A Day Out in Durham

29 March 1988

43 178 at DurhamOne of the many BR leaflets which came my way during the early part of this year described "Inter City Days Out". Detailed were a number of interesting and far-flung destinations, available from Midrail stations, at very reasonable fares. My colleague and I decided we would have a day out in Durham, during the week before Easter - fare 12.50.

The outward journey had to be on the 0715 Birmingham New Street - Newcastle. No train from Shrewsbury is available to connect, so I picked my friend up by car and joined the 0630 to Birmingham at Wolverhampton, having had to leave home at 5.30am! Clearly a long day was in prospect.

The 0715 starts from New Street, and was in when we arrived at about 6.45, so we took seats with an unobscured view in the waiting HST, and settled back with the morning paper.......

0715. Precisely to time, we pulled out of New Street. Passing through Washwood Heath, we noted two new class 156 units at the Metro Cammell works

0734. 1 minute behind schedule after a brief pause at Tamworth.

0749. 5 minutes late now, after picking up at Burton-on-Trent. Train filling up somewhat - commuters for Derby?

0758. Derby, 1 minute late. Departmental liveried 31, numbered 97 204, 45 115, and new Railfreight liveried 47 207 Bulmers of Hereford, all outside the works. 0825. Depart Chesterfield, 4 minutes down now. 0838. Arrive Sheffield, 1 minute early! An unidentified "Peak" stood on a short passenger train, presumably the 0725 Nottingham - Leeds, due to stand here from 0826 to 0848. This train, in theory a "Sprinter", was a regular Peak turn around Christmas, due to stock shortages.

0842. Leave Sheffield for Doncaster. This route, former GCR, passes the Thomas Hill works at Kilnhurst, where a steam Sentinel stood quietly rusting at the end of the works siding.

0908. Arrive Doncaster, 3 minutes late. Doncaster is of course "under the wires" now. 0913. Depart, 7 minutes late. We are now on 125mph track - the East Coast Main Line.

0935. York, 1 minute late. Our scheduled time of 28 minutes to York would have given an average speed of 70mph. Our actual time to York of 22 minutes, gives the much faster average of almost 89 mph! Much reconstruction work is due at York before electrification is completed, and was evident on this occasion in the form of much shortening of the main northbound platform (9).

0938. Pull away 3 minutes late, to take the "Racing Ground", the North Eastern Railway's main line to Darlington. Back in the days of the NER, in 1902 to be precise, the "Fastest Train in the British Empire" was scheduled to cover the 44 miles in 43 minutes. Loads of around 220 tons, or 7 coaches, would be hauled by class "R" 4-4-0s, and later, heavier trains hauled by "V" and "Z" class Atlantics. Averages of over 70mph were recorded with these locos, which could haul trains of exceeding 200 tons at more than 80mph on level track! Cecil J. Allen commented in 1923 "Thus these North Eastern 3-cylinder Atlantics yield but little, if at all, to the Great Western 4-6-0s in the matter of sustained high speed on the level". Our HST took 28 minutes, running of course at a steady 125mph, giving an average of 94mph. Doesn't sound that much better, really! Oddly enough, the 7 MkIIIs make for a load of 231 tons, little different to those days nearly 90 years ago!

1007. Leave Darlington, 3 minutes late. 20 minutes allowed for the 22 miles to Durham.

1027. Arrive Durham.

With a scheduled departure time of 1538 (a later train was also available on the ticket) we had a leisurely wander round Durham's ancient streets, and a leisurely lunch in one of its ancient hostelries. A quick trip to the top of the Cathedral tower to round off the day, then back to the station.

We left Durham 3 minutes late and began to retrace our earlier path. Just north of Northallerton we passed a pair of class 20s coming off the Redmire branch, with a train of stone for Teesside. My train spotting days, around 25 years ago, were mostly spent on Northallerton Station. The platforms here are staggered, so to get a good view of "bottom liners" on the Teesside line, we usually stood on the south end of the southbound platform - it was practically impossible to get the numbers from the northbound platform, due to various fences, buildings etc. The only problem with this stance was the stone trains from Wensleydale.....

The once triangular junction for the line, which ran to Hawes Junction (now Garsdale) on the Settle & Carlisle, is a little way to the north of the station. Stone trains off the branch used to leave the branch in a northerly direction, then reverse down the main line into the station, in order to gain the former Leeds Northern Railway line to Stockton. Presumably they still do. The locomotive, usually an Austerity 2-8-0, would stop well clear of the southbound platform, before heading away towards Yarm. The sight of a brakevan heading south down the main line was thus the signal for a sprint up the platform, down the subway and along the other platform in an attempt to get the number!

An inexplicable switch to the slow line from Northallerton to Thirsk caused some loss of time to York, where 08 500, alias "No.1 Thomas" was indulging in a spot of shunting. More evidence of electrification at Doncaster, with pantograph-fitted test coach "Mentor" in residence. Passing through Sheffield, we again noted a short Peak-hauled passenger train - again, I would imagine, a Leeds - Nottingham service. At Derby, a pair of 156 units stood in the sidings, outside the Technical Centre. Presumably these were the pair seen earlier in the day at Metro-Cammell. On arrival at New Street, we made a quick dash to catch the 1844 for Wolverhampton, so I was home again by around 7.30pm. An excellent day out!

 FOOTNOTE:- BR are currently advertising an excellent range of destinations for "Inter - City days out" during the summer. Watch this space!

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