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
45121 runs round the tour at Bedford Midland
A rare view of 45121 crossing the immense Bletchley Flyover
Ian Windmill’s excellent view of 45121 passing Winslow on the Bletchley-Oxford line
Nicholas T Smiths panaramic view of 45121 at Swindon with the tour , all very different today
Nicholas T Smiths excellent view of 45121 resting at Swindon
08849 which also featured on the tour and a Gloucester GRCW built DMU alongside, a Nicholas T Smith photo
Nicholas T Smith’s view of 45121 and the GRCW DMU at Swindon
Nicholas T Smith’s view of 45121 leaving for the West from Swindon
08849 at the end of the surviving section of the Highworth branch after working the tour from Swindon
A powerful looking “Western Yeoman II” between turns at Merehead
In grey weather 37187 waits to proceed from the Merehead West leg of the triangle
Steaming nicely with a little snow on the sleepers 37187 at Cranmore