SRPS Railtours in 2015
Delayed start to 2015 Programme
Due to issues between the train operating company, West Coast Railways, and Network Rail planned excursions in April and early May had to be cancelled or postponed.
Glenrothes with Thornton to Fort William & Mallaig on 23 May 2015
This tour featured steam-haulage between Fort William and Mallaig. Despite the uncertainty in the previous weeks the eight-coach train was well booked. From Glenrothes the train was top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways 47 760 & 47 832. At Crianlarich 47 832 was detached to reduce the length in order to pass an overlength freight train at Tyndrum Upper. From Fort William seven carriages continued to Mallaig hauled by Black Five 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier. On the outward journey the views were stunning, particularly of a flat calm Loch Lomond reflecting the mountains and a clear blue sky. Later in the day it clouded over but remained dry until well into the return journey. The train ran close to time throughout the day.
Ayr to Fort William & Mallaig on 6 June 2015
This tour also featured steam-haulage between Fort William and Mallaig. The seven-coach train was almost fully booked and ran close to time throughout the day. From Ayr the train was top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways 57 316 (in blue livery) & 47 768 Roy Castle, OBE. From Fort William all seven carriages continued to Mallaig hauled by LMS-built Black Five 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier which performed admirably. On the outward journey the weather was extremely poor with rain predominating and the wind whipping up the waves along the Ayrshire coast, on the Clyde and the various lochs. Fort William was particularly wet with many passengers curtailing their hour layover for the dry interior of the train. Soon after leaving Fort William the weather improved, although it was unseasonably cold at Mallaig. It remained mostly dry for the remainder of the journey, with some brighter spells. The organiser could not remember such a poor day weather-wise, especially in June! 57 316 hauled the train back to Ayr.
Glenrothes with Thornton to Leeds, Saltaire & Skipton on 13 June 2015
The forecast of heavy rain proved incorrect and the weather was warm and dry for for passengers visiting the three destinations. SRPS Railtours once again welcomed a large party from Diageo Retirement aboard the train, almost all of whom visited the shops and attractions of Leeds. Other passengers enjoyed an afternoon at the World Heritage Site of Saltaire, whilst the remainder continued to Skipton which was celebrating its annual Gala Day. The Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway arranged to take two coachloads by road to travel on the steam railway. The ten-carriage train was hauled south along the East Coast Main Line by West Coast Railways 47 786 Roy Castle, OBE. For the return journey over the Settle & Carlisle Railway the train was top-and-tailed by 47 786 and two-tone green liveried 47 830 / D1645.
ScotRail Steam Special from Stirling to Inverness and Brora on 20, 21 & 22 June
Under the recently awarded franchise agreement Abellio, operators of ScotRail, are required to run a programme of steam specials on the Scottish network. SRPS Railtours provide the coaches and stewarding for these trains.
The first of these was a series of three trains over three days which were hauled by 60163 Tornado. On Saturday 20 June the train comprising the locomotive, support coach and six SRPS Railtours coaches ran from Stirling to Inverness. The following day was a return trip from on the Far North Line from Inverness to Dunrobin and Brora, the furthest north ever reached by Tornado and on Monday 22 June the train returned from Inverness to Stirling. The weather on Saturday and Monday was good, but on Sunday there was torrential rain for much of the day. Passengers had the option of visiting Dunrobin Castle.
ScotRail Steam Special from Carlisle to Bellshill and Dumfries on 27 June
This train was also hauled by 60163 Tornado with the same carriages as for the previous weekend and the weather was sunny throughout the day. The excursion ran over a circular route heading north from Carlisle along the West Coast Main Line over Beattock Summit then through Wishaw and Holytown to Bellshill. The southbound route was via Paisley and Prestwick, then over the line through Annbank to join the Glasgow & South Western main line at Mauchline. The train called at Dumfries before arriving back on-time in Carlisle.
Forth Bridge 125 Steam Specials on 5 July 2015
These two excursions from Edinburgh were organised to celebrate this year's 125th Anniversary of the Forth Bridge. 60163 Tornado hauled eleven SRPS Railtours coaches and its support coach on two trips from Edinburgh Waverley round the Fife Circle and the Edinburgh Suburban Circle. As the morning train approached the Forth Bridge it was announced that the Bridge had been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from a couple of showers the weather was good with sunny periods giving excellent views across the Forth and of a large cruise liner moored near the Bridge. The train ran close to time throughout.
These trains were to be hauled by 60009 Union of South Africa which unfortunately suffered a serious fault about two weeks before and SRPS Railtours were very grateful that Tornado was available as a very popular replacement. As Tornado required fewer water stops the duration of the tours was reduced requiring the large number of meals to be served very quickly by the volunteers on board who coped admirably.
North Berwick to Kyle of Lochalsh on 18 July 2015
The eight-coach train was top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways 57 315 and 47 804. On both outward and return sections, delays caused by late running service trains were recovered during the journeys. Contrary to a very bleak forecast, the weather was mostly dry and passengers were able to enjoy their visit to Plockton or Kyle of Lochalsh. On the return journey the late evening sunshine afforded excellent views of the mountains with herds of deer on the moorland.
Forth Circle Steam Specials on 6 September 2015
The eight-coach train, hauled by Black Five 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier, comprised the locomotive, support coach and seven SRPS Railtours coaches. The locomotive performed excellently and the train ran close to time throughout. As usual there were two excursions round the Forth Circle, over the Forth Bridge and through Fife, Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire and West Lothian. The morning train was from Linlithgow, but, due to road closures in connection with a cycling event, a significant number of passengers chose instead to join at Dalmeny. The afternoon train was from Dalmeny and Inverkeithing. The weather was sunny throughout affording glorious views of the coast and hills along the route.
