Nobody can deny the thrill of a race, it seems to have been drilled in to our minds as railway kids of the 90’s the race between Thomas and Bertie shown during the televised adaptation and the way Ringo Starr would narrate with excitement as if he himself was in those carriages as the little blue engine sped through 0 gauge model railway heaven.
Rumour had been circulating for the days leading up to the run, that something was going on. The timings of a seamless London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley run had made their way in to the enthusiast circles, and it would appear hints were being dropped everywhere. But it wouldn’t be until 7am on Saturday 25th April (2009) that we would have the exact information we needed. Jeremey Clarkson on A1 No. 60163 ‘Tornado’, the new build which had only recently taken the whole steam movement by storm, would be pushing the limits of heritage steam running on a 21st Century rail network with a run of 8hrs 2 mins between the capitals. Not fast? Well considering that in the days when steam locomotives could take on water while moving (from troughs between tracks) the run was usually made around the 6 hour mark, and the current 75mph limit enforced on steam, it has been one of the faster schedules to be produced by Network Rail with the cooperation of National Express East Coast of keeping the route ahead relatively clear. The question was, would either James May in the Jaguar XK120 or Richard Hammond on the Vincent Black Shadow beat that time to Edinburgh while also sticking to roads available to use in the 1960’s.
To much surprise, the evening was starting to draw in by this point. Memory serves that it was definitely turning on half 5 before the hum and puck of a motorbike was heard turning the corner off North Bridge and down towards the steps of The Balmoral. Clad in black and drawing up in ever a nonchalant manner, the elegance of such a late arrival was only ruined by the hilarious dismount which could only be summed up with the image of a pensioner attempting to dismount a bull during mid-rodeo! But Richard Hammond had arrived. Last, yes, no question about that – to watch the comedic act of all three presenters together while they questioned ‘Hamster’ of his lost time (questioned being a kind word…) did make it worth waiting for. Even including for audience participation, I think we were egged on to have a laugh at the expense of the bike breakdowns. Must have been painful!
After another ten minutes of filming though, the three retreated to what I suspect would be another few well deserved pints, but it wasn’t before the crowd of public gathered had managed to get in some camera time of their own.
…First one to spot Fraser and I at Waverley wins.