

1413
1418

Polmont
(service train on joining line)

1404

1427

Linlithgow

1423

1450

Haymarket

1430

1456

Edinburgh

1448

1528

Drem

1526

1606

Berwick

1550

1639

Alnmouth

1604

1645

Morpeth

1621

1703

Newcastle

1712

1749

Thirsk

1741
1817

1808
1832

York (platform 10)

1847

1902

Doncaster

1858
1916

1914

Ranskill (no stop because GNER train had passed us at York)

  1926
1932
Carlton
(Hull Trains DMU overtakes)

1937

1939

Newark Northgate

1949
1951

1952
1955

Grantham

2026

2027-29

Peterborough

2104

2112

Hitchin

2109

2116

Stevenage

2142

2206

Kings Cross (platform 1)

After we get the luggage back, there's a long line for taxis, since the sudden arrival of 200+ people wanting taxis is quite unexpected to the taxi drivers, at this hour, but we're back at the Mornington Hotel, and have reclaimed both jacket and luggage, by 11 pm, going right to bed after our long day.

Stirling-Edinburgh

The Scottish Central line of 1848 from Larbert through Falkirk Grahamstown, later part of the Caledonian and LMS, joins the Edinburgh & Glasgow line of 1842, later part of the North British and LNER, at Polmont, continuing on that line through Linlithgow and Haymarket to Edinburgh Waverley. Both double-track lines passed to British Railways in 1948, and today's passenger services are operated by First ScotRail.

East Coast Main Line

The North British Railway opened its line from Edinburgh to Berwick in June, 1846. The Newcastle & Berwick opened through to Tweedmouth in July, 1847, and across the Royal Border Bridge to Berwick in August, 1850. Newcastle station was built in 1850-51. South of Newcastle, the first railway bridge across the Tyne (The High-Level bridge) was completed in June, 1849, connecting with the original route to the south opened in 1844. Today's line  from Gateshead to the south of Durham opened in 1892, with the 1844 route still in use further south to reach Darlington. Nearing the latter, the route of the original Stockton & Darlington railway of 1825 is encountered.

The Great North of England Railway (an earlier GNER) opened its line from York to Darlington in 1841, to a station in York alongside the earlier York & North Midland station just inside the walls south of the present station. To facilitate through running, the present York station was completed in 1877, on a new curve east of the original northward line, which is now the goods lines bypassing the station. The southerly exit from York uses the route of the York & North Midland line opened in 1839 as far as Colton Junction, where the ECML diverges to the east over equilateral point with a running speed of 125 mph onto the Selby Diversion of 1982 (built to avoid both coal mining subsidence and the two swing bridges over the river Ouse), reaching the 1871, North Eastern Railway, York to 'Doncaster' line south of Selby at Templehirst.

The newly-built NER line met the existing Great Northern line of June, 1848, at Shaftholme Junction, not far north of Doncaster. The Great Northern Railway line from Doncaster to Retford opened in September 1849, and from Retford to Peterborough in 1852, meeting there the Great Northern Railway line of August 1850 between Peterborough and London (Maiden Lane). King's Cross station in London was opened in October, 1852.

The ECML once had four tracks all the way from London (including the Hertford Loop line as a pair of tracks in parallel with the Welwyn Viaduct pair) to Stoke Summit, south of Grantham, but as part of the electrification north of Hitchin in the late 1980s, the up slow line was removed between Huntingdon and Peterborough.  There are also four tracks between Colton Junction, south of York, and Northallerton, with the rest of the line being double track. The line was electrified with 25 kV overhead catenary from London to Hitchin (including the Hertford Loop) in the late 1970s, and onwards to Edinburgh in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

Tyseley, Toddington, and Stratford-upon-Avon

Today, we're going to spend the day with Roy and Madeline Hennefer, whom we had met on the Montana by Steam II trip in October 2004. They live in Sutton Coldfield, on the north side of Birmingham, and we will meet them at Birmingham International to head south from there to Tyseley, Toddington (for the Gloucester-Warwickshire Railway) and back to Stratford-on-Avon.

We can't go directly from Euston to Birmingham International, due to some sort of engineering work taking place this morning, so we have to go west to Reading (from Paddington, nearest mainline station to our hotel) and then north on a cross-country train to Birmingham. It transpires that Chelsea are playing an FA Cup semifinal in Manchester, today, so there are lots of football (soccer) supporters traveling the same way we are, even in first class (from Reading).

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-15-07 First Great Western 0900 Paddington-Reading HST N/A
4-15-07 Virgin Cross-Country 1010 Reading-Birmingham Int'l Voyager Class 220 N/A
4-15-07 Chiltern 1800 Stratford-on-Avon--Marylebone Class 168 DMU N/A

We get up at 8 am for breakfast at the hotel and an easy walk over to Paddington for the train to Reading. There are two possibilities: a Penzance HST at 0900 from Platform 3, and a Bristol 'Adelante' (Class 180) at 0903, platform not shown. The latter would be a new kind of train for us, but when it's still not shown with a platform at 0857, we board the HST. The route to Reading is the same as we took with Duke of Gloucester nine days earlier, except that this time we're on the Fast line, traveling at up to 125 mph. We've just had breakfast, so we don't go to the Buffet counter for First Great Western's free coffee and tea, even though it's only half a car away.

At Reading, where we arrive ten minutes before the HST's scheduled departure, there's time to go into the station for a few moments, and we note that "trains to Winchester" are, in fact, a "bus in the forecourt", suggesting that the Basingstoke track and signaling work is still under way (it's supposed to be). This means that our train has run via Havant and Guildford, from Southampton, and sure enough, it arrives from the east. There are two Voyager units, and we board the First Class car in the second one. Again, we don't go to the 'shop' for our free tea or coffee. This First Class car is full by the time we leave Oxford. The route is again the same as with Duke of Gloucester nine days earlier, except that this time we're on the Fast line, as far as Didcot, where we take the avoiding line east of the station to head for Oxford, whence we continue north through Banbury and Leamington Spa, taking the connection thence to Coventry before turning northwest to Birmingham International for an on-time arrival, where Roy and Madeline are waiting for us.

Roy drives southwest to the museum and workshop alongside the former GWR Birmingham line at Tyseley Locomotive Works, where we tour the exhibits and the (mostly-unrestored) locomotives, carriages and wagons in the yard and around the turntable, including seeing former LMS 4-6-2 46229 Duchess of Hamilton with its new/replacement semi-streamlined smokebox in the workshop, awaiting completion of a fund-raising appeal for constructing new streamlined cladding to return it to its 1930s state. There are many other exhibits, of various classes, including an electric Class 86, 86259, named Les Ross after a prominent local disk jockey of the 1970s and '80s, as well as Class 50s 50017 Royal Oak and 50021, Rodney, Class 40 40118, Class 37  37264, Class 20s. 20059 and 20157 and steam locomotives ex-GWR Hall  mixed-traffic 4-6-0 4953 Pitchford Hall, and 2-6-2T 4110 in the yard.

Roy then drives south into the Warwickshire countryside, past Redditch to Toddington, on the edge of the Cotswolds, home of the heritage Gloucester-Warwickshire Railway on a segment of the former Great Western Railway 1900s line from Birmingham to Cheltenham and the west country. Here we have tea and coffee before taking a ride to Cheltenham Racecourse behind former BR 9F 2-10-0 92203, now named Black Prince, and seeing the ex-GWR Hall  mixed-traffic 4-6-0, 7903 Foremarke Hall, on the other train out today. We pass the completely separate Winchcombe Railway Museum on the way. On our return, we patronize the bookshop and a curiosity shop where Chris buys some small cat figurines.

We then head back north, on the same route I had once been on heading for Cornwall in 1961, through Broadway and Honeybourne to Stratford-on-Avon, where we park the car, walk to the pedestrianized area and visit Shakespeare's Birthplace just before it closes. (The house is original, and furnished with pieces of the time.) We then walk down to the period Grammar School, whose exterior we can view, but which has closed to visitors at this late afternoon hour. Returning to the car, we head for the station, where Chris and I get coffee, tea, and sandwiches for the train ride back to London (the expected trolley is not available this afternoon). Gathering our stuff, we inadvertently leave my sweatshirt in Roy's car before saying our goodbyes on the platform.

 The train takes another portion of the former GWR route between Cheltenham and Birmingham, and then turns east to connect to the former GWR Birmingham line on which we had ridden earlier in the day, turning southeast at Aynho Junction to follow the 1906 GWR Birmingham Line past Ruislip to Northholt Junction, where the train diverges east to head past the new Wembley Stadium and on into the former GCR Marylebone Terminus for an early arrival. Here, we take the Bakerloo Line back to Paddington, amid copious announcements on the progress of the maintenance work that has closed the District Line and the south side of the Circle Line for the weekend, and walk back to the hotel. We eat dinner at The Swan, and then call Roy and Madeline to tell them to keep the sweatshirt as its not worth the cost of shipping it to Tehachapi to return it to us.

GWR Routes to/from Birmingham

Although we arrive at Birmingham International from Coventry over the London & Birmingham Railway's line of April, 1838, later part of the L&NWR and LMS, electrified at 25 kV AC overhead by BR in 1964, and now largely operated by Virgin West Coast and Central Trains (for passenger services), most of the day is spent on the Birmingham lines constructed by the GWR. The first of these was the line north from Didcot, via Oxford and Banbury, with the southern section built by the GWR, opened from Didcot to Oxford as broad gauge in June, 1844, and the northern section, through Banbury, Leamington and Warwick by the Birmingham & Oxford Railway, also as broad gauge, opened in October, 1852.

The other lines were not opened as through routes until the early 1900s, with both the line from Birmingham to Stratford-on-Avon, Toddington and Cheltenham, built as a cutoff to the west country from Birmingham and opened in 1908, north of Stratford, and in 1906, between Honeybourne and Cheltenham, and the line between Aynho Junction, south of Banbury, and Old Oak Common Junction (further southeast than today's Chiltern Line trains normally run), built as a cutoff for the GWR's Birmingham trains and opened throughout in 1906), falling into this category.

The GWR remained independent until the formation of British Railways, in 1948. Today, passenger services on the Didcot to Oxford line are provided by First Great Western and Virgin Cross Country, the latter continuing north to Leamington and then taking the ex-L&NWR routes into Birmingham, while services over the later GWR Birmingham route from London are provided by Chiltern Railways, which also operates between London and Stratford-on-Avon via that route, diverging at Warwick. The ex-GWR line south of Stratford-on-Avon was closed in the 1960s, but the section between Toddington and Cheltenham (Racecourse) is operated by the heritage Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway.

Monday, April 16th, 2007

The National Railway Museum

Today, we're going back to York to meet with Peter Brumby, a former schoolmate of mine between 1955 and 1961, and tour the National Railway Museum (where he's a docent once a month) while visiting with him. For variety, we're going to ride north on the Midland Main Line as far as Sheffield, and then take Virgin Cross-Country the rest of the way to York. The intent is to make an eight-minute connection at Sheffield, and be in York at 1143. However, a track maintenance overrun at Swinton has rendered the Virgin XC timetable north of Sheffield 'inoperable', and we finally make York over an hour later than anticipated.

News placards on Saturday night and throughout Sunday had indicated that a tube strike was 'On', for three days this week. It had been planned to start at 6 pm Sunday, and had clearly not done that. Now, we ascertain that it isn't on, this Monday morning, either. So, we grab coffee and tea in the breakfast room, walk over to Paddington, and take the Circle Line over to King's Cross-St. Pancras. This sub-surface line runs much more slowly than we've anticipated (much slower than the tube below), probably due to the junctions where Hammersmith & City and then Metropolitan Line trains come onto the same tracks to head for the City of London at this time of day, and by the time we get to our destination and then take the temporary walking detour north, past the taxi boarding point we had used on Saturday night, to the new Midland Main Line platforms at St. Pancras, we have less than five minutes to spare for our 8:25 am train north. Fortunately, First Class is at the rear of the train.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-16-07 Midland Main Line 0825 St. Pancras-Sheffield HST N/A
4-16-07 Virgin Cross-Country 1121 Sheffield-York Voyager Class 220 N/A
4-16-07 Great North Eastern Railway 1632 York-King's Cross Mark 4 coaches Class 91

On a weekday, Midland Main Line serves First Class passengers at their seats, so we're happy to partake of their included coffee and tea, but not of their extra-cost breakfast items. On the Midland, I observe some of the bridges featured in the Railway Archive articles on Midland "bridge replacement" in the late 19th-century. In an HST, the climb to Sharnbrook summit is almost imperceptible. After passing through Luton, Bedford, Kettering, Leicester and Derby, with slow progress for the last couple of miles into Sheffield, the train is just two minutes late into Sheffield, where we learn of the timetable disruptions to the north. The train on which we had intended to head through Doncaster and down the ECML to York is canceled, (as are other trains taking that route), and we must take the intervening train via Leeds, that should have gone through the blocked Swinton but in the event goes through Doncaster and then Wakefield and Leeds before going to York, arriving some 20 minutes late, at 1248 (65 minutes later than we had planned).

Peter is waiting for us, but we don't connect on the footbridge and have to meet at the backup point on Platform 3 below the footbridge. We then walk back across the footbridge and continue over the new segment of footbridge to the National Railway Museum, where Peter escorts us in, and then takes us to the lunch-serving area, where he treats us because he gets a large discount there. After lunch, we tour the whole museum, including the outdoor items we hadn't seen before and a museum of small items that wasn't there the last time we visited (in 1999), seeing, among others, Flying Scotsman in pieces in the workshop, along side Green Arrow between runs, ending up in the gift shop, where I buy less than I had anticipated! (Checking the catalog in the small items area, looking for more details of a boardroom table with notches cut into its elliptical shape, leaves us with more of a mystery than before, since it names one of the 'Big Four' railways, and an officer who ran a constituent of another of them!) We then walk into York, to go to a craft shop in The Shambles, where Chris had bought a custom needlepoint kit in 1999 on which she had run out of one specific colour of yarn. We find another copy of the kit, and explain the problem to the staff. They supply an extra quantity of that yarn colour, for which they refuse to take payment!

Back in the station, we go out onto Platform 3 to wait for the London train that will depart at 4:32 pm, saying our goodbyes to Peter when it arrives and then boarding the First Class section, patronized by the business travelers (including some very smartly dressed women, I note, a change from previous visits to England), at the front of the train. This train has us back into King's Cross on time at 6:45 pm, whence we take the Circle Line (after a short hop on a Metropolitan Line train that takes the 'mainline' platforms at Baker Street) back to Paddington. Having had a large lunch, we opt for sandwiches from the food shops at Paddington for dinner, taking them back to the room to eat. Mindful of the time taken to get to King's Cross-St. Pancras this morning, I move the alarm up a half hour earlier than I had anticipated, before we go to bed.

The Midland Main Line

The lines in the midlands started further to the north than many of the other lines from London, with the North Midland Railway from Derby to Rotherham (Masborough) opening in May 1840, and the Midland Counties Railway from Derby to Nottingham, via Trent, in June 1839. The latter continues south from Trent to Leicester in May 1840, and south of Leicester to Rugby (where it joined with the London & Birmingham to form a through route to London) at the end of June, 1840. These two railways merged with the Birmingham & Derby to form the Midland Railway in 1844. The latter then decided to build its own route to London, opened in May, 1857, diverging to the east from the existing Rugby line, at Wigston, and running via Kettering and Bedford to the Great Northern Railway's line at Hitchin. The Midland later built it's own line from Bedford to London (St. Pancras), opened to goods traffic in September, 1867 (as far as Kentish Town), and passengers in October, 1868

Once four tracks (two passenger, two goods) all the way between London and Trent, where the Derby, Sheffield, and Nottingham lines separate into three different double track lines, the Midland main Line now has two fast and two slow passenger lines as far as Bedford (electrified with 25 kV AC overhead in the early 1980s), and varies between two and three lines (the third being used for slower passenger trains in some places) north of that. Today's Midland Main Line trains for Sheffield travel via Derby, and Virgin Cross Country trains also operate on the line north of Derby. Slower passenger trains are operated by First Capital Connect and Central Trains.

The National Railway Museum

Today's National Railway Museum grew out of the much earlier LNER railway museum of 1925, at York, and the earlier railway museum at Clapham (dating from 1963), and was opened at York in 1975. In 2007, the NRM is divided into the Station Hall, in the former York Goods Station, where there are several 'complete trains', including a train of Royal Carriages, the South Yard, where the diesel locomotive collection is on display, the Great Hall, inside the former York North motive power depot, where locomotives are displayed around an original turntable (from 1954), the Works, where the operational locomotives are repaired, and a 'Warehouse', where many of the small artifacts in the collection are on display, along with a catalog (supposedly) identifying them all. Other exhibits are displayed at Locomotion, in Shildon, about 40 miles further north.

Among the locomotives that we see on this visit are GNR 4-2--2 1, from 1870, LBSCR 'Terrier' 0-6-0T 82 Boxhill, from 1880, LBSCR 0-4-2 Gladstone, from 1882 (in 'improved engine green', i.e. yellow ochre), LNWR 2-4-0 790 Hardwicke, from 1892, NER 4-4-0 1621, from 1893, SECR  4-4-0 737, from 1901, Midland 4-4-0 compound 1000, from 1902, GWR 2-8-0 2818, from 1905, LNER A3 4-6-2 4471 Flying Scotsman, from 1923 (in pieces in the workshop), SR 'Schools' 4-4-0 925 Cheltenham, from 1934, the Rocket replica from 1934, LMS 4-6-0 5000, from 1935, LNER V2 2-6-2 4771 Green Arrow, from 1936, LNER A4 4-6-2 4468 Mallard, from 1938, SR 0-6-0 C1, from 1942, SR 4-6-2 34051 Winston Churchill, from 1946, SR 4-6-2 35029 Ellerman Lines, from 1949, Bo-Bo electric 26020, from 1951, Bo-Bo diesel D8000, from 1957, and Co-Co diesel D6700.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

A Day with Family

We have one last day in England, and we still have to see my sister, Jill, so we're heading back to the Leeds area—specifically, we've chosen Ilkley for the purpose—to spend the day with Jill and Dick. Because we want to be back early this evening, mindful of Wednesday's ultra-early start, we're starting relatively early from King's Cross. Again, we grab coffee and tea from the breakfast room and head for Paddington, once again taking the Circle Line. This time, we emerge from the UndergrounD in King's cross mainline station, this time with plenty of time (the Circle Line took 15 minutes less at this slightly earlier hour). It transpires that the next earlier train for Leeds, at 0735, has been canceled, so our 0810 train will be quite crowded, even in First Class, and when it is called, two-thirds of the people in the concourse head for that train. We grab a facing pair of unreserved seats and settle in.  

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-17-07 GNER 0810 King's Cross-Leeds Mark 4 coaches Class 91
4-17-07 Northern (West Yorks. PTE) 1032 Leeds-Ilkley Class 333 EMU N/A
4-17-07 Northern (West Yorks. PTE) 1610 Ilkley-Leeds Class 333 EMU N/A
4-17-07 GNER 1705 Leeds-King's Cross Mark 4 coaches Class 91

 This is the fastest down service of the day, stopping only at Wakefield Westgate, and is away on time. Just south of the North London Line bridge, we see the new covered bridge over the ECML containing the end of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link as it approaches St. Pancras. For a high-speed service, this one is slow out past Finsbury Park and Haringay, speeding up before Alexandra Palace (formerly Wood Green). There is a GNER train (that would have been the 0735?) stopped just north of Oakleigh Park, after which we slow to a crawl through New Barnet on the down slow line, crossing over to the down fast just north of New Barnet and then taking up full track speed.

The catering trolley is soon by with coffee and tea, but for the first and only time this trip, the server refuses to fill my insulated mug, pleading a shortage of coffee for the full train (what nonsense). There is a large plume of smoke off to the east, just north of the Trent Valley Power Stations. The train is four minutes late at Wakefield, but seven minutes early into Platform 7 at Leeds. In Leeds, we transfer to the electric suburban service for Ilkley, sponsored by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) and operated by Northern Trains, which leaves Leeds two minutes late, but gets to Ilkley two minutes early. This has us in Ilkley just before 11 am, where Jill and Dick are waiting.

Dick drives east and up to the Cow and Calf, a rock formation high on the east end of Ilkley Moor, and then back through Ilkley and Addingham, over to and through Bolton Abbey, and parks in the parking area for the Strid hike along the river Wharfe, but first we stop in the cafe for some early lunch. Then we hike the ¾-mile north along the west bank of the Wharfe to the Strid. Normally, this rocky area would be bubbling and frothing as the water pours past, especially at this time of year, but the rain and snowfall has been light in recent months and the river level is the lowest anyone can remember. We joke, along the way, about the many sculptures that have been places along the walk through the woods, to no evident enhancement of the scenery that we can discern but doubtless at great expense to the public purse.

After returning to the car, Dick drives back into Ilkley, and we have afternoon tea at what appears to be the same cafe at which I remember having Rarebit for lunch on the arrival day of our holiday here back in 1955, when we still traveled by train. Then, after stopping in a couple of bookshops, its time to return to the station for tearful goodbyes, mindful of our respective ages and the longevity (or rather lack of it) of our parents, before our train departs, on time, to Leeds, two minutes early, to connect with the selected return train to London. On the latter, we sit in the Restaurant Car (still available on GNER weekday business trains) and have dinner, so that we don't have to take time for the latter in London, reached seven minutes early at 7:21 pm.

Again, it's the Circle line to Paddington and walk to the hotel, where we complete packing and go to bed early, mindful of our 5 am alarm.

Lines to and from Leeds

The line from Doncaster to Wakefield (Westgate) was opened by the West Riding & Grimsby Joint Railway in February, 1866, and that from Wakefield to Leeds via Ardsley by the Bradford, Wakefield & Leeds in October, 1857, both lines becoming part of the Great Northern Railway, the LNER in 1923, and BR in 1948. The connections at the Leeds end were altered to run into the present Leeds station in 1967, and electrified at 25 kV AC overhead in the late 1980s. Passenger services are now provided by Great Northeastern Railway (GNER) and Northern Trains, with operating subsidies from West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire PTEs, and by Virgin Cross Country on the northern part of the line.

The line east of Leeds was built by the Leeds & Selby, and opened in September, 1834, from Marsh Lane outwards. with the line in to the present Leeds station opened in April, 1869. The line connects to York via the line opened by the York & North Midland Railway in 1839, with an intervening connecting line built by the Northeastern Railway after consolidation of the earlier lines into the NER. These lines passed to the Northeastern Railway, to the LNER in 1923, and to BR in 1948. Passenger Services are now provided by Transpennine Express, Virgin Cross Country, and Northern Trains.

The Leeds & Bradford line up the Aire valley opened in July 1846, and became part of the Midland Railway. The line from Apperley Junction towards Ilkley was built by the Midland as far as Burley Junction, and onward to Ilkley by the Otley & Ilkley Joint, opened in August, 1865. The latter line later became Midland & NER Joint, then LMS & LNER Joint in 1923 and finally BR in 1948. It was electrified at 25 kV AC overhead in the early 1990s. Passenger services are now provided by Northern Trains, with operating subsidies from West Yorkshire PTE.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

London to Greenville

Arising in the dark, we pack, check out, take a taxi to Paddington, and catch the 5:55 am Heathrow Express to the airport, in the slowly lightening dawn.

Date

Train Operator

Time

From-To

Train Stock

Loco

4-18-07

Heathrow Express

0555

Paddington-Heathrow

Class 332 EMU

N/A

At the airport, we head to Terminal 1, since our first flight is only to Manchester, and are surprise to discover that we can only carry one bag onto the plane, including purses and cameras. This means we have to pack Chris' purse into her backpack, and my camera into a suitcase, before we check the bags and proceed through security. (This is a Heathrow Security limitation, not an airline limitation.) Once through security, we get tea and coffee, and something to eat, and sit down to watch the arriving business travelers heading for meetings in London, while we await our 0850 flight north.

In Manchester, we are able to transfer gates without going back through security (a great help), and our flight to Chicago is a little late boarding (20 minutes). The latter heads almost directly west across Ireland and then up the St. Lawrence valley and across Michigan to Chicago, where we're still a little late (15 minutes). Passage through immigration and customs is simple, however, as is rechecking our bags (I retrieve my camera bag in the process), after which we have more than four hours to kill before boarding our commuter flgiht south to Greenville, SC.

What I decide to do with two hours of that time is ride the Chicago Transit Authority's rapid transit line from O'Hare into downtown Chicago, and back. (I had hoped to go a little further, but the trains are so slow that this proves not to be possible.) The CTA does not do well in the direct comparison with the London UndergrounD, both in terms of ride quality (the inbound train seems to have square wheels) and speed (we spend time just sitting at and in between stations). After 55 minutes, I opt to leave the inbound train at Jackson and Lake, south end of the Lake Avenue subway under the Loop, and five minutes later we board a return train on the opposite side of the island platform under the city.

This takes only 49 minutes to get back to O'Hare, and in the process we have an interesting comparison of different types of trains. About halfway out, where the CTA is in the middle of the Interstate and the former C&NW Northwest Line is alongside to the southwest, an outbound nine-car Metra bi-level train passes us at speed, but then slows and makes a station stop. While it is stopped, we catch it up, and as it starts, we also start away from a station, with the CTA train accelerating much faster than the Metra train. It takes several minutes for the Metra train to catch and pass us again.

Back at the airport, we pass through security and then have time for dinner before boarding our commuter jet. The flight through the darkness to Greenville-Spartanburg is almost two hours, getting us there at 10 pm. However, the Hyatt Regency's van is waiting, so when we get the checked bags back its only a 15-minute ride to the hotel, and we're in the room and ready for bed by 11 pm, after a 23-hour day (with the five-hour overall time change). Unpacking in Greenville, we discover one more of the casualties of this trip—I had brought my radio scanner specifically to use after we got to Greenville, carrying it in one of the checked suitcases, and the airline has managed to smash it in the process, breaking the case and the display, and breaking off one of the battery terminals.

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

The Greenville NRHS Board Meeting

We get up late morning, fix coffee and tea in the room, and go down to the reception area right after noon, as soon as the NRHS Registration Room has opened. We get our badges and schedules, and relate the story of the broken scanner, asking where there is a nearby Radio Shack (there isn't one within walking distance), at which Lester Collins, the local National Director, offers to drive us out to one at an outlying shopping center—at 1:30 pm. So, we go out into Main Street, and eat pizza for lunch at a nearby restaurant, returning at the appointed time. Doug White, the National Secretary joins us, since he needs to buy some media for his camera, and in the even we have to go to two different Radio Shacks to get the scanner I want. In the process, Lester gives us a mini-tour of the area, including dropping by Republic Locomotive, and passing by the Amtrak station (in an NS office building on the southeast side of the NS main line as it passes through the northwest side of town) and all the places on the Chapter's walking tour of Greenville, provided as part of our packets. (I don't have my camera along, so we will have to do the walking tour on a later day.)

We walk out on Main Street to check out some of the local restaurants, since it has been recommended that we have reservations for Friday night (a busy time in the local area, apparently), also looking for where we might eat this evening. In the event, a thunderstorm with downpour intervenes before dinner time, so we eat in the hotel restaurant!

Railroads in Greenville

At the peak, there were four railroads in Greenville, SC, each having various names over its history. This description uses the most common names by which they were known. They were:

The Southern Railway main line, now Norfolk Southern, and the line on which Amtrak serves Greenville every night, came to Greenville as the Atlanta & Richmond Air Line, in September, 1873, becoming the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line in 1877, the Piedmont Air Line Route of the Richmond & Danville in 1881, and with that line, part of the Southern Railway in 1894. Passenger service was turned over to Amtrak in February, 1979, and Southern Railway merged with Norfolk & Western to form Norfolk Southern in 1982.

Also in 1881, the Richmond & Danville absorbed the Columbia & Greenville, which had reached Greenville from Columbia, via Greenwood, as the Greenville & Columbia in 1853, which had been in bankruptcy in both 1873 and 1877. This line remains as a Norfolk Southern branch, extending south as far as Piedmont.

The Charleston & Western Carolina, now part of CSX, came to Greenville over the right-of-way of the bankrupt and abandoned Carolina, Knoxville & Western, which ran from 1887 to 1896, and by a consolidation that included the Greenville & Laurens, completed in 1886. The C&WC, which never got within 50 miles of Charleston, was a subsidiary of the Central of Georgia. In 1959, the C&WC was merged into the Atlantic Coast Line, which became part of Seaboard Coast Line in October, 1967, part of Family Lines in 1980, which merged with the C&O-B&O to become CSX in 1984. A stub of the C&WC is all that remains in Greenville today.

The Piedmont & Northern, also now part of CSX, began as an interurban electric line, although its freight traffic (serving the many textile mills along its line) was always much larger than its passenger traffic, completed from Greenwood to Greenville in November 1912, and on to Spartanburg in April, 1914, as the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson, becoming the Piedmont & Northern on merger with a North Carolina interurban in June, 1914. Passenger service on the South Carolina division ended in October, 1951, and electric operation at about the same time. In December, 1967, the P&N became part of the newly-formed Seaboard Coast Line, which became Family Lines in 1980 and part of CSX in 1984. The P&N line provides the majority of the CSX presence in Greenville today.

The Greenville & Northern, always the least prosperous of the four, began as a replacement for the bankrupt and abandoned Carolina, Knoxville & Western, built on a different right-of-way as the Greenville & Knoxville in 1906, becoming the Greenville & Western in 1914 and the Greenville & Northern in 1920, and struggled through various owners until final closure in 1997.

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Two trips are offered today. We have elected to go on the one to the museum in Greenwood, SC, and the South Carolina Railroad Museum. (We've ridden the whole of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad before, in 1996, and the alternate trip isn't even covering all of it.) We arise in plenty of time to fix coffee and be on the 8:30 am bus almost as soon as it loads at 8 am. We leave on time, and head south on US 25 the fifty or so miles to Greenwood, where we stop at the Greenwood Railroad Museum, right on the main street.

This museum has a 2-8-2 dating from 1906, a representative string of heavyweight passengers cars (combine, coach, diner sleeper, rear-end observation or "office" car), two of them from the Piedmont & Northern, one from SAL, and two from the Erie, a line which has no connection with Greenwood hooked up behind the steam locomotive, all under a roof of a shed with no sides, and another car (one of those mentioned above) and caboose (from the P&N) on an adjacent piece of track in the open air. The museum's representatives, on hand, say that the locomotive and cars will be cosmetically restored. (As yet, the coach has not interior at all, while the kitchen of the dining car and various rooms and sections in the sleeping accommodations are all present, if in somewhat dowdy condition.) The available leaflet describes the heritage of the artifacts, but nothing more. There is no interpretive material indicating what these artifacts were used for in their heyday, why they have been preserved, or the message to be taken away from a visit to this museum. It's good to see these artifacts have been preserved, but for the museum to prosper it needs better interpretation aimed at the interested general public and those on school trips.

We then head east on SR 34 through Newberry and Winnsboro to the South Carolina Railroad Museum at Rockton, on the south side of the latter. Here, after a visit to the gift shop, which has little of interest to rail enthusiasts and seems aimed at children, we board a train headed by a diesel switcher lettered for Rockton, Rion & Western, with a dining car (with fully operable kitchen) and a former CN commuter coach from Montreal, to have our box lunches and take a ride west, five miles, to Rion Quarry on the museum's demonstration railroad. At the quarry, with its newly rebuilt weigh house, we have time to look around and to examine the stored cars blocking further progress west along the restored portion of the line. (We had been here in 1996, on an extremely hot day, when only about two miles of the line was operable and the collection of decaying rail vehicles was much too visible to the general public.) Returning to Rockton, we're shown through this museum's set of preserved heavyweight passenger cars, including an RPO, but not through the sleeper that is in process of restoration. We do note a couple of nicely painted cabooses on an adjacent track, as well as additional ex-CN commuter coaches for making up longer trains.

We then head back west on SR 34 to I-26, where we turn northwest on that Interstate, continuing northwest on I-385 to Greenville, where we're back at the hotel a little after 5 pm, rather than the anticipated 7 pm. Chris calls up our selected restaurant, Sticky Fingers, a highly recommended barbecue place, to get us on their list for 7 pm, and at the appointed time we are seated immediately. Chris finds their food excellent, and I find something acceptable to eat. Not as much of Main Street has been closed off for the Friday-night party as we would have anticipated from various people's descriptions on Thursday and earlier in the day on Friday, but the segment outside the hotel sure is noisy. We're glad our room is on the far side of the hotel!

Railroads in Greenwood

Railroads in Greenwood included the aforementioned Columbia & Greenville, later part of the Southern, the Charleston & Western Carolina, and the Piedmont Northern, as well as the Seaboard Air Line's line from Hamlet, NC, west to Atlanta. The latter, as the CSX Atlanta line, provides the major railroad presence in Greenwood, today, with the former C&WC providing north and south connections off the former SAL main. There is no longer any Southern (or Norfolk Southern) presence in Greenwood.

South Carolina Railroad Museum

Back in the 1950s, both the NRHS Chapter in Charleston and that in Columbia, SC, had amassed collections of retired railroad cars. When Martin Marietta put its shortline, the Rockton and Rion, up for sale, the chapters formed the South Carolina Railroad Museum to buy that line and use it to store their collections of cars. Over the years, the museum has become largely independent of the two NRHS Chapters, and while still privately owned has received the official designation as railroad museum of the State of South Carolina. So far, the museum volunteers have returned somewhat over five miles of the 11½-mile Rockton & Rion to public operation. Today, a couple of miles if the line is actually used for delivery of covered hoppers between the Norfolk Southern connection at Rockton and a factory alongside the line.

This museum also suffers from a lack of interpretive signage. Most of its collection of cars is stored on trackage either parallel to the heavyweights at Rockton, or down the track at Rion, completely un-restored. This collection of cars is owned, but not preserved or accessible. The museum does, however, provide demonstration train rides over its five miles of railroad for parties of schoolchildren, including one earlier on the day of our visit. 

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Saturday morning activity is a visit to the Republic Locomotive Works, in Greenville, offered in four different hourly groupings. We, and it turns out Bill Chapman and Jack Hilborn also, had selected the 10 am group before the notice of the At-Large Directors' Meeting at 11:30 am was posted. Each group starts out with an ersatz tram ride through the streets of Greenville, past a number of locations of railroad interest (as well as a former textile mill that once had 61,000 spindles, and another that once had 125,000 spindles, both with buildings still extant in alternative uses), getting to the factory about half an hour after the departure time, spends an hour at the factory, and then returns after the tram has brought the next group of people. This means we can't return until after 11:30 am, getting to the hotel somewhat before 12 noon. Too bad.

Republic Locomotive is a small manufacturer of diesel switchers, located in the former Piedmont & Northern shops. its product is the RX-500, a locomotive with the power level of an SW 1200, but with AC traction motors. It has 4-wheel trucks and a maximum speed of 10 mph. Republic has sold several of these, including one to Russia, and another one for Russia has just been completed. Maximum production of 10 units per year is sold out for the next couple of years.

The assembled visitors board one of the completed units in groups of four, Lester Collins take their photo in the locomotive window one at a time, and each is instructed on how to run the loco. up and down the test track, which he or she then does. We, along with Bill Chapman and Jack Hilborn, make up a group of four for this purpose. Once everyone has run the locomotive, the tram load assembles for a group photo in front of the locomotive before returning to the hotel. The 'tram' takes us back to the hotel past a different set of locations of railroad interest.

At the hotel, Barry Smith, Jeff Smith, and Peggy Sweigart are waiting in the room set aside of the At-Large Directors Meeting. We all arrive together (there only are the four of us—Chris is substituting for Dianne Pastorino—at this meeting event), and explain where we had been. Greg Molloy drops in for a moment, and Barry explains that Peggy had been the person who had collated and compiled the At-Large Member Survey responses (630 in all, a wonderful response level). We discuss these for awhile, and then discuss what the society might do in response to them. Greg explains that the society is convening a small team to discuss the future of the society, and when we ask, says that the At-Large Directors will be represented. (Jeff later invites Jack to be our representative in this effort.) Some discussion of what this might mean, in light of current directions, follows before the meeting adjourns when the officers have to leave to attend a Staff Meeting scheduled for 1:30 pm.

Jack and Bill are going to get lunch. Since Chris and I had breakfast in the hotel before going to Republic, we don't need lunch, but we walk with them anyway, getting some ice-cream adjacent to their selected lunch cafe, and sitting on a streetside terrace while we all eat, taking over what had just transpired. Then we walk down to the south end of Main Street, where an Art Festival is in progress, and walk around it for an hour or so before walking back to the hotel.

At 3:30 pm. the NRHS Directors and Officers assemble for the  "pre-meeting" directors meeting, at which Greg Molloy presents his PowerPoint slides on the need for a 50% dues increase, and certain fees for Chapters, in 2008, a lengthy talk, but one that had been condensed at least in half after Greg had presented it at the seven-hour Regional Vice-Presidents' meeting on Thursday evening. Much discussion ensues, especially of the fees that are proposed for Chapters that wish to retain manual processing of their renewal submissions (rather than using an Excel template filled with data specific to their Chapter, and e-mail delivery) after the cutover to the Fernley & Fernley system for 2008 membership-year renewals. (Greg makes the statements that "chapters that don't want to go along with this should consider dropping out, but this elicits no discussion whatever! I suggest to Bill, at the break, that the discussion from the floor reminds me of diehard union members who would rather see their employer go out of business, and thus their jobs disappear completely, than make any concessions on wages or work rules.) This meeting breaks up in time for the opening of the no-host bar preceding the banquet.

At the banquet, the four of us sit together, along with General Counsel John Fiorilla, Dick Charlesworth from Altoona (Horseshoe Curve), who has served with Jack on the Nominating Committee, and a woman whom I did not identify. The MC for the meeting is an erstwhile local disk jockey, whom Lester finds funny but we do not. The after dinner speech is given by H. Roger Grant, a noted railroad historian currently at Clemson University in Spartanburg, who talks about "Writing Railroad History" at a level that seems too low for this particular audience. The food is excellent, but the performance of the wait staff is inadequate.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

The Board Meeting promises the be contentious, since it requires a vote on those fees. (The dues increase can't be voted on at the same Board Meeting at which it is introduced, so that vote will not occur today.) Overnight, Jack has come down with a gastric illness of some variety, so he lets us and Bill know he won't be attending the meeting. Bill goes up to his room and gets a letter appointing Bill as his substitute, in case we have a counted vote. In the event, the Board Meeting goes relatively quietly, although the Director sitting on the far side of Bill (who's next to Chris) expresses a strong negative view of the fees (which are approved on a voice vote) and proposed dues increase that bill asks him, quietly, if he would rather see the society die than increase its dues; the man answer affirmatively!

After the meeting, we have a short time to chat with friends like Bob and Diane Heavenrich before they have to leave, and then we grab my camera and set out down Main Street to take the walking tour of Greenville Railroad sites, provided by the Chapter in the meeting packet. None of these is currently railroad-connected, but we do get some pictures and enjoy the 40 ft waterfall on the river in the Falls Park, in the area where the Arts Festival is being held. There are also the piers remaining from an old  river bridge, a former depot now in use as a house, and the sites of former yards and freight houses to see before we return to the hotel.

At 3 pm, a group of those who are either leaving on Amtrak 20 this evening, or flying out on Monday (including Marty Swan, Dave Flinn, Tony White and Roberta, the two of us, and three others, along with Lester Collins and two other locals as drivers), meets for a carpool excursion to the mothballed Saluda Grade, steepest mainline grade in North America when it was operational until the late 1990s. (Chris and I had ridden down the grade at the Charlotte Convention, in 1996. The Greenville Chapter had run the last steam excursion up the grade, with N&W 4-8-4 611, in November, 1994) We head east on I-385 and I-85 almost to Spartanburg, turning north on I-26 and then immediately exiting onto US 176 to pass Inman, Campobello, the wood chip factory that forms the northern limit of Norfolk Southern's current operation of the line, and Landrum, where we stop to photograph the depot, which is in beautiful condition, and regroup our vehicles.

Thence, we head to the base of the grade, where the safety track is, and look at it for awhile. We note that the safety track has heavier rail than the main line itself, although no-one can state what its weight is. Then we take the road that follows the line up to the top of the grade at Saluda, where we again stop for a few pictures. From Saluda, we return down US 176 past a restaurant where Lester had hoped to eat dinner, but which is closed on Sundays, and then get onto I-26 much further north than we had left it earlier, returning to Greenville via I-26, I-85, and I-385. Most of the restaurants in Greenville are closed as well, and we have to settle for ersatz Mexican food, poorly prepared and served, for dinner.  

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Greenville to Tehachapi

There remains the last leg of our set of flights, from Greenville-Spartanburg north to Washington Dulles, and then west from Dulles to Los Angeles before driving home. After an easy hotel van ride over to the airport at 8 am, the check-in process at GSP is not as easy as it should have been, and Chris has to shuffle stuff between the suitcases to meet a weight limit. There's insufficient time to buy lunch from an outlet near our departure gate at Dulles, so we're reduced to purchasing a sandwich on the completely-full airplane for lunch. In Los Angeles, by the time the Flyaway bus gets us back to Union Station, and we find where we parked the car three weeks before, there's no time to stop at Bristol Farms for English cheeses and the like, so we head straight home up the Pasadena freeway, I-210, and SR 14 to Mojave, where we stop at a Kentucky Fried Chicken to buy dinner, and then take SR 58 up the last 1000+ ft. (and 20 miles west) to Tehachapi and home. Here, we discover one more casualty: one of our two elderly cockatiels has died while we were gone, although the 18-year old cat still survives (along with the other seven).