The Branch Line Society


Class 319 Farewell / Cauldwell Depot Salute
Sunday 4th June 2017

Report by Matthew Dodd *

I have to admit that I was looking forward to working closely with Kev and the Branch Line Society again, after the successful 'Thameslink Tracker' in Jul 2015. With the imminent demise of the Class 319 on Thameslink duties, and Cauldwell Depot that maintained them what better an opportunity to go and look at how the Thameslink route has been transformed, while scratching off some unusual track, and raising money for important charities?



The final service ran on 27 Aug; 15.06 Bedford to Brighton, returning 18.14 to reach Bedford at 20.59. Cauldwell Depot will remain and be altered to accommodate 12-car Class 700 EMUs for stabling and cleaning.

Early morning at Cauldwell Depot, Bedford with another really great day in prospect on both the weather and railtour fronts.
[© Ian Mortimer 2017]

The night before the tour was dominated by another frightful terrorist attack (near London Bridge station); more innocent victims were butchered in the name of extremism. This attack left an indelible impression on me, and I felt it important to hold a one minute silence on the trip as a tribute to those affected by these terrible events. My gratitude to the tour participants for observing this on the day.

Sun 4 Jun dawned sunny and warm. Our allocated EMU, 319425, had been painstakingly prepared by Colin Harbord and his team at Cauldwell Depot, and even carried Network South East flashes on the front end doors; a metaphorical doffing of the cap to the sector of BR that introduced these successful trains dominating Thameslink services for 29 years. The planned naming of the unit 'Cauldwell Depot' was unable to take place, unfortunately, as the vinyl nameplates did not arrive at the depot in time.

At 09.14, 5Z79 left Cauldwell Depot on a straight run to Luton to pick up participants. With all supplies loaded, and passengers on board, the train departed from Luton at 09.40 as 1Z79 to London St Pancras. However, as is standard for the BLS, the journey was to be anything other than 'direct.' For the first few miles the train followed the Up Slow line until Cricklewood Depot North Jn, where it diverted via the North Reception Road, Wash Road and a reversal on the Depot Exit Road into Cricklewood South Sidings Road 2. The train was booked to reverse here; however, thanks to our ever-helpful West Hampstead Local Operations Manager (LOM), Robin Morel, a surprise was in store as the train continued to North End Sidings Road 4 stop blocks. This gave a close look at the new Class 700s, the nemesis of the Class 319s, with welcome additional 'red-lines' in the Bakers and TRACKmaps!

Heading into London the train ran initially onto the Up Slow Line, and then, utilising more of the LOM's knowledge of the area, unexpectedly through the bidirectional West Hampstead P2, very rarely used in passenger service, so hopefully welcomed by all. Kentish Town P4, again not normally used in the Up direction, was followed by Churchyard crossovers to reach St Pancras P4. The tour traversed Carlton Road Jn to Kentish Town Jn four times on the day, each time on the bidirectional Down Slow!

Cricklewood Depot North Siding No.4; some of the BLS Team with GTR and NR staff.
[© Geoff Plumb 2017]

After a break the EMU proceeded back to Kentish Town Jn as 1K80 where we crossed back over to the Down Slow to St Albans, except for deviating via the very rare West Hampstead Down Carriage Loop (notable for its rust and jointed track). This was its second passenger train; the first was our 2015 Thameslink tour! Reversal was in the highly sought after St Albans Centre Siding (used by terminating Sutton Loop services ECS) and the tour transmogrified into 1Z81, the 12.47 to Brighton. The Up Slow was taken to Cricklewood South Jn, where the layout was crossed to the Up Hendon (former Watling Street Jn - no 'A5' locos about though), the point (!) where it, fortunately, acquires electrification.

Unfortunately, from here the tour was in the lap of the Gods. As well as the London Bridge terrorist incident, there was a catastrophic signalling issue at Victoria Signalling Centre so the bi-directional Blackfriars P2 reversal planned did not happen. Continuing on the booked route, slow road through South London, the tour accessed the Down Quarry (then the fast line) via a fairly usual Down Slow to Down Quarry Stoats Nest Jn move. For fans of noise, there was a real treat as the train ran on solid greens all the way to Preston Park, and 319425's GEC motors were really making themselves heard! This highlighted what this trip was all about - giving the 319s a really good send off, and showing the Siemens 700s that the old guard weren't going down without a fight! This was a highlight of the day.

The London end of the tour (note the small BLS headboard carried) at St Albans Centre (turnback) Siding - the Country end of the train reached the buffer stops.
[© Geoff Plumb 2017]

At Preston Park another highlight, as the first electric train with passengers to do the Brighton Down Reception Road. Participants then enjoyed a two hour break in the sunshine (some did the new i360 rising vertical observation tower, the world's tallest), while the stock retired to Brighton Down Yard.

The Class 319 Farewell bade farewell to Brighton at 17.40 as 1Z82, notionally to London Bridge via Lewes. However, with the London Bridge incident and a temporary, but no less catastrophic, loss of signalling in Victoria SCC, we set off truly flying by the seat of our pants. At Lewes, very much rare track for the class and, to the delight of those aboard, an unusual P5 through run was made, followed by the trailing crossover beyond to reverse on the Down Main at LW58 signal. Heading off to Keymer Jn, it was into the unknown. In the event the tour ran (as booked), via Haywards Heath P4, and the slow lines from Balcombe Tunnel Jn to Redhill. Much merriment was caused when our EMU began to overtake a Gatwick Express Class 387 on the up fast just north of Stoats Nest Jn! After an East Croydon set down (some subsequently wished they had not alighted - see later), the EMU continued via Crystal Palace and Herne Hill P2 (via the rare crossover from the Tulse Hill route) and to the Thameslink Core.

To compensate for the losses due to the South Side operational issues, the West Hampstead LOM kindly arranged a run via the Down Hendon line behind West Hampstead P4 and then, due to very early running, a bonus trip across to Cricklewood North Sidings Road 2, via Up Goods 1 and on the way out, Up Goods 2. This was much welcome for all aboard; thanks to those involved in arranging it.

Reversing on the Up Hendon, the tour returned to Luton by the Fast Line, a very spirited run indeed - with the holy grail of 100mph reached near Harpenden [but we won't harp on about it]. Not bad for a unit stood down for a while! Despite being booked to terminate at Luton, after a few passenger requests, the tour continued back to Bedford in service with some more fast running concluding an excellent but somewhat emotional day. On arrival back at Bedford, there was a healthy warm aroma coming from the traction motors of 319425! The tour raised the excellent sum of £3,395.84 for the nominated charities.

* Report by Matthew Dodd tour organiser, in a personal capacity, Train Services Manager Govia Thameslink Railway, Great Northern Service Delivery Centre with additions by the BLN Editor. A full moves list for the Class 319 Farewell / Cauldwell Depot Salute will be included in BLN 1289.

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