A two-month absence of main line steam in the north was ended by the return of the two Stanier 4-6-0 thoroughbreds from the Riley and Beet stables, Black Five No 44871 and Jubilee No 5690 Leander, for a climb to Buxton and a meander round the hills and dales of Derbyshire and Yorkshire with the Buxton Spa Express.
Leander brought the train from Lancaster to the water stop at Eccles, where No 44871 was added. The pair made a prompt and smart start up Miles Platting bank, quickly attaining 20 mph and accelerating to 27 mph by the junction. We dawdled around to Stockport where we began the climb to Buxton. We attained 46 mph just after Whaley Bridge and speed dropped only slowly as we tackled the 1 in 60/70/58. We were still doing 30 through Chapel en le Frith, 29 as we entered Eaves tunnel and 24 as we topped the summit at Doveholes, an excellent climb on a damp rail.
After a break at Buxton, we proceeded onto ex-Midland metals through the dales and past the quarries. A freight was sent out ahead of us at Peak Forest so we lost our path from Chinley East Junction. Eventually we pulled out strongly towards Sheffield but were quickly checked to 12 mph by another signal. When this cleared we got smartly away up the 1 in 100, entering Cowburn Tunnel at 27 mph. We rattled down through Sheffield to the water stop at Brightside.
Then it was through industrial Yorkshire past Wakefield and Mirfield to the water stop at Brighouse. A lively run through the Calder Valley followed, and we reached our first 60 of the day at Middleton Junction. I left the train at Manchester Victoria after an enjoyable day.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures