The Knottingley Man of War, Saturday February 9th 1985
Not the best of starts as on getting the tour tickets, we were advised that all the 40’s bar 40122 had now been withdrawn at the end of January 85. 40122 unfortunately was already requested and allocated for the T & N “St Andrew tour” from Bolton that day, so no 40 for Hertfordshire Railtours. Matters got worse as early on the Saturday morning a spectacularly intense polar low swept through from the North and dumped 6 inches of snow over much of Southern and Eastern England!
So on leaving the house in Leighton around 5am it was a white world with the snow blowing around, Railman Jock down at the station, always the master of understatement, advised “aye, it’s a bit rough” as his train home with 85025 emerged right time with the legendary “milk empties” staff train. The “roar” from the 85’s blowers were muted by the wind and snow on departure, then 85029 screamed South on the Holyhead- Euston, a Mk III sleeper on the back as booked. 310094 soon arrived and the dead ride created by the cushion of snow on the ground was immediately apparent on departure, it also helped the doss factor.
On leaving Euston I was shocked to see a good cover of snow even in Central London. Euston Road at 0630 was white with little traffic on it! At the Cross I met up with the “Buzzard” who in his soft Cornish accent had the full haulage gen for today’s tour including the Scarborough gronk already logged on his regulation clipboard, I was more concerned the tour was still running!
As quoted 37052/263 were at the head of the tour, though both allegedly boilered, there wasn’t much steam to be seen leaking from any pipes. East Coast overnight power on the blocks included 47413/471/520.
We joined our allocated coach B which was chilly but not freezing and the noise and thrash created by 2 x 37’s in Copenhagen tunnel warmed most of us anyway! Steady progress North where 45012 which was definitely “steaming a bit”, backed on. So it was a Sulzer throb and not an EE whistle that was the up front power out of Peterborough. A photo stop at Spalding saw a fair few of us to pile out and take a few photos in a carpet of snow albeit with a bitter Northerly wind and grey skies. Various rare track, I’m told followed but I did, what railtouring is all about after an early start and dossed out for a good few hours.
45012 at a snowy Spalding with the Knottingley Man of War Tour, 090285
I awoke near Ferrybridge power station and the train, despite no open windows, was now cold, very cold. The atmosphere had changed and there was a lot of wittering from the elder “track bashing types” that hopefully an “EH loco” would be supplied. Apparently the stock still had water in the pipes or whatever but it was cold, even in full “NB” gear! At Scarborough a good few of us piled into the toilets, as everybody else was unceremoniously kicked off the stock. The “Buzzard” asked the shunter if he could stay on but to no avail, Scarborough were traditionally “unsoche” to 03 or 08 shunter bashers perhaps.
Once the Peak had been released and the stock shunted back into the station a good few of us leapt off before the frozen hordes (it was snowing in Scarborough) piled back on. The “stewards” who had been getting an awful lot of complainers re the lack of therms, (who’d run a railtour!) advised of a loco change at York. Conjecture then started on what the replacement power would be, nobody had a clue, which made a change, I just hoped it wasn’t a “ped!” an “xo” Thornaby 47’3 would be nice I thought!
Bath Road’ s former finest in 47157, which we were told had a “strong boiler” was the forwarding power from York. The mood on the tour did little to improve as this was not the most exciting power and more importantly, very little heat still seemed to be getting through the stock anyway. The 47 stormed up the ECML anyway making up much lost time before we reverted to the 37’s at Peterborough.
A slow loco change here but the snarling, growling 37’s were eventually on the move to return us to the Cross. A trudge back through along the now slushy Euston Road for 310084 to whiz and whirr me home to end an eventful, but even in retrospect writing this 25 years later, largely disappointing day.