"East Coast Drags"

A Bank Holiday weekend spent on a "three-in-seven" East Midlands Rover. My haulage "scratches" are shown underlined in red.

With no railtour outing planned for this weekend I decided it might be a worthwhile exercise to "invest" in an East Midlands "flexi-rover" and travel about a bit in search of the odd required haulage or two. With the East Coast Main Line closed between Newark and Doncaster for bridge replacement there was the opportunity to travel between the two towns, via Gainsborough and skirting past Lincoln, behind EWS 47's.

Day 1 : Saturday 26th August
I set off reasonably early on the Saturday morning on the short drive to Wellingborough where some free parking for the day was sure to be had. Took the booking office clerk a few minutes to get the ticket issued (bye bye 46!) and I was ready to travel. Decided to head for Doncaster then "lie in wait" for any required 47's that were working. A Rail-gen message confirmed at least two of those working were on my required list - 47734 & 47759. Interesting to note that the two "royal" spoons (798 & 799) were also out on the drags.

I took 170107 as far as Leicester where I changed to get the MML tram to Sheffield. Bumped in a couple of other enthusiasts from Northampton here who were also out on an East Midlands Rover. They were also headed for Doncaster. 43064 + 43074 rolled in on the 08.36 to Sheffield, via Derby. On Leicester depot were 66002, 66092, 66124, 66005 & 66250 (the latter a sight scratch!). On arriving into Sheffield we managed a "minus one" connection onto the 09.43 to Scarborough which, though it started at Sheffield, was late owing to the incoming service the unit was working being late. 156443 took us to Doncaster. As we left Sheffield I was pleased to see 142016 a required sight - just one more 142 required for sight for me now to clear the class.

Pulling into Doncaster and 47786 "Roy Castle OBE" was seen backing on to a London bound service (91014 being the train loco on the rear). Time to find a dry spot (it was raining) and watch the goings-on.

47733 arrived atop 91017 into platform 8 on the 10.58 to Leeds. In platform 6 was 91006 which formed the 11.00 to Edinburgh which was starting from Doncaster. The 11.07 to Kings Cross (91004) got 47785 "Fiona Castle" and about the same time 58050 "Toton Traction Depot" and 47114 "Freightliner Bulk" worked through (the former "light engine" and the latter on a freightliner).

The 10.45 to Glasgow Central arrived about 30 minutes late, 47772 dragging 91008. The 11.26 to Kings Cross didn't need a drag as it was HST 43119 + 43115 (was hoping for my last required GNER power car, 43167 - oh, well never mind). The next arrival into platform 8 was a bit unusual - Midland Main Line HST 43048 + 43052 on the GNER Leeds to Doncaster shuttle! 56069 "Wolverhampton Steel Terminal" ran through on a freight, heading south.

The 12.08 departure to Kings Cross arrived with 91001 at the rear. 47733 was attached to the front and off it went southwards. Almost an hour late and the 11.22 to Glasgow appeared, 47799 "Prince Henry" attached to 91010. A very rapid turn-around for 799 as the 12.34 to Kings Cross was just coming in (91009 shoving) and 799 was to be the motive power south for it. Still enough time to get some photos of it though.

Getting bored now, where were my two required spoons...?

66152 rolled in on a freight (good - a required sight, second of the day).

The 11.59 to Edinburgh was also nearly an hour late when it appeared - 47759 :-) and 91024. The spoon was still being uncoupled when the other "royal" appeared from the south but had to wait under Hexthorpe Bridge for a clear platform. With the 11.59 out of the way, 47798 "Prince William" wandered in dragging 91007 - around 45 minutes late, on the 12.17 to Glasgow Central.

The 13.06 southbound departure next - 91015 being the train loco. 47759 rumbled through the station from the north end and was then routed onto the front of the 13.06 departure. Good, time to go on my travels again. Piled on to promptly find a group of colleagues already cluttering up the leading standard class vestibule. A quick "gen-check" confirmed that 47734 was probably headed north as we were about to leave south. Unfortunately 734's next booked working would be the 18.11 departure - a quick scan of the timetable confirmed the worst - no way back to my car at Wellingborough if I was on it!

