Main Line Story pt 3

The Whistling Tynesider

Birmingham to York and Newcastle
Saturday 5th April 2003
The second mainline railtour for D345, and another great success. The tour originally sold out two whole months before departure.

The newly-applied full yellow ends seemed to be well received by almost everyone, and gave a fresh appearance to loco after some years wearing only small warning panels.

The Pennines once again echoed with the sound of a Class 40 working hard against the gradients. The outward route took D345 via Diggle, and she lifted the 11 coach load with relative ease. Seasoned Class 40 followers will no doubt have compared this to other trans-Pennine journeys - a route which quickly shows up any 'weak' locomotive, but not today.

As with The Christmas Cracker 4 tour, for many, the route took in places which have long since changed: Healey Mills, a long time home for Class 40's, now a shadow of its former self; running under the wires on the East Coast Main Line; Gateshead depot and shed buildings now mostly demolished to make way for a new housing scheme; the much-maligned rebuilt Manchester Victoria station, ironically now starting to look grimy itself. And who couldn't fail to be moved as we passed by the Vulcan Foundry, Newton le Willows, now empty and boarded up, awaiting its final fate? Another piece of British industrial and railway heritage finally consigned to the history books.

The York - Newcastle - York circular trip saw D345 revisit her earliest stomping grounds. With the latest tightening of safety standards, TPWS equipment not yet fitted, and the stock comprising mainly Mk 1's, we were restricted to 75 mph running. Nonetheless, Grand National Day saw her put in a fine performance on the 'race track' to Darlington up to the imposed limit. Not a racehorse Deltic sprint, of course, but fine none the less. The restrictions also prevented us taking the coast route past Hartlepool and Sunderland.

Durham was saluted in spectacular fashion as the controller was opened fully on hitting the platforms. Northallerton passed by in a blur. A sedate trundle through Newcastle was, of course, met with some quizzical expressions from 'normal' passengers stood waiting for their modern trains. A similar spectacle was created at several other passing points, such as Manchester Victoria and Earlestown.

A personal highlight was storming up the ruggedly picturesque Calder Valley route on the return in the afternoon sunshine. With the controller 'on the stop' from Milner Royd Jn, the loco slogged noisily and steadily up through Hebden bridge and Todmorden.

A rousing cheer accompanied the loco on it's light-engine departure from Crewe that evening - a moving accolade, appreciated by all those involved in organising and operating the tour.