The Main Line Show Is Back On The Road
5305LA 'Black Five' No. 45305 kicked off the February Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express season last Saturday by hauling a completely sold out 11 coach train for the Railway Touring Company from Preston to Carlisle via the famous Settle to Carlisle line and back to Carnforth over Shap. The remainder of the tour, from and to Euston station, London, was in charge of a preserved electric Class 86 locomotive. The motive power throughout the day thus provided interest for a wide range of enthusiasts.
45305 had moved to Carnforth from its winter storage at the National Railway Museum, York, the previous day, confounding many intended linesiders by arriving two hours early.
Although overloaded by the standards of BR days, the 'Five' performed well in difficult, snowy conditions. The climb from Settle Junction to Ribblehead was attacked with gusto and, under the conditions, a good speed was maintained. Operating problems at Carlisle caused delays in what was already a very tight turnround, resulting in a late departure from the Border City. 45305 tackled the long climb to Shap with as good a performance as could have been asked for, given the load and the extremely tricky rail conditions. With service trains approaching behind, it was deemed necessary by the signallers to put the charter into Grayrigg loop to allow these to pass. Despite being nearly an hour late at Carnforth, where the 'Five' was detached and moved to the West Coast Railway Co. depot there, it appeared that the vast majority of the passengers on the packed train enjoyed the steam section of their day out. The fact that it was so good is testament to the footplate crew, all experienced with the route and/or the locomotive - which just goes to show that if you have the right men for the job, the job will get done.
The remaining three Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express charters, which run on consecutive Saturdays in February, are also reported to be fully booked. These have been so successful in capturing the travelling public's imagination that a fifth trip has been added on the 31st March. All will each feature a 5305LA loco, either 45305 (18th February on a double header with another 'Black Five') or 70013 Oliver Cromwell (11th and 25th February, 31st March). This is a triumph for the 5305 Locomotive Association, whose suggestion it was to run with steam over the Settle to Carlisle line in winter, recreating the ambience of similar trips that took place in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, at Loughborough, in the snow, a gallant team were washing out No. 70013, removing the old brick arch and installing a new one, plus a bag load of other small "fettling jobs" in advance of her departure to main line duties in a few days.