RTC's first run of the year is always Manchester to Carlisle and return, but the actual journey rarely corresponds with the detais advertised. This year was no exception: Leander instead of the Riley Fives, Shap both ways with no Cumbrian Coast ans steam off in Lancashire rather than all the way back to Manchester.
On this frosty morning we loped through Salford in the 40s and across Chat Moss in the 50s before turning north on the West Coast Main Line. Leaving Wigan two minutes latewe reached Boars Head at 33, Coppull summit at 46 and 62 at Balshaw Lane before being held outside Preston until time.
It was then that we learned why we were feeling the cold. The only vacuum braked, ETH fitted 47 at Carnforth had failed in the small hours so the formation had been brought to Manchester by a 37 with no ETH. The steam heating was only serving part of the train but fitters would attend at Carnforth.
After a pathing stop at Barton we reached 60 at Garstang, 67 at Galgate and continued in the 60s to the outskirts of Lancaster where we were stopped by signals. Accelerating through the station at 25, we reached 52 at Hest Bank before going into the loop at Carnforth.
On departure, Mick Rawlings had handed the regulator over to Steve Chipperfield. We were quickly up to 34 and topped Yealand Summit at 30. We reached 57 in the dip at Milnthorpe then speed dropoped gradually as we got stuck into the climb: 50 at Hincaster Junction, 43 at Oxenholme and 34 at Docker before dropping to the 20s and entering the loop at Grayrigg.
Setting off from there in continuing beautiful sunshine, we galloped down the Lune Valley reaching 46 by Low Gill and 67 by Tebay. Then as we tackled the climb, speedsfell to 55 at Greenholme, 39 at Scout Green, 30 at Salterwath, 25 at Shap Wells and a minimum of 19 just before the summit. Over the other side, we reached 56 at Shap Station, 64 at Thrimby Grange then up into the high 70s by Clifton and Lowther. The brisk pace continued through to the outskirts of Penrith, passed at 70. We were back into the higher 70s by Plumpton, reaching a peak near Brisco and only slowing on the final approach to Carlisle, where we were stopped at Upperby 10 minutes before our scheduled arrival time.
It was only then that I learnt that we not only had 11 coaches behind the drawbar, but the Class 37 diesel had stayed on the rear, despite its uselessness for ETH. That calls into question Leander's apparent good performance, since one cannot believe that she lifted the equivalent of 14 coaches over Shap entirely unaided. There is no doubt however that Leander was working very hard and both the uphill and downhill running was exhilarating, before I realised the true position.
I could muster little interest in the performance on our return with Mick Kelly to Carnforth, where a Class 57 with air brakes was substituted for Leander and we arrived back in Manchester on time
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures