The Branch Line Society


The Sussex Salopian
Saturday 24th March 2018

Together with the return from Crewe to Carnforth on Sunday (the Sunday Salopian), this two-day event joint with '84G Railtours' had 687m 74ch of loco-haulage with rare track on offer for as little as £85. 84G Railtours is a name our well known member Tim Brawn came up with after starting his railway career at Shrewsbury in 1985. It echoes back to those days of the ADEX (BR advertised excursion) trains he used to travel on from Shrewsbury to various destinations including on the South Coast. '84G' was the shed code in steam days for Shrewsbury and the surrounding depots. Tim, of course, has been heavily involved in our TPE, recent Merseyrail and tours associated with the Three Peaks Challenge.


Here we are again…! Crewe this time P5 awaiting departure for the Shrewsbury line.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Our member Terry Cotter writes: As I had a hand in writing the tour brochure, it was suggested that I may also like to write a BLN report for the tour, so here goes. I first became aware of a 'South Coast' tour following our 2017 Liverpool AGM so, living in the Southeast, I thought it would be convenient... However, when it opened for bookings (now so easy via our new website), there were some very much sought after loops at the start and end of the tour so a couple of nights up North would be required after all! Despite still needing the crossover at Carnforth, I decided on Crewe for both nights.

Crewe P5 seemed a little too quiet at 05.45 on the Saturday morning but the mystery was soon solved as the tour regulars I was expecting to see were queuing in 'Pumpkin' for hot drinks or breakfast. Just a few minutes down, The Sussex Salopian pulled in behind 37518 with a dead (as booked due to limited fuel capacity) 33025 behind. This was a replacement for 33207 which should have joined the tour at Acton Lane (now where's that then?) for the Southern section but had failed earlier in the week.

Preparing breakfast and look who is first in the queue! Ian Delgado is right, behind Kev.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Following departure, it was quickly on to new track for me being the full length of Gresty Green Up Loop (having previously only reversed in this). It was actually renamed Gresty Green Through Siding with resignalling in the area and the abolition of Gresty Lane signal box from 5 Dec 2015 when many other line names changed (TRACKmaps Aug 2013 is out of date in the area). We stopped in the loop, which I assumed was to let something go by on the main line as we were a few minutes down, but an announcement informed us this was for an inspection of the Class 33.

Another message soon confirmed that there was a problem with a hot axle box and instructions were awaited as to what would be happening. It is a great credit to all involved in that within 35 minutes of arriving in the loop, the 33 was detached and parked in the nearby headshunt and the tour under way again. [It was fortunate there was a usable clear head shunt long enough for the loco, not all loops have them.] The schedule should still allow for an on-time arrival at Bognor and a visit Hotham Park Miniature Railway if desired. Not being narrow minded and that interested in smaller gauge railways (yet!), the worry for me was if any loops would be cut out.

A very smart looking 33025 parked on some very rare track indeed after detaching.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

The first test of this was approaching Shrewsbury and the magical word 'feather' was heard before the required Up Goods Loop (31m 41ch to 32m 08ch) was duly covered. A very brief stop at the station to collect a handful of further passengers saw us away about 40 minutes late. It was fingers crossed as we neared Cosford but the very rarely used Up Goods Loop was successfully covered at walking pace due to the 5mph restriction on the points each end allowing two of the RAF base's instructional Tornado airframes to be viewed. Oxley Up Goods Loop completed my set of morning loops so a very big thank you to all involved in making sure that the requested track was still delivered despite the late running.

Departure from Coventry was just 19 minutes down and the route was still through Platform 4 giving me a further crossover back on to the Down Main. Rugby saw the only notable omission from the advertised route of the Up and Down Through Siding. The next highlight for me was the route through Wembley Yard where there is usually much of interest to view. A new Crossrail EMU certainly seemed to be keeping many happy (it doesn't take much for some - joke!). Further good news was that we would be on time at Acton Lane. Now a confession! As anyone who has read the tour brochure knows, the route description suggests that Acton Lane is near Acton Main Line. It is in fact, ahem, nearer Willesden Depot so apologies to anyone confused by my geographical inaccuracy here. In the itinerary (website document archive dated 24.03.18) Acton Lane Reception should be 257m 30ch & Kensington Olympia 260m 27ch, deducting 2m 71ch for all mileages beyond. Still this was not as bad as my son's school trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to find that accommodation had been booked in Stratford East London! [This reminds your BLN Editor of a BR 'Merrymaker' mystery trip in the 1970s from Birmingham New Street AC Loco hauled all the way. After 90 minutes at a good speed Stratford was reached (complete with BR Eastern Region dark blue signs). A passenger exclaimed loudly to the entire coach '90 minutes and we have only reached Stratford-upon-Avon!'. Clacton-on-Sea was the destination, and indeed AC electric all the way from Birmingham, the fare £1 and via the City Goods Lines both ways.]

Early morning departure from Shrewsbury P7 for the Wolverhampton line - one of Geoff Plumb's photos with some distinct 'painting like' qualities. Right is a Cardiff to Manchester train.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

A picture taken at Acton Lane No2 Reception Siding, under supervision and with permission, with the WCR train crew.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

A second picture taken at Acton Lane No.2 Reception Siding, under supervision and with permission.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Heading south through Arundel on the way to Bognor Regis.
[© John Vaughan 2018]

Left to right: Tim Wade, Suzanne Wilson, Wendy Brawn (both from Railway Children) and Tim Brawn with the presentation charity at Bogor Regis (the final amount raised was actually £4,000).
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

During the break at Bognor Regis, a number of tour participants visited the near-by Hotham Park Railway [see separate report]. Back at Bognor Regis station, the ticket office couldn't understand why they were selling so many Barnham tickets. This was because with our tour in P1 and later P2 there was much greater use of the rare 4-coach short P4 during the break.

Having so far seen little use despite being on the tour from the start, 47772 now hauled the tour for the long section (3½ miles) back to Barnham P1. Reversal here saw 37518 back in charge for the run along the south coast (via Havant Up P1 in the Down direction) to Fratton from where the 47 would get a longer and initially challenging steady uphill run to Reading West. A scheduled Guildford stop saw many taking advantage of the chance for a rare alighting or boarding (or both) at P7 thanks to slam door technology. To explain, the 'Up Ash' line here is between P6 & P7 and doors are opened on the P6 side on services.

Arrival into Banbury Goods Loop was a few minutes down but it was wondered if we may leave early as the half an hour to swap locos was no longer needed. However this may have caused pathing issues further along so departure was right time. The return to Crewe saw the Down 'centre' lines at Oxford and Leamington, Kenilworth Loop, the Down loops at Oxley, Cosford (again at 5mph) and Gresty Lane Through Siding successfully traversed. Also the Down Salop Goods Loop between Gresty Lane Jn and Crewe South Jn was done which several seemed to have overlooked until we covered it. Arrival into Crewe, and an overnight stay for many including myself was right time at 23.30 after a very successful and enjoyable day. One particularly enjoyable feature was the excellent catering provided including a 'breakfast tray' and in the evening a delicious fresh chicken curry made on the train. It was so good that one of the 280+ participants had three helpings (but don't worry we won't tell them who, Mr W).

The tour, of course, continued back to Carnforth later the next day (a most pleasant run in sunshine) after yet another successful sub-tour, at Crewe Heritage Centre in the morning. A huge thank you to everyone involved in all these excellent events. As well as covering the commercial costs, £4,000 was impressively raised for Railway Children. And I now know where Acton Lane is… (…but thanks for your help with the itinerary, Terry, without volunteers to compile and check it there wouldn't be one.)

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