The Branch Line Society


750V Tracker
Sunday 18th January 2015

Departing Hooton two and a half hours late was never on the Fixtures Secretary’s 'to do' list on Sunday 18 January 2015, but raising a huge amount for charity whilst covering some rare 'Baker' and 'Quail' level track certainly was! Merseyrail (MR) announced subsequently at a prestigious partner event that they had raised £105k for the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity their 2014 charity of the year, and were delighted to confirm the role of the Society in contributing £20k.


Presentation of the ceremonial cheque from the farebox before the railtour. Mike Roe, Merseyrail Engineering Director, Andrew Cannell, Chief Executive
of The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity and Paul Holloway of The Railway Mission receive the cheque from Kev Adlam, Branch Line Society Fixtures Secretary.
[© Jim Sellens 2015]

A very unusual weather combination with freezing rain the night before the charter had led to formation of ice on the conductor rail, and units across the network were struggling to draw power as a result. This is a very rare occurrence to this extent. With services at a standstill, rail replacement bus services were instigated. Without replaying the entire morning’s complex events, eventually our stock (first and last 507001 and 508143) passed through Hooton on their way non-stop to Chester on an ad hoc route proving diagram, coupled to four other units, making a rather unique and impressive 18-car set (see video link with e-BLN Pictorial 1225)! Soon they returned to Hooton having cleared the line, and our train was detached. Trade at the Hooton 'M to Go' combined travel centre and shop (a MR feature) was described as ''buoyant'', whilst our special day out received the blessing of local Railway Mission Chaplin Paul Holloway as he delivered an emotional address explaining his own connection with the charity. Once underway, with the train dispatched by MR Engineering Director Mike Roe and Clatterbridge Chief Executive Andrew Cannell, we picked up the remaining passengers at James Street P2 before reversing in the very rarely used Stabling Siding adjacent to the Stock Interchange Line and made our way to West Kirby Siding 1. A platform call was then made to pick up catering supplies and volunteers from Barclays Bank and Clatterbridge who served delightful refreshments (donated free by MR) for the majority of the day; all income added to the fund raising total. Participants could view the recently refurbished 'mini' BLS headboards that were kindly painted and polished to a very high standard especially by MR engineering staff for the Society. After a quick visit to Birkenhead North No7 Road to reverse (and to receive a new windscreen wiper!) we made our way to New Brighton Siding 1&2, one only made possible on the day by Control dispatching its occupant, a spare unit, round the Liverpool Loop during our visit! With sale of souvenirs and raffle tickets well underway, a journey over the highly sought after Stock Interchange Line into Liverpool Central turnback siding was undertaken, with routing at Central carefully managed throughout the day to ensure all rare track was covered.

'Wot no trains?' Some tour participants wait patiently at the south end of Hooton P1/2 for a train. The stock on the left (two units) stable in bay P1
overnight SO being the 23.45 arrival from Chester (the bay's only booked passenger service all week) and the 23.57 ECS arrival from
Ellesmere Port (via Hooton P3 as there is no permissive working in passenger service on P1). They should have formed ECS for the
first Chester and Ellesmere Port workings into Liverpool, but after a couple of hours eventually were joined to form a 'conductor rail
cleaning special' to Ellesmere Port and back then the first passenger working to Liverpool. The steam is from a local waste incinerator!
[© Kev Stroud 2015]

Not all of MR's 1,200 staff will have been on a passenger train through Kirkdale depot wash road on their way to No25 road stop blocks (inside the depot building) but over 280 tour participants enjoyed this as their next move. For safety, the team of onboard Stewards had to ensure all the windows were closed and apply a bit of gentle pressure, as the force of the washer is known to open them. The units looked immaculate again ready for their upcoming reversal and photo opportunity at Aintree; although it was noticeable how well presented they were at Hooton in the morning as the fleet maintenance team had hand cleaned them the previous day. Industrial locomotive enthusiasts were treated to a rare sight at Kirkdale of Niteq 4wBE B226 (2006), a small 'Tug' used primarily for shunting the wheel lathe. This had been moved into a visible position by special arrangement, with thanks to the depot team. After Aintree and passing through Kirkdale depot again behind P2 (also giving two crossovers!), our train reversed in Sandhills Reversing Siding and made its way promptly to Southport where all three DC platforms were covered, as was Southport No10 siding, Wall Siding and Birkdale No1 siding. It had been planned to visit Birkdale No2 siding as well but the points would not operate. Birkdale No3 road was unavailable due to track condition. At Southport station, MR received a 'giant cheque' from the Society payable to Clatterbridge, whilst participants enjoyed complimentary hot drinks (filter coffee too!) courtesy of the TOC. A fast run down the coastal route followed as we made our way wrong line through Liverpool Central to reverse and complete the Liverpool South Parkway crossover, before heading back to Hooton with a little visit to Rock Ferry P2 on the way. This deviation provided a rather unusual move and a rare crossover south of the station. Finally, with 104m 68ch under its belt, the BLS 750V Tracker arrived at Hooton P3 via the facing crossover half a minute early due to very slick operation by MR staff throughout the day! The Fixtures Secretary would like to put on record his immense thanks for everyone involved in the project, in the planning and implementation phases, both at MR and in the Society. Most of all, huge thanks are due to the passengers whose generosity and kindness resulted in a remarkable £20k donation to a very worthy cause. Finally participants would particularly like to thank Kev Adlam for his considerable time and Trojan efforts well before the tour and on the day to ensure such an enjoyable, comprehensive and successful event; the mood on board was great. E-BLN Pictorial 1226 is a special tour souvenir edition.

Participants waiting for the tour were entertained, if not astonished, by a special 'ice busting' 18-car Merseyrail train which ran non-stop
- they didn't dare in case it couldn't get going again - past them (with appropriate sound and spark effects!) to Chester. A video clip
courtesy of Martin Banks: The ensemble returned, our passengers were able to board and the tour
departed after the front 12 cars had gone. This is apparently the longest train Merseyrail have ever run out on the system.
[© Kev Stroud 2015]

With the refurbished, repainted re-polished and resplendent headboards attached front and back and 280 passengers on board,
the tour is ready to leave. News of the charter made the Liverpool Echo see:
[© Jim Sellens 2015]

The tour approaching its booked stop at Liverpool James Street station P2 to pick up the rest of the participants - a rarely used platform - before
heading into the even rarer 'Stabling Siding' which had not been used for many years other than by a test train for our tour a couple of weeks earlier!
[© Robert Pritchard 2015]

The morning comfort break at West Kirby P1 after just completing Siding 1 (on the left) to the buffer stops.
Very welcome refreshments were also taken on board during this stop.
[© Jim Sellens 2015]

The same location, with the other end of the train viewed from the buffer stops.
[© Kev Stroud 2015]

The end of the line (1): Birkenhead North Depot Road 7, the line to Bidston is behind the train, Birkenhead North station (and Liverpool) are to the left.
[© Kev Adlam 2015]

The end of the line (2): Kirkdale Depot Road 25 - the one furthest away from the running lines and specially cleared for the tour.
[© Kev Stroud 2015]

Industrial locomotive enthusiasts were treated to a rare sight at Kirkdale Depot of Niteq 4wBE B226 (2006), a small 'Tug' used primarily
for shunting the wheel lathe, kindly specially positioned for photography, right of centre in background, (taken from the tour train).
[© Kev Stroud 2015]

The usual on-train activities, plus some very
generous donations, raised a further £3000 on the day.

An interesting 1hr 26min Merseyrail Driver Route Learning Video cab ride: which shows, amongst many other things: bidirectional running, Sandhills reversing siding, Kirkdale depot, Southport area, Birkenhead depot, Liverpool Central P2 to James Street via the Stock Line Interchange line, Liverpool Central reversing siding, etc.

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