Discussion in 'What's Going On' started by Bulleid Pacific, Oct 12, 2017.
Offham Water meadows, Arundel. Yes I forgot my tripod.
As I type, I'm noticing how crap a HST's suspension is. Anyway, it was very much a track basher's tour, which was why I did it. Despite thinking that the wind would bo**ocks everything up, luckily it didn't happen.
The farce at Preston Park was one of those things where if you happened to be on the train, you got Preston Park Carriage Road North under your belt. The farce at Horsham was indeed NR Control f***ing about with the idea of sending us to Three Bridges. Overall, really enjoyed it, rare track and an early arrival back at Victoria.
Interesting day all told with the weather chaos adding to the platform blunder. At one point 5 minutes before Royal Scot was due Barnham was playing host to three trains all pointing east (a Littlehampton, a Brighton and a London Victoria) with another sat at the signal waiting to come in fro Chichester! Never seen Barnham so busy, and lots of kids about. Couple of pics from there and East Croydon, got bowled at Three Bridges.
Braved Storm Brian with the drone to see Royal Scot race across the Ouse Valley viaduct before jumping in the car and chasing it down to Brighton City Airport (aided by events at Preston Park).
Seeing it up close at the latter there appeared to be very few spaces!
I haven't posted on here for ages, but despite the weather we headed over to Balcombe in the morning and decided against chasing it down to Shoreham to see it go over the Adur and headed home. A last minute decision from me to head over to Christs Hospital and I got there with literally seconds to spare so not the best location, here is the short video I shot yesterday:
Now I have eight hours' sleep under my belt, and am not getting frustrated with being thrown about by a HST, I can say that despite the ominous rumblings about Storm Brian, it didn't really affect us to a massive extent. Indeed, aside from the delays to service trains caused by the weather, and there was a report that a part of a tree had fallen near Horsham, that was about it from Brian. On a personal note, I'm glad I prepared for the worst and ended up getting the best outcome- getting from York to the south coast and back in 22 hours with minimal inconvenience.
Conversely, there were a few choice decisions made by NR control over the course of the day that raised the eyebrow. The run, or stagger, down the Brighton Mainline was a bit of a mess for the speed recorders amongst our number, although this was alleviated somewhat by the unlucky (or lucky?) individual who boarded the the train at Victoria, hoping to get to Whitstable! The scheduled stops en-route proved rather flexible in the extreme, and so it was at Haywards Heath, rather than East Croydon, that the individual left the train. Presumably a run back to Redhill for a change of trains was in order...
Having had a decent run on the Brighton as far as Keymer Jn last year, I was content with the proceedings, and was looking forward to the 'new track' beyond that point, taking in the highlight of Clayton Tunnel for the first time by steam, and only the second time ever.
I can't quite recall whether we came to a halt outside Preston Park for platform clearance, but whatever happened, it turned out to be the wrong platform for access to the water tanker. On the one hand, it presented a rare opportunity to grab a decent enough photo at this location, and on the other, and again preparing for the worst (an early departure with me stranded on the wrong platform), I re-boarded a couple of minutes before it was decided to make a 'false start' for the half-mile into Preston Park sidings. Suffice to say, it created some confusion amongst some passengers, and extra entertainment and value for the track bashers amongst us (ie. myself). Rare stuff. We were dragged back into the correct platform, but the whole farce took the best part of 45 minutes to sort out.
Now we were completely out of slot, it was a case of fitting in as best we could with the service trains, and the combination of this, the level crossings and the 50mph restriction conspired to produce another trundle along the West Coastway. However, the view of the foothills of the South Downs was pleasant enough, and it became a case of Public School spotting. All this and more before our 45-minute late arrival at Bognor.
It was time for a pint at The Alex and a wander to the front to say I had taken in the ozone, thick with sea salt and wind-whipped spume. After coming to terms with Brian and watching the lifeboat and helicopter search for a missing surfer, I walked back to the station, took some photos of the semaphores and battened down the hatches for some Spoon haulage. Indeed, the Spoon bashers seemed out in force for a Les Special to Littlehampton. With the local network seemingly in disarray at Barnham, we waited opposite Bognor Sainsbury's for the junction to de-clog itself, and then we were away, arriving at Littlehampton seven late.
The wind was more constant here, but there were breaks in the cloud for moody photos of 46100 in the platform. A group of us went to The Crown for another pint from the cobsiderable Ringwood stable, then wandered for another at The Steam Packet, which was closed for 'home work'. Not perturbed by this setback, we blazed a trail across the way to The Arun View Inn for a fine pint of local Arundel Brewery beer, and shelter from the keen wind and squally rain.
The return to London was excellent, with fine scenery in evidence despite the gathering gloom, and I seem to recall it being pointed out by Big Al that there was only the briefest of shoves from behind on the short, sharp 1 in 100 that preceded Horsham, hence the abrupt emergency stop we experienced at Horsham when it was clear that Control was insistent on sending us the wrong way to Three Bridges. We reversed behind the signal, and four minutes later, the correct road was set. The rest of the journey was in darkness, but pretty much running to time despite the severe restrictions at various stations on the route. We were then treated to a lap of honour on the up fast from Streatham South Jn to Clapham Junction, and a fairly rare run across the lines there to platform 12 in anticipation of Pouparts Jn. We had a pretty clear run into Victoria, and another rare event awaited in that we were 15 early, yet had the free use of platform two. After a meal with fellow passengers and a friend who decided to turn up, it was time to get to King's Cross for the 22:00 to Leeds, and the late 00:45 to York, finally reaching the flat at 01:50, exhausted, but happy. Indeed, of such feats of logistical excellence are dreams made.
Some shots from yesterday taken at Shoreham, Ford and Arundel
Salfords, Preston Park (including the run into platform two and subsequently old Pullman works sidings!), Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Arundel and Warnham...
I have to say that although the outward run was a real trundle for passengers and the whole day was distinctly challenging for photographers (myself included) full marks for RTC for bringing main line steam to Sussex once again. It doesn't happen very often and the other operators seem largely to shun the county, but having said that, I can't say I blame them as the former LB&SCR routes are pretty challenging if you're looking to organise a day out with steam that will appeal.
In their favour, at least the Brighton Main Line and West Sussex coast routes are fairly accommodating gauging-wise. Besides Royal Scot, Bittern and Duke of Gloucester have worked over these lines in the preservation era as did Flying Scotsman in the 1960s. Jubilees worked to Brighton and indeed Eastbourne in the 1960s, although they were officially banned.
The difficulties, however, are manifold. Firstly, it's very hard to schedule in a special that allows a steam loco to stretch its legs. The LB&SCR lines boast no decent racing stretch like Basingstoke-Woking or Ashford-Tonbridge. The Brighton Main Line is so densely trafficked that trundling will always be the order of the day, unless you want to run a railtour that starts at about 3AM! The West Coast line is little better. Keymer Junction-Lewes-Eastbourne is a bit more promising for fast running (apart from the curves at Lewes and Polegate) and it sounds like 46100 managed a decent run up the Arun Valley line.
Then there's the question of a destination. Chichester is a pleasant enough city, complete with cathedral, but personally, I wouldn't put it in the same league as Salisbury, Winchester or Canterbury. Eastbourne is, in my opinion, the most attractive of the seaside towns although Hastings does boast a castle, caves and a very historic Old Town. Scenic as the Uckfield line is, there's nowhere much where you could disembark and spend a full afternoon and I'm not sure where you could put the stock. There are some sidings at Crowborough, but I'm not sure whether they are still in use. Lewes and Arundel are interesting places, but I've never known a either being a destination for steam trains in the preservation era.
Then come the logistical issues. Uckfield, Eastbourne, Seaford, Littlehampton and Bognor are all dead ends, so you are almost inevitably faced with problems in turning the loco. Last Saturday's train solved the problem with a diesel towing the stock plus 46100 from Bognor to Littlehampton. The regular December RTC trip to Eastbourne also has a diesel on the back as it then runs on to Hastings and back via Battle and Tunbridge Wells. Brighton, of course, has the triangle featuring Preston Park and Hove, but it is a very busy station and the various manoevres required would be difficult to fit in during the day. I think the last time Steam Dreams ran to Chichester, the stock continued to Eastleigh so the loco could be turned.
Finally, Sussex is rather too close to London to allow for long enough to serve up a nice four-course dinner on the return trip, even allowing for the "trundle factor" and we now live in days when the dining passenger is a key element in main line steam specials.
All in all, then, there are good reasons why main line steam in Sussex is quite a rare event. Even so, I do hope RTC will continue to run a few excursions to this neck of the woods and I still dream of seeing Clan Line down here one of these days. Next year marks 150 years since the Uckfield-Crowborough-Groombridge line was opened. It would be good to see a commemorative repeat of the 9th Novemeber 2013 RTC tour with 34046 and 44932 on either end which visited Uckfield and the Bluebell Line (although not Groombridge!)
Seconded, John; gutted to read this morning that 'The Bath Christmas Market' by RYTC has been cancelled on November, 28th
I agree with your sentiments. When there were more lines in Sussex across the middle there were several, very successful steam trips, largely to mark the closing of branches. I see no reason why something similar to Saturday's trip can't continue to be offered by the RTC. Hopefully the support the trip received will encourage Nigel Dobbing to think creatively.
I know that Brighton is a problem because of traffic density and train length issues but as a destination it has much to offer yet operators always seem to put it in the 'too difficult' category. Steam from London to Hastings with a reverse and diesel to Eastbourne and then steam from Eastbourne into Brighton would, for example, be interesting and give time for an extended brunch. Spend as long as necessary at Brighton and then come back up the ML. Why try to serve two meals on the train when you have all of Brighton to take your pick?
I think John has summed the issues up perfectly, it is in most parts a very busy railway. Whilst I can fully understand Big Al's comment about why serve two meals when you have the whole of Brighton, my take is that the experience of "dining on the move" is all part of the appeal to those that pay the top end fares. Yes I know you can still eat a meal on some like GWR or VWC. but it does not have the ambience of a BR Mk1, even if some of them are a little "tired" these days.
The Bognor Belle only had two coaches of diners plus two having snacks. There were more people on the train who were Standard Class passengers than all of the other classes lumped together. I understand that dining is a factor in the business model but I do wonder whether, at times, it becomes the tail that wags the steam dog. If food is that important then why bother with a steam engine at all? It just complicates the trip, it seems.
True Big Al I did notice form a YouTube clip of the "hiccup" at Preston Park that the Kitchen Car was unusually next to the support coach. Maybe on a more enthusiast orientated tour that may be a valid point.
My short offering from Box Hill and Westhumble station, where she provides the waiting crowd with a very nice soundtrack.
Hope you enjoy!
What about Chichester and Portsmouth. Punters would have good choices including IOW. Stock could stable Southsea or Fratton and loco turn at Farlington
That formation of only 4 premier/1st is I think the exception, most that I travel on have 3 and sometimes 4 dining, 3 first, buffet, 2 standard and a brake, resulting in the frequent load 13.
Yes it used to be done, but stabling stock is dependant upon there being space in Fratton Depot of SWR and their agreement. ( All platforms are already used for services or stabling stock because Fratton is pretty congested apart from SX between peaks. Then there are fewer staff on duty for shunting the charter...) Portsmouth & Southsea DCS maybe available but needs a double shunt via Fratton CSD for access.
Turning locos now requires a trip to Fareham and Havant to use the nearest crossovers which uses loco servicing time.
Carriage sidings like Fratton, Lovers Walk or St Philips Marsh are private sidings and as such need agreement from their owner for use by another TOC, including charter trains.
So tours to Portsmouth have ended up on the "too much hassle" pile. If there was a definite request and perceived market, things could change. Brighton is much the same and as I recall the last steam tour spent most of the layover trundling round Sussex to turn the loco.
Excuse me! Chi is more than just pleasant, it's wonderful.
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