Tyseley based Vintage Trains railtour operations, ‘The Caledonian’, had both!
But Britain’s shift in to near Sahara climate conditions was to spell trouble for the tour. A few days previous, ‘The Cathedral’s Explorer’ returning south over Beattock with A4 No. 4464 “Bittern” had set much of the surrounding line side vegetation alight, causing much delay. Network Rail weren’t taking any chances; a diesel would assist the train due to the fire risk.
So apart from my train being slightly delayed in to Oxenholme, everything had been okay heading up from Cheshire. I was on my own, but quite content reading the National Preservation forums and discovering the issues that were coming to hand. But my own issue soon evolved as soon as I stepped in to that taxi. “Can you take me to Docker please” I asked. “Sure, I know where that is. Right next to the railway line isn’t it?” the driver remarked back. “Yeah, a few miles up the road I’m sure”.
Now, any railway photographers familiar with the photo spots of the area, look left:
Issue No. 2, a freight train failure on Shap, meaning nothing was coming South. Including the steam tour. So without any hesitation, I headed up to Carlisle to have a break and some lunch, and to also catch the departure of “Earl Of Mount Edgcumbe” on the second leg to Scotland. I had checked in advance of my own trains, realising I could watch the steam depart Carlisle to the North, then catch the next Edinburgh bound Transpennine Service, and still make it to capital before the tour.
The ‘NatPres’ forums gave information which would not give better light for the next day. The diesel would be assisting on the read for the whole of the Forth Circle trip from Linlithgow, round Fife to Stirling. Also, it being a Sunday meant I wouldn't be able to get around so easily to see the tour. So instead, I settled for a cycle up to the Lumphinnan’s Curve not far from my home, to grab a shot of the Great Western pedigree on my home turf. I’ve done some difficult cycles before, but the two miles there and again back in that heat was one which did a lot to make me sweat!
And she didn’t disappoint. With a shrill whistle, you could begin to see Tyseley’s finest come in to sight on the far side of the bridge. I decided to then recruit Cammy for help, as I clambered up on to a wall ( with quite a bush filled steep drop the other side ) to gain some added height for the photo. Thanks Cammy! Certain Death may have occurred without you…
And so what must be a unique sight, a Great Western ‘Castle’ with a rake of Chocolate and Cream stock behind, crossing the Forth Bridge, unfolded before us. Indeed, the red of the tubular pillars of the bridge did well to hide the maroon Class 47 at the rear.
The tour may have went, off-plan to say the least, but surely the photo below sums up exactly what Vintage Trains were trying to achieve. Something special, something unique. And yes, the tour experienced further operational difficulties. Two diesels for assistance was the order of the next day, with the ‘Castle’ very nearly being made to stay at Bo’ness due to the fire risk. But the team at Vintage Trains battled to have their mascot return to base with the tour. And they had conquered the goal. The engine made it to Scotland and back. And many congratulations have to be given to the team at Tyseley, for they could have easily thrown in the towel and cancelled the run.
Maybe a second go in future years is on the cards?