The Branch Line Society


Carnforth Charity Charter Cracker
Saturday 8th December 2018

Report by John & Jenny Williamson

The day started dry, and our journey to Carnforth was uneventful. The West Coast Railways Carnforth depot entrance was guarded by a couple of intrepid BLS volunteers, who ensured that only authorised people were allowed in through the gate. Orange vested people were stationed at strategic points along the internal roadway, and cars were being shown to parking spaces near the depot. There were more stewards on the platform to make sure that everyone knew what where space was available. On the west side of the platform, a festively decorated train set was open, and Gravy Train were performing wonders in the buffet car, providing hot drinks and snacks. Mark 2A Tourist Standard Open, 5278 'Melisande', was waiting for us on the east side of the platform.


Who was 'Melisande'? A notice inside the doorway explained that there was a tenuous link to King Arthur, but no-one really knows!

A Class 08 diesel shunter 08485 was marshalled on the southern end and Class 03 03196 on the northern end of the coach. 03196 had a very odd, but somehow appealing, 'Taxi' sign on the roof. Before long, the coach was full with 68 people, including 4 stewards, and maps of the depot layout were being referred to with an air of eager expectation.

The platform, looking south - note the private footbridge.
[© John & Jenny Williamson 2018]

Which way would we go, and what tracks would we be taken on? It was a perfect day to visit as three different train sets with locos were out on the main lines. Nobody had dogs with them, so there was no need to observe the carriage sign to 'Please keep your dog off the seats'. At 10.27, there was a toot from the 03, but this was either a false alarm or a signal for anyone still taking photographs to board without delay. After a second toot, at 10.31, we set off in a northerly direction, and proceeded slowly along the track to the NR boundary, close to the two NR North (Crag Bank) or Downside Sidings. After reversal, we returned past the platform, west of the Steam Workshop, then west of the Carriage Workshop & Paint Shop, on the though line between that building and the Carriage Storage Shed taking the crossover to the former 'Steamtown' passenger line.

We reversed, passing the Steam Workshop to our right, then to the east of the large six road Steam Shed where steam engines 35018 and 61306 were being worked on out in the open. We then crossed over the turntable and went to the end of the five road Diesel Workshop headshunt (adjoining the Steam Shed), stopping close to the buffers at the extremity of the track. During the trip, mince pies were offered to participants. They were generously supplied by Gravy Train Catering, as thanks to the Society for our custom during 2018. We trundled up and down the tracks and crossed crossovers for a while, including through the Coaling Plant and the Ash Plant. We looked at the back of the Carriage Storage Shed at one end of the site and entered the Diesel Workshop (Road 2) at the other end.

For our last southbound trip, 08678, with number 555 on its cabside, joined 08485, and from 11.44 gave us a short spell of extra haulage from the NR boundary to a point between the Carriage Storage Shed and Carriage & Paint Workshop, before dropping off again, leaving us to return to the platform.

The south end of the train at the platform.
[© John & Jenny Williamson 2018]

A (wet) hat was passed round for a well-deserved collection for the crew, Gareth, Ian and Paul, who had worked hard to ensure that we had a splendid trip. Time had overrun a little, and our return arrival was at 11.51, so we were holding up the second group of 68 people. We were therefore asked to please leave as quickly as we could. The reason for this became clear when we found that their cars were being held in a queue near the entrance until there was space for them to park inside the depot.

Unfortunately, as we left, the rain arrived. It is to be hoped that this did not dampen the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the new arrivals for a fascinating trip around a rarely visited rail depot.

Many thanks to all who helped to make these trips possible and to those who volunteered to help on the day, from BLS, PLEG, and West Coast Trains, and of course Gravy Train, who kept participants fed and watered. On the day, over £6,700 was raised for West Coast Railway's sponsored charities, to be split equally between Brooke Action for Horses and Donkeys, and Compassion in World Farming.

Our very own Kev Adlam presenting the cheques
[© Kev Adlam 2018]

Inside the railtour coach.
[© John Williamson 2018]

08485 Inside the shed. Taken by Paul Illingworth and approved for BLN publication by WCR
[© Paul Illingworth 2018]

Crossing the turntable. These pictures were way beyond the call of duty (Paul was soaked). Taken by Paul Illingworth and approved for BLN publication by WCR
[© Paul Illingworth 2018]

03196 leading beside the Carriage Storage Shed with 08485 having been joined by 08678 displaying number 555 on its cabside. Taken by Paul Illingworth and approved for BLN publication by WCR.
[© Paul Illingworth 2018]

08678 displaying number 555 on its cabside leading 08485. Taken by Paul Illingworth and approved for BLN publication by WCR.
[© Paul Illingworth 2018]

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