This RTC tour was advertised with the same steam hauled route as the traditional January Cumbrian Mountain Express ie Manchester Preston Shap Carlisle Ais Gill Blackburn Manchester. This reminded me that in 2016, that train was to have been hauled by Flying Scotsman on completion of its massive overhaul at Riley Engineering in Bury. That was not to be as there were last minute adjustments to be made to the locomotive before it could go out on the big railway. I guessed this tour may have been the fulfilment of Ian Riley’s ambition to do this big tour from his ‘home shed’, so I booked on it.
Once again, it was not to be, as several weeks of hot dry weather had put paid to almost all unaccompanied steam outings across the network, due to the risk of lineside fires. A number of trains were still running, with diesel assistance immediately behind the steam, and that was to be our fate. Moreover, the steam leg was cut short, and Scotsman would pilot us only from Carnforth over Shap to Carlisle, then back over Ais Gill to Blackburn and Preston.
So we set off from Manchester Victoria to Carnforth behind No 47237, and eventually after the usual procession of expresses, Scotsman headed the diesel and 11 coaches out onto the main line. The figures of performance are meaningless as far as Scotsman’s performance was concerned, but a brief selection of speeds is given to show I was awake: Yealand summit 46, Oxenholme 57, Grayrigg 55, Tebay 69, Scout Green 47, Shap Summit 39, Little Strickland 70, Penrith 63, Wreay 71 and then we were at Carlisle.
A good development at Carlisle was the placement of crowd barriers around the stopping place of the steam locomotive. This helped reduce the usual scrum and made it easier to get an uninterrupted view of the engine. The other thing to note about my photographs is that on many of them, I have gone in very closely on Scotsman, to try and minimise unwanted intrusions onto the photos.
The return journey followed a similar pattern: Howe & Co 45, Low House 47, Lazonby 56, Culgaith 63, 47 at Kirkby Thore and four minutes early into Appleby. No water was taken (presumably not needed) but the ice creams sold like hot cakes. Then 40 at Kirkby Stephen, into Birkett tunnel at 41 and 42 at Ais Gill. Downhill was even less remarkable with 62 at Selside our maximum speed. After watering at Hellifield, the only remarkable thing was that after 41 over the viaduct at Whalley, we suddenly slowed into the 20s on approaching Langho and hit a minimum of 17 before gradually picking up speed to 35 on entering the tunnel and 37 through the station. We were 15 minutes early into Preston, where Scotsman plus escort and support coach left us for Carnforth.
So it was a pleasant day out on a fine summer’s day amid magnificent scenery, and I never tire of admiring Scotsman in her beautiful BR livery. It’s just a shame we did not have her unassisted on the full itinerary. Ah well, third time lucky?
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures