Tag Archives: Cumbrian Mountain Express

A little patch of blue

A patch of blue sky illuminates the slopes of  Pen-y-Ghent as Stanier Pacific No.46233 Duchess of Sutherland, with Saturday’s Cumbrian Mountain Express, passes Selside. I learned my skills as a fireman on Stanier’s Black 5s and Jubilees and for many summers, during the 1950s, I spent two weeks by the West Coast Main Line watching these beauties hurtling by on the Mid-Day Scot, Royal Scot, and the Caledonian. Some were Green and some Red, the Red ones always seemed ‘special’, just because they were Red.

Later, during my railway career, I did work as a fireman on express trains hauled by Pacifics; Bulleid’s version on the Southern Region between Waterloo – Bournemouth and Salisbury, even to Exeter and back, on one memorable occasion. I was the fireman on the 1st East Devon Rail Tour which was booked to run Non-stop from Waterloo to Yeovil and repeat this on the return leg. The round trip, including the journey from the shed up to Waterloo was some 350 miles – not a bad day’s work. The tour ran on 28th February 1965 and our engine was No.35022 Holland America Line, chosen because it was paired with a 6000 gallon tender, which we’d need to run the 122 and a bit miles to and from Yeovil without stopping.

I worked on over twenty different classes of engine, though sadly never a Duchess – and, of all the classes I didn’t have a go on the one  I would have loved to  fire would have been a Duchess  on the WCML – Crewe – Perth maybe!!

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:


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“Right Away”


‘Right away’ though, sadly, despite appearances not main line.  Many of you will know already that No.60103 Flying Scotsman failed to make her main line debut on Saturday, brake and paperwork problems, so I’m led to believe. Flying Scotsman’s non-appearance is probably the least of the worries about main line steam workings right now, as the Sword of Damocles hangs over West Coast Railway Co.,  because of the signals passed at danger incident, at Wootton Bassett, and several instances of ‘unauthorised’ interference with the TWPS equipment.

If WCRC do loose their operators licence, which, it would seem, is a real possibility, the main line steam programme would be decimated. The regular Jacobite services are a major part of the tourist / rural economy in the North West Highlands of Scotland and rail tour operators, as well as locomotive owners, would be facing ruin, unable to run tours or operate their locomotives. WCRC are the would be operators for much of Flying Scotsman’s main line programme, the Cumbrian Mountain services, the Waverly, the Fellsman, the Cathedrals Express, the GB IX tour and much of No.46100 Royal Scot’s itinerary, are all WCRC jobs and all of them would be halted if WCRC cannot operate.

The motive power pool affected is a pretty awesome array and would make a fine compliment for any ‘main line’ passenger shed. I’ve already mentioned 60103 and 46100, but to that list can be added,   4936, 4965, 5043, (30)777, 34067, 44871, 45212, 45305, 45407,  45690, 45699, 46115, 46201, 46233, 60009, 60163,  61306, 61994, 62005, 70000, 70013, and probably a few more besides. We’ll need to keep our fingers crossed, or 2016 could be a very bleak year for main line steam.

If you’ve enjoyed my photographs and blog, why not try my book “Gricing: The Real story of the Railway Children”. This is the link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

Here are some  totally unsolicited comments from people who have read  Gricing:  ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot.’ 

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc; and would heartily recommend it to readers’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ I was given what I believe to be your book called Gricing the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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