These trains were to be hauled by 60009 Union of South Africa but SRPS Railtours were informed only a few days before the excursions that its use had been prohibited due to its involvement in the Borders Railway opening. Instead West Coast Railways arranged at short notice for 45407 to be brought from Fort William to haul the trains.
Royal Opening Train to Tweedbank on 9 September
The opening of the new Borders Railway by Her Majesty The Queen featured a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank hauled by 60009 Union of South Africa. The eight coach train comprised the locomotive and support coach, Pullman car Pegasus which conveyed Her Majesty, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and the First Minister, and six SRPS Railtours carriages for the guests. The departure from Edinburgh was delayed due to fog preventing the Queen's helicopter taking off from Balmoral. All along the route there were large crowds of people with flags and bunting on what was an especially significant day for the Queen as she became Britain's longest serving monarch. The special train featured in the main news item on the TV channels. SRPS Railtours are very honoured to have played a part in such a significant event, a day which the SRPS Railtours volunteer stewards will long remember.
After the formal speeches at Tweedbank the train ran back empty to Millerhill sidings hauled by 67 026 Diamond Jubilee which had been on the rear for the outward journey. The guests returned to Edinburgh later in ScotRail diesel units.
ScotRail Steam Specials on the Borders Railway from 10 September to 18 October
The SRPS Railtours train was chartered by ScotRail for a series of steam specials on the newly reopened Borders Railway. These ran between Edinburgh Waverley and Tweedbank on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays from 10 September until 18 October. SRPS Railtours volunteers were stewards on these trains. The ten-coach trains comprising the locomotive support coach and nine SRPS Railtours carriages were steam-hauled to Tweedbank with a diesel on the rear which hauled the train back to Edinburgh. All but one were hauled by 60009 Union of South Africa. The exception was on Sunday 13 September when the locomotive was 60163 Tornado. The diesel locomotive for the return journey was 67 026 Diamond Jubilee on all days.
Tweedbank to Oban on 19 September 2015
This was the first excursion train to run from the Scottish Borders for over 46 years. The eleven-coach train was top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways 37 518 and 37 669. The train was almost fully-booked, but there had been some late cancellations due to Network Rail pathing issues which resulted in a later return time than expected. Over two hundred passengers joined the train at Tweedbank and a further large number at Galashiels. Many said what an enjoyable, albeit long, day they had. The bright weather made it a good day to view the scenery of the West Highlands and the passengers had over three and a half hours hours in Oban, with some taking the opportunity to sail on the ferry to Mull. The train arrived back at Tweedbank over twenty minutes early.
Linlithgow to Buxton on 3 October 2015
This railtour was organised jointly with North East Railtours. The ten-coach train was top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways 57 601 and 47 851. The route south was via York, Sheffield, the Hope Valley Line and Peak Forest. The departure from Linlithgow was delayed by 50 minutes due to a signalling problem but the train was back on time by Berwick and arrived at Buxton a couple of minutes early. The weather was dry and passengers enjoyed the trip to this attractive spa town and the autumn colours of the Peak District. The return route was via Chapel-en-le-Frith, Whaley Bridge, Stockport, Stalybridge then through Standedge Tunnel, Huddersfield and Wakefield. On the return journey the train terminated at Edinburgh due to engineering works. Passengers were conveyed back to Linlithgow by coach.
Polmont to Fort William Steam Special on 24 October 2015 featuring 44871 & 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier
Once again a steam special was arranged to coincide with the movement of steam locomotives south from Fort William at the end of the Jacobiteseason. The seven-coach train was hauled from Polmont to Fort William by West Coast Railways 47 854 Diamond Jubilee and arrived in Fort William fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. Although the weather northbound started wet it improved further north and, as in previous years, passengers enjoyed seeing large numbers of deer on the moors. At Rannoch the train passed K1 62005 heading south with Jacobite coaching stock. From Fort William to Polmont the ten-coach train, comprising the SRPS Railtours carriages and three support coaches, was double-headed by Black Fives 44871 & 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier. Southbound, the sunshine between heavy showers afforded magnificent views of the autumn colours along the West Highland Line including a spectacular rainbow over Loch Tulla. The locomotives performed excellently and the train arrived back at Polmont a couple of minutes early.
Linlithgow to Lincoln on 4 December 2015
The Christmas Cracker to Lincoln was a nine-coach train top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways 47 802 and 57 313. As in previous years the tour was organised jointly with North East Railtours. Mince pies and mulled wine were served to all passengers before arrival at Lincoln. The bright and sunny weather was ideal for passengers who had over four hours to visit the historic city and its famous Christmas Markets. Christmas Dinner was served on the return journey.
The train ran close to time until reaching Berwick on the return journey. Extremely stormy weather north of Berwick had resulted in the wires being brought down and the line was blocked. Arrangements were made to convey passengers who had boarded at Drem by taxi from Berwick. The train then headed back south, picking up 150 passengers from a stranded Cross-Country service at Alnmouth. After a long detour via Newcastle and Carlisle the train eventually reached Edinburgh four hours late, where transport arrangements had been made for those who did not have cars. The train then returned to Linlithgow. In the extreme weather conditions this was better than for some service trains which were delayed by over seven hours and thanks are due to West Coast Railways for their efforts to alleviate the problems. It was a marathon experience for the SRPS vounteers, many of whom were up for more than 24 hours. Both SRPS Railtours passengers and Cross-Country passengers accepted the situation very cheerily and the buffets did a brisk trade.
This completed an eventful year which has nevertheless proved very successful for SRPS Railtours.