Traditionally the first Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express is a double header from Manchester, and this year it was booked for two Jubilees, the newly restored Leander and its Carnforth stablemate Galatea. The latter was quietly substituted a few weeks ago by a Riley Five, then as we arrived for the train at Victoria, we learned that 45690 had failed its FTR at Carnforth with a leaking washout plug.
So it was Stanier 4-6-0 no 45407 once more to the rescue, with 12 coaches and 47760 on the rear. The running all day was lively and the steam and noise from the engine confirmed it was working hard all day. As always, the fells in the sunshine were a delight, with some snow still on the tops. But for the train to top Grayrigg at 52 and Shap at 49, the diesel clearly had to do more than carry its own weight and provide ETH.
We were later assured that from Appleby to Ais Gill, the driver had asked that diesel assistance should be minimal. We passed Kirkby Stephen at 41 in the scheduled 17 minutes from the start, and topped Ais Gill at 32 just inside the 28 minutes in the timetable. I leave the expert performance analysts to comment on whether that could have been achieved without the diesel on the back.
The highlight of the day for me was the climb from Blackburn through Sough Tunnel to Entwistle and down to Bolton. I have never managed to do this by steam before and it was a fine finish to an enjoyable day.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures