Thursday, 16 October 2014

The 'Firsts' Keep Happening for 76084

The Great Central Railway (GCR) is a heritage line with a difference. 

76084 being there as one of the operating fleet during October she is clocking up a number of 'firsts' since being restored and returned to traffic in July 2013.

  1. Operating on a 'mainline' - the GCR is Britain's only mainline heritage railway and you are transported back to the days of regular steam trains be they passenger or freight passing each other at speed rather than in passing loops with attendant token exchange.
  2. Pulling a Travelling Post Office - the Railway Vehicle Preservations set of operating TPO vehicles are a quality piece of railway restoration and 76084 has been privileged to be the motive power on 2 demonstrations during the Autumn Steam Gala which leads to the next 'first'. Video can be seen here.
  3. Running at 40 mph - the TPO demonstrations have to be done at a raised speed and the GCR is the only heritage line that can run at up to 75 mph compared to 25 mph on most heritage railways. So running at 40 mph on the TPO is another first.
  4. Windcutter train - the GCR is the home of this project and 76084 was again privileged to be motive power on one mineral wagon turn as can be seen here.
There are bound to be more 'firsts' on the Great Central. Have I missed any out? Of course, if you have ridden behind her at the GCR then it must have been a personal first.

If you haven't seen 76084 performing on the GCR then time is running out. She will be in service on the next 2 weekends before returning to the North Norfolk Railway to take part in their Santa season.

Friday, 10 October 2014

76084 Recreating Great Central History

One of the key points of heritage railways is their recreation of the lines' history. Sometimes the locomotive classes worked on that line in normal service, sometimes they did not.
   The 76000s -BR Standard Class 4s -did work along the old Great Central main line. So although 76084 itself worked around the North West others could be found on the GC 50 to 60 years ago. A photo in a recent "Steam Railway" shows 76036 ready to leave Marylebone with a two coach parcels train for the GC main line in April 1963. Looking at my copy of the thorough RCTS "British Railways Standard Steam Locomotives" Volume 2 shows more of them working on the southern end of the GC plus others working along the route of current heritage GCR. In fact 76036 was one of ten (76035-76044) delivered to Neasden shed in mid 1954 which were used on suburban and parcels trains between Marylebone -Aylesbury plus goods trains between Neasden -Woodford Halse and Aylesbury -Quainton Road. In June 1955 76035 was now at Woodford Halse shed and was seen on Leicester Central -Marylebone semi-fasts. By the summer of 1958 76035 -76044 could still be seen on semi-fast passenger trains from London -Leicester, Neasden - Woodford Halse goods and Marylebone -Aylesbury suburban services. After Neasden shed closed in 1962 76035 -76043 moved to Cricklewood shed on the MIdland Division but continued to work on the GC line. On July 17th 1962 76037 replaced ailing B1 61106 on the six coach 12.25 pm Nottingham Victoria -Marylebone at Woodford Halse then "easily kept time reaching a maximum of 81 mph down the 1 in 105 gradient between Amersham and Chorley Wood." By 1964 76035/37/39/41/89 were based at Willesden which was now responsible for locomotive workings on the Marylebone line.
   What about 76000s running along the line forming the present GCR between Loughborough -Leicester North (Belgrave & Birstall)? Daytime Marylebone -Sheffield Victoria or Manchester London Road expresses were replaced in 1960 by Marylebone -Nottingham semi-fasts which were regularly hauled by Standard 4s "which were capable of fast running" in tight timings. This seems to have lasted several years.
    So when you see 76084 on the Great Central on a weekend this October or, better still, ride behind it, you will be riding behind a member of a locomotive class which worked along there in  the 1950s and 1960s.

76084 on Windcutter rake of mineral wagons

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

76084 at Leicester North (GCR) October 2nd 2014

                            76084 STEAMING ON THE GREAT CENTRAL
Attending the Great Central Railway's gala marked the third heritage line on which 76084 has run since the completion of restoration last year. It is different in character from the other two. While the North Norfolk is a coastal line with one main steep bank and the East Lancs has more gradients and sharper curves around the Pennine hills the GCR is a preserved section of main line. So here 76084 has long stretches of straight track, much more gentle curves and gradients typically as easy as 1 in 176. Our locomotive went past an impressive array of signals, passed the extensive Swithland Sidings and on the long double track section passed other trains without having to wait until both were in a station.
    76084 steamed well on the first two days when I attended and by all accounts did so on the other two. In attendance throughout the gala were some of the Restoration Team, mainly from the North East, who prepared the engine from 6 am and disposed of it at the end of the day. There was plenty of chatter from 76084's chimney on the variety of passenger and goods trains it hauled as well as clouds of steam billowing from it to see and smell. Whatever the train it performed well and made an impressive sight at the head of all of them. With these different trains and passing others on the double track it was just like a main line scene of the 1950s or 1960s -when 76084 was in BR service.
    The Great Central is to be congratulated not only for developing into such a major railway but also for the intensive services provided during the gala. Even on the 'quieter' first two days you didn't have to wait more than 10 to 15 minutes to see another train. Thanks to the loco crews and plenty of uniformed platform staff station stops were smart and the trains were soon on their way again. The possibilities when the GCR has the missing bridge put back in at Loughborough to link up with the GCR (N) are exciting. A heritage main line railway from the outskirts of Leicester to the outskirts of Nottingham.
    76084 played its part well in the gala, attracting plenty of attention. As well as shareholders and those who restored there were others who came to see and ride behind it. It was a delight to see, hear and smell it in action again. It proved what we always knew it would be: an economical 'big' (i.e. tender) locomotive ideal for pulling heritage railway trains.
    76084 is scheduled to haul weekend trains at the GCR for the rest of October. The GCR is in a central England location. If travelling any distance it's probably best to contact the GCR beforehand to check when it is running. Otherwise, why not go to see 76084 and travel behind it yourself?!