Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Shakespeare Express...

Hello everyone. Today we travelled on the 'Shakespeare Express': the summer Sunday afternoon main line steam service between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stratford-Upon-Avon. The express makes two round trips per day. We travelled on train B (leaving Stratford) and making a round trip to Birmingham and back. Tyseley locomotive works (in conjunction with Vintage Trains Ltd) has been running the Shakespeare for over 10 years now and it tends to prove very successful. We arrived at Statford station after a drive along the A46 at around 11:30am. 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall"; complete with headboard; soon pulled in with a lengthy rake of chocolate & cream coaches. The immaculate Hall Class 4-6-0; built by the GWR at Swindon in 1929; was soon run round and placed back on the front of the train, having arrived tender first. Shining at the head of the coaches she looked beautiful; a real testament to GWR engineering.
For an engine so regularly used on mainline runs, the footplate of "Rood Ashton" was also immaculate. I couldn't believe it. There was even a Tea set on the warming plate.
Myself and Maisie boarded the 'Shakespeare' towards the back of the set, away from the rabble that was boarding nearer the front. The train departed at 12:30ish and took us to Birmingham along the Bearley branch before curving left at Hatton Junction on the (as I call it) 'proper' main line. Here 4965 was given her head and accelerated quickly up to 60mph odd. She seemed to do it almost effortlessly, for mile after mile before slowing up to slip through the Birmingham suburbs.
After brief stops at Tyseley and Moor Street, 4965 pulled us loudly up through the lengthy Snow Hill Tunnel before pulling into the platform. I alighted to take a few quick snaps before rejoining the train following run round.
The locomotive was run round sharply, before being recoupled to the front of the train.
"Rood Ashton Hall" - Built 1929 (Snow Hill)
The return run was limited to 45mph due to the loco operating tender first but 4965 still gave a few good chuffs. She sounded in fine form, almost as good as she looked. An hours journey each way resulted in arrival back at Stratford. As the rain fell, most people took photographs of the loco from under the station canopy, as I did.
Having watched 4965 tear through during her run round, myself and Maisie walked back to the car before heading home back along the A46. It had been a pleasant Sunday afternoon out. We had travelled for a bargain price of £7 each due to a Groupon offer so I was pretty pleased with the service we got. I do however think (rather snobbishly) that we will travel Pullman Class again next time we travel with VTL...its just a totally different experience! ;) . Cheers guys. Sam...

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