Railtour Review: ‘Hoovers’ conquer Cumbria!

Our ‘Cumbrian Hoovers’ railtour on April 14 saw crowds turn out to witness the rare sight of Class 50s on the Carlisle to Barrow line. John Heaton FCILT reports on a fantastic day, which saw all profits go to The Railway Children charity.

A RAILTOUR sponsored by Rail Express should be a prime candidate for a headline pair of classic traction, and so it proved on April 14 with Pathfinder’s ‘Cumbrian Hoovers’ trip from Birmingham International to Carlisle in co-operation with the Class 50 Alliance, Riviera Trains and GB Railfreight.

The tour was booked for two Class 50s to cover some 473miles, and Nos. 50049 Defiance (leading outbound) and No. 50007 Hercules were rostered – both in blue livery but the former sporting the large logo version.

The outward journey after leaving the West Midlands was a dash down the West Coast Main Line to Wigan before cutting across via Hellifield to the Settle & Carlisle Line. The return took the scenic option via the Cumbrian coast and Barrow to Carnforth before another high speed opportunity back up the WCML to Stafford, New Street and Birmingham International.

Blue sky and sunshine greeted ‘The Cumbrian Hoovers’ on the return leg from Carlisle as it headed round the edge of the Lake District and brought the very rare sight of Class 50s on the route. In this shot at Nethertown, between Whitehaven and Seascale, No. 50007 leads No. 50049 and 13 vehicles as the 1Z52/14.05 Carlisle to Birmingham International. Phil Chilton

The day started in fine style with the presentation of the stock some half an hour before departure time, giving Rail Express readers time to settle in comfortably and assess their train. Ten Mk.2 passenger coaches, a Mk.2 former TFO, a Mk.1 restaurant car and the crew support/generator van comprised a tare load of 454tonnes tare – or some 500tonnes with its full passenger complement and 730tonnes including the two locos.

Timings proved a little tight on the first stages caused by signal checks approaching Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton. A 5min pathing allowance all but catered for the second category, but the train was 4min late on its way to Stafford with the maximum speed up to that point being 70mph after Lea Hall.

The stretch from Bushbury Jct to the outskirts of Stafford has been raised to 125mph, but remains at 90mph for loco-hauled trains. Our pair of ‘50s’ easily maintained this speed down the gentle falling gradients before another signal check intervened after Penkridge.

The restart from Stafford was 6min late, booked fast line via the Doxey Junction crossings immediately north of the station. It was here that our pair of locos were really given their head, forging up the gradients of around 1-in-550 and reaching 98mph at the foot of the final 3miles to Whitmore summit, which was taken at 94mph. Speed then touched 100mph for the first time in the day. The average speed for the 7.34miles from Stableford to Betley Road was an impressive 98.2mph (see table).

Read more in the June issue of RE – on sale May 18!

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