The Branch Line Society


The Inverclyde First Aider
Saturday 28th April 2018

Report by Roger F Newman

The Prologue: All Society Stewards undertake regular accredited 'training' of various types, with written and practical examinations. Our charity partner for the tour St John Ambulance (note no 's' after 'John') kindly laid on a comprehensive and appropriate first aid course on Fri 27 Apr in Crewe. A registered charity, they provide more first aid courses nationally than any other organisation. It is pleasing to report that all participants passed the written and practical stages to achieve the First Aid qualification; a most interesting and enjoyable day.


Here we are again… 37685 'Loch Arkaig' after arrival at Crewe P5 on the rear of the 01.30 ECS from Carnforth Steamtown to form the 05.29 BLS Inverclyde First Aider tour.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

The other end of the train at Crewe.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

The Main Event: In the early hours of 28th, when only the milkman and the postman can be heard but not seen, some well familiar faces stealthily headed off towards Crewe station. Humming on P5 was 37685 with 9 coaches and 47772 on 1Z48. Changes to the advertised route were deletion of Dallam Yard as it has not been gauged in time, Quintinshill DPL instead of Lockerbie UPL for timing reasons, the addition of Elderslie UPL, Brownhill UPL and Thornhill UPL and a 'worm' appetiser for the early birds - Crewe Down Siding.

After 90042 had departed with a late running Up sleeper, 47772 stuttered across the southern throat and after 56ch entered the Down (Dn) Siding, reaching another sort of sleeper across the line (157m 21ch). Retracing its tracks with the Class 37 and 14 min after leaving it southwards, our tour then passed through P5 non-stop northwards to then cross right over to the Dn Slow. The late running 05.57 Crewe to Glasgow caused our tour to be 6 min late at Winsford South Jn and with a gentle approach to Warrington via Walton Old Jn we left shy of 10 min late to post a letter at the Royal Mail Terminal (RMT).

From the Up Slow we entered RMT Dallam using the rare middle crossover (183m 40ch) directly to P2. 47772 stirred to draw us back to P1 then 37685 took us over the 'other' rare middle scissor crossover back to the Up Slow heading north. EMU 325016 was sleeping in Bay P3 (4-cars long before anyone asks). At Bamfurlong Jn the tour left the Dn Fast for the Dn Slow continuing via the Dn & Up Passenger Loop before lurching right, associated with weird crunching noises over the rarest crossover of the day year to Wigan NW P5. Participants had been warned about the disconcerting noise from running over zig-zag stainless steel strips welded to the rails to maintain the track circuit on an otherwise very rusty rail. At Balshaw Lane it was the Dn Slow (many years ago quite difficult to do!) to Farington Jn where there was a dilemma. The advertised route was then Dn Fast and by Dn Goods inferring use of the former parcels platform (with normally no passenger access and there were participants to pick up). The answer was to stay on the Dn Slow then the Dn Goods to Ribble Jn where the train crossed the station throat.

After 'Clearing the throat' Preston P7 was entered (the Up & Dn Goods Loop) for a pick up. A 10 min late departure meant that faster passenger services were close behind, so it was Barton & Broughton Dn Pass Loop instead of Penrith Dn Slow (P3) that allowed the 06.16 New St to Edinburgh 9-car Pendolino and the 07.00 Manchester Airport to Glasgow Class 350/4 EMU to overtake the tour. Passing Garstang 24 min late a non-stop run through Penrith P3 saved 12 min and by Upperby Bridge Jn the deficit was down to just over 4 min. The Inverclyde First Aider crossed to the DGL returning to the Down Main at Upperby Jn. Standby 57308 was glimpsed in Wall Sdg No3 as, after a quick crew change and picking up the remaining passengers, the tour left Carlisle P3 just 3 min late, now with 218 participants on board. Some had come here from Glasgow even to join.

Kingmoor sightings included 88001, 88006 and much vegetation in the marshalling yard once classified as 'large' and the tour reached Scotland, home of the haggis. In 1955 the writer's first of many Scottish holidays included Ayrshire passenger lines, so this tour brought back memories of clean 4-4-0s on fast services from Glasgow St Enoch. At Quintinshill, unfortunately famed for the 1915 railway disaster, the UPL was taken for 3 passenger trains to pass and, as they were to time, the loop was left 1½ min early.

With time in hand over Beattock Summit, a kindly signaller routed us through Abington DPL in spite of which Carstairs South Jn was reached early. The topic of conversation was, after entering P1 how would the Dn Main be rejoined? Was there a missing crossover on Nov 2017 TRACKmaps perhaps? An Edinburgh to Glasgow service then left, allowing the tour to proceed to discover that P1 is on the west side of the island, not the east - problem solved! The kindly signaller routed the tour non-stop through Law DPL, probably knowing Shieldmuir Royal Mail Terminal was not possible on this occasion as the single track was occupied by two stabled Class 325 EMUs with no driver available to move them.

Motherwell was passed 21 min early so another treat was the Down Braidhurst GL where 68007 and 88007 were in the sidings. At Mossend North Jn No3 the fascinating Down Reception (booked No4) was taken while on the right the Up Sidings were well filled with Class 66, 86 and 90 locos in various liveries. The Down Departure line brought our train out to the Down Coatbridge at the North Exit.

An extended break and leg stretch was taken in the sunshine at Coatbridge Central reducing the early running. A slow passage through Coatbridge DGL (by the intermodal terminal with stacks of containers showing height variations from 8' to 9' 6"), and it was left on to the 'Gartcosh Single' (the only requirement of the day for one Baker 'Consultant') from Gartsherrie South Jn to Gartcosh Jn. The latter was passed on time after an 11 minute signal stop. This was the start of the intensive Glasgow suburban network with the non-electrified connection to St Rollox trailing in left; subsequently the Eastfield Passenger Loop was reached via the direct connection at 0m 04ch.

WCRC staff, BLS Stewards, St John Ambulance representatives and others (including members of the Adlam family!) during the stop at Coatbridge Central station.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Some young volunteers; the tour raised funds for St John Ambulance and here Jennie Adlam of SJA and daughter Brodie stand by the cab of 37685 at Coatbridge Central. Husband/dad is of course Kev Adlam.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

WCRC 47772 'Carnforth TMD' on the rear at Coatbridge. Special dispensation was given to take this photo as ScotRail EMU 320312 departs southbound with the 12.21 Cumbernauld to Dalmuir.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

St John Ambulance's volunteer Eva Szabo tries out the driver's seat at Coatbridge.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

After 8 minutes the tour left the loop with 47772 leading, retracing our route to Springburn, where the connection from Sighthill East Jn to the P3 & 4 line junction in the Down Springburn was traversed. These few chains (a Connection of Strategic Importance) are expected to lose their passenger trains in the December timetable change as trains to/from Bellgrove Jn will use P3 & 4 only and those at P1 & 2 will use the Stepps lines only.

The tour made for the single lead Bellgrove Jn and almost immediately turned left over the also single lead High Street Jn to join the City of Glasgow Union Line (proposed for passenger re/opening as another cross city line) to the complicated Shields Jn area. The Dn Ayr was taken on the now three track section to Paisley with a 30 min observation (from Paisley DGL) of the Ayrshire EMU fleet at work thrown in too. At Elderslie East Jn the facing crossover to Elderslie UPL was taken, where a facing connection leads to the now rarely used WH Malcolm intermodal sidings. After a short pause the tour regained the Dn Ayr via the trailing crossover at Elderslie West Jn. Brownhill DPL was reached early with departure on time.

Approaching Barassie Jn a diverted Daventry to Mossend Intermodal with 66434 & 68006 was passed and the tour paused for four minutes during a route discussion. Although booked for Barassie DPL it had been set for the Dn Ayr which was eventually taken. Then it was past the underutilised Prestwick Airport with its long runway and centre for Prestwick Oceanic Control for the air routes over the Atlantic (at least aviation fuel regularly arrives by rail from Grangemouth!). Falkland DGL was taken non-stop with the once busy Falkland Yard to the right devoid of even a single wagon. With a brief pause at Newton-on-Ayr (the break had been moved to Dumfries), the railtour became 1Z50 and turned left onto the now lightly used freight line to Mauchline. To the right were the derelict remains of Ayr locomotive depot '67C', later diesel stabling sidings, which had many 4-4-0s & 'Crab' 2-6-0s in 1955 based there for passenger and heavy freight work respectively. Then, at Blackhouse Jn, the track bed of the third side of the triangle came in on the right from Hawkhill Jn closed 5 May 1975 with the diversion of the Stranraer - Euston sleeper via Barassie and Kilmarnock. At Annbank Jn the line to Killoch Washery (Open Cast Disposal Point) still branches off right and even has occasional coal trains!

Meanwhile the tour climbed to Mauchline to join the Glasgow & South Western line from Glasgow. After Polquhap summit was Bank Jn now for the Greenburn branch, the other remaining rail served open cast disposal point in Scotland. Taking the 10mph New Cumnock UGL, well behind P2, reminded participants that the delightfully named Crowbandsgate Coal Terminal was one of the coal casualties - completely clear of the black stuff and the access line blocked by large stone blocks. The last 'on the day Adlam bonus' was Thornhill UPL which was traversed at slow speed. A 23 minute break at Dumfries, now a shadow of the station when it was the junction for Stranraer, allowed various takeaways to be acquired and 66618 photographed on a northbound engineer's train. It is still an attractive station where a monthly Farmers' Market is held on the site of the two former Stranraer line bays with their fine overall glass roof. Passenger services have become more frequent recently and refreshment trolleys are even now provided on the DMUs. 156434 slept quietly in Leafield Road Yard.

The line back to England is level alongside the Solway Firth. After passing Gretna Green (for which there had been no set down request for marital reasons), it was back under the wires at the single lead Gretna Jn. The Up Goods was taken from Mossband Jn to Caldew Jn then the Up Main to Carlisle North Jn before crossing to P1 with 57308 alongside again. An uneventful passing of Shap Summit preceded slowing for the booked cross to the Down side (and back) via Tebay U&DGL - success (!) - the third attempt to do this in recent years including the facing crossover before and the trailing one after.

At Carnforth, No1 DGL was traversed non-stop with its double slip in and single slip out before a last glimpse of the sea at Hest Bank. Preston P6 rather than the booked P3 was used and, on departure, the tour crossed to the Up Slow to Balshaw Lane Jn. After Wigan NW P1 the UG was traversed to Bamfurlong Jn, the US to Golborne Jn and again from Winwick Jn to Warrington BQ P2. From Acton Bridge the tour was booked UF to Crewe Coal Yard, then US, but was routed US all the way to arrive P5 35 sec late. [As we had left 33 seconds late in the morning we were only delayed 2 seconds really - Ed.]

This was some 16 hours 56 min and 2 sec after departure from the same platform after 530m 32ch; very good value for £84, less than £5 per hour for all that entertainment. On the day there had been the usual charity raffle ['Thank you' to all who have donated prizes for all our raffles - Ed.], sales of window decals etc enabling the Society to donate £1,500 to St John Ambulance, some of whose volunteers assisted on the tour, handing out information and talking to participants etc.

Crewe P5 - Crewe South Jn - Down (Dn) Siding end of line 157m 21ch (rev) - Crewe P5 - Dn Slow (158m 56ch) - Dn Main - Hartford Jn - Dn Fast - Dn Main - Acton Grange Jn - Dn Helsby - Warrington South Jn - Warrington BQ P3 - Dallam Jn - Up Slow - 183m 40ch - Dallam Royal Mail (RMT) P2 (Rev) - RMT P1 (Rev) - Up Slow (183m 40ch) - Winwick Jn - Dn Main - Golborne Jn - Bamfurlong Jn - Dn Slow - Dn & Up Passenger Loop (Pass Lp)- X/O to Wigan NW P5 - Dn Main - Balshaw Lane Jn - Dn Slow - Skew Bridge Jn - Dn Goods (Gds) - Preston Ribble Jn - Preston Up & Dn Gds Loop (P7) - Dn Through - Dn Main - Barton & Broughton Dn Pass Loop - Dn Main - Dn Slow (Penrith P3) - Upperby Bridge Jn - Dn Gds Loop - Upperby Jn - Carlisle P3 - Dn Main - Quintinshill Dn Pass Loop - Abington Dn Pass Lp - Carstairs Station Jn - Dn platform (73m 25ch) (Carstairs P1 shown incorrectly as P2 on Nov 2017 TRACKmaps) - Dn Main - Law Dn Pass Lp - Dn Coatbridge - Dn Braidhurst Gds Lp - Mossend North Jn - Mossend Yard No3 Dn Reception - Dn Departure Line - Dn Coatbridge - (95m 16ch) - Dn Gds (Coatbridge FLT) - Gartsherrie South Jn - Gartcosh Jn - Sighthill East Jn - Up Springburn - Down Springburn (0m 04ch) - Eastfield Pass Lp (rev) - Dn Springburn (0m 04ch) - Dn Springburn - Bellgrove Jn - High St Jn - Dn City Union - Shields Jn (2m 27ch) - Dn Ayr - Arkleston West Jn - Dn Gds Lp - Dn Ayr - Elderslie East Jn - Up Pass Lp - Elderslie West Jn - Dn Ayr - Brownhill Dn Pass Lp - Dn Ayr - Newton Jn - Mauchline Jn - New Cumnock Up Gds Lp - Thornhill Up Pass Lp - Up Main -Gretna Jn - Mossband Jn - Up Avoiding/Arrival - Up Goods - Caldew Jn - Up Main - Carlisle P1 - Up Main - Tebay Up & Dn Gds Lp - Carnforth No1 Up & Dn Gds - Up Main - Preston P6 - Up Slow - Balshaw Lane Jn - Wigan NW P1 - Up Gds - Bamfurlong Jn - Up Slow - Up Main - Winwick Jn - Up Slow - Dallam Jn - Up Fast - Warrington BQ P2 - Up Main - Acton Bridge - Up Slow - Up Main - Winsford South Jn - Up Slow - Crewe P5. (By Martyn Brailsford & Paul Stewart)

Dumfries looking towards Glasgow during the break. The former Stranraer line bays are at the other end of the station on the left.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]

Dumfries looking towards Glasgow during the break. The former Stranraer line bays are at the other end of the station on the left.
[© Ian Mortimer 2018]

BLS Steward Dan Hitchens is in charge of the St John Ambulance sales stand.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Another young volunteer, Ruby who (or her brother, Archie) can be regularly seen on our railtours and are the future of the Society. Resistance is futile; the only question is how many raffle tickets would you like?
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Mileage table

Epilogue: St John Ambulance (SJA) North West region were delighted with our donation which enabled them to buy an SJA printed gazebo, a feather flag with ground spike (so that people can locate them quickly at a venue), folding chairs, tympanic ear thermometers and, something they desperately needed an electronic mobile hand wash sink/basin. Thank you to everyone who made this all possible.

The charity provides first aid training to over 400,000 UK people a year (250,000 for their workplace), over half are under 18 years old. SJA campaigns to raise awareness of first aid and educate the public; their volunteers provide first aid in their communities including first responders attending emergency calls until an ambulance arrives. Medical cover is also provided for many varied events.

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