Bletchley Holding Sidings remembered

Bletchley loco sidings, remembered

25173 and 25279 on the holding sidings on April 26th 1984

A good few of us will perhaps remember looking out for the line of stabled locos at Bletchley station as our “Inter City”  train flew past behind an AC electric.

These were the Loco holding sidings or Field sidings and saw classes 08, 11, 24, 25, 31, 40, 47, 57, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86 and 87 all stable there over the years

The stabled power would vary both in numbers and types and over the years. In the 70’s and early 80’s a line of class 25’s were the staple power, by the late 80’s class 31’s and by the early 90’s just the odd 31 and 47. In later years a Virgin thunderbird was the last duty to  regularly stable at Bletchley but the 2012 Bletchley remodelling saw the former loco sidings lifted and consigned to history.

57305 is stabled in the Holding Sidings as Bletchley thunderbird on January 10th 2004

Sample 1980’s Bletchley loco turns

1/ Tring – Kings X cements

2/ Forders – Kings X “Fletliner” brick train

3/ Hartshill Quarry (Nuneaton) – Bletchley – Willesden ballast duties

4/ Bletchley – Aylesbury coal

5/ Bletchley – Akeman St “UKF”

5/ Bletchley – Aylesbury/Bedford/Euston/Hemel Hempstead/Northampton Parcels

6/ Engineers turns

7/ Assisting WCML loco failures

8/ Assisting DMU failures on Bletchley – Bedford and hauled “Annie and Clarie, standby set” turns

9/ Booked and emergency dragging due isolation of ole.

The mid 80’s saw a steady decline  with the loss of much of the listed turns in the run up to privisitation. An early loss to road haulage was the Forders – Kings X “Fletliner” with it’s 2 x 25’s in full song on a heavy brick train each evening on the Southern WCML. The final turn lost was the UKF fertiliser portion from Bletchley to Aceman St off the Aylesbury – Claydon branch in early 1993 which resulted in the “mothballing” of the Bletchley Flyover – Claydon Jn line.

The surviving engineers turns saw Rugby crews take over much of this work.  

Bletchley loco sidings sample events

Over the years on a 24 hour, seven day a week railway there have been a fair few events where Bletchley loco sidings (aka “Field Sidings”) power has featured in some interesting workings, this is a small selection only.

1/ 40030 – January 22nd 1982 – After failing on an Aylesbury bound oil train 40030 was dumped in the sidings before being dragged home.

2/ 25251 and many others, December 20/21st 1983 – A serious wires down in the Bourne End area (North of Hemel Hempstead) saw an ole isolation lasting in excess of 36 hours. The railway kept running throughout with many class 25’s dragging electric hauled services (including 310 EMU’s) from the Bletchley area to and from Euston. Class 31, 40, 47 and 56 also assisted but it is likely that at least some of the likes of 25185, 25192, 25193, 25199, 25200, 25226, 25251 and others came off Bletchley loco sidings to keep the WCML moving.

3/ 47489 – May 2nd 1983 – 47’s were regular visitors but the use of 47489 from Bletchley loco sidings was more unusual. This loco replaced a class 85 at the Northern foot of the flyover and then as booked worked the return Oban – West Ruislip return LNER Society railtour over Bletchley flyover to Aylesbury and Ruislip.

47489 stabled amongst the class 25s, prior to working the return Oban – West Ruislip via Bletchley flyover on May 2nd 1983

4/ 08011 – May 11th 1986 –  Green liveried and by then the oldest BR loco still in service was a Bletchley celebrity for a good few years, until withdrawn for preservation at Chinnor in Dec 91

Celebrity green liveried shunter 08011 Haversham stabled in the holding sidings on May 11th 1986

5/ 25173 – December 14th 1986 – By 1986 most planned local isolations were overnight. This Sunday morning saw all Down services dragged from Bletchley to Northampton with DMU’s on locals. 31144, 31183, 31247, 31260, 31290, 31294 and 31446 all work these drags, mostly in pairs. By late 1986 class 25’s were uncommon in the Bletchley area and 25173 remained spare on Bletchley loco sidings all morning. Unconfirmed to this day but it is claimed that the morning isolation overran and 25173 did an emergency drag of the 1250 Euston – Liverpool to Hanslope Jn. Confirmation from any readers would be very welcome as 3 months later class 25’s were all withdrawn.

25173 and 310069 stabled in the Holding Sidings on December 14th 1986, did 25173 drag that day?, will we ever know??

6/ 31107 – December 17th 1988 – In late 1988 two surplus Mk I’s (BSK/TSO) were based at Bletchley to cover for DMU failures on the branch. The first recorded 31’1 haulage of this stock (nicknamed Annie/Clarie!)” was 31107 doing several round trips. This was a very cold morning so the train was obviously no heat, the 31’4 off the loco sidings being en route to Aceman St with the UKF train that Saturday morning.  31463 had worked several turns of this set on December 10th 1988.  

7/ 31430 – April 19th 1989 – 31430 came off the sidings to work the 0750 Bletchley – Bedford and return 0837 Bedford – Bletchley. Whilst dragging a failed DMU was a fairly regular occurrence, this was a unique working. To cater for the 0750 school train volumes 310075 was dragged over the branch. It is claimed that at on arrival at Bedford there was a debate to whether to run the unit round the loco or vice versa!

8/87013 – 25th June 2005. – Thunderbird loco 87013 was scrambled from Bletchley (parcels dock) to work a Holyhead – Euston and return service from and to Crewe after 90039 had unfortunately been lost in North Wales after being reportedly dragged in error West of Crewe to Llandudno Jn!. 87013’s 2 passenger workings that day deputising for 90039 were 2 weeks after Virgin’s initial “farewell” to the class on June 10th with 87002 and 87010.  

Stabled in Bletchley Parcels dock (on the Downside, long since lifted) 87013 is thunderbird on June 25th 2005, a few hours later she was back on class 1 duties


Bletchley loco sidings, Sample Sightings 1972 – 2004

Wednesday August 24th 1972

D3110, 7524, 7529, 7531Typical weekday line up at Bletchley with most of the power elsewhere with their booked turns. D3110 was shunting parcel vans.

Sunday February 2nd 1975

25068, 25070, 25142, 25179, 25181, 47192, 47489, 47531, 47446, 83001The 4 47’s at Bletchley in this list had worked “drags” earlier. Often these would return North to Crewe as a 4 loco convoy. The 83 was spare. A solitary electric loco were regular visitors to the sidings but because of  the limited wiring they tended to stable behind the Bedford platform often hidden behind the station buildings.

Saturday April 24th 1982

08374, 25027, 25168, 25181, 25248, 25288, 25289, 25296, 25317, 25319 This was late on a Saturday night with many of these 25’s ready for engineers duties the following Sunday

Former Laira “rat” 25058 stabled in the Holding Sidings on January 7th 1984

The afternoon sun illuminates 25178 and 25175 on the Holding Sidings on January 14th 1984

Former “terrible ten” then Eastfield “rat” 25064 on the Holding Sidings on January 14th 1984

Friday August 8th 1986

08011, 08422, 25057, 31126, 31138 – Class 31’s were now replacing the 25’s locally and the numbers of stabled locos were dropping as duties declined.

31308 heads a long line of classmates on the holding sidings on May 11th 1986

Thanks to Mark Beal for this rare view of an immaculate 47007 on the Holding Sidings on February 23rd 1990

The Holding Sidings in its final months just 08807 and a 31 stabled on November 27th 1991

Saturday 10th January 2004

57305 – If the fast lines were booked to be closed on the Sunday then the Virgin thunderbird would stable in the former loco sidings for easy access to the slow lines. 

This duty ceased in 2007.

Locos no more

The use of Bletchley as a regular “Thunderbird” venue had ceased by 2007 and the former loco sidings fell into disuse.  The December 2012 remodelling of Bletchley in association with the closure of Bletchley Power Box saw the sidings lifted. A Single “hopper siding” remains which still sees regular stone action with class 66 power. So next time are speeding through Bletchley on a “Pendolino” look over to the stone siding and think back to happier times when lines of locos were once very much part of the Bletchley scene.


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