SRPS Railtours in 2018
Forth Circle Steam Specials on 21 April 2018
SRPS Railtours 2018 programme opened with Forth Circle Steam Specials. The ten coach train hauled by Jubilee Class 45690 Leander comprised the locomotive, support coach and nine passenger coaches. As in previous years there were two excursions round the Forth Circle. The morning train was from Linlithgow and the afternoon train from Inverkeithing. The weather was excellent with almost unbroken sunshine, giving good views of The Forth Bridge, Fife Coast and the Ochil Hills. On the afternoon train SRPS Railtours welcomed aboard over 100 delegates of the Fedecrail Conference (European Federation of Museum & Tourist Railways). 45690 performed excellently and the trains ran close to time throughout the day.
Charter from Newcastle to Inverness on 7 May 2018
This ten coach North East Railtours charter was top-and-tailed by GBRf 47 727, newly repainted in Caledonian Sleeper teal green, and 66 728 Institute of Railway Operators. There were good views of sunrise over the North Sea as the train ran north along the East Coast and over the Forth Bridge. Passengers were able to leave the train at Pitlochry, Aviemore or Inverness. The weather was dull and wet on arrival at Inverness, but quickly improved during the visit and for the return journey was sunny providing excellent views along the Highland Line. The train ran close to time for most the day and due to deferred engineering works was able to run ahead of time on the return journey reaching Newcastle 45 minutes early.
Dundee to Ravenglass & Grange-over-Sands on 12 May 2018
This tour started from Dundee and ran via Fife and Edinburgh. The nine-coach train was top-and-tailed by DB-Cargo Royal Train locos 67 005 Queen's Messenger and 67 006 Royal Sovereign and ran close to schedule for most of the day. The route was over Beattock Summit to Carlisle then along the Cumbrian Coast line. The weather was clear and bright giving views of the Lakeland Fells and across the sea. Passengers were able to enjoy a trip on the narrow gauge railway from Ravenglass to Eskdale or travel by coach from Grange-over-Sands to Lake Windermere for a cruise to Bowness-on-Windermere on England's largest lake. For the return journey the route was via Carnforth then over Shap Summit. The train ran close to time throughout the day.
Routes and Branches on 1 & 2 June 2018
This marathon enthusiasts' tour started on Friday evening from Bo'ness and comprised three sections; overnight and daytime Routes and Branches, and Neilston or Bust. Overall a total of about 600 miles was travelled. The fully booked seven-coach train was top-and-tailed overnight by preserved diesel 37 025 Inverness TMD and 84 401 Mons Meg. The evening featured an electric-hauled run on the newly electrified line between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street. The overnight section specifically included branches which cannot normally be visited by special trains during the daytime timetable and visited Ayr, Largs, Larkhall, Balloch and Helensburgh, finishing with an electric-hauled run via Airdrie and Bathgate to Edinburgh.
The daytime section continued to North Berwick then to Millerhill where SRPS-owned 37 403 Isle of Mull replaced 86 401. This was the first time an SRPS owned diesel hauled an SRPS Railtours train on the main-line. The tour then ran to Waverley, round the Suburban Circle and along the freight branch from Portobello to Leith South. The next section took the train over the Forth Bridge to Fife and included the Inverkeithing North Curve and the line from Dunfermline via Longannet to Stirling. The tour then continued via Maryhill and Anniesland to Glasgow Queen Street Low Level.
The evening Neilston or Bust section ran via the Coatbridge Sunnyside chord to Mossend Yard where three coaches were detached for the section to Neilston. The train ran beyond the station to the reversing siding. This is thought to be the first locomotive-hauled passenger train to Neilston since the line was truncated in 1964. The three coaches were re-attached at Mossend and the train returned to Bo'ness with 37 leading - the first time it has hauled a passenger train on the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.
The weather throughout the day was generally hot and sunny with some thundery showers late in the afternoon. Despite several significant delays due to late and failed ScotRail trains and signalling errors, the train covered all the main sections and returned only a few minutes late. Thanks are due to GBRf, the AC Locomotive Group, DRS and the Scottish 37 Group for their help in ensuring the success of this railtour.
Paisley to Kyle of Lochalsh on 9 June 2018
This nine-coach train was double-headed from Paisley by GBRf 73 967 and 73 966 and ran via Maxwell Park, Hamilton and Motherwell. Passengers were able to take a short break at Inverness where 73 969 and 73 968 were attached to the rear of the train. The weather was clear and mostly sunny apart from a thundery shower between Achnasheen and Strathcarron. This was the first time that a class 73 locomotive had run to Kyle of Lochalsh and this train had four of them. The train ran close to time throughout the outward journey but at Kyle a problem was identified with the provision of radio siganalling in the loco which was to lead on the return journey. This was solved by swapping two locos but by then the train was required to wait until after the next ScotRail departure, resulting in a delay of two hours. Although by Stirling this delay had been reduced it was decided to run only as far as Burnside and passengers for Paisley and Maxwell Park were taken by coach from Cumbernauld, which had prior to the tour been arranged as an option to give those passengers an earlier return than remaining on the train.
Charter from Linlithgow to London on 16 June 2018
This ten coach 52A Tours charter was hauled by preserved Deltic diesel 55 009 Alycidon between Newcastle and London King's Cross. From Linlithgow the train was hauled by DB-Cargo 67 020. Most passengers joined at Newcastle from where 55 009 took over and performed excellently with prolonged running at around 100mph, the design speed of the Deltics. Arrival in London was a few minutes early and passengers enjoyed three hours in the capital in pleasant warm and sunny weather. The return train arrived back in Edinburgh a few minutes early, where the tour finished due to engineering works on the Edinburgh - Glasgow line.
Glenrothes to Whitby on 23 June 2018 - Cancelled
Following the success of the last excursion to Whitby in 2016, it was decided to run a similar tour. However in the two weeks prior to the date various problems became apparent due to changes in the NYMR and Northern Rail timetables. The timetabling problem was part of a widespread issue which featured prominently in the national press and media. The plan was changed so that the train would terminate at Middlesbrough with coaches taking passengers onward, but then on the afternoon of the day before we were informed that due to illness the Train Operating Company could not provide a driver and the tour had to be cancelled. Volunteers then managed to inform almost all passengers of the situation by phone, text and email and also went to each station at the departure time for any who had failed to pick up the messages. It's nearly thirty years since an SRPS Railtours excursion was cancelled at such short notice and we can only hope it will be as long before it happens again.