The Virgin Footballer.

Virgin Trains.
Saturday 14th February 1998.

This article originally appeared on the Website "Railtours & Stuff" and is courtesy of Ralph Barrett.

Motive power Deltic D9000.
Stock 7 Virgin Train's (XC) Mk 2s.

Strictly speaking this was not a 'Railtour'. But we had a special locomotive for the train, a special route and ran to a 1Zxx headcode. We also hardly stopped en route, apart from the necessary crew-changes. So this was much more like a Railtour than a service train, hence its inclusion here.

Usually Railtours are planned months in advance, and often get cancelled right at the last minute. The Virgin Footballer 'Railtour' was the exact opposite, in almost every respect. Virgin Trains only approached D9000 Limited on Wednesday 10th February, asking if D9000 was available for a special working on the following Saturday. D9000 was hastily prepared, and worked light engine to Saltley Depot during the evening of Friday 13th February (data that would spell disaster for any 'normal' Railtour).

No prior advertising had taken place, but the 'gen' from 'Rail-gen' said D9000 would be working a football special from Birmingham to Leeds, and then running as a relief working from York to Derby. Although being a 'Footex', normal tickets would be valid, and 'bashers' were welcome to travel on the Birmingham - Leeds section. Train was scheduled to depart New Street at 09:45.

Birmingham New Street Station was bustling early on Saturday morning. I had arrived by train from Leicester, and noted that there was no sign of D9000 on Saltley Depot, as we passed. I guessed (rightly) that Virgin had sent the Deltic up to Derby Etches Park, to bring the stock down to New Street. As this was not a regular service train, there was no indication on the departure boards of this train. Footex had been scheduled to use platform 7, which was blocked for ages due to the late running 09:05 Birmingham - Edinburgh, which appeared to be receiving 'fitters attention' due to some brake fault on the stock. I guess that the Deltic had been held somewhere in a loop north of Birmingham, and only allowed onto the main-line once the Edinburgh finally departed around 09:55.

So D9000 swept along the platform at New Street with a complete rake of clean Virgin Red stock, much to the delight of a crowd of Deltic Bashers, some directors of D9000 Locomotives Ltd and some Virgin Train's Management who had come along 'for the ride'.

But where were the Football Supporters ? What I did not know at the time, was they'd all travelled up to Leeds on earlier service trains, possibly with a view to avoiding the West Yorkshire Constabulary who planned to meet them at Leeds. In the event their scheme was thwarted - when they tried to switch to a local at Wakefield Westgate, they were surrounded by police acting on an accurate tip-off.

D9000 departed New Street 25 minutes down at 10:10 with around 100 Deltic Bashers on board. I sure that more bashers would have gone if they'd known about it in advance, especially if they'd known that there were no football supporters on the train !

We had a very interesting outward route non-stop via Wolverhamptom, Stafford, Stoke, Stockport (crew change) and then via the little used line through Guide Bridge to Stalybridge, then onwards to Leeds via Diggle. Weather was warm and sunny, which made for a very pleasant ride, especially over the Pennines. We even had a staffed buffet car, although this had not been fully stocked with sarnies and other foodstuffs.

Upon arrival at Leeds the train was greeted by a number of Policemen, who would normally be expecting the train to be full of football supporters. Platforms also had a good number of 'normal' passengers, as the booked 'ECS' working to York, had been advertised on the departure screens at Leeds, as an additional train to York. The expected fast run to York ensued, whereupon arrival, D9000 ran around her train. Nice to see a Deltic+7 Mk2s arriving at York again - just like the 'old' days.

Train had been advertised as an 'additional relief' from York to Derby, so I was surprised that there were not more Deltic bashers on this part of the run. Perhaps they all had other matters to attend to - this was St. Valentine's day after all.

Departure from York was slightly late at 13:48, and the early running as far as Dringhouses yard was subdued. Indeed just like it used to be in the last days of the Deltics for BR, when drivers were instructed not to 'open up' until well clear of the residentail areas. I guess that the driver (apparently a Doncaster man) was an ex-Deltic driver, and still remembered his previous instruction. Incidentally Dringhouses yard is now just another housing estate, so any new residents had a rude awakening to the ways of Deltics, as D9000 sent a massive cloud of smoke towards their clean washing hanging out to dry (nice warm day remember).

Running wise, the section York - Doncaster was the most exiting part of the day, with prolonged 100mph running. I've included a brief log, just to show a typical Deltic run. Incidenatally I guess that this is the fastest Deltic ever from York to Donny as the route now uses the Selby Diversion.





(opened up at Dringhouses)

Carlton North




Hambledon Nth




Temple Hirst Jn








Moss LC




Joan Croft Jcn




Daw Lane LC




Arksey LC








centre road

That's 23 minutes 52 seconds for 32.5 miles. An average of 81.7mph start to stop. Good considering the slow exit from York. Actually better than 'typical' current class 91 schedule from the timetable, although remember that we did not have to take a platform road.

Next booked stop was at Sheffield Midland, where more bashers got on, and others departed. Departure from Sheffield was quite atmospheric up the 1 in 100 climb to Bradway tunnel. Then had the usual ambling/bouncy ride to Clay Cross, being checked at Chesterfield by the Sprinter in front. After Clay Cross we once again touched 100mph on a small section of high speed line, and before long arrived at Derby Midland, where the train terminated. Stock was returned to Etches Park by D9000, and she subsequently moves light engine to Oxley (of all places).

An enjoyable stress-free day. Well done Virgin Trains for organising the event. Next time don't advertise it as Footex, and you'll get more custom from the traction cognoscenti.

Ralph Barrett.

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