The Branch Line Society


Great Western Tracker III
Saturday 10th May 2014

Three-car DMU 150927 was (again!) provided for our third joint railtour with The Locomotive & Carriage Institution. 161 members of both organisations enjoyed a highly unusual day railtouring courtesy of FGW. £600 was raised for Bodmin & Wenford Railway (BWR), £250 for The Railway Mission, £950 for Railway Children and £100 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Leaving Exeter St. Davids P6 slightly late, we promptly reversed on the Down Main (flood channel overbridge) before enjoying our first highlight of the day, road 12 of Exeter TMD to the buffers with thanks to the staff there. Then it was the new metals at Dawlish following the storm damage rebuilding that had led to the previous deferment of the charter for a wrong road run over the reversible Up Main to Teignmouth. GWR liveried camping coaches were seen, still in use at Dawlish Warren managed by the GWR Staff Association. At Laira Depot (reached via Newton Abbot P1), our shunter appeared in the cab of a Class 08, some passengers even thought we were having rare haulage! After Embankment siding 4 including the tank loop (always previously blocked by train fuel tanks until they stopped running recently), the tour reversed and traversed dead end Carriage Embankment siding 7 to the stabled coaches. As previously the tour avoided the carriage washer by taking the Up road to the buffers before Plymouth Friary but this time reversed to take the Cattewater branch. (see: Huge thanks are due to Tim Maddocks and Barry Trout from NR and Bill Monteith from FGW for enabling us to be the first passenger train in 14 years and probably the last. Considerable effort went into this part of the day so we were delighted to exceed expectations by continuing through the EMR scrap yard gates to the buffer stops.

Returning to Friary, it was off to Plymouth via the Mount Gould Jct. to Lipson Jct. third side of the triangle for a leg stretch. Legs duly stretched, Lostwithiel DGL and Par DGL were completed as booked before calling at Par to enjoy our hot Cornish pasties (included in the fare) made here by Pearns and gone in no time! Jimmy James, Publicity Officer of the BWR arranged this then joined the train to promote their railway. At St. Austell NR staff supervised departure from the Down platform, over the trailing crossover into the Up Siding to just short of the buffers. For some reason, the Exeter end of the DMU filled up with microgricers!

Then it was off to Penzance No.2 Oil Siding and a shunt to complete Long Sea Siding to the operational limit, noting severe storm damage beyond, before reversing in p4 to make the trip over to Penzance T&RSMD. Covering the West End Carriage Reception to just short of the Wash Plant and Up Loop Slopers Siding, the tour arrived in p2 for a break and train clean. The crew kindly shunted it to p3 via the Carriage Reception Line, to cover 3 of Penzance’s 4 platforms in one visit (one enterprising member did all four with a trip to St. Erth and back during the break)!

With everyone and train refreshed, it was off to Exeter but with a few diversions en route (of course). First Truro Yard Road 6, then Par for the connection to p3 and the end of Chapel Siding. A trip up to St. Blazey Signal Box followed (noting the recently condemned turntable) to reverse for the unusual crossover there before the sought after and very rusty Par Through Avoiding Line. Traversing Lostwithiel UGL the tour arrived at Bodmin Parkway to be greeted by NR staff and BWR Operations Manager Phil Hawke. With tremendous help from both parties, including a full possession being taken of the BWR, the train completed the Exchange Siding in full and the short spur connecting the two organisation’s infrastructure. For those members on our November 2013 BWR tour the connection could now be red inked. Insurance issues prevented running onto BWR itself.

Every excellent railtour needs a finale, so we popped into Dock 4 at Plymouth to set down the catering trolley before reversing on Cornwall Loop Viaduct and returning via P8 to Exeter. After 275m 01ch, we said our goodbyes to the train crew, stewards and passengers.

Thanks to everyone who made this superb charter happen, especially our prominent member Stuart Smith, a FGW Plymouth Driver and Editor of the L&CI newsletter who was the original driver behind the GW Tracker tours. FGW continue to be impressed with the level of interest in their operations and discussions are underway as to where we could go next together! See: