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Bittern Farewell 30th December 2014

Discussion in 'What's Going On' started by Where's Mazeppa?, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. Where's Mazeppa?

    Where's Mazeppa? Member

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    Latest indications from UKRT are that, with some eight weeks to go, this tour is virtually sold out, with internet bookings now suspended. As one of the highest profile main line locomotive retirements scheduled over the next twelve months, it seems likely that this tour will attract phenomenal lineside interest as well. So I felt that now is probably as good a time as any to get the ball rolling with a new thread and to start rounding up initial observations and thoughts about this trip.

    This is my first attempt at inaugurating a NatPres thread, and a big thank-you goes to Bulleid Pacific for a helpful post on the Jubilee Requiem thread which has enabled me to get off the starting blocks with this. I hope that this first post covers enough ground to provoke some level of interest and response this far ahead of the trip itself. So here goes…..

    One of the many really appealing things about this outing is the timing – between Christmas and New Year. The daylight hours may be relatively short, but there seems to be a definite strain of opinion that a railtour offering a little bit of something special presents a highly desirable alternative to the typical cycle of inactivity that its so easy to slip into during the festive season, when for many there isn’t too much to differentiate one day from another. And yet looking back over the past few years, UK Railtours have been the only operator to explore or exploit the possibilities – a quick look at UK Steam confirms that the last time a steam-hauled excursion ran over the period between Christmas and New Year was the UKRT/ Tornado outing from Paddington to Stratford-upon-Avon and North Warwickshire on December 30th 2011. A truly grim day in the Midlands it was, weather-wise, but a very well supported tour nevertheless. And massive line-side interest too, from both photters and civilians.

    Perhaps the availability and or willingness of crews/ staff/ stewards to resource these trips at this time of year is a constraining factor. And of course, the heritage railways are out in force during this period with seasonal offerings that may be more appropriate, more local, or more appealing to family audiences. But its good to see UK Railtours, who are, after all, not exactly prolific in the steam railtour business, keeping the faith with this one.

    This will be Bittern’s seventh outing of the year (assuming the CathEx Chester and York trips happen 22/11 and 04/12) so it certainly hasn’t been over exposed on the mainline in 2014. This compares with six days-worth of outings in 2013 plus the three high speed trips. Something tells me that, as with Tornado, the fewer/ less frequent the appearances it makes, the more endearing the appeal of this locomotive becomes, so maybe the early sell-out of this trip shouldn’t come as any great surprise. (I’m sure that it will prove to be the same with SNG’s significantly-busier-than-recent-times main line schedule planned for early summer next year ahead of its retirement).

    Of considerable interest and relevance to the itinerary for the Farewell tour is the fact that, as of this week (commencing 3rd November), Lincoln Signalling Centre is due to take charge of the entire route between Werrington Junction and Gainsborough Trent Junction. With this event, which effectively marks the completion of the GN & GE Joint Line upgrade, a series of speed improvements will be implemented that will potentially transform the traditional 55 mph trundle across the flatlands into a far more invigorating 70/75 mph sprint…..hopefully… over lengthy stretches of the Joint Line.

    In the northbound direction, (i.e. as per the itinerary of the Bittern Farewell), the ten miles south of Spalding are now cleared for 70 mph running, and then, after 50/ 55 mph through Spalding itself, a full 75 mph is permitted for 15 miles from a point north of Spalding as far as Sleaford South Junction, and again for the 18 miles north of Sleaford North to the outskirts of Lincoln. The Sleaford Avoiding Line, which is now to be traversed by the Farewell tour, remains restricted to 55 mph in both directions.

    What this amounts to is that, in round figures, the higher speeds are authorised for over 80% of the 52 route miles from Werrington Junction to Lincoln, and, but for the interruptions at Spalding and Sleaford, would surely now qualify this route as a fully fledged “Racing Ground” for steam.
    UKRT’s tour description does quite rightly highlight the novelty of the traverse of the Sleaford Avoiding Line as a feature of the northbound itinerary – although this is unlikely to be the first steam-hauled excursion to use the upgraded Avoiding Line. That distinction will probably go to RTC’s 6th December “Lindum Fayre” with UoSA – although strangely (or maybe not!) RTC’s blurb about their tour makes no reference to this.

    But despite the availability of the Avoiding Line, and the higher line speeds now possible, we haven’t yet seen any evidence to suggest that the Peterborough-Lincoln timings for the “Farewell” tour (or for that matter for the Lindum Fayre) are going to change significantly from the timings for the last steam outing over this section in December 2013 (behind Cromwell on that occasion) when, for example, just over ten minutes were consumed in weaving our way through Sleaford to get from South to North junctions. I wait with eager anticipation to see if anything more positive materialises on this when the finalised timings become available much closer to the day.

    Its true that the Joint Line upgrade may have come at some small cost in terms of diminished character and lost landmarks along this secondary route. But we now have a significant addition to the UK’s stock of route mileage cleared for speeds more befitting of Gresley’s thoroughbreds - which we already know Bittern is fully capable of making the best use of. And with this comes the prospect of sustained running that will hopefully be relatively unimpeded, unlike, say, progress over the much busier slow lines on the ECML south of Huntingdon.

    As such, I just couldn’t let this piece of good news go un-remarked. It just makes waiting for 30th December that much harder.
     
  2. JDTTRAINS

    JDTTRAINS Member

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    Just been confirmed by the official 4464 Facebook page that 'Bittern' has got 1 more year left of service! She will be based down at the Watercress Line (Mid-Hants) running for the duration of 2015, before going to Crewe LNWR in late '15 for its overhaul!
     
  3. Where's Mazeppa?

    Where's Mazeppa? Member

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    "Its true that the Joint Line upgrade may have come at some small cost in terms of diminished character and lost landmarks along this secondary route. But we now have a significant addition to the UK’s stock of route mileage cleared for speeds more befitting of Gresley’s thoroughbreds .... And with this comes the prospect of sustained running that will hopefully be relatively unimpeded, unlike, say, progress over the much busier slow lines on the ECML south of Huntingdon."

    Well, the times for the Farewell tour have now been posted .....
    Northbound http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/U63472/2014/12/30/advanced
    Return http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/U63474/2014/12/30/advanced

    ....and it now looks like my earlier bout of eager anticipation was hopelessly, wildly, naively over-optimistic. 78 minutes for the 51.5 miles from Werrington Junction to Lincoln doesn't really look very ambitious. Or intermediately, for example, the 25 minutes for the 17.8 miles allowed from Spalding to Sleaford South doesn't really suggest that we are witnessing the baptism of a nursery "gallop" on the Joint Line.

    RTC's "Lindum Fayre" with UoSA earlier this month also appears to have experienced a somewhat chequered run over this line, (82 minutes from Werrington Junction to Lincoln) but in that particular instance, it seems from RTT data that its progress was thwarted by a late running Sleaford-Lincoln local, and hence the check at Sleaford North Junction and DJW's rather splendid video post of its restart from that check on the "Lincoln - Saturday 6th December" thread.

    Does any of this matter?? Nope, not really, because it certainly won't deter or dismay the legions of observers and photographers who I'm sure will turn out in big numbers for this event . And it certainly won't diminish the enjoyment of the experience and sense of occasion that the passengers - myself included - will derive from this trip. And I certainly do not want any of these observations or comments to be construed in any way as a criticism of the plans, the planners and the organisers of this trip...or indeed all those who will make it happen on the day.

    But I can't help mulling the possibility that overly-relaxed schedules could also create the sense that maybe something is missing from the totality of the experience?? The head is telling me that the published timings do truly give some expression to the limits of what is possible in pathing terms. But the heart still says ..."If only...."
     
  4. LC2

    LC2 Member

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    According to the RailUKForums, the ECML engineering works over this Christmas are over running.
    No service tomorrow (27th), Emergency Timetable being planned for 28th.
    http://www.railforums.co.uk/showthread.php?t=109951

    No one is saying what is actually up, but there is currently only 1 clear day between the planned emergency timetable and Bittern's farewell. Presumably there is potential for further over-runs and therfore risk to the tour.
     
  5. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    The works are at Belle Isle, outside King's X. Block was from 23.00 on that 24th, until about 09.00 on the 27th. Last I heard was 16 hour overrun, so King's X won't be open until Sunday morning, a day later than booked. Fingers crossed though!
     
  6. mrKnowwun

    mrKnowwun Part of the furniture

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    Even network rail can't make a 2 day possession into a 6 day one, plus there would be plenty of scope for a start outside the block. Difficult tour to video this, easy to choose one spot, but timings are tight for a multiple shot chase and the return is in the dark.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2014
  7. LC2

    LC2 Member

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    I hope you're right. It's 3 days so far with all sorts of issues running a service today.
    Assuming that the possession is returned today, then there is plenty of time for the big railway to get stock back to where they need it to run the normal (weekend?) timetable. However, if it goes on any longer, or heaven forbid that KX is still blocked on the 3oth, are NR going to be keen to add a Steam Loco into the mix (let alone the TOCs).
     
  8. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Love the optimism. :)
     
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  9. LC2

    LC2 Member

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    Yeah, I thought that after posting too. ;)
    <Glass Half Full> It will be running </Glass Half Full>
     
  10. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'm in the glass empty section at the moment. I can't drive for another week at least so was being chauffeur driven to go out and see this but my chauffeur has gone and broken his ankle.
    This guarantees perfect photographic conditions. :(
     
  11. mrKnowwun

    mrKnowwun Part of the furniture

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    Panic ye not, I am out filming this, so guarantees poor light. My glass has a hole in it, that way I am rarely disappointed.
     
  12. Duty Druid

    Duty Druid Resident of Nat Pres

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    That's a complete bummer!

    What about your chauffeur's chauffeur?........ ;)
     
  13. RalphW

    RalphW Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Administrator Friend

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    Next teaser, how many chauffeurs does it take to get Spamcan81 to a suitable photographic location????
     
  14. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    She's at home with her family in China. Hasn't been seen for months.
     
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  15. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Nakkers knackered?
     
  16. Duty Druid

    Duty Druid Resident of Nat Pres

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    That's you completely Woked then......... :eek:

    If it aint persisting down & I can me backside out of bed, I might go out for this..... :rolleyes:
     
  17. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yep. Left foot in plaster.
     
  18. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    You have my sympathy. I'm sitting here with 4 bust ribs trying to avoid sneezing. I got caught out though watching Rob Brydon on TV; he made me laugh too much. Not sure, I will be able to drive the motorhome up to Preston for the Tin Bath. It will annoy me if I miss that.
     
  19. ian14

    ian14 Member

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    Have looked and failed to find any decent photographic vantage point in north London - say up to as far as Alexandra Palace - aside from actually on a platform at King's Cross. Distinct lack of overlooking bridges and also lots of "furniture" in the way of any sort of clear shot. Anyone know different?
     
  20. springers

    springers Member

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    Just on FB that Bittern has passed her FTR.
    Colin.
     

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