Saturday, 5 December 2015

A Castle to Lincoln For Christmas...

"A Lindum Gale" (Pic - A.Southwell)
Good evening all. Today was a long one: a trip out with Tyseley to Lincoln. The Castle Class No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" would today be hauling the 'Lindum Christmas Fair' railtour, departing her home shed at 07:40. I was in McDonalds at 5am this morning, before heading along the M6 and the A45 to Tyseley. This time in the morning always provides some unusual sights at McDonalds as ill-looking party goers return home from one of those nights out that seemed like a good idea at the time: they look rough! Having driven through the gales to reach the former 84E just before 6am, I unloaded my goods from the car before proceeding to the engine shed. There, 5043 was just pulling outside. Almost all of the Castle's prep had been carried out yesterday and so there was little to do but raise steam before the 4-6-0 hissed over onto the departure road to steam heat the stock. By 7am, the stock was warming up nicely and the "Earl" was feathering away and raring to go...
With the engine in place and all systems go, we joined the Support Coach at the rear of the 7-coach rake. With a 'Right Away' from the Guard and the road given, 5043 strode noisily out of Tyseley and onto Network Rail metals. Seven coaches is hardly a stiff load for a Castle and so the "Earl" soon had the weight moving and making good progress. The route would take us out through the Birmingham suburbs, before joining the Coleshill line for a pick up at the Parkway station. We would climb through Arley and up to Nuneaton where we would cross the flyover above the WCML before another pick-up at Platform No7. 5043 was in good voice as she threw white steam over her shoulder on the climb up through Arley...
"5043 at Arley" (Pic - A.Edkins)
During our Nuneaton pick up, in strong winds, the blue Class 86 "Les Ross" tore through on the fast line for Crewe, hauling another excursion train. 5043 got away from Nuneaton smartly, attacking the grade towards Hinckley with good acceleration. We reached Leicester on time and watered in Humberstone Road loop, with our job being to pass tools down from the sanctuary of the Support Coach. From Leicester, the Castle steamed easily along the Midland Main Line with a final stop at Loughborough. After Loughborough the Castle was well on her way to Lincoln and is snapped here in the Nottingham Area...
"5043 In The Nottingham Area" (Pic - J.Freebury)
Meanwhile, whilst 5043 made good progress, the tea was flowing in the Support Coach. Its always interesting to hear the stories about previous Tyseley exploits and the restoration tasks at hand. Between water stops, there isn't a lot for the support crew to do other than to enjoy the sights and sounds of main line steam in action. In the Pullman Cars, the chefs and waitress' will be busy serving full breakfasts to their 140 diners whilst the Stewards will be answering questions and selling souvenirs throughout the train: there's more to these excursions than meets the eye! The Castle was photographed in various places along her winding route through the East Midlands and a favourite location of many is where the line crosses the River Trent...
"Over The Trent" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Having crossed the Newark 'Flat Crossing' over the ECML, the Castle had it easy going all the way to Lincoln. In the distance, the glory of the fabulous Cathedral could be spotted atop the hill as speed reduced on the approach to the station. The Christmas Market in Lincoln is always a busy time. I often think that the city actually struggles to cope with the shear number of visitors that attend the fair, particularly on the Saturday! The streets were rammed as 5043 triumphantly steamed in from Birmingham. The passengers detrained happily after a pleasant run, prior to a no doubt chilly shopping spree in the city. With all passengers off, 5043 whistled up before pulling out again and drifting cautiously into a nearby stabling yard. There, the engine was uncoupled before steaming away for turning on a nearby triangle junction...
The "Earl" wasn't gone for long and was soon coupled up to the stock for watering and coal shifting. Not long after a screaming hooter was heard on the wind and there, in the distance, was the bulk of the beautiful Princess Coronation Class No46233 "Duchess of Sutherland". The Duchess had worked the other Lincoln Christmas Fair railtour from Kings Cross via the ECML with a good load on the drawbar. The passengers on her trip quickly grabbed for their cameras as the simmering Castle came into view! Soon enough, the two engines were stabled together in the siding for the afternoon, a rare treat for local enthusiasts...
"Lincoln In Steam" (Pic - D.Chandler)
By mid-afternoon both engines were serviced and there was little else to do but wait. The Castle would be away first, steaming out of the station on a 16:53 path. The Duchess would leave slightly later and, as darkness fell, she was simmering happily in the yard alongside our ECS. This engine is immaculately kept and a real tribute to the engineering skill of Sir William Stanier. It was a pleasure to see her again...
Eventually, with the road given to depart the yard, 5043 gave a shrill whistle before hauling the ECS into the platform. The hoards of waiting passengers gladly returned to the steam heated train after a pleasant but chilly afternoon. Driver Ray Poole would be on the handle as far as Nottingham and was poised for departure as 'right time' drew near...
With all aboard, 5043 departed Lincoln in a cloud of steam, roaring out proudly across the level crossing in front of countless onlookers. The Castle was in good voice as she got into her stride, echoing her Great Western voice through the Lincoln suburbs. It was a good run home with the Castle ticking away happily at speed for mile after mile. The support coach was again good for a cuppa' and we had a good chat and a laugh whilst 5043 kept us moving. We watered again at Humberstone Road before a drop off and operational stop at Leicester. Our final two drop offs were at Nuneaton and Coleshill Parkway before rolling triumphantly back into the Tyseley Works site at around 9:20pm. The usual shunt release move was performed with the rudely awakened Class 08 shunter before 5043 was turned on the table and returned to the shed. The 1936-built 4-6-0 was then disposed after a most enjoyable outing. It had been another long but very enjoyable day out with Tyseley and my hat off to 5043: she's a stunner. Its a completely different experience being involved with main line steam. The expressions on the faces of onlookers as an engine like 5043 rolls unexpectedly and without fuss into a busy main line station is something to behold. The questions like "Is this a real train?" amaze you but one gent did comment that it was a "wonderful surprise" to see the engine - always nice.

My thanks go to the Tyseley lads for their hospitality, and to the very kind photographers who have sent in images for use in this post: it couldn't be done without you! To see a nice video of 5043 in action, click
here or here. This is literally steam paying its way in the modern world, mixing with twenty first century traction. My hat off to preserved railways that can provide all the realism of days gone by but working with an engine that's doing a real job at real speeds to different destinations is a wonderful thing to be involved with. All the best guys and as they say in Looney Tunes, "That's All Folks", Sam...

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