South Wales Explorer Tour, March 2023

The South Wales Explorer, Sat March 11th 2023

Leaping off the 172’s at Widney Manor there was just time to run up to the bridge to phot 20189 leading and 37403 tailing with the tour empties heading to nearby Dorridge. Widney Manor was a required loco hauled shack for me and 37403 could be heard a good while before coming into sight at a still, still partially snow covered “Manor”.

As my 172 leaves the Manor, 20189 passes through with the Tour Emcars for Dorridge

37403 tailing the emcars at Widney Manor

Loco hauled off Widney Manor as 37403 arrives with the tour

An early Mk II (5212) was joined with a relaxed atmosphere which was to last all the way to Cardiff.

Organiser – Vintage Trains

Headcode – 1Z37

Stock 9 x Mk IIa/pullmans, 5157, 5191, 5212, 5198, 9101, 99349, 99361, 99353, 17018

Ching £103

A rarity these days in a booked tour photo stop at Worcester Shrub Hill was well received, then the cloud built as we headed South through Gloucester and Lydney. The rare Gaer Jn – Park Jn incline at Newport saw us reverse with the 20 leading into Cardiff. Just time for a few phots before 37403 growled off East with the tour ECS towards Pengam, her growling thrash bringing back 70’s Cardiff memories of the sounds of the likes of 37307 her pre eh number.

Immaculate 37403 during the Worcester Shrub Hill photo stop

The signalman looks on as the tour reverses at Park Jn North of Newport

20189 at Cardiff

Because of the very late return times making it looking iffy on getting home to Leighton that same evening by train i opted for 67015 on a good run through the snow covered Marches for my trip home..    

Part Two of the tour, thanks to Guy Kendrick

…….carrying on from where Nick left off, after bailing off 67015 which we’d done Cardiff-Newport it was a jog over to the Cardiff bound platform to pick up the two minute down 2U13 10.43 Exeter-Cardiff HST.

Why is it branded Castle Class?! Marketing nonsense. 43010 and 43092 did the business on a packed train full of Newport hunting wenches out on the lash in the big city.

Bumped into Mr. Lewis on the platform at Cardiff, down doing 153 Valley moves. Managed to get a table at the second Spoons we went into as the whole city centre was packed for the Wales-Italy rugby match.

A quick pint and some food and back out into the persistent rain and a splash back to the station. A short wait saw 20189 leading the stock back in from Pengam to form 1Z39 15.08 up the branch to Cwmbargoed. Mike joined me in coach E which was absolutely roasting hot. Windows open and jackets off, the train left on time with some nice thrash from 37403 up front. From the third coach back she sounded mighty fine.

A run up through Queen Street towards Heath Junction saw photographers at many vantage points braving the torrential rain. YouTube videos show 20189 giving rear assistance up this section which we weren’t aware of at the front of the train. This will make things difficult to calculate the correct 20 mileage!

Turning left onto the branch at Ystrad 37403’s work really started and it was clear that she was working hard on load 9 on a very wet rail. I’ve no idea when the last train was taken up and down the branch (the scheduled freight today being caped) but the 37 was slipping a fair bit and making some great noise. Reports from the rear coach and also from video shot from the lineside show 20189 giving good assistance at the rear most of the way up.

The NR boundary at the end of the branch has by all accounts gradually moved further away from the mine, and was reached at 16.16 hours.

As it is literally in the middle of nowhere the train was allowed back down the branch to Ystrad 11 minutes early. 20189 took 1Z40 16.35 Cym-Dorridge back down the branch arriving at Ystrad at 16.55. Once 769008 had passed going North we were allowed back towards Cardiff at 17.02.

Coasting through Cardiff the train was taken to Ninian Park (17.37) where crossover enabled 37403 to take us back into the station to await the final passengers for departure back to the Midlands. Departure was 18.09 (+2) A very swift run through the Severn Tunnel saw us waiting time at Bristol Parkway at 18.52, leaving there at 19.11. Cheltenham loop saw the train +10 with the chances of making the last Keynes bound unit out of New Street seeming to slip away for Mike. Various alternative move calculations kept us both busy as the train slowly lost time up through to the Black Country.

The heavy rain continued but despite being +15 one of the days highlights for me was Old Hill Bank with 37403 down on pace and making a fantastic racket up front with 20189 once again banking the train up this stretch. Stirring stuff. My colleague bailed at Moor Street, and actually managed the last Keynes by the skin of his teeth on what should have been a plus 30. It was so wet when I bailed at Widney Manor that I left taking a final phot of the beast as she left about +5 in torrential conditions.

All in all a great day. Loco’s were outstanding and the stock and stewarding were cock on. So nice to hear the sounds of a hard working EE through an open window on a main line train.

Thanks again to Guy for the part two write up..

Link to the Valleybasher Tour in Feb 87 with Cromptons to Cwmbargoed and more!


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