The 'Cumbrian Mountain Express'
Always fancied a trip down the Carlise to Settle line. It's supposed to be a scenic journey, and you get to cross over the famous Ribblehead viaduct. Well, a trip came up on a steam hauled train called the 'Cumbrian Mountain Express'. That's settled then. What's more, the engine pulling the train was one of Sir Nigel Gresley's A4 Pacifics, 'Union of South Africa', British Railways number 60009. The pictures below were taken from the train on August 23rd, 2014.
An A4 Pacific? I hear you ask. These were streamlined engines designed by Sir Nigel Gresley. Only 35 were made in the mid 1930's. Probably the most famous of these engines is 'Mallard', which set a world speed record for a steam train of 126 mph in the hands of driver Duddington on July 3rd 1938. The record still stands. '60009' Union of South Africa is one of only six A4 Pacifics left, of which only three are in running condition. Three are used only as static exhibits. All six surviving locomotives, Bittern, Mallard, Union of South Africa, Dominion of Canada, Dwight D Eisenhower and Sir Nigel Gresley were all brought together at the Nation Railway Museum in York at the 'Great Gathering' in 2013. The three engines highlighted in bold are the operational engines.
The map of the route we took is shown on the right. After originally being postponed due to a fireman's strike (fear of a trackside fire), the trip went ahead on August 23rd, 2014. However, due to a continuing dispute, we were only allowed to be steam hauled between Carlisle and Blackburn. The rest of the trip was to be diesel hauled.
In actual fact, it wasn't so bad only being partially steam hauled. When you're sitting in the carriage enjoying your tea and sandwiches, the scenery doesn't look any different. The biggest concern was for all the steam enthusiasts lining the route to take pictures and videos. There were people on bridges, the roadside and in fields miles from anywhere, cameras on tripods at the ready. You could see them visibly confused and scratching their heads as a diesel train shot past, not an A4 Pacific. Oh, the trials and tribulations of a train spotter !! At least the enthusiasts weren't disappointed on the stretch between Carlise and Blackburn.
After being picked up by the diesel at the Metrocentre station in Gateshead, (it would have been so much better to have seen '60009' steaming across the Kind Edward VII bridge into Newcastle Central, but it wasn't to be .... this time!!), we headed over to Carlisle where we would be coupled up to Union of South Africa. There was a break of about an hour and a half in Carlisle originally intended for refuelling and watering. Once we were coupled up to '60009' and our scheduled departure time had arrived, we were off. We were steam hauled down the Carlisle to Settle section and on to Blackburn where the engine steamed off, leaving us to be diesel hauled back to Newcastle via York. On the journey from Carlisle to Blackburn, we stopped twice to be watered at Appleby, and then again at Hellifield station, a few miles South of Settle.
The photos in the gallery below, are just a selection of the ones I took. Most of the images are from the steam hauled section from Carlisle to Blackburn, although there are a few other random ones sprinkled in.
To view the pictures in the main window, click on the thumbnail images in the scrolling gallery to the right of the main picture, or use the navigation buttons. It's up to you.
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