The Pickering Paxman
Saturday 15th July 2017
Report by John Zabernik
EMT has an impressive record of operating charity railtours featuring High Speed Trains (HSTs), going back to the 'Valenta Ventura' from Leicester to Scarborough. This ran on Sat 26 Jul 2008 in aid of the by then already well established charity Railway Children, featuring 43064 and 43081. For one day only they were named '125 Group' and 'Midland Valenta' respectively, two of the last Midland Main Line power cars fitted with Paxman Valenta 12RP200L type engines which gave HSTs much of their character from when they were new. All EMT's 24 power cars are now fitted with the Paxman VP185, a quieter development of the Valenta but still known to put on an entertaining show for engine enthusiasts!
More recent excursions have taken East Midlands sets well away from their normal sphere of operations (125 Group website has the regular diagrams) and onto Heritage Railways which had never seen a HST before. Destinations included the Keighley & Worth Valley, East Lancs, Swanage, Wensleydale and Nene Valley Railways with the Mid-Norfolk Railway - visited twice! Some of these have been in association with UK/Hertfordshire Railtours and others wholly operated and marketed by EMT themselves.
To celebrate EMT's relationship with Railway Children, 43082 was named 'RAILWAY children' by the charity's Chairman, David Maidment, at Leeds Neville Hill depot open day on Sun 13 Sep 2009. The plates were a unique cast type, in the style of the organisation's logo at the time and included the subscript or strapline 'THE VOICE FOR STREET CHILDREN WORLDWIDE'. Railway Children have recently slightly altered their logo, and reflecting the evolution of the charity's work, changed the strapline to 'Fighting for street children', rendering 43082's nameplates a little out of date. Sounds like a good reason for a renaming ceremony ... what better occasion to stage a renaming than a charity railtour‽
125 Group has long worked with EMT and its predecessor Midland Mainline going back to its first joint effort in Aug 2004 which was the filming of a HST cab ride DVD called 'Midland to Manchester' (a mere £11 from https://goo.gl/vbQLMR !). This features the driver's view and engine soundtrack from 43198 over the Hope Valley line in the days of 'Project Rio', when 125s were used on an hourly service between St Pancras and Manchester from May 2003 to Sep 2004. 125 Group has been pleased to support EMT's charity fundraising tours ever since and was honoured when on Sat 15 Nov 2014 the company ran 'The Screaming Valenta' launch train. This took a 6 car HST from Derby to the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) (GCRN) to run with Prototype HST Power Car 41001 which had just been restored to working order - 'Project Miller'. Last year 125 Group itself became a registered charity (after much paperwork!) and has been really pleased to recently join forces with the BLS, working closely on the Virgin Trains East Coast 'Bound for Craigy' HST railtour on Sat 18 Mar 2017.
So, to 'The Pickering Paxman'. The objective was to take an HST to pastures new, unveil the new 43082 nameplates, have a grand day out but most importantly raise a train load of cash for a fantastic charity which carries out vital work protecting vulnerable children at home and abroad. To sell as many tickets as possible on the 470 seat HST, the railtour needed to appeal to a wide range of interests: Rare track for BLS members, some fast running and the novelty of riding a HST over unusual routes for 125 Group members. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Whitby is a fantastic day out for 'normals'.
For the 'Gronk Hunters' (non-normals?) was the later added diamond appeal of haulage from two Class 08s, one of which had never worked a passenger train. The itinerary evolved over many months and long hours of planning but only made possible by the 'can do' attitude of many kind railway industry folk working for many different companies, driven by the amazing team at EMT! The Monday before the railtour, 43082 was stopped at Neville Hill and the new nameplates successfully fitted. Set NL10 and power car 43044 were nominated as running mates based on their recent reliable performance.
All HST power cars were built in Crewe Works and 43082 was delivered on 11 Feb 1978 and accepted into traffic with 43083 as part of set 254014 on 6 Apr 1978, for use on ECML services; its first allocation was to Heaton depot, Newcastle. On 29 Sep 1991 it worked the first scheduled HST passenger service to Holyhead (18.45 from Euston). After a period at Bounds Green, it was re-allocated to Neville Hill on 6 May 1990 and has remained there since. Conversion from Valenta to VP185 engine was carried out at Devonport Dockyard and completed on 20 Feb 2003. Since becoming Railway Children's pet power car, 43082 has been a popular choice for special events, including 19 Nov 2016 appearing at the 125 Group/GCRN 'HSTs@40 event' and the 18 Mar 2017 BLS 'Bound for Craigy' tour from King's Cross (KX).
43044 is less of a celebrity, delivered new as part of Western Region set 253022 on 19 Mar 1977, it was based at Old Oak Common for its first five years. In Oct 1982, like most in the 43038-43055 range, it was reallocated when InterCity services at St Pancras converted to HST operation; 43044 moved to Neville Hill where it has been based ever since. On 8 Aug 1991 while on crew training runs with 43047 on the North Wales Coast in preparation for the start of HST services, it was unexpectedly pressed into service to work a 13.00 Holyhead to Crewe relief. This was the first ever revenue earning HST service over the route, although the very short train consisted of only a TGS (Trailer Guards Standard) and two TRUKs (Trailer Restaurant Unclassified Kitchen)! Subsequent railtour action saw 43044 work the first ever HST over the Central Wales route on 29 Jan 1994 and visit Blaenau Ffestiniog on 9 Apr 1994.
The day before the Pickering Paxman, our chosen HST worked diagram NL082 starting with 04.12 Neville Hill - Sheffield ECS, 05.30 Sheffield - St Pancras, then out to Cricklewood for a rest; 18.25 St Pancras - Sheffield and 21.03 Sheffield - Derby Etches Park ECS. Instead of taking the booked route via Ambergate Jn, the ECS was routed via Toton and Trent to turn the set so that 43082 was at the north end. This was preferred because it would enable the celebrity to lead the tour for most of the day and be at the Whitby buffer stops end for the rededication ceremony. Overnight servicing and final preparation were carried out by the fantastic Etches Park staff including attaching the Class 08s.
Railtour day arrived and crowds of eager enthusiasts were on Derby station in the early morning summer sun to see the special formation come from the depot, ECS into P3, a little later than planned. From north to south was 43082, 41075, 41076, 40756, 42328, 42341, 42148, 42149, 44051, 43044, 08899 & 08417. Passengers boarded, catering stores were loaded and the 'Gronk Hunter' headboard was mounted to the front of 08417. This special design had been produced as a pin badge to sell on the train. Late on during railtour planning a challenge had been set as to whether we could get a similar headboard made. As it happens this challenge turned out to be a joke(!), but the headboard had already been ordered from super speedy, appropriately named 'Bizarre Signs' of Wakefield, a small friendly firm who had previously manufactured 125 Group's laser cut acrylic logo headboard.
06.17 (public time 05.55) Derby - Grosmont: 05.55 was advertised before the final timings were received and was retained to allow more time for the railtour to visit the depot. With drivers in both locos, 08417 leading and 08899 inside, the first leg of the day finally set off at 06.30 from Derby P3, both 08s powering and the HST idling, taking the Up & Down line and crossing into Etches Park depot - old carriage wash line. This is thought to be 08417's first passenger train, certainly the first known. The old girl chose to mark the event in a big way by putting on a pretty spectacular flame throwing display from its exhaust, having a good clear out, burning off the oily deposits accumulated over the years of light shunting use. The flames soon self-extinguished with no permanent damage. 08417, the traincrew and the 'Gronk Hunter' headboard took it all in their stride!
The Class 08s were uncoupled and, with 43082 leading, we set off north. In all the excitement, the hoped for Pilot Line did not materialise and we took the Down Goods avoiding Derby station, now 23 late. However an immediate claw back came in the form of crossing over at St Mary's North Jn onto the Down Goods to Breadsall. On the Down main the VP185 power cars were properly wound up for the dash to Chesterfield P3, where over 80 satisfied 'Gronk Hunters' left and more 'day outers' joined.
As we stormed north, First Class punters were now tucking into breakfast baps. For Standard passengers the buffet was churning out bacon rolls, with 'Paxman Pale Ale' available for those who needed an early boost; all catering profits from this railtour went to the charity. After another pick up at Sheffield P2 it was via Meadowhall and Swinton onto the S&K (Swinton & Knottingley Joint Railway) still used by XC and EMT service 125s as far as Moorthorpe. However, in the 1980s this was a regular non-stop route for York - Sheffield HSTs. Past the mighty towers of Ferrybridge C Power Station (closed March 2016) and onto the former North Eastern Railway route to Church Fenton; this section sees one VTEC HST in the form of 22.00 (SX) KX - Newcastle, which your author regularly drives!
The final passenger pick up was at York P11 where our DRS drivers joined to route conduct the EMT crew to Grosmont and Whitby. Departing 08.42, only 10 late, fast line running ensued on the racetrack to Darlington with sustained 125mph line speed action, to the approval of the HST bashers on-board! Darlington was approached via the Down Passenger Loop, reversing under the station canopy in the Up/Dn Station Loop, then it was via Dinsdale to Eaglescliffe. This route is used for occasional VTEC planned and emergency diversions, a recent example being 21 Aug 2017 with 43309 + 43315 on the 22.00 KX - Newcastle with an emergency overnight possession to repair OHL damage at Durham.
Another 'Brucie Bonus' (RIP Sir Bruce Forsyth, British entertainer 22 Feb 1928 - 18 Aug 2017), otherwise known in the trade as an 'Adlam Extra' (still going strong!) followed, Marshalls Down Goods Loop (DGL). Then one of the main advertised track highlights of the day, the DGL all the way from Thornaby East Jn along the current northern extremity of Tees Yard through to Newport East Jn where we crossed onto the Down Main, into Middlesbrough for a brief stop to set down staff. The last regular HST service here was the 05.10 Newcastle - KX via Sunderland which reversed in the station but ceased running 28 Sep 1990. In earlier years it carried the name 'The Cleveland Executive'. Grand Central HSTs (soon to be Adelantes - a HST farewell tour would be good…) pass nearby at Hartburn Jn but have never made it into 'Boro'. The time penalty of reversal would lengthen the Sunderland to KX journey, losing any time advantage over travelling via Newcastle even with a change of trains there.
Our Pickering Paxman HST took a right turn at Guisborough Jn onto the now single track Whitby route running 12 late but time was recouped on the branch. The reversal at Battersby was made in the platform, unfortunately the Station Loop was unavailable due to problems with the signal interlocking, despite the very best efforts of the MOM on the ground there. Leaving Battersby Jn, the line enters the North York Moors National Park, running through Kildale and Commondale then meeting the River Esk from which the 'Esk Valley Line' takes its name. The railway crosses back and forth over the Esk nine times en route to Grosmont, the view from the railtour giving an overwhelming impression of rich green landscape reflecting our wet summer so far. Our HST stopped after Grosmont Ground Frame, changed direction and ran into P2, 10 late at 11.25, in time for a leg stretch and a few photographs.
11.45 Grosmont - Pickering: Departure was punctual, through Grosmont Tunnel and up the steep climb towards Goathland. HSTs are not fitted with sanders; as insurance for our ascent of the 2½ mile, 1:49 gradient, the previous train to Pickering had an extra diesel loco booked on the rear to Goathland to lay sand on the rails, detached and returned down the hill laying sand again, preparing the way for us, in addition we ran through Goathland non-stop. Slight overkill perhaps but on a peak summer Saturday when NYMR trains are heavily loaded, it was wise to cover all bases. Progress up the climb was surefooted, especially the rear power car which normally benefits from a better railhead, it had been cleaned by the wheels of the front power car and the 8 coach set.
'The Moors' is one of the best known preserved railways, with over £2M turnover and 45 employees plus an army of volunteers, a huge tourist attraction vital to this beautiful region of the UK. The normal timetable had been altered to accommodate us with NYMR tickets valid and the HST taking the path of regular service trains. The iconic InterCity 125 has huge public appeal and, as we traversed the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the special received much attention from families on days out as well as enthusiastic photographers and videographers. On departure from Levisham the local Permanent Way gang were standing-by to check on the passage of the HST and had erected a classic stencil type speed limit sign with the digits '125' ... very tongue in cheek and fortunately ignored by our drivers! We dropped down into Pickering, the end of the line becoming the first HST to reach here. Our train used P1 (left), stopping on the points beyond the platform where more adoring crowds admired our 125.
13.05 Pickering - Whitby: With 43082 now leading again, we retraced our route to Grosmont. At Levisham the P'way gang had moved the 125 sign to the east end of the station for a different photo opportunity. A genuine speed restriction for our HST was in force at Goathland, 5mph through the Down platform due to restricted gauge clearance. Back at Grosmont P2 we were delayed 20 minutes waiting for late running BR Standard 4MT No76079 to arrive on the 14.00 Whitby - Pickering with seven Mk1 coaches and Class 25 D7628 on the rear. On departure, ground frame locking arrangements required us to stop after passing over the junction before proceeding to Whitby. After crossing the River Esk a further nine times, we reached the seaside town 22 minutes late at 15.17. The next Down train, the 14.03 from Middlesbrough could not depart Glaisdale (the other end of the single line section) until our HST was locked in at Whitby P2, the rebuilt platform used by NYMR trains (OP 24 Jul 2014). The Northern unit arrived at 15.49, 13 late, but in time for its return working at 15.59 to Middlesbrough to start on time and return to Glaisdale. The Grade II listed Whitby station building is (since Oct 2007) staffed by the NYMR who sell national rail tickets as well as theirs.
The Pickering Paxman was the first EMT 125 to visit Whitby, but 12 HST excursions have been there before, with 20 different power cars. 43082 was a first time visitor but it was 43044's third time. 125 Group's current magazin