The last few days before this tour caused much nailbiting to all concerned. The timings were very late, then came the bombshell that our route for the return from the S&C to the WCML was closed between Clitheroe and Blackburn. What would this mean? Just a double Shap, or even cancellation?
The answer, when it came, was much better than this. Not only would we ride both maiin lines to the border at Carlisle, but we would return via Leeds, Huddersfield and Standedge Tunnel. Not only the Scottish border would be raided, but the historic one between the old West Riding of Yorkshire and County Palatine of Lancashire - a new War of the Roses for our time!
I joined at Stafford where the engine was already well warmed after several calls in the West Midlands. We got away smartly and after going through the new layout at Norton Bridge we were soon into the sixties, topping Whitmore at 64 and reaching the mid seventies on the descent from Madeley to Crewe. Swiftly away again, we passed Winsford at 69 but then dawdled a bit before sweeping down through Warrington at 75. Stopped for a Liverpool train south of Wigan, we recovered to 34 through the station and 59 at Coppull, with no more fireworks before Preston.
Watering took an age and we were 23 minutes late away, resulting in us being looped at Barton for a Pendolino. We loped along for a while then stormed down through Lancaster at 76 and speeding through Carnforth, we topped Yealand in the early 60s and were up to 74 at Bela viaduct. Once again the pressure of traffic behind us saw us looped at Oxenholme to let three trains pass. Then we forged up past the station to pass Birds Park at 36 and Docker at 43, dropping only to 40 at Grayrigg summit. We accelerated only gradually through the Lune Gorge, passing Tebay at 69 before hitting the climb to Shap. Speed only fell away slowly: 57 at Greenholme, 45 at Scout Green, 36 at Shap Wells and 34 at the summit - a creditable climb with 13 on. Then a rollicking ride in the mid 70s down to Penrith, where we slowed to 72 through the station, after which there was more fast running right down to the outskirts of Carlisle.
On the return, we were away only 18 minutes late, and reached 40 at Howe & Co, 50 at Low House, 55 at Armathwaite and 61 at Lazonby. We continued around 60 until just before Appleby, through which we accelerated at 59, a rare experience! In the dip at Ormside viaduct we touched 62 again, then up and down in the forties and thereabouts until we passed Kirkby Stephen at 42. We went into Birkett Tunnel at 38, emerged at 36 and reached 39 at Mallerstang. Then a spell in the 40s ensued until Angerholme, when we gradually slipped back to a minimum of 35 at Ais Gill summit in the wet conditions. The downhill run was around the line speed of 60 to the water stop at Long Preston.
At Hellifield we eschewed the right turn to Clitheroe and Blackburn, heading south through Skipton into industrial West Yorkshire. The running was unremarkable and subject to delays until we passed the western end of Leeds station and began a huge clockwise loop through Stourton, Normanton and Wakefield before regaining the Huddersfield line at Mirfield. After checks we slogged steadily up through Huddersfield and the tunnels beyond, reaching 43 at Slaithwaite against the gradient. Speed then fell away to 32 at Marsden then rose a little before the entry to Standedge tunnel. Down out of the tunnel we were soon into the 60s, before the long slow haul round the east of Manchester. Then we made a dash through Cheshire back towards the WCML: Wilmslow at 65, Alderley Edge at 68, 73 at Chelford, and 74 through Goostrey, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach. A fitting finale to an unexpectedly magnificent tour - truly Tornado was the Super Border Raider!
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures