31601’s big day

31601 “Bletchley Park-Station X” ’s big day, March 22nd 1999

Background info:

From October 10th-17th 1998 Fragonset’s 31452 and 31468 were hired by Silverlink for a week whilst a 117 DMU was overhauled.The locos performed very well, the Bedford-Bletchley branch services attracted enthusiasts from all over the country but after October 17th the branch went back to sleep as DMU operation returned. By March 99 a delayed unit cascade from Central trains meant that once again Silverlink had long term serious DMU availability problems on ageing 117/121 stock. To their immense credit Silverlink once again hired in Fragonset locos to keep the service going…………….   

Naming day – March 22nd 1999:  

The gen a few days prior was a bit “iffy”, 31601 should be named at Bletchley station in the morning and will then do “a Media special or a branch service train”. I arrived at Bletchley around 1000 (to cover the 1050 Bedford) and was somewhat shocked to see immaculate 31601, Mk I’s 5025 and 35453 and 31452 already in platform 6. A few phots then a rather unexpected 2 armed RAF staff in wartime uniform marched past with a Sergeant Major doing his loud bit! It all happens in Bletchley! The 117 DMU arrived and departed on the 1050 Bedford then more military types, suited ex Bletchley park veterans, Silverlink staff and a few enthusiasts milled around 31601. The then local Labour MP, Dr Phyllis Starkey then named the 31 with various speeches etc.

Food was now being loaded onto the stock so I feared I would have to blag my way onto the train as a magazine reporter! Passing traffic 86210 on an up Wolves and a Eurostar attracted little interest from the milling crowd. 51405/51363 arrived from Bedford and were promptly sent to the TMD, so we were in for the 1150 service train! We soon all scrambled aboard, 60 odd guests/staff plus a few bemused passengers puzzled why they were being offered free drinks and very good food from Silverlink’s Natalie and other customer services staff! Just before departure green D6700 arrived on spoil from Rugby and at 1150 we departed, soldiers, press the lot!

Anglia TV also produced, I kept my head down then, didn’t want my boss to see his absent staff member enjoying his croissants on TV! One reporter’s question to the Silverlink communications manager was why they were replacing “40 year old trains with 25 year old trains!” 

From Bedford we returned 6 down with cakes now being on offer, also the train was still ”ng!”. D6700 was now posing in Forders Sidings , the growl from 31452 climbing Lidlington bank was very impressive. Back at Bletchley I was advised 31601, despite being ex 31186 , had an eth box up front, because it was “through wired” to allow top and tail operation with one driver when the Mk II’s arrived. The loco was still “xo”

all the heat coming from the tail eth fitted loco. At Bletchley the DMU was still on the TMD so a second trip was on.  Fragonset’s 47712’s  stormed South on emcars (87028 dead on rear) before we departed with the 1350 to Bedford.

The 1350 BY-Bedford was more “real” as we 4 bashers had the windows open and most of the guests/visitors and press had vanished. The green “tractor” was waiting for us to clear the single line at Bow Brickhill and several fast car’s were chasing the train if “chasing” is the right word for 31’s! A good run followed, but once back at Bletchley the DMU was back in platform 5 so it was “party over” for 31601.

31601 along with 31452/31459/31468/31602 were to operate many Bletchley-Bedford branch services from 290399, with a heady high summer period of both diagrams being loco hauled, before more sporadic operation set in with 31468/31601 working the last branch trip on 091099. 31601 survives to this day as a “spot hire” loco doing various “ad hoc” duties, be good to see her working an anniversary “partyex” down the branch again one day!

Phot spot from 220399

 Prior to the naming ceremony, an immaculate 31601 awaits the crowds

 31452 also looking very smart, tailing the 1150 Bedford

 Just another day at Bletchey!, local MP in cab, a wartime guard and overweight film crew!

 “TC” was on hand at Bedford to photograph the 1150 on arrival

 All quiet after the second return trip, 31601 and 31452 were to start a full diagram a week later. All the then extensive Station buildings on platform 6 have now been demolished.


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