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BLS/PLEG Arlington Explorer
Saturday 2nd June 2018

Report by Adam Daniels

Being a born-and-bred 'Southern' man, as soon as the series of 'Arlington Explorer' tours were advertised they were frankly too good to miss. I'd visited the objective of the tours (Arlington Fleet Group Ltd Eastleigh Works) a few times on open days in the 1980s, 1990s and noughties; but if I did ever cover any internal track during those visits I don't remember it (and only then being a spotter, didn't record track and haulage anyway). There were to be four trips, starting 14.00 then hourly, and each was to have a different combination of haulage 'top & tail' covering identical track.

As I needed the originally advertised fixed loco, 08879, along with tail locos 08567, 07007 and (doing 'foreign') the Köf (ex-DB 323539), I decided to book on the first two trips. Proceeds from the trips would be donated to a very worthy charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). My report below should be read in conjunction with the annotated map and stocklist emailed to BLS members a day or so after the event (with thanks to Mr Adlam & Co!).


               



Plan of the Arlington Eastleigh Works with thanks to Arlington Fleet services and Martyn Brailsford (tour route marked in red). The mainline connection, near the station (northwest end of the complex) is on the left, end of line stop blocks (southeast) is right.




The 'William and Mary' railtour https://goo.gl/vCT1dw of 29 Jun 1985 with 2BIL and 4SUB units on the loop around the outside of the depot, which is still in use now, of course.[All pictures have been approved by Arlington for use in BLN and on our website]
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]


During the weeks leading up to the Arlington trips it was to become obvious all was not well concerning some of the advertised locomotives - 08879 had left the site and 08567 was not repaired in time. However, in true BLS and PLEG style though, Mr Adlam and his contacts worked their magic and negotiated a true 'Southern' loco in the guise of 73133 to act as trunk loco and stay at the North end of our riding BLS vehicle 'Molly' throughout, with the South end loco swapping between trips: ex-DB 323539 on the 14.00, the 07 on the 15.00 and GBRf 66784 for the 16.00 & 17.00 trips in pristine condition, fresh from the Arlington paint shop and a last minute (very acceptable) substitute for GBRf 66732 - thanks guys. 66784 had done little passenger work in its former guise of DBC 66081 and a phone-call on the day caused a carload of hopeful passengers to set off from the Churnet Valley Railway just after 13.00, hoping to make the 17.00 trip …. (AA Route Planner gives 3¼ hours so possible.)I arrived at Eastleigh station in plenty of time and met up with other members there watching the busy comings and goings including significant freight traffic and light engine movements. Around half an hour before each trip the walk to the works was undertaken, arriving at Arlington's Gate 2 in time to 'check in' and be given our souvenir ticket. We then undertook the short walk via the road to 'Crossing 1', observing various locomotives ply their trade while awaiting the arrival of 'Molly' with its 'top & tail' locos. A couple of minutes after 14.00, slightly delayed due to the 'rush hour' departure of Arlington's morning shift workers over the crossing by road, 'Molly' was shunted right up to 'Crossing 1' and the participants for the 14.00 boarded.

Now for my only negative words about the day - to say it was extremely warm hot both outside and inside 'Molly' was an understatement! While I realise that on a non-mainline tour the stock won't exactly be moving quickly, and therefore there will be no flow of fresh air, those I spoke to generally thought that there were perhaps a few too many members on each trip given the lovely weather. [The loadings, 190 in total, were for two reasons, firstly to cover the significant cost of transporting Molly by road from, and back to, Barrow Hill but also not to turn anyone away disappointed - Ed.] I decided that partaking in the 15.00 as well may be too much! Anyway, back to positive matters…

73133 firstly took us the short distance to just before the NR boundary before reversing, with a very decent sounding ex-DB Köf 323539 taking us south past 'Unit 6' and then left at the points to the third rightmost track as far as 'Crossing 4'. One or two familiar faces from a well known railtour catering company were glimpsed in a neighbouring rake of stock 'taking five', as the 'Torbay Express' stock was being marshalled and prepared for its ECS move to Bristol Temple Meads and the first run of the season next day. Other locos were also seen stabled en-route. Another reversal at 'Crossing 4' (with 73133 now in charge) took us back to the NR boundary,this time right up to the gate. Reversing again, our Köf now hauled 'Molly' and 73133 via the line to the right of 'Area 2', then past the 'Old Test Shed', right up to the end of the line at the southeast extremity of the complex, (top of plan) a few yards from the loop line around Eastleigh Works.

Another reversal with 73133 in charge then took us towards the main works building, passing pretty much every participant's haulage requirement (08567) en-route, along with other mainline locos and plenty of stock for those so inclined to view. The tour then entered and ran right through the main 300yd long Arlington workshop, via 'Bay 3' from one end to the other. En route immaculate LUL No12 'Sarah Siddons' was seen, along with rather less complete steam loco 35005, a couple of SWR units and various Freightliner flats being maintained. Eventually out in daylight again, the tour proceeded to the NR boundary, and another reversal took us back to our joining point hauled by our Köf.

Near the 15.00 departure time for the second trip I decided to return to Eastleigh town centre for a cold drink, and then after cooling down took a train to Southampton Airport Parkway and back to do the Up Slow line from Stoneham Jn to Eastleigh station commissioned 26 Oct 2015.

All in all, this was an excellent 45-minute journey courtesy of Arlington Fleet Services, the BLS and PLEG, in brilliant sunshine too. A good deal of track was covered (going to the ends of lines at the NR boundary, the depot loop end and others) exactly as advertised. Traction was varied (with ex-BR and ex-foreign locos performing superbly along with our main 'Southern' train engine 73133) and was an excellent compromise given the lack of the two original 08s advertised, the failures and other issues occasionally happen with mechanical things. Many thanks Mr Adlam and others in the BLS and PLEG for sorting out attractive alternatives. An excellent total of £5,200 was raised for the RNLI as GBRf did not charge for their loco (and thanks for that too!). Trip 2 totalled 1m 66ch (6ft short of the buffers at the end of line); Trip 1 was 1m 64ch. [The party from Churnet did arrive in time! Our esteemed Member No1 attended the event and was delighted to link up his track coverage with a railtour some 50 years ago that reached the Works Gates from the other side! Never give up! Does that deserve a few more of your wonderful railtour reminiscences for the record, No1 - please? ]



A series of pictures in the sequence of the tour, mostly from the Class 07 Loco cab on the final trip, (all by Ian Mortimer). This is at 'Crossing 1' where participants boarded and alighted.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




'Area 4'; ahead is 'Crossing 3' with 'Crossing 4' (reached by the tour) in the distance.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




A great 'Vue' of the mainline connection, 73m 50ch from Waterloo, any further and the loco might be doing the trap point protecting the connection as well!
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




'Molly' with Tour Manger approaches the end of Works headshunt.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




Running up to the main workshop from the headshunt (southeast).
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




The pièce de résistance was going right through the 300yd main workshop.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




The pièce de résistance was going right through the 300yd main workshop.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]




Distance covered on Trip 2

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