In recent years the annual double header from Manchester to Carlisle and back has been the preserve of the Riley Black Fives. With No 44871 in the works, the ELR visitor LNER B1 4-6-0 No 61264 headed the train, with the purists content that the train engine was still an LMS one.
With two support coaches we were load 13, but had some lively running from Bolton, briefly touching 60 before Euxton Junction. After Preston we skipped the Barton and Broughton looping, instead reaching 60 soon after then and maintaining it to Lancaster University - must have been 15 miles or so in even time. Slower through Lancaster but 58 at Hest Bank before the Carnforth water stop.
We got away smartly, reaching 57 at Burton and Holme, 64 at Elmsfield, 63 at Milnthorpe and falling only to 54 at Oxenholme on the climb to Grayrigg. We were still doing 50 at Docker but then we slowed and were looped at Grayrigg for a late-running Voyager. We were swiftly away along the Lune Gorge and were doing 61 through Tebay at the bottom of Shap. We maintained 52 to Greenholme, 42 to Scout Green and 38 at Salterwath, with a minimum of 36 before Shap summit. From there we pushed our 60 mph limit all the way down to Carlisle, missing the Penrith loop and arriving well early.
After a huge storm in Carlisle it was only damp as we set off again towards Ais Gill. We had a brief flash of 60 mph after Armathwaite, but kept being slowed by signals from the train ahead. After Appleby we reached 54 before Great Ormside, then after the Helm tunnel slowings, 52 at Smardale before getting stuck into the climb. We passed Kirkby Stephen at 42, Greengate at 45 and entered Birkett Tunnel at 41. We carried on plugging away up Mallerstang in the mid forties, reaching 49 at one point and slowing below 40 only in the last mile, with a minimum of 37 just before the summit. It was dark as we crossed Ribblehead viaduct but we had a final spurt down the dale, hitting 60 several times.
The rest of the run was unremarkable apart from the climb from Whalley Viaduct, crossed at 37, up through Langho (31) and slogging on up to enter the tunnel at 29. A cold, dark, wet day had been illuminated by some fine performances by the mixed-traffic duo.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures