Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Garforth, Gargrave, Giggleswick and a Great Gathering

Northern Rail sell a variety of 'Day Ranger' and 'Rover' tickets. Armed with one of the latter, I set off yesterday to experience some new lines (for me at least) in the north of England. Carlisle was my starting point.

My first ride of the day was the 10.07 Virgin Trains service heading for Birmingham, stopping at Oxenholme and Lancaster. I got off at Preston where the Voyager had arrived right on time.

This Class 158 was to provide my transport on the Northern Rail 11.54 service from Preston across country to Leeds, and on to York (extra ticket required for this step, in addition to my North West Rover pass). This was not a train journey I had made before. Stops included Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley Manchester Road, Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Bradford Interchange, where I was surprised to find that the onward journey had me facing in a different direction as the train appeared at first to be heading back the way we had just come. Then it was New Pudsey, Leeds, Crossgates, Garforth, East Garforth, Micklefield, Church Fenton and York, arriving at 2.20, on time. An interesting journey, especially the section between Burnley and Halifax which follows the line of the River Calder indeed gives the line the Caldervale Line name. Lots of tunnels too!

My destination yesterday was the National Railway Museum.

The occasion was the 'Great Gathering' where all six remaining A4 Pacific locomotives in preservation had been brought together to celebrate the 75 years since Mallard set the world speed record for a steam train of 126 mph, see here.

Now, I knew it would be busy... and it was! I'm pleased that the event has been such a success, as the NRM has come in for considerable criticism in the past year or so. I'm fond of the museum and have visited many times. But I've never seen crowds like this. Wonderful. Given that there has been talk that the museum may have to close (for example, see here), the success of this fortnight's event must be welcome.

I just wanted to go to York this week, and be part of a unique occasion. I wasn't disappointed.  I'm glad I made the effort. Photography was well nigh impossible. But, above (right to left) is Dominion of Canada, Mallard and Bittern. Note DoC's bell! Of these locomotives, only Bittern still steams, and I photographed it working up the East Coast Main Line back in 2010, see here. (That was the day when it set fires on a number of embankments, and was taken out of service for investigation and repairs almost immediately!) That year I also saw Mallard being pulled to Shildon behind Tornado, here.

Left to right here is Sir Nigel Gresley, Dwight D Eisenhower and Union of South Africa. Sir Nigel Gresley is operational, and has featured on the blog before, see here. As has Union of South Africa, see here.

I was particularly interested in seeing the two locomotives that have been temporarily repatriated from North America. Dwight D Eisenhower was originally named 'Golden Shuttle' when it entered service in 1937. Its story is here. It's usually an attraction at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA. It has received a 'cosmetic restoration' at the NRM's workshops in York since arriving from the States, and looked spectacular yesterday.

Dominion of Canada's story is here. The locomotive has been brought back from Exporail (the Canadian Railway Museum) at Delson/Saint-Constant, Quebec, having been donated to celebrate Canada's centennial. From the photos I've seen, it looked in a rather poor condition there, but has received a excellent 'cosmetic restoration' at Shildon, and looks splendid now. I particularly liked the side valances. I found it interesting to be standing at rail level, and appreciating the height of the locomotive, rather than the usual view from a platform.

Some appreciation of what was involved in getting these two locomotives from North America can be seen in this video of them being loaded onto Atlantic Conveyor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on route to Liverpool. It's one thing to have an idea 'How about getting the two A4s back to this country for Mallard's anniversary', but it is quite another to have made it all happen. I'm in awe of those who had the ideas and worked through the logistics of the operation. The locomotives will return to their home museums next year.

The start of my return journey was a short hop from York to Leeds on this 15.26 First Transpennine Service, heading for Manchester Airport. First Transpennine is not my favourite rail company - for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the cattle class conditions so often provided on the Lockerbie - Edinburgh service I use frequently. Yesterday was yet another example that this company just does not have the rolling stock to allow passengers to travel in comfort. I was, however, impressed by the staff on the train who tried to ensure that every seat was in use, but still some passengers were sitting on the floor. We can bring two locomotives from the USA and Canada, but in 2013, on a mid-afternoon service, we cannot provide paying passengers with a seat. What a country we live in! (Rant over). I was glad to be getting off at Leeds where, according to the tannoy the train was going to get 'quite busy'!

I joined the 16.39 Northern Rail service from Leeds to Morecambe, on a 'Sprinter', a Class 150 DMU, seen here on arrival at Lancaster. The first part of this journey, via Shipley, Bingley, Keighley, Skipton, Gargrave, Hellifield and Long Preston, was familiar to me, as it's the route from Carlisle to Leeds via Settle. But just before Settle yesterday, we looped west via Giggleswick, Clapham, Bentham, and Weddington towards Carnforth. I had wanted to travel this line some years ago in the reverse direction, and was waiting at Carnforth when the service was cancelled that day. But all went well yesterday, and indeed the scenery yesterday was quite magical - blue skies, green fields. Very pleasant.

There was just one little hiccup, a holdup between Carnforth and Lancaster which saw our driver don his hi-vis jacket and climb down to phone to find out the problem, but we were soon on our way, pretty much on time at Lancaster. That was my stop. Morecambe would have to wait another day.

The first train I could catch heading north was a Virgin Pendolino service for Edinburgh, much delayed following an incident 'due to a passenger taking ill and requiring an ambulance'. The 90-minue delay could not have been much fun for those travelling from London. However, from Lancaster to Carlisle via Oxenholme and Preston, I experienced what train travel should be all about, fast and comfortable, and I was soon back in Carlisle.

It had been an interesting day, going to new places, seeing beautiful scenery, experiencing the good and the bad about train travel in 2013, with a wallow in nostalgia included.

Photos © Skip Cottage

No comments:

Post a Comment