47759 departed about 15 minutes late but I was not bothered as it was now "in the book". The route to Newark was via Gainsborough Lea Road, Pyewipe and Boultham Junctions. A RES-liveried 47 was passed just south of Doncaster - presumably 47734. Not to worry, still another two days to get it.

The weather was typical for a Bank Holiday - wet!! The following service into Newark was an HST (43038 + 43114) then there was a fair gap before anything else was due - not helped by the cancellation of the 15.05 to Kings Cross. After a bit of a fester I decided to make good my escape using the 15.02 Central Trains service to Nuneaton (153383) which I took as far as Nottingham. The route was a tad bizarre - we took the curve towards Lincoln then reversed at Newark Crossing East Jn to head for Nottingham. Arriving there I soon realised that the local football team was playing at home (police officers everywhere!) so my priority now was to ensure I didn't get caught up in the fans returning home!!

The 15.56 to St Pancras (170101) was taken to Loughborough where I planned to double back to Derby on the 16.20 MML service. Cancelled. Bugger!

Next train in was heading back to Nottingham so I wisely left it alone. 158780 arrived next, headed for Nuneaton, so I took it as far as Leicester. Nothing much about so I finished up on 170108 back to Wellingborough and a nice early finish.

Sunday 27th August
Decided on a later start and headed to Wellingborough for the 10.15 departure. Intended doing this to Leicester for a half hour wait for the MML service to Sheffield. MML however had different plans....

Walking on to the platform at Wellingborough I noticed a red signal on the down fast and a yellow for the northbound direction on the bi-directional slow line. The 10.15 was still showing as platform 1 though. Asked the platform Ada if the screen was correct. "Yes" came the reply. OK, we'll see. 5 minutes later and there was an announcement that "due to a points failure at Sharnbrook the 10.15 departure will today be leaving from platform 3. The train will however be delayed as it has to reverse to Bedford. Expected departure will be 10.30". Very doubtful to only be delayed 15 minutes if it has to reverse from Sharnbrook to Bedford I thought. OK, we'll see (said that before already, haven't I?).

10.30, 10.35, 10.40....

Screen then corrected to show 10.44, with the following (Sheffield bound) train at 10.49 instead of the 10.45 booked depart. Then another announcement - "Please note that the 10.45 to Sheffield will today depart from platform 3 and will be the first departure. The 10.15 to Nottingham will be immediately behind the Sheffield train". What a nice farce to start the day off!

170112 took me all the way to Sheffield, via Derby. Only sight of note en-route was CT Turbostar 170519 on arrival into Sheffield (a required sight).

At this stage I should've turned around and gone home.

I know that.....now.

158779 on the 13.02 got me to Doncaster and my "stake-out" for 47734 began. Four and a half hours later it ended....fruitless! Yes, I saw 47734 arrive on a drag but it was then put into platform 2 and ignored as spoons on later northbound arrivals were run straight round to a southbound train and quickly departed. For the record, also working were 47733, 47759, 47772, 47775, 47785, 47786, 47792 & 47799.

There were a few moments of almost uncontrolled excitement when 91025 (my last required "stealth bomber" for haulage) appeared on the 15.14 departure. As 47772 was being attached to the front I then discovered the train was "fast" from Newark (where the spoon was being removed) to Stevenage!! What, no Peterborough stop? Nope :-( Worse still was that the following two services which were not booked to call at Peterborough both had an additional stop added...Peterborough! Why couldn't GNER have done that to the 15.14 departure??

With no sign of 47734 coming back out to play I abandoned the "stake-out" and headed for home via the 17.54 to Sheffield (150272), 18.24 ex-Sheffield (43048 + 43073) to Leicester and finally the (late running) 20.00 off Leicester (43045 + 43051) back to Wellingborough.

Lets hope Monday was to be more successful...

Monday 28th August
The third and final day dawned early for me - with Pathfinders outing to Newcastle promising a class 67 I decided to try and get it if I could. The 06.59 off Wellingborough would get me to Derby with 12 minutes to spare.....

.....or so it should have anyway.....

I arrived at Wellingborough about 06.40 and the 06.59 was showing on the screens as "on time". As 06.59 approached it appeared I was to be the only passenger. One of the station Berts appeared and gave me a funny look. I enquired to confirm that there was an 06.59 and he shook his head. "But it's showing on your screens and isn't down as a Bank Holidays Excepted service" said I. "I'll check" he said. A check of the station paperwork told him two things;

a) it wasn't on the days list of trains running
b) it wasn't on the days list of trains not running because of it being a holiday

A call to "control" then confirmed what the station staff hadn't been told - the train was re-timed 15 minutes later. Great - my "+12" had just become a "-3". Seems Leicester signalling centre hadn't been told either! 170110 arrived a few minutes after the quarter hour and I took it to Derby, hopeful that the Pathfinder trip might be a few minutes late (even 5 would be enough...).

Rarity of rarities, the Pathfinder tour departed Derby on time at 08.19 - I arrived at 08.22 to find a queue of cranks at the booking office, presumably buying singles back to Birmingham! 67006 had been the motive power. Oh well, back onto 170110 and I continued to Sheffield - might as well get to Doncaster as quick as I could to search out 47734, 91025 and/or 43167.

150268 from Sheffield and I was into Doncaster about 10am. Met up with another crank who was, like me, only after 47734 out of the drag locos. He'd been there since 07.15 and 734 had yet to materialise. Nice morning, so sitting watching the goings-on was OK.

As with Saturday and Sunday, the diagrams seemed to have been thrown out the window - some locos would arrive and go straight back out, others would be stuck into platform 2 and left. An extra complication however was the cancellation of several southbound services "owing to severe weather conditions in the north". After the first train was caped the potential imbalance of locos was avoided by double-heading 47759 & 47786 on a southbound drag. 786 was between 759 and the train and was shut-down. I cracked a joke along the lines of "what if the did the same with 47734"...but no-one laughed.

66007 (a required sight) appeared about this time and wandered through the station, heading northwards.

47734 rolled in and our spirits rose. It un-hooked, ran though the station and into platform 2 to keep 47798 & 47733 company. Another southbound cancellation was reported. Maybe they'll hook 734 up to 733 and send them off together... OK if so as 734 would be lead loco and therefore be the powering one.

Then the spanner in the works - 47799 arrived on another drag, ran off and into platform 2. The good humour was fading..... The driver and shunting staff arrived and, would you believe it, 47799 was coupled to 47734 and off they set to be attached to the next southbound train - 734 to be nearest the stock. Once coupled on, 734 was shut down.

Spirits back to rock bottom - were we ever going to get 734 for haulage?!?!?

The group of us after 734 (a few others had appeared during the morning) decided the best option was to take the train to Newark in the hope that 734 would return north on a platformed service - some trains were not booked for a station stop at Newark and the loco was then attached with the train in the good loop - so getting 734 back was by no means a certainty.

So off we set - 47799 powering, 47734 dead in tow and 90038 dead on the back! 66148 (another sight scratch) was seen at Doncaster depot. Passing through Gainsborough Lea Road I spotted someone I knew on the platform taking photographs so I called his mobile - I think he was a little confused as to how I knew where he was at that very moment and that 47799, 47734 & 90038 had just passed through the station on a train!

Arriving into Newark we watched 47799 then 47734 being uncoupled and run into the shunt neck at the south of the station. The next train north was to be "looped" then after that was a stopper to Leeds. Bad news - 47734 was in prime position to be the first loco back off - we might be about to watch it be coupled to a train in the goods loop that we couldn't catch!! In a bizarre (but most welcome) move, 47734 was then run into the yard to free 47799 to be attached to "1S28" in the goods loop. That left 47734, the only 47 at the station at the time, available to do the Leeds service (which soon arrived behind 91014).

Spirits high, we all stood and watched 47734 being attached. At about 14.50 47734 was finally "scored" as we powered away towards Doncaster. Big grins all round. A real stagger journey, we eventually pulled into Doncaster at about 16.25 - just time to photograph 47734 before it shot off to take another train southwards!

Content and happy, I opted for 158905 to Sheffield for 158797 to Nottingham, 43044 + 43054 to Leicester and finally 170111 to Wellingborough where I arrived about 8pm.

Three days to score just two locos for haulage - not exactly a roaring success, but then again it was still an enjoyable few days out, loads of socialising too as quite a few of the regulars were out and about.

Gary Thornton.

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