Four years ago, Tornado ran an epic Border Raider tour from Crewe to Carlisle and back, and today the title appeared again. The itinerary was less ambitious than in 2010: Crewe - Shap - Carlisle - Shap - Preston was all that could be managed in a day within the diktat of the Network Rail computer.
Nobody told Tornado that, and we reached 60 just after leaving the town of Crewe, only to have to slow at Winsford to let a Pendolino pass. We were up in the mid 70s by Weaverham and tore onwards through Warrington, rattling the windows at Bank Quay at our full speed. We were stopped before Golborne Junction by a late-running TPE electric, then moseyed on through Preston at lesser speeds to our water stop at Barton & Broughton loop.
We were soon back in the seventies after this, slowing slightly to pass Lancaster at 72 before our pathing stop at Carnforth. Once again we got away smartly, reaching the sixties before Burton and Holme and still doing 61 through Oxenholme with the climb to Grayrigg well under way. Our speed dropped away only very slowly with our 11 coach load, with a minimum speed of 52 just before we crested the summit. We roared down the hill and along the Lune gorge, passing Tebay at a nicely judged 75. We were still doing 64 at Greenholme, 54 at Scout Green and 46 at Shap Wells with a minimum of 42 just before Shap Summit. We had a rollicking ride down to Carlisle, arriving on time at Carlisle despite a temporary speed restriction for a short distance.
The return run was equally brisk: we reached the 50s by Southwaite, the sixties before Plumpton and blasted through Penrith at 71. Despite the climb, our speed never fell below 50 and we passed Shap Summit at 60, followed by another joyful run downhill in the seventies until just before Oxenholme, our water stop. From there we had another short but magnificent dash to the pathing stop at Carnforth. Starting away from there, we were able to pass Lancaster at 70 again and had a good brisk run along the straight and level track to our final stop with Tornado at Preston, reached nearly five minutes early.
It was a magnificent day in glorious sunshine with Tornado on top form. Many familiar faces from amongst the 'usual suspects' were on the trip, and it was good to meet Big Al from NatPres and the legendary Mike Notley for the first time. We can await his detailed analysis in Steam Railway with great anticipation.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures