April / May / June 2020..

The East Coast Main Line (ECML) is a 393-mile long (632 km) major railway link between London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster,
Wakefield, Leeds,York, Darlington and Newcastle, electrified along the whole route. Services north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness use diesel trains.
 The main franchise on the line is operated by Virgin Trains East Coast.

The route forms a key artery on the eastern side of Great Britain and is broadly paralleled by the A1Trunk Road. It links London, the South East and
 East Anglia, with Yorkshire, the North East Regions and Scotland. It also carries key commuter flows for the north side of London.

 It is important to the economic health of several areas of England and Scotland.

 It also handles cross-country, commuter and local passenger services, and carries heavy tonnages of freight traffic.

 Roger Carvell is a rail enthusiast who contributes much of the local content to this website. He now lives in Biggleswade, near the ECML, but 
on this page he reports on news and movements on this historic line, close to his home and heart.



June 23rd 2020.

Peterborough station, Sunday, May 31. The station, a major crossroads to and from the east of England and north and south, presented an
 eerie spectacle - almost deserted except for station staff and train crews.
 Passengers at this normally busy ECML station were absent yet booked trains came and went.

 On the Sunday morning, two veteran Class 20s arrived and are seen on the ‘Waitrose siding’ (the shop is adjacent).
 20007 and 20205 were hired to Loram, as stickered. On Monday a fresh crew would take the two up to Romford in East London to pick up a
 rail-borne milling machine and return it to Derby. The two English Electric Type 1s, dating from 1958, are immaculate.

20007 and. blue 20205 on the ‘Waitrose siding’ at Peterborough, May 31.

Sunday, May 31, during lockdown. A northbound Azuma stands awaiting passengers. The conductor looks at a bare platform.
 There were very few passengers on board.

An Edinburgh to King’s Cross switches to Platform One to make its booked stop of at least ten minutes.

The rear of the Edinburgh LNER service, propelled by 91105 makes an interesting contrast with Loram rail blue 20205 but both BR designs.

A nice touch at Peterborough; a King’s Cross to Glasgow Azuma service slows to a halt. I had been puzzled why the young lady (right) had appeared so far
 down the platform, normally the preserve of mainly male rly enthusiasts, notably absent!
 The silver foil packaging in her hands gave the clue. As the Azuma stopped, the cab door opened and the driver, the lady’s partner, stepped out.
 They greeted each other and she gave him his packed lunch. It was a personal moment and I looked away politely.
 Exchange done, the driver climbed in, waved goodbye and the lady walked away as the Azuma resumed its journey north.
 I am not party to the intricacies of driver rostering but perhaps he was relieved at Doncaster or York, in order to return during his shift hours.

 May 31st 2020, here’s a rare visitor!! As the West  Coast Main Line has been shut most recent weekends twixt Preston and Glasgow, it was decided to
 re-route the Daventry Freight International Terminal (DIRFT) to Mossend (Glasgow) ‘Tesco Express’ via the ECML.
 Making its appearance at Peterborough, is 88002 ‘Prometheus’ taking a crew change. The ‘Tesco Express’ ran south, to north London and then
 via the North London Line, took the ECML north, pausing at Peterborough to change Direct Rail Services drivers.
 This was only the second time a Class 88 had been seem on the ECML and also the first time for many years since an electrically-hauled freight train had run the length of the ECML.

 88002 restarts from Peterborough after a crew change on the ‘Tesco Express’. May 31st 2020.


June 10th 2020.

Below is a view of the profusion of poppies at the lineside.
 An Azuma flashes past on ‘1A22’ Leeds to King’s Cross, just south of Biggleswade on Monday, June 8th 2020.


May29th 2020.

'Azuma' to the North Pole!

On Wednesday, May 13, brand new LNER 801227 was sent from Tyne 'SS' depot outside Newcastle, up to GWR North Pole depot in West London
for pre-service prepping.
Here it is below, passing Sheep Walk Crossing, Biggleswade, on a very quiet weekday, with very few trains about, as
the national lockdown continued.

Why North Pole? Well, the depot takes its name from a pub in thevicinity! The depot used to be home to Eurostar, when their trains were
serviced and stabled there, and before Eurostar switched to St Pancras International from Waterloo International.
The newer Eurostar trains, built to the larger 'Berne' or continental gauge, are now serviced and stabled at Temple Mills in East London.
The wider gauge of HS1 may one day see double deck trains in the UK, as this is now the increasing trend with new inter city European
designs in France, Germany and Spain.

I should add that double-deck trains have run in England before - Mr O.V.S Bulleid's two Southern suburban 4-DD examples ran for many years, exclusively
from Dartford into Charing Cross but the idea of two decks within a four-coach train was never taken further. Claustrophobic, stuffy and
taking a long time to load and unload- these were some of the criticisms made by passengers and staff alike.

In response, to increase the number of seats, the Southern Region lengthened suburban platforms and added a two-car emu to a traditional
rush hour eight-car formation. Mr Bulleid's novel idea ran its course and the two double-deck trains were withdrawn when heavy overhauls
became due in 1971.

From York to the Channel Tunnel.

On Friday, May 15, a Network Rail test train was booked to run south from York (Thrall) to Dollands Moor, the reception yard for the
 Channel Tunnel near Folkestone, Kent.
Below is Colas's 37254 (BR D6954) 'Cardiff Castle' approaching East Road Crossing, Langford, just south of Biggleswade, with its rake of assorted NR
yellow Mk1 and Mk2 vehicles, heading up to and through Greater London, towards Kent
and the Channel Tunnel.

The next day, Saturday, May 16, the NR consist was back, heading north to base at the Derby Railway Technical Centre but this time with BR
blue-liveried 37610 (BR D6881) doing the traction. 37610 is seen bewlow at Sheep Walk Crossing, Biggleswade. 37610 took the
train from Tonbridge, Kent, now quite a centre for diesel locomotive operations.

Sunday, May 17, offered ECML watchers the maiden appearance of a new type of bi-mode locomotive, the 5,400hp Stadler-built Class 88, with a
940hp diesel incorporated for 'last mile ops' off the 25kV system.

Already a familiar sight on the West Coast Main Line since 2017, the Class 88 was unknown until now on the Great Northern section of the
East Coast Main Line.

With the WCML shut north of Preston to Carlisle, it was decided to re-route via the ECML, the Daventry freight terminal to mid-Scotland's
Mossend Yard services (Tesco. Russell and Cobelfret containers) by using the class 88 in electric mode all the way.

Similar to the earlier all-diesel Stadler (Vossloh) Class 68, the electric version recalls the names of the former 1500vDC, EM2, Co-Co,
Woodhead electrics, a nice touch.

Below is 88010 'Aurora' heading north at Sandy, between Hitchin and Peterborough; the balancing up working with another Class 88 was
delayed and ran via the southern part of the ECML in darkness.

On Wednesday, May 20, keen photographers were out for the day's booked scrap move; this takes withdrawn ex-GWR Mk3 hst coaches from Ely
Papworth, via Cambridge, and onto the ECML for the first part of their last journey.

Rail Operations Group at Leicester had hired four Class 20s from Worksop-based Harry Needle Railroad Co.Ltd, On the day, BR Railfreight
grey 20118 (BR D8118) and 20132 (BR D8132) were ready at Ely to take another batch of withdrawn hst trailers to Newport Sims MM for scrapping.

Below are the vintage pair, in loud English electric voice, passing Arch Bridge, just south of Hitchin, The irony is that 20118 is about
15 years older than the Mk3 coaches!

From Hitchin the Class 20s would continue up to London, onto the North London Line, and then branching off onto the GWR main line act Acton
for South Wales.

Since the Class 20s have now returned to Leicester, NHS tribute 47813 has had the task of removing more ex-GWR stock to Newport Sims MM from Ely Papworth.

Below is a last look at a First-liveried GWR trailer coach, still complete with seats which, from my experience, are more
comfortable than the new, harder, IEP 800 seats.

The 1000hp Class 20, as the English Electric Type 1 Bo-Bo locomotive, first appeared on the Great Northern section of the
 ECML as long ago as 1959, By the mid-1960s the type moved north but during their GN stay, the D8000s performed everything
from shunting, trip freight turns, commuter train work and rescuing Class 1 trains.
 One even appeared at Cambridge on one of the famous undergraduate-favoured 'beer trains' from King's Cross.
For the Cambridge student, with a love for beer and trains, a Type 1 on passenger duty was call for a drink! The 1911 Cambridge University
Railway Club, the third oldest railway club in the world, would have heard all about the event.

Bank Holiday Monday, May 25, saw further Daventry to Mossend diversions, away from the WCML again but retimed for lunchtime (up)
and teatime (down).

Below is 88010 'Aurora' once more, but this time with all-diesel 3800hp 68016 'Fearless' added for power insurance. Although the up working to
Daventry is mainly empty containers, concern had been raised about this train's poor timekeeping over the 124 mile twin track section
from Newcastle to Edinburgh.

The pair are seen below, with 88010 'pan up', passing Arlesey station, just north of Hitchin.

At teatime, I witnessed the down Mossend loaded working, this time with 88005 'Minerva', pan up but with silver Chiltern Rlys 68015 quite
audibly supplying additional 'grunt'. I heard him coming about a mile away! The consist are passing the wind turbine farm at Biggleswade.
 It is clear that 68015 would have its work cut out behind 88005 over the grades north of Newcastle, along the actual cliffs of the East Coast itself.
 The blue Cobelfret, Russell and Tesco containers are almost unknown on the southern end, at least, of the ECML.


May 19th 2020.

There has been a good handful of oddball workings through here as of last week and tomorrow. So I will wait before sending until I have photographed tomorrow’s ‘rare’ working.

The store of redundant ex-GWR hst coaches at Ely is now being dispersed to the scrapyards at Rotherham and Newport, S.Wales. Even Eastleigh Works at
 Southampton has started taking them but with a 66.

Two pairs of Class 20s have also been brought in to drag the Mk3s on their last journey through Cambridge, Hitchin, down to London, over the north London line and
 then down the GWR main line to Newport.

So tomorrow, all being well - and the train actually runs - for last week’s Wed and Friday scrap moves didn’t - I shall be out early to photo the 20s.
 Very difficult at the moment as shrubbery has gone mad as you know.

Word at the lineside is that Newport didn’t  have enough siding space left last week so Ely were told to hold off.
Needless to say, a 47 arrived there from Leicester to take a rake of seven down to Booths, at Rotherham on Monday.

Shame the Mk3s are going - they look almost brand new, and in 35 years have never looked old fashioned.


May 6th 2020.

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has released a selection of videos showing the view their driver see while working trains along thwe East Coast Mainline.

Follow the link below to see the Edinburgh to London Kings Cross run and then follow the link to Youtube to see the rest of the series.

Watch: An LNER driver's eye view along the East Coast Mainline.

Thamks To RAIL ADVENT for this link.


May 4th 2020.

Not a lot out and about on the ECML at the moment, understandably. However, engineering trains continue running into and out of London work sites.
Yesterday , Sunday (03/04/2020) a West Hampstead Thameslink to Doncaster Belmont Yard engineering train ran.

 Below is ‘6B02’ en route down to Doncaster, passing Sheep Walk Crossing, Biggleswade, taken on my one daily ‘Govt walk’  (actually a cycle ride).

66175 looks very smart in its German red, a shade that photographs well, even in dull conditions.

The train consisted of bogie open wagons but at the rear, a pair of telescopic cranes had been attached.

 It is clear that most rail engineering depots are now located outside London, given that siding space in the London area is now
 quite limited, or in rival rail company hands.


May 2nd 2020.


The plan to operate Pendolinos on the East Coast was stalled some time ago! Virgin kept them solely out of Euston to all points north west and Scotland.

The only place where Virgin and LNER rubbed shoulders with was either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

There was only one time a Virgin Pendolino ever ran to King’s Cross from Edinburgh, which ran one night, empty, so tricky to photo!

A couple of Euston drivers did the job, but mentored by East Coast driver managers at the sharp end.
 One of them managed to get some nice, midnight, still life, photos before they had to return via Edinburgh, back on their side of the country.

 Never happened again and now of course, Virgin are no more!

lots of people tried to record the ECML Pendolinos event but it was all in the dark, sadly.

 It was pointed out to me that the ECML, being more straight, at high speed, than the WCML didn’t need Pendolinos.

The BR IC225s (Class 91s and DVT) were designed to lean (also sloping upper sides) but the equipment was never installed.



April 27th 2020.

Last Monday a pair of orange Class 20s, Harry Needle Co, were booked to shift some ex-First Great Western hst trailer coaches from secure store at Potters. Ely.
 It meant travelling over to Baldock station, on the Hitchin to Cambridge branch.
I stood on the platform at the appointed time and sure enough, 20311 and 20314 hove into sight, the driver spotting me with camera, so a cacophony of loco hoots! In the
 consist was also ‘dead in train’ DIT, 47813 with a ‘Thank You NHS’ slogan down the side. I was a bit too close to get that.

The ex-FGW hst trailer cars were en route to Eastleigh Works either for work, stripping and scrapping or hopefully resale.
 There was a catering vehicle included. It would be nice if it went to a preserved railway to act as a stationary buffet - can never have enough!

An industry insider says that hst Mk3 coaches are wired differently from loco-hauled examples and that hst coaches cannot accept the electrical loading from diesel or electric locomotives.
 That is why they are being sent for scrap as worthless.

The ex-Greater Anglia Mk3 loco-hauled fleet are unaffected-some are gathering at Crewe for Jeremy Hoskins with a view to future charters.  Others, no doubt, will find
 buyers although their overall length may restrict the ‘go anywhere’.

So here they are below, passing through Baldock towards Hitchin, joining the ECML, North London Line and the South Western to Eastleigh Works, Monday, April 21st , 2020.

This Sunday (26/04/2020) brought out a pair of rebuilt ‘Super’ Class 73s, 73961 and 73962, working from Tonbridge, Kent, to
 Derby Network Rail Centre, with Mk2D test coaches in between.

They are seen below approaching Biggleswade running early - they had a clear run as the ECML at the moment, is virtually empty of trains! Such are
 the Sunday cancellations ‘until further notice’.

 Container trains - few that normally run - continue to pass but stone traffic has ceased as builders have shut shop until the pandemic finishes.

Below they are seen passing Langford, en route from Tonbridge to Derby, via Peterborough and Leicester - a nice cross country run!
 I expect there is a crew change at Peterborough where GBRf have their local offices.


April 20th 2020.

Sad to read about John Farrow, who WAS UK Railtours! Luckily family are holding firm so to speak.
 John launched Hertfordshire Railtours (HRT) back in the 1980s and the office, part of his house, was in
sight of the famous Welwyn Viaduct on the ECML, he was living at Welwyn North, an area I have got to know well in recent years.
 John had a knack of filling charter trains that went the length and breadth of the land.
In BR days he knew the right people within to make things happen, much harder now with a so-called privatised railway.

Below is a photo of the man himself! I was at a Doncaster Works open day some years ago and he and his wife unveiled
their nameplate on EWS’s Bo-Bo electric 90028.
There can’t be many public railways in Britain that one of John’s tours hasn’t run over. HRT went down the Blaenau branch for definite and probably John did a
 deal from Welwyn with the Ffestinog Railway to allow the HRT passengers a ride to Porthmadog and then a connecting coach or three back to Llandudno Junction. to go back home.
John knew a lot of the right people within railway management to make things happen even if others doubted it. He was happy to prove ‘em wrong!

Thoughts with his family. RIP John.


April 19th 2020.

Good evening,

As word is quickly spreading I wanted to let you all know, before the jungle drums of social media and rail forums do the deed for me, that in the early hours of this
 morning we received the devastating news that my dad, John Farrow, passed away at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

About two weeks ago we received the news that dad had contracted Covid-19 while in hospital. The virus gradually took hold and in his weakened state he was unable
 to fight it off. Heartbreakingly, due to regulations in place to stop the spread of the virus, we were not able to be with him in his final hours.
 We are told he passed away peacefully with a nurse by his side, holding his hand, in the early hours of this morning. He was not in pain and did not suffer.

He leaves behind his two children, Simon and I, and his wife Clare. He also has three grand children whom he adored.
 We are coming to terms with our loss and what the future holds in these desperate times.

UK Railtours is facing hard times too, more so now than ever. We thank you all for your ongoing support and loyalty.
 From a purely practical point of view, to offer reassurance to those who still have fares held in credit with us, I can assure you that we will continue to
 operate and you need not worry. We will be back on the rails as soon as we can.

 We owe that to Dad. He was undoubtedly, in our opinion at least, the very best in the business and his legacy should not be allowed to fade away.

Please stay safe and look out for each other.

Yours sincerely,

Liz Morris
UK Railtours


April 20th 2020.

The Caley BedZZ

Over the Easter weekend the Caledonian Sleeper trains, with Class 92s and new Mk5 sleeping and lounge cars, were diverted from their normal
 West Coast Main Line route from Euston to Glasgow, Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen, to the ‘rival’ East Coast Main Line but still
 departing and arriving at Euston.
I understand the weekend diverts will continue until June.

Below is GBRf’s 92020 restarting ‘1M16’ the overnight (‘highland’) Inverness to Euston, Caledonian Sleeper from
 Biggleswade, right time, 06.55, on Tuesday, April 14.

The distance by train from London (Euston) to Inverness is 443 miles.

For crew reasons, ‘IM16’ is booked to stop at Biggleswade for one minute.
 The lineside view is that a GBRf driver is relieved here - why is not yet known.

 GBRf have their crewing offices at Peterborough and it is possible that due to operational reasons, a driver is relieved here and then catches the next
 available northbound stopper back to Peterborough, to book off.

As you can see, the oil seed rape field is earlier this year.
‘1M16’ is the longest train journey in the UK, the Inverness portion starting at 20.26 the previous evrning, almost an eleven hour journey.
 With the other Scottish portions combined the train comprises of 16 coaches.
It is heartening that despite the pandemic, the train continues to run, along with its ‘lowland’ counterpart, the Glasgow sleeper, which
passes through at about 05.00 in the morning.



April 16th 2020.

Thameslink have released Twitter pics of one of their 23-car 700s, 700111 now bedecked with a vinyl tribute to the NHS, which have done so much (with so few) for the nation.
 This was the scene at Thameslink’s Hornsey depot this week as final touches were made by the specialist vinyl contractors.

Over the coming weeks, depending on its diagrams, 700111 will be seen from Brighton in the south, to Peterborough or Luton and Bedford in the north and also
Horsham and Gatwick Airport in West Sussex and to Cambridge and Ely in the east of England.
 And not forgetting the core Thameslink route through central London.


April 12th 2020.

 On March 31st, 37800 arrived at Crewe South to collect a pair of out of use, ex-South Yorkshire Metro (Northern) Class 321s.
 From Crewe 37800 set off for Stafford, Nuneaton and then across country to Leicester and Peterborough and then down the ECML to north London and on
 into Greater Anglia territory to finish at Clacton.

 Below is 37800 with the Class 321s about to cross over Sheep Walk Crossing, just south of Biggleswade.
 The driver saw me with the camera (and a couple of others at 2m distance) and opened her up with some clag!
 I think the 321s are to join Greater Anglia’s own home. 321 fleet on order to move the more modern Class360 emu fleet over to
 East Midlands Railway until new GA’s new Stadler emu deliveries are complete.

 Complicated moves? This is the franchised railway for you!

 The 321s used to be seen at Doncaster, on locals to Leeds. The 321s have always been popular, drivers like driving them, and with passengers.

 Some have been quite nomadic- they have worked at both the southern end of the ECML with Great Northern from King’s Cross and then moved to
 the northern end with Scotrail for services from North Berwick (the branch) into Edinburgh Waverley.
 One characteristic the 321s have is the behaviour of the sliding doors in their guide channels. In a two-track 100mph tunnel the piston effect off a
 fast train going in the opposite direction forces the doors to bang loudly, startling the unwary passenger.
 All good stuff!

321901/902 ex-Metro (South Yorks) to Greater Anglia at Clacton


April 10th 2020.

In May 1979 I took the photo below of the down slow at New Barnet on the East Coast Main Line - going down! Trains were cautioned going past.
 The slump lasted a week and is thought to be the result of an uncharted water spring, leading to a cavity. Permanent way had it noted!

 I recieved a text from David Cockle, a life long north London railwayman, signal box lad to manager.
 With regards to the above land slip, he says that when the main 1851 line was built, north to Doncaster,
 the original double line was built on soil.

When the up and down slow lines were added the contractors tipped tons of old ash and spent ballast down as a foundation, butting up to
 the existing soil layers At some trigger point, the ash reacts with soil layers and there is a slip!

  It is a known trouble spot and has slipped several times since 1979, but never as bad as this.

 Another retired railway civil engineer once told me ‘soil moves!’ I don’t doubt him now.

 Poor Conway Valley.