January/February/March 2019.

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 lives in Hitchin, on the ECML, but 
on this page he reports on news and movements on this historic line, close to his home and heart.



April 2nd 2019.

The LNER are very busy ramping up pre-service activity with their new 'Azuma' Class 800/801s, mostly based at Doncaster Carr depot, with one
or two now stabled overnight in north London at Bounds Green depot.
The 800s had at last, in mid-March, been cleared for public use, although permission has only been given for service on the King's
Cross to Leeds and Hull routes.

 The Leeds turns are intensive throughout the day while Hull only sees one out and back daily LNER
working. At present Leeds services use Class 91s,hired-in DB 90s and
the ever dependable HSTs.

Future 'Azuma' workings north of Doncaster to York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow will hinge on Network Rail
who are having to make alterations to the existing signalling north of York, together with other related technical issues.

On March 27, the Hitachi outstation at Eastleigh Works made up a fourteen coach 800!
After necessary modifications at Eastleigh (to ease the work load at Doncaster) bi-mode nine-car 800110 was
 coupled up with all-electric five-car 801106, in LNER vinyls. With the bi-mode 800 on diesel power, the lengthy consist worked up
the third rail South Western main line and then headed through west and north London to gain the ECML for onward progress, at a modest
speed, to Doncaster Carr,

Here they are, nose to nose, passing over the bridleway crossing just south of Biggleswade, relegated to the down slow line, and despite overhead 25kV,
running, quietly (I hardly heard the exhaust) on diesel power.It is worth noting that
the Class 800s do not tilt- there is no requirement for it as the ECML is mainly straight,
and what curves there are, are mainly on station approaches, Newcastle for instance.

The 125mph 'Azumas' will start in public service on Saturday May 15. Prior to that, LNER will have several dress rehearsal runs to and from
Leeds to King's Cross with free tickets given out by ballot to LNER employees, wives , partners and families.
This is to gauge passenger loadings, time to board at intermediate stops, and most importantly,
for catering staff to 'go live' with their kitchens and microwaves.
So bring on the LNER hot bagel and bacon sarnies!

So there we are, new kids on the block, and the 'traction bashers' will want to get as much haulage as possible on the older, BR-built
stock, while it still continues in service.


March 29th 2019.

I heard that the Railway Touring Company planned an excursion in memory of their late and very popular founder Nigel Dobbings. The RYTC
is based in Kings Lynn, Norfolk and it was decided to run a return special Sunday (March 16th 2019) charter from Kings Lynn to Melton Mowbray via
 Peterborough and Grantham in Nigel's honour.
West Coast Railways at Carnforth stepped in with their mixed MK1 and Pullman stock and their recently restored Merchant
 Navy 35018 'British India Line'.
It was rostered to make the journey south, via Skipton, Leeds, Doncaster, and Peterborough.
All went well, initially with 35018, and according to the timings, to appear in daylight - just- at Peterborough for 17.00hrs. It was too good to resist!
But then things started to go awry. On Network Rail orders, due to flooding in West Yorkshire and much of northern England, 35018 and
 its train were held at Hellifield goods loop for several hours until NR allowed the train to proceed.

After standing for some four hours, 35018 restarted its long journey south, with a revised and much later arrival at Peterborough.
 It was still worth going - Peterborough station is well lit and has always been friendly
towards railway enthusiasts and photographers.

So here is 35018 'British India Line' making its first visit up the ECML and off into East Anglia via March and Ely where it
 worked the train tender first down the long single line (electrified) to Kings Lynn. No diesel was provided.
We had hoped that 35018 would stop for a few minutes but it didn't and I only got one decent passing shot.
 It was not helped by the signaller suddenly switching platforms for 35018.
 Several anxious 'photters', who had set up tripods much earlier, made a dash for the overbridge stairs to change platforms when
they realised what was about to happen, not helped by a newly arrived emu from King's Cross partially blocking
the anticipated view.

I wasn't able to see the train the next day so this is all I could manage. Next time. The Sunday tour went very well and on
 Monday evening, 35018 and train were back at Carnforth- job done!


On Monday, March 19th, 60103 'Flying Scotsman' left York, southwards for Southall WCRC in order to work a following day's excursion to the
Swanage Railway where it stayed and has since featured in the national press.

Here he is, with BSK support coach, nicknamed 'Joanna' according to ex-NRM volunteers, in honour of Joanna Lumley, no less! There is a
plaque inside to honour the actress and presenter.
In beautiful evening sunshine, around tea time at Langford, on the ECML, 60103 canters south at a gentle pace, anxious to
 keep within its scheduled timings to avoid holds ups during the busy peak hour Thameslink timetables to
and from central London.


March 12th 2019.


Over last weekend Freightliner had a problem, a Class 66 loco was in trouble at their Ipswich servicing and stabling point, located next to Ipswich station.
How did they plan to get the locomotive back to Leeds for repairs? The engine had suffered traction motor issues and a
 wheel flat but was still able to deliver power. Trucking by road is one answer but another is to use an ingenious wheel skate to enable the stricken loco to at
 least 'go home by rail' but without calling on the services of another to do a drag.

Thus 66541 was jacked up by fitters at Ipswich and a wheel skate placed under the damaged wheel set.
 Safely done, the next task was to locate a crew and find a late night path for 66541 to proceed across East Anglia at a
 very slow speed with stops at intervals to lay over, inspect, and allow other trains to overtake.

At 23.59hrs March 10, 2019 66541 had safely arrived at Peterborough's Platform 6 from Ipswich via Ely and March.
 The Ely to Peterborough stretch is about 35 miles, roughly a half hour journey by passenger train but 66541 took a
 total of two and three quarter hours at a very low speed leaving Ely at 20.15.

Here, attached, is 66541 berthed at Peterborough in the wee small hours with a driver keeping warm within. At about 04.50 a
 fresh crew arrived to take 66541 onwards, north, via Lincoln, to Doncaster.

 The use of the Peterborough to Lincoln line, which sees more container freight now, was to avoid using the more direct ECML to Doncaster and Leeds.
The neat wheel skate can easily be seen between the two outer axles.
 Skates are used by other train companies and LNER has used them to get an electric 225 set back to Bounds Green.
 Again, the train must wait until close of passenger business, just after midnight for a protracted, slow crawl,
quite a mental challenge to drivers more used to high speed.

I hope this is of interest for I have seen very little published about wheel skates.

My thanks go to Jon Benton for kindly allowing me to use his three photographs of the engine, at Peterborough, clearly showing the wheel skate.


February 16th 2019.

Hull Trains (part of First Group) launched their ‘stand in’ HST on Friday, February 13, using hired-in FGW power cars and coaches.
 Here is the first down service, 11.48 King’s Cross to Hull service approaching Biggleswade at 12.18.
 The rolling stock remains in First Group’s now obsolete blue vinyled First Great Western livery.
FGW on ECML! Power cars 43010/190 race down the East Coast Main Line.
The HSTs will continue to return to FGW for servicing. The consist requires only five Mk3 coaches.


February 14th 2019.

 This IEP appeared, with a keen young man anxious to get it.
 I stood back to make him part of the picture!

 There are three IEPs out today from Doncaster Carr, all ‘up to Lunnon’ as they say.

 This one is 801102, an all electric five-car unit.


February 14th 2019.

Here is 60103 Flying Scotsman, heading down to York from King's Cross with 'The Scotsman's Salute', which ran on January 11, 2019.
At York the passengers disembarked to visit the NRM to celebrate the naming of DBS Class 90 Bo-Bo electric 90028. DBS 90028 had earlier
travelled up from Doncaster after repainting and having nameplates fitted (but covered over).

The engine was named 'Sir Robert McAlpine' in honour and memory of the man who did so much to rescue a
 seemingly abandoned 60103 from the USA after Alan Pegler's second UK trade mission ran out of
backing money, owing to changed political circumstances at home.

Now back in better times is 60103 'Flying Scotsman', going well, right time, heading for York passing
 Langford, just a few miles north of Hitchin on the ECML, the engine's traditional stamping ground for so
many years. Alas, iconic railway heritage or not, the sheep were more interested
in the photographer!

Later on January 11, newly-named 90028 'Sir Robert McAlpine' brought the guests back to London. I wasn't able to photograph that
train but caught it a few days later, while still very clean, pushing through Biggleswade with an up LNER
Newcastle service to the capital. 90028 joined the regular hired-in DBS Class 90s
for a while on LNER diagrams which daily took it to Leeds and Newark Northgate.
Since the beginning of February It has returned to normal WCML duties.


February 3rd 2019.

BR InterCity revived! To mark 30 years of Class 91 operations on the ECML, 91119 has been restored as near as possible to its original 1989 BR InterCity
livery and named Bounds Green, the north London depot that has looked after them.

 On January 29th, 91119 gets the green aspect at Stevenage, departing right time at 16.56 for Leeds.
 The locomotive is booked to appear at the Crewe Open Day later this year.


January 15th 2019.

With tongue in cheek I asked Roger, after noticing his bike in one of the shots below of Class 73/9 electro diesels, if he was starting a sequence of photos like
 Ivo Peters when he included his Bentley in some of his classic shots on the S&D. True to form Roger answered me in no uncertain terms with the shots below.

 THE bike!!!! Tucks in nicely on a Class 365, next to the wheelchair access loo.

It's that bike again!  A Bentley would be nice though.


January 15th 2019.

Tornado is booked off the Nene Valley tonight, with a twenty minute wait in Peterborough station before legging it north on a trial run up to 60mph and
 should end up at Barrow Hill in the small hours. He’s back, ready for first tour of 2019 in February!

 Just checked Real Time Trains (RTT) - 60163 is still a runner under revised ‘Very Short Term Plan’ or (VSTP). Schedules as original but just the loco and
 restricted to 59mph - and only to Doncaster.
 Original plan was overnight throughout northern England via Thirsk. Somebody must have thought, we can’t do all of this on a night turn!

Manage to get four shots at Peterborough shown below.


January 15th 2019.

Network Rail's heavily rebuilt Class 73/9 electro diesels 73951 and '952 head south through Biggleswade with a Network Rail test train from
Derby Railway Technical Centre, RTC, to Tonbridge in Kent on January 4, 2019.

The 600hp/1500hp (electric) Southern Region-designed Class 73 /0 Bo-Bo electro- diesel has had a long, reliable, career in third rail land and since
 privatisation, the type, after rebuilding, has spread its wings as far north as the West Highland line, with the overnight Caledonian
 Sleeper portion to Ft William from Glasgow.

These two pictured, 73951 leading, and 'tail lamp' 73952, followed a different, technical, rebuild path from their Scottish 73/9 sisters, being modernised at
 Derby in 2014 with a pair of 750hp Cummins diesel engines, similar to the Voyager class of dmu, giving 1500hp, over twice that of
 the original English Electric diesel engine when used off the electric third rail.
73951 started life in 1966 as the Southern Region's E6010 and 73952 as E6019. The first six Class 73/0s, beginning at E6001 were considered as a pilot batch and
 were originally known to SR drivers as the 'JA' Class while the main batch of 43 that followed, as the 'JB', owing to revised
 specifications, gained in the light of experience with the original six.

Ten of the original Class 73/0s have been scrapped but such is the 'do anything' versatility of the type, the remaining ones, not in preservation, can turn up anywhere!

The sharp-eyed will notice the Mk2 driving trailer coach in front of 73952. I understand it took the place of an NR Mk1 coach as that type is
 barred from working through the Thameslink core tunnels beneath central London.


January 2nd 2019.

 Today’s LNER Azuma Class 800 test run - it is not the usual trip but ‘5Q90’ Doncaster Carr Depot to King’s Cross and return.
 It is 800109 not '03', the usual suspect Seen here at Biggleswade. This must have been a shake down run as not seen this particular train before.