Four days after Tornado on the Elizabethan, I am back in Edinburgh to ride behind her into the Highlands on Day 2 of Steam Dreams' four-day Scottish tour. The first of two early disappointments was that instead of returning from Inverness via Elgin, Aberdeen and Dundee, Network Rail could only path us back down the main Highland line, not even managing to take the Ladybank line south of Perth so we could cross the Forth Bridge. The second was that at least two coaches of full diners were carried in second class TSO coaches rather than FOs - 128 dining passengers instead of 84 - nice work! But my travelling companions were congenial and we kept our elbows and knees in!
On the way to Perth we touched 72 at Linlithgow, 75 down to Bannockburn and an excellent fast stretch from Gleneagles as far as Forteviot.
Starting onto the Highland line, we reached 68 at Murthly and 67 at Ballinluig but the real climbing began after we passed Blair Atholl at 32, half an hour late. We made it up to 44 before the gradient steepened, and then it was slog slog slog against the mostly 1 in 70 with our twelve coach load, varying from the high 20s to the mid 30s all the way, and over Drumochter at 36. We rollicked down the other side, touching our maximum speed both before and after our water stop at Kingussie. We were through Carrbridge at 55 before an impressive climb to Slochd, mostly 1 in 60/70, with speed dropping only slowly to a minimum of 28 at the summit. There was some lively downhill running, tickling our maximum again, before arriving in Inverness.
The southbound climb from Inverness to Culloden starts at 1 in 60 but our minimum speed was 20 mph and as the gradient eased (!) to 1in 70 we accelerated steadily to 36 at the summit - a magnificent climb. Later there was a minimum of 28 up the 1 in 60 past Daviot and from Tomatin at 55 we dropped only to 28 up the final 1 in 60 to Slochd summit.
Later we passed Newtonmore at 52 as the southbound climb to Drumochter started. It is less demanding from the north and our speed never dropped below 38 (over jointed track!) and we went over the top at 44 - another excellent climb. There was some good lively running downhill, though we never quite touched the maximum this time. I ceased logging at Perth after an excellent Tornado performance in the mountains, in wonderful summer weather!
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures