Wires down at Hemel, December 1983

Wires down at Hemel, December 20th-21st 1983 

To a few of us local bashers Christmas came a few days early with a 36 hour “drag” courtesy of a serious wires down incident in the Bourne End/Hemel area.

Tuesday 2012 

Before joining the bus to work there was just time to survey the chaos at Leighton station. The 0700 Euston commuters had been waiting a good 40 minutes for a train and were growing restless like commuters quickly do. Eventually an already wedged 8 car Marylebone DMU set arrived and on they plied. One girl commuter pushed away by the commuter tide was  unable to get on so Railman Trevor put her in the second man’s seat of the middle DMU and told her “not to touch anything”.

A container cover on an overnight diesel hauled liners (4E73) had come loose and brought down a long section (several miles) of the DS wires from Hemel to Tring. The Bourne End (nr Hemel) neutral had also been blitzed which meant there was no OLE on any tracks between Hemel and Tring for the morning peak.

I begrudgingly left the chaos and went to work but a quick afternoon holiday booking saw me back around 1400 to join 310068 on a Rugby-Tring additional for a bus forward.

We crossed nothing on a strangely empty main line. At Tring we arrived in the rare up bay/loop platform. A few normals joined the waiting bus but I joined the Marylebone set (51658/59750/59731/51663/51666/59753/59654/51609) seen that morning in the opposite platform. In true basher tradition I sat in the front DMU coach and so was totally out of position as 47314 dragging 87014 arrived on an up drag and stopped at a red peg on the UF. The secondman got out and phone in hand gestured for the “seven” to drop it’s pan and was away before I could leapt over the bridge for it.

 The unusual site of A Marylebone DMU in service at Tring, 201283

 47314 stops at Tring to allow 87014 to drop it’s pan on the 0910 Glasgow – Euston.

Our DMU followed the “big duff” crossing over to the UF and tottered along passing several miles of overhead lying between the DS tracks! “Sparkies” were working away but this looked a long job. Wiring train power viewed was 31191 on the Willesden train, 25315 on the Bletchley train and 25032 on the Rugby train. At King’s Langley we crossed a stopping Down DMU and this needed a second glance and phot as it was  a 4 car rake made up of 2 withdrawn St Pancras-Bedford DMU’s. These must have been dug out in a panic I thought and were unheard of in the Hemel area.

 Wires between the tracks at Tring South, 201283

 31191 with the WN wiring train in the Bourne End area, 201283

 Rarity, Former St Pancras units in service at Kings Langley, 201283

A more regular (at weekends) Tyseley set followed then with a loud warning blast on the horn 31257 dragging another 87 passed us on the Watford curve. That was all that was on the move all the way to Euston. The terminus itself was equally eerie with just a few DMU’s/310’s and 2 rakes of Cobbler stock in. 2 47’s were parked up on the stabling road where the “roarers” normally parked. Passengers and commuters milled around in the usual confusion that only serious farces bring. My DMU quickly left but then gen was obtained  that some commuter trains would run plus a few Euston-Glasgow’s.

 Unusual stabled power at Euston 47200 and 47011, 201283

A 1600 Euston-Bletchley was then advised as departing from platform 12. I was pleased at seeing it was a hauled rake with a class 83 having brought in the 10 Mk I’s in. The rake very quickly filled and with front coach seats bagged 25213 backed on! A very loud (no banker) attack on Camden Bank followed, some normals in the leading coach requeted that the droplight windows be closed as they were unused to Sulzer music! Approaching the first stop, Watford I wandered whether to stay on board as the juice maybe restored but eventually opted to bail in ned like fashion!

            20 minutes later the 1615 Euston-Northampton arrived with 25175 dragging 310’s 078/093. The packed 310’s had just emergency lighting to add to the atmosphere as it was now dark. The 310’s guard acknowledged the platform tip, rung his bell, the 310 driver blew his horn, the rat acknowledged and thrashed off into Watford tunnel.! Truly outrageous especially so on your doorstep!

A Hemel bail saw a  25251/25287 on an up Glasgow drag ease up to drop off a driver but no way could I leap on. So the Marylebone DMU was joined again returning me South. We crossed 25192 (not confirmed) on another Euston-Northampton Mk 1 turn whilst 47314 was just arriving at Watford on a Euston-Glasgow drag. I flagged off the “duff” and 47321 on the next Euston-Northampton Mk I turn. To me 25’s were much rarer than 47’s but I was beginning to question my decision when 47011 then appeared on another Northbound drag.

 25032 with the Rugby wiring train at Hemel, broken insulator plots littered the platform, 201283

For once patience paid off, 25287 (dud) had been split from the pairing at Euston and was dragging 2 310’s to Northampton. I flagged this too and as hoped for 25251 returned on a Euston-Rugby Mk I rake 20 long minutes later. I bailed at Hemel to await the next drag but the station staff here told me the bad news that “there were no more trains” and I was put on a bus to Tring.

As I got on 310058 sitting in Tring loop 25226 briefly stopped dragging 87033 on another Glasgow-Euston but this too was flagged as it was getting late. On the US just North of Tring a light 40058 was checked waiting for us to clear….did this drag as well????   

The Moves*

068      Rugby-Tring Addit                                                     L.Buzzard-Tring        




51663}  1435 Tring-Euston Addit                                         Tring-Euston





25213  1600 Euston-Bletchley Addit (load 10)                     Euston-Watford Jn

25175}            1615 Euston-Northampton                             Watford Jn-H. Hempstead

078 (d)}

093 (d}

2 x 4 Car DMU xxxx Tring-Euston                                        H. Hempstead – Watford Jn

25251  1810 Euston-Rugby Addit                                         Watford Jn – H. Hempstead

Bus      xxxx Hemel-Tring Addit                                            H.Hempstead – Tring

058      2035 Tring-Birmingham                                              Tring-L. Buzzard

Other Gen **

25251} 0740 Northampton-Euston


25226} 0825 Bletchley-Euston Addit


25185 0810 Northampton-Euston

47298  1150 Euston-Glasgow 1S69

25213} 1240 Bletchley-Euston



47314}  0910 Glasgow – Euston


31257}            1445 Euston-Glasgow


47314}            1645 Euston-Glasgow


25192   1652 Euston-Northampton

25258}              1658 Euston-Bletchley


47011}            Euston-Glasgow Addit


47200  1750 Euston-Glasgow Addit

47321   1700 Euston-Northampton Addit

25258  1730 Euston – Northampton (310)

25287  1750 Euston-Northampton (2x 310)

47011  0720 Glasgow-Euston

47314}            0910 Glasgow-Euston


25251}              1115 Glasgow-Euston


25226} xxxx Glasgow-Euston                                              


25192} 1905 Euston-Blackpool


25200  2100 Euston-Fort William/Stranraer Sleeper

25199} 2335 Euston – Glasgow


** special thanks to David Hills excellent Sulzer site


My flat in Leighton at the time overlooked the WCML and sleep was difficult as it was non stop class 25 thrash as Bletchley men and loco’s kept the West Coast moving.

The drags continued throughout the night with rats on virtually everything. BY train crews were raking in the overtime, “Bletchley’s finest hour”.

 I got down the station just after 6am and was pleased to be advised the juice was still off in the problem section. The silence was shattered by 25193 and the rare 25109 storming South on a sleeper/night rider service. A 310 arrived from Tring and was taken to M. Keynes. This was my first dud move of the day, as unbeknown to me, the hauled G06 Euston-Birmingham turn was running and called at Leighton. The drag power to Bletchley was 47314, this loco having done more passenger turns in the last 24 hours than in the whole of 1983… .Anyway I viewed it heading North l/e at the Keynes apparently returning to it’s booked oil train duties from Bedworth to Immingham. 

            The commuters hovered and we were all rewarded with 25236/25199 dragging 87008 on a Wolves-Euston calling all big shacks. A pathetic 3.19 miles were taken for a Bletchley bail. About 10 minutes later 47340 arrived on a Northampton-Euston Mk 1 turn which I did back to Leighton. Then unfortunately it was off to work. The power remained off till mid morning and even 56041 off the Stoke Gifford-Wolverton stone train was hijacked on Bletchley flyover and “borrowed” for a few drags…Power was restored around 1100 , it then failed again, but all was back to normal by 1300. An unforgettable 2 days were over!

 Ian Windmill’s superb Soulbury view of 25226 dragging 87001 on an unidentified service, 211283

The Moves*

094      xxxx Tring-Birmingham Addit                                   L.Buzzard-M.Keynes

25236}                                                                                                M.Keynes-Bletchley

25199}            0700 Wolverhampton-Euston                                    


47340  0740 Northampton-Euston                                         Bletchley-L.Buzzard

Other Gen*

25193} 2250 Glasgow/Inverness-Euston


47314  0620 Euston-Liverpool (to Bletchley)

25287  0813 Northampton – Euston

25224   up Wolves? Drag 87001

* specific train times are not confirmed as an emergency timetable was in operation  and kept changing all the time but I wasn’t complaining!


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