The Branch Line Society

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The Gronk Chaser
Saturday 26th September 2020

Report by Ian 'Selby' Loveday


Locos: 08939 & 08359; Coaches: M59444, M59603 & M14024

Our members with an interest in loco haulage will be aware that there are still a few locations in the UK where locos undertake test runs post overhaul. Sadly the days of the 11.18 Crewe to Holyhead service providing haulage opportunities for heavyweight Class 37s or 56s as they are released from Crewe Works are all behind us. The Great Central Railway has tested locos from the nearby Brush Works at Loughborough, Barrow Hill from the onsite Harry Needle workshops and Chasewater from the nearby Wishaw Works, and have all provided a welcome chance to exercise the red pen and ruler.

Our Society already has a great relationship with Barrow Hill. When a loco is available for a test, they are kind enough to inform us whenever possible and we circulate the Gen and over a hundred cranks would congregate, sometimes with just a few hours' notice. Given the success of that arrangement, we have tried to develop a similar arrangement at Chasewater with the railway receiving shunters from Wishaw Works for test runs. These arrangements are truly symbiotic as the loco needs a test run and people are willing to pay to travel on the train rather than it just hauling fresh air. But of course the commercial arrangements must take priority over any enthusiast desires and therefore these runs are always subject to short notice changes, and this one was no different…

…as 48 hours before this charter we were informed that 08730 was required at Wolverton Works to cover for a failed loco. However by extreme fortune, equally rare 08939 was also on site and thanks to Chasewater and Railway Support Services a swap was made, allowing the charter to go ahead. It was advertised as three separate return trips but each sold out almost instantly, then a fourth was added, which also sold out, so finally a fifth was added to satisfy the demand from some 154 travellers.

The day of the charter was a lovely bright morning as various people, including myself, tucked into an excellent 'Full English' in The Sidings Tearoom at Brownhills West.The Railway had prepared coaching stock the day before so, after our Covid briefing, we were set. Or so we thought. Tail loco 08359 stubbornly refused to start but after an amount of patience fired up, meaning that the first departure was delayed by 50 mins. However, the start was delayed by another minute or two as vans were, for some reason (can't think why), pulled from the station headshunt and deposited in the sidings...

This was the first opportunity for many cranks, especially of the haulage variety, to meet since our 15 Mar Eric & Ernie tour and it was fantastic to see everyone. I was delighted how everyone stuck to the strict Covid guidelines without exception; the only breach of social distancing I saw was from the numerous deer that were walking alongside the train (bucking the trend?).

By the 13.30 run we were back on time, but unfortunately the bright morning sun was replaced by a cloudy afternoon. The rest of the trips also ran without any issue and a successful day was concluded on time with grateful thanks to staff and crew at Chasewater and also Railway Support Services.


Mileage table.


Mileages from the first trip (10.30 Brownhills West to Brownhills West) are above, over two miles off each loco. Brownhills West End of Line (EOL) is from clearance of the headshunt there, allowing each working to return via the station loop to the end of the headshunt, reverse back to the ground frame (GF) and only then into the platform. Uncommon track and bonus mileage!

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