The Mendip artificer 21st January 1984
A couple of disappointments on getting the tickets a few days before the tour. The advertised 33’s were to be replaced with 37’s and the Frome – Radstock freight only branch had been dropped due to track condition. The Radstock branch was to offer few other chances as total route closure came a few years later. As consolation for the lost Somerset branch the Swindon-Highworth branch’s remaining stub to the car works was added with the bonus of 08 haulage.
A fine fast run down a frosty Midland main line behind 45121 was a good start to the trip. To some of the “peak men” aboard steamer 45037 and 45104 on 1C10 0710 Derby – St Pancras passing us was a bit of a wither!
After a run round at Bedford Midland the peak ventured onto rarer haunts for the class, in trundling down the Bletchley branch, the Flyover and on to Oxford. At Swindon we reversed with 08849, a “winner” for most dragging us back down the truncated Highworth branch.
45121 then returned us to Swindon for a Melksham foray en route to Westbury. The booked loco change saw “South Wales steamers” 37187/189 top and tail us and they steamed well as leaky pipes soon had much of Wiltshire and Somerset shrouded in steam. A Frome photostop under Brunel’s train shed was a bit of a farce as the locos were some miles off the platform, The Merehead triangle East and west curves then finally Cranmore station where a little snow was still on the ground.
David Shepherd’s preserved line and depot provided the entertainment for a few hours. We returned from Cranmore completing the Merehead triangle via the South road and back to Westbury for 45121 to rejoin us. A storm via Salisbury Plain and the “mule”. As darkness fell 45121 ‘s complete lack of “marklites” up front saw concerned rumours of a Salisbury loco swap. The 45 continued however a howling, singing invisible Sulzer monster through the South west and London suburbs before returning to Pancras to end a highly enjoyable tour that had something for everyone