Three times in 2013 this train was arranged then forcibly cancelled, but on this bright February morning Ian Riley's two immaculate Black Five 4-6-0s, Nos 44871 and 45407, ran into Manchester Victoria, ready to do battle with the hills and dales of northern England.
We hit the bottom of Miles Platting bank at 18 mph, dropping only slowly to 15 for the sharp right turn. From New Mills we slogged up through Chinley at 33 before accelerating up the gentler grades to 36 as we went into Cowburn Tunnel. We rattled down through Edale, Hope and Bamford, brakes having to be applied several times to keep around our 60 maximum, before slowing for the 'gentry stop' at Hathersage. There were no more fireworks as we ran down into Sheffield Midland.
After the water stop, the switchback route to Barnsley was handled well but the real challenge came after that, with our Black Fives working up through Dodworth at 25 and Silkstone Common at 29 on the way to Penistone, then through the hills and dales to Huddersfield, Brighouse and Hebden Bridge.
Then came the grand finale, the climb to Copy Pit. We reached 36 after Hall Royd Junction then fell to 31 at Lydgate, 30 at Cornholme and a minimum of 29 on the final climb.
The encore was the climb from Blackburn through Darwen to Sough Tunnel and Entwistle on the way to Bolton. From 24 mph at the Junction, speed rose to 32 before we had to slow for the loop at Darwen where the dmu was waiting, after which we rose from 24 to 27 at the tunnel mouth. A final romp from Bolton saw us reach 60 again before the steamers came off at Manchester Victoria, at the end of an epic ride.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures