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Marching Crompton II
Saturday 23rd March 2019

Report by Janet & John Cottrell

Half past five on a Saturday morning in Crewe; it must be railtour time again with the delights on offer this week being Class 33 haulage to the seaside with a few bits of enticing track thrown in for those interested in such matters. Our train consisted of West Coast Railway's 33029 with seven Mk1 coaches including the all important buffet car which would keep us all fed and watered for the trip, most important as the early start meant that the food outlets on the station were not open. Bringing up the rear was 47851 providing the therms to keep us all warm, 'British Summer Time' still being a week away then.


     



Destination Display at Crewe
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Mileage Table
[© Jim Sellens 2019]


We set off on time with the Class 33 making all the right noises and did wonder if the Class 47 might be giving a discreet helping hand/buffer (?) but a friend at the opposite end of the train later assured us that it did nothing beyond heat the coaches. It wasn't long before we sampled the first loop of the day, opposite Shrewsbury Crewe Bank signal box, still standing now six years after it closed, latterly very rarely switched in. The 'austerity' 1943 WWII box was designed to withstand air raid damage meaning they are not the easiest structures to demolish. Our 40 minute sojourn in the loop was more bearable by an announcement that hot bacon rolls were available from the buffet, as a rather overcast day dawned.

There were further stops to pick up at Shrewsbury and Church Stretton before we headed south past Craven Arms, by which time a watery sun was attempting to break through the clouds, and on to Hereford where we arrived some six minutes early. Although the maximum speed of a Class 33 is 85mph, the train was timed at 75mph, the next choice of timing speed being 90mph which would have the opposite and less desirable effect of losing time. Progressing south, past Panteg DGL covered on the previous Aug 2018 'Marching Crompton' tour, word started to filter through of signalling problems at Bath with a possible diversion mentioned. This would cause issues as it was a booked pick up point. Before this, there was a stop at Severn Tunnel Junction and a chance for a quick leg-stretch as we arrived early again and where the single yellow signal aspect with route indicator clearly showed that we would be doing the Up Tunnel Loop as booked. Into the Severn Tunnel and out again, followed by the Up Pilning loop, pausing for a Cardiff to Bristol service to pass, then on to Patchway where the train turned right as scheduled so we would be going via Bath, signalling issues or not.

With the aid of modern technology in the form of 'Traksy' and the 'Open Train Times' Live Track Diagrams it had been noticed by many that the Up trains were on the Down line and the Down trains were using the Up line at Bath Spa, shades of the Great St Trinian's Train Robbery but rather more organised. 1Z33 duly covered Bristol East Depot Goods Loop in the more interesting direction and then took the facing crossover (107m 28ch) just past Oldfield Park, past a couple of slightly glum-looking orange-clad NR staff. It called at Bath Down P1 to pick up a final batch of passengers (some delayed by the problems, made a two minute connection from a Paddington train on the other platform; half the Paddington - Bristol trains were diverted via Bristol Parkway).

Once back on the right line so as to speak we started gaining time again, being five minutes early at Westbury (where a South Western Railway DMU was in the Down Trowbridge Siding - cancelled between Westbury and Bristol due to the disruption) and seven by Frome then gaining another ten minutes when the train didn't have to wait at Blatchbridge Jn as booked. All this early running came to naught as we were held just past Castle Cary for the preceding (late) Gloucester to Weymouth service to clear the single line to Yeovil Pen Mill. Although we arrived there over 10 minutes early, we actually departed five minutes late, waiting for a Weymouth to Gloucester service which in turn had been delayed waiting to cross its counterpart at Maiden Newton. The slightly extended Yeovil stop was welcome as it gave the chance for another leg stretch, photos and time to queue at the station kiosk.

Some excellent Crompton 'thrash' was enjoyed after leaving Yeovil Pen Mill and we soon regained the lost minutes, but a slow run down to Weymouth saw us arrive 3 minutes late where there was an hour and a half to have lunch, go to the pub, visit the beach or join Tom Gilby's organised walk along the disused Weymouth Tramway (report BLN 1328.1230). Sadly the option to visit the 10¼" gauge Rio Grande Railway had been cancelled some weeks earlier due to the operator's family bereavement.


Route Description
[© Paul Stewart with thanks to Martyn Brailsford 2019]


For the return journey, 33029 was joined by D6515 (33012), the pride and joy of the 71A Locomotive Group, resplendent in original green livery with small yellow ends and bearing the name of LT Jenny Lewis RN who sadly lost her life in an accident in June 2002. The locomotive is usually based at the Swanage Railway but is mainline certified and this would be a rare treat to take it away from home, in fact it would join 33029 for our 'Ruby Vampire, the Second Bite' Merseyside railtour the next day.

1Z34 initially retraced the tracks of the outward journey, including Frome, with minor changes at Westbury (P1 rather than P2 - appreciated by quite a few!) and Bath where we had to wait before going Down the bidirectional Up Main which cost us about 10 minutes but was appreciated by our crossover members.


Historical Route Map 1
[© Dave Cromarty 2019]




Historical Route Map 2
[© Dave Cromarty 2019]


There was a brief 'race' (only possible again relatively recently) with a Severn Beach train between Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road before the latter diverged at Narroways Hill Jn. Then we turned right after Filton Abbey Wood and headed towards Westerleigh Jn via Bristol Parkway Up Passenger Loop. After more 'looping the loop' though Charfield Up Goods Loop it was off to Gloucester where we came to a stand before Horton Road Jn, initial thoughts being that we were waiting for another train to go first. An announcement was then made that there was a possible issue with coach 'B' and the crew were investigating but it can't have been serious as we were on the move again barely ten minutes later along the much requested bi-directional Gloucester Up Relief line, as booked, in the Down direction. Compared with the far more frequently used and also bidirectional Up Main, the Up Relief has jointed track, less ballast and weeds! Any passenger diversions booked to use it usually run through a platform or the Up Main instead and it is less preferred for freight traffic even.

This is partly because it entails bidirectional running right out to Over Jn - the trailing crossover at Over! A branch from Gloucester Docks once trailed in on the left and the line to Ledbury via Dymock left on the right. So it was 'Over and out' of Gloucester. At Lydney our train was routed into the Down Goods Loop as booked but had to wait there for a Nottingham to Cardiff service to pass rather than exit straight out of the other end. Running some 30 minutes late by now there might have been a possibility that other little 'diversions' might be sacrificed to regain time but everything took place exactly as planned, including (thanks to Freightliner Heavy Haul), East Usk Yard Road 5 - out of use in TRACKmaps 3 p20A Jun 2018 - surrounded by hopper wagons. Instead of waiting 18 minutes there we kept going so left just five minutes late. Trundling round the Hereford Loop at Maindee it was then a quick sprint for what was, we were told, a highlight for track bashers: Abergavenny Up Goods Loop.

The train took its time entering the loop by which time the following Cardiff to Llandudno Junction service was close so there we stayed until it had cleared the next block section (Tram Inn, 17½ miles with Pontrilas box switched out) meaning we were now nearly half an hour late again. It could have been a late finish except there was one last loop to do, at Sutton Bridge just before Shrewsbury.

Here 1Z34 should have been passed by the Llandudno Junction train but as it had already run in front of us we didn't stop (but importantly still did the loop), thereby recouping most of the lost time. With the penultimate set-down in Shrewsbury the pair of 33s gave a spirited run back to Crewe, on time after an excellent day out with over 534 miles of 'Crompton' haulage and choice bits of track.


33029 with the ECS for our 'Marching Crompton II' at Crewe.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Our tour in Crewe P6
[© Jim Sellens 2019]




Departing Shrewsbury P7
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Departing Shrewsbury
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




A rear view of Shrewsbury Signal Box
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Coleham Depot with Shrewsbury Abbey in the background on the right.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The original Church Stretton station site and building, just north of the present one.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Tram Inn box (the first one south of Hereford), and former station site.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Pontrilas.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Abergavenny station and sidings (not the loop) looking north.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Newport, Joining the Up Main at Maindee East Jn.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Chepstow Rd underbridge.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Bishton gate box. Llanwern Works East Connection is left.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The Bishton Flyover - electrification in progress, will the wires really fit under it?
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Heading east through the west portal of the Severn Tunnel.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The Severn Tunnel east portal.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Ableton Lane Tunnel (Severn Tunnel in the distance).
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The tour is in Pilning Up Passenger Loop.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Approaching Patchway from the west where the Up and Down lines are on different levels.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The tour heads south on the recently re-quadrupled Filton Bank.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Dr Day's Jn heading to Feeder Bridge Jn on the bidirectional Up/Down Bristol Loop.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Feeder Bridge Jn with Dr Day's Jn round to the right and Temple Meads straight ahead.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




East Depot Goods Loop in the rarer direction heading for Bath on the 'Main Down Viaduct' above the River Avon. Right is the separate 'Main River Viaduct' with the Up Main and the Down Main.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




St Annes cutting on the approach to St Annes Park No2 Tunnel
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




St Annes Park No2 Tunnel
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




St Annes Park No3 Tunnel.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Twerton Long tunnel
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Leaving Bath Down P1 in the Up direction; a train from London is in Up P2, some of the participants managed to make a tight connection from this service.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Bath, Sydney Gardens.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




The former Limpley Stoke station which closed to passengers in 1966.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Just south of Bruton at 127m 39ch was the former Somerset & Dorset Railway overbridge.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Heading south from Yeovil Pen Mill the other signal is for the line up to Yeovil Junction.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Has this view ever been shot before? A nice shot of Evershot Tunnel south of Chetnole.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Maiden Newton heading south to Weymouth;the former Bridport/West Bay branch bay was on the left past the buildings.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




At Weymouth.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]




Our Marching Crompton II at Weymouth before departure.
[© Geoff Plumb 2019]

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