Vintage Trains was seeking to extend its list of long-range, high-speed non-stop runs by running from Birmingham to London in about two hours, just like the Western Region's named train "The Inter-City" used to do in the 1950's. For some strange reason (surely not copyright?), VT named their train the Marylebone Flyer, but it was good to see the authentic WR headboard on Castle 4-6-0 No 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe.
The run would be facilitated by Tyseley's own General Utility Van, fitted out as a bulk water-carrier and beautifully finished in GWR brown, like the old Siphon Gs. This and seven coaches were hauled into Birmingham Moor Street by the Tyseley 47, with No 5043 at the other end ready for its journey south. At our departure time, the loco-hauled Chiltern Mainline service was only just leaving, but we followed it two minutes later.
Driver Churchill started her gently, but we reached 60 at the M42 just after Widney Manor and 66 at Dorridge. By Lapworth we were up against our 75 limit, but soon after we were slowed to 55 at Hatton - had we caught the Class 67? Speed rose to 74 at Warwick Parkway, but we were slowed after Warwick and went through Leamington Spa at 28. Again we soon worked up well into the seventies, easing back momentarily to 73 through Banbury, by which we were almost back on time. We pressed on and up again until the brakes came on at Kings Sutton and we crawled through Aynho Junction at 17.
We stormed away uphill from this further slack and the high speed running continued right through to the outskirts of High Wycombe, where signal checks began to alternate regularly with further bursts of high speed running, reaching a peak at Denham. From this point on, the fireworks were over as we crept along to a red light beyond West Ruislip, which cleared as we were down to 2 mph. A final burst of speed to 73 at Wembley Stadium was the last shout before an eight minute late arrival. We had achieved a non-stop run with some exciting bursts of speed, but the busy suburban railway had defeated us as we neared London and we stopped at Marylebone eight minutes late, 129 minutes for the 111 miles.
As the afternoon wore on, there were more and more reports at Marylebone of delays and cancellations due to lineside fires, so it was not exactly a surprise (although a great disappointment) when our train returned with a West Coast Class 47 in front of the Castle. The return run was diesel hauled as far as Tyseley station, where the 47 came off to allow the rest of the train to fit into the platform at Moor Street. It was left to our favourite Earl to bark us along to the buffer stops at Moor Street, where as always she looked magnificent, despite the disappointments of the second leg of the trip of two halves.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures