January/February/March 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.



March 31st 2020.

On March 23rd 2020, I parked up and waited for ‘5Z13’, a Selhurst depot (Southern) to Hornsey emu depot drag.
 The train appeared, a tad early, with GBRf’s 66710 pulling, via pair of ‘translator’ former emu coaches, Network Rail’s ‘yellow banana’ dual voltage 313121, now
 used for testing new signalling methods.

Unfortunately the former Great Northern electric, 313121 (old BR’s 313021 of 1976), had stood idle for some months at Eastleigh Works and this led to problems.
A call back to fresh testing by Network Rail saw the unit make its way to Brighton, along the south coast, on the Southern third rail.
 Having got there, it was failed by the crew and left! A fresh rescue party was summoned to get 313121 up to the big Southern, Selhurst depot, outside
 East Croydon for assessment.

 Once again the ‘yellow banana’ failed en route heading north and had to be later dragged to Selhurst.
 Counsel must have been taken and the management decided to send it on to Hornsey depot, north of the river Thames.
 Hornsey are no strangers to repairing 313s, having maintained them since new in 1976!
That move was booked for Monday, March 23rd.
The powers that be decided that, on the day, rather than as booked north via Letchworth, on the Cambridge branch, to reverse, the booked drag loco, 66710, would
 carry on further, down to Peterborough, adding yet another 80 miles to the journey!

 So below is GBRf’s 66710, just south of Hitchin, Monday, March 23rd going down to Peterborough.
 The two Arlington translator coaches are most likely former Class 508 emu vehicles that had once served with Merseyrail.

On Friday, March 27th,  the work at Hornsey deemed done, 313121 was on its way again - back home to Eastleigh- via Peterborough and back south again!
 66710 once more did the traction and the consist is seen, heading north, outward, approaching Biggleswade on a sunny Friday afternoon.
 We have heard no more about 313121 since.

On Saturday, March 28th, it was time for another drag- a large one!
LNER released another complete Mk4 set for temporary storage at Worksop, home of Harry Needle’s storage facility for new and off-lease rolling stock.
GBRf’s 66776 was in charge this time, and as ‘5Z92’ it left Bounds Green depot not only with the Mk4 set, but two Class 91s, 91113 and 91129, so my
 sole daily walk or cycle just had to coincide with this now ‘mega’ drag.

Below is 66776 with 91113, 91129 and full Mk4 set approaching Biggleswade, en route to Worksop via Doncaster Wks where the two 91s were detached and
 left to be prepared for warm storage by LNER.

I have made enquiries and it appears that LNER are to retain ten full Mk4 sets and ten Class 91s plus two spares.
 They are needed to cover all of LNER’s future service requirements. Many passengers - when they return after the virus outbreak will
 welcome, once more, the more comfortable Mk4 seating.

This plan will stand until 2023, after which the BR-era high speed trains will be withdrawn. In the meantime, the new Azuma fleet will have to be
 withdrawn, singly, to have the coach ends modified to shield the jumper cables from trespassers, climbing up onto the
 roof, as happened recently at Manchester Piccadilly, which involved a Virgin West Coast Pendolino and a drunken passenger who was
 killed by electrocution when he climbed up onto the roof of a Class 390 while it stood in the station.

There is also one Class 800 Azuma under repair after it collided with an HST outside Neville Hill depot in Leeds last year.


March 25th 2020.

The railway is still running (24/03/2020), ECML buzzing, with an augmented Sunday service for those who need to travel.
 The freight boys are active, more at night in the wee small hrs. The other night, just getting into bed, I could hear a powerful diesel passing through.
 It could have been a 60 - they are about again. Sent a text to enquire on our GN Lineside email group. Within minutes a reply dropped in, from a
 Thameslink driver on late turn duty - ‘just overtaken a 56 held at a red outside Hitchin’. So there was the answer at 01.00!
It was on a Roxbury Gullet, Scunthorpe to Willesden empties; big JNA bogie box wagons. It seems they then move on to south London and get filled with
 London earth spoil and then return to Scunthorpe to dump the capital’s earth in Lincolnshire. These trains mostly run at night - hard on us photters!


March 24th 2020.

Not much fun despite some good weather today (Sunday March 22nd 2020) I had to get out of the house for an hour and spent about that amount of time
waiting for a Class 91 to appear, the remaining LNER trains being Azumas in nine or five-car formations. I assumed a five-car I saw was from Harrogate.

So, out in the cold sunshine, with a keen, cold,  northerly wind I stood, next to the gate of the local rugby club, all shuttered and silent, so
different to a normal Sunday there, with players of all ages running out and staggering back in!

At 16.15, a 91 appeared, running about 11 min early. Here is 91121 'Trainbow' pushing '1E14', the 12.00 Edinburgh to King's Cross past the wind turbine farm
near Biggleswade, the first set of such structures out of London, 35 miles, heading north, a useful landmark.

That's my contribution to selfie - solitary Sunday! Not much else to report, except that trains are only quarter full, which is probably why some
long-distance services are running early - no passengers, or 'self-loading freight' to hold matters up!


March 18th 2020.

Here’s a photo an ex-LNER 91, at Doncaster Works, already partly stripped for useful parts, a works ‘Christmas tree’.
 The front valance is already reinstalled on another 91, glass fibre only last so long.
Photo, from March 14th 2020, is by pal Mike Trigg (ex-Eastern Region). His eldest lad now works at Leeds station as a
 control man, also works at York. The ‘railway family’ flourishes.


March 15th 2020.
LNER have released another complete set of Mk4s for disposal.
GBRf's 66735 'Peterborough United' hauls '5Z91', the 09.49 Bounds Green to Worksop, passing Arlesey, just north of Hitchin, March 14, 2020.

Driving Van Trailer 82222 hangs the attached tail lamp. Hopefully some of these coaches will live on, either with Grand Central's
planned Blackpool to Euston services, (Class 90 haulage) or with Transport for Wales, with the Holyhead to Cardiff trains, (Class 67).


March 13th 2020.

 I nipped out for a couple of photos last week.

On Tuesday, March 3, 66741 was booked to take withdrawn and debranded 91104 down to Doncaster. It duly did its solemn duty and here is GBRf's 66741 dragging
91104 on its last journey on the ECML. The consist is passing Great Wymondley, just south of Hitchin, in fortunate bright sunshine.
 A few minutes before a torrential shower had broken out!

To celebrate International Women's day this weekend just gone, the LNER marketing and publicity department swung into action and had the
Driving Van Trailer (DVT) 82205 'Flying Scotsman' amended to 'Flying Scotswoman.
For departure from Edinburgh the train was staffed (not manned!) entirely by a female crew - including four sisters based at Peterborough!
 There are already several women train drivers on LNER, and Friday's publicity was to encourage more female recruitment on the railways.

On arrival at King's Cross the media pack were awaiting the photo op as the women gathered together on the platform for the photo call.
That done, by late morning 'Flying Scotswoman' was ready to depart north as part of a busy diagram.

Here she is, going down to Leeds at lunchtime. Note the white-edged buffers, a rare sight on the ECML although Greater Anglia have been using the same
feature on its Class 90s for sometime.

A pair of debranded ex-LNER Class 91s have now turned up at Crewe, nos 91122 and '28, visible from the station as of earlier this week.
Approprriate, as the class was built there.

This shot below, via Twitter, maybe gives a clearer view of the lettering.


March 2nd 2020.


It is dead quiet on the ECML - no public trains through here since late Friday/very early Saturday (for home-going London revellers and staff).
 The first through up Thameslink train is due here at 03.57.

 I don't think I'll stay up to welcome it!

There are no less than seven engineering trains booked away from the southern end of the ECML around dawn, the majority with spent
materials to NR Whitemoor, at March in Cambridgeshire and the others to Doncaster Decoy.

 I bet somebody will drag themselves out for an early morning photo as they guzzle coffee on the cold, reopened
stations but I won't be there!


February 29th 2020.

No trains at all here this weekend, another complete shut down between Biggleswade and Potters Bar and King’s Cross.
 I think this is the last blockade weekend. Buses and coaches laid on of course, taking folk over to the Midland Main Line at Bedford, Luton and St Albans.

 There is more work north of Peterborough where engineers are building a diveunder to allow freight trains to travel north via Lincoln, rather than
 block the ECML as they cross over on the flat.

 It will be right muddy up at Werrington, a favourite spot for video filmers as there is a footbridge there which gives unrestricted views north to south.


February 23rd 2020.

On the ECML it has been a relatively routine week, one-off charters and interesting light loco moves non-existent.
 We were promised a Class 37 on Friday lunchtime, light engine up from Bristol and down to Norwich. Alas it got as far as Acton in west London and went no further!
It had earlier taken some recently condemned Greater Anglia Mk3 coaches from Norwich, down to Sims Metals at Newport.
 Sims are now breaking up HST coaches, most in old FGW colours but also in recent green. Goodbye to old BR ‘friends’.

 At Norwich, the new Stadler 755 bi-modes are taking over but GA are taking no chances - a squad of ‘Thunderbird’ 37s are at Norwich and
 Ipswich to drag ‘em off when the 755s fail for all sorts of silly reasons!

On the ECML, the bi-mode 800s are steadily settling in. Last week Hull Trains took delivery of their latest 802 bi-mode, 802304, in five car form.
 On Saturday it made at least two or three round trips from Hull to King’s Cross.

Below is, 802304, on the 14.48 King’s Cross to Hull, Saturday, February 22nd. It is fast approaching Sheep Walk foot crossing, Biggleswade, ‘right time’ at 15.15, on electric power.
 Note the bodyside graphics, showing towns and cities on the way to Hull.

The Class 180 Adelantes Hull Trains previously used, now move to East Midlands Railway.

 Hull will not be sorry to see them go - they have a reputation for unreliability
. Stangely, Grand Central also operated immaculate Class 180s, without any publicised problems.

It’s down to staff and costs I suppose...


February 16th 2020.

 I turned out for 6233 going down to York yesterday. 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ passes Sheep Walk Crossing, Bighleswade, below, with an
 Ealing Broadway to York charter, right time, 08.36.

 Despite the deteriorating weather ahead of Storm Dennis, 6233 took it all in her stride and arrived at York, right time, 13.13. WCRC’s 47802 brought up the rear.
 Unfortunately the rear of the charter was bowled by an up Hull Trains Class 180! A few seconds earlier, there would be no 6233 photo.

 A4 Pacific ‘Union of South Africa’ brought the charter back to Ealing Broadway, and was only 30 minutes late as Storm Dennis strengthened.

Below is a shot from the York Station webcam showing 60009 waiting on Platform 11 to take her train home to Ealing Broadway while 6233 reverses through
 platform 10 with the support coach en route to Butterley all described above.

Credit to Network Rail and Railcam UK Ltd


February 11th 2020.

Got a ‘heads up’ via  Real Time Trains (RTT) that the 10.45 Leeds to King’s Cross was cancelled due to ‘problems with the traction equipment’ (loco!).

Well, 91113 got as far as Adwick on the two-track section to Doncaster. ‘Thunderbird’ 67028 was called up and took the train south, empty coaching stock, to
 Bounds Green for repair or rectification on tonight’s shift.

Below is 67028 heading up to LNER’s Bounds Green depot’ passing Sheep Walk Crossing, Biggleswade.
91113 sulks on the rear, pan down.


February 5th 2020.

LNER Class 91 fleet run down and dispersal.

 Early on February 1, 2020, Rail Operations Group’s (ROG) 57312 set off from Leicester for Bounds Green, on a mission to bring back to Leicester two Class 91s.
  Here they are on the return trip to Leicester, pans down; 57312 drags 91128 and 91122 past Sheep Walk Crossing, Biggleswade, running early, which
 caught some photters and lineside observers out.
 91122 and ‘28 will now form the traction for ROG’s new test train, using surplus Mk3 coaches.
 The train will be used to test the newly installed ohl electrification north from Bedford to Kettering and Corby.
 I expect ROG will have further electrification testing work in prospect, using high-speed electric locomotives.


Febrary 3rd 2020.

One of the ‘usual suspects’ here tried to get a reflection shot with water in the foreground. Not sure what he actually got! Wet feet I guess!
Not quite enough of the wet stuff! Doncaster is overhauling southeastern third rail emus so a Saturday drag with GBRf 66 appears sometimes.
 The green barrier coaches are ex-Merseyrail 508s.
Credit is to Mike Trigg, train approaching Hitchin from the south. 01/02/2020


January 29th 2020.

 Big freightliner derailment at Eastleigh station.  -  Tuesday January 28th 2020.

 An overnight Birch Coppice (Midlands?) to Southampton working came to grief, turning out of Eastleigh station itself - not third rail feeds in
 foreground, switched off! Big liner trains and London commuter trains do not mix!!!

This was yesterday am. Train and 70 removed since but errant wagons still there today - bring on the rrp buses and coaches!

Birch Coppice is near Birmingham, big Freightliner terminal.
 Container traffic is gently increasing but capacity is beginning to strain, particularly through Trafford Pk to Manchester Piccadilly, through Oxford Rd.
 Two tracks, stuffed with busy Northern pax trains and then a lengthy liner to and from Felixstowe, taking up valuable minutes in the rush hours.
 The Govt promised ‘extra tracks’ but it never happened!

Crane arrived from Hinksey Yard, Oxford, to Eastleigh.


January 28th 2020.

 More Mk4 sets, retired from LNER service, should soon be dragged to Worksop for either scrapping or more hopefully, transfer to other operators.
 I heard that 91104 was due to be withdrawn last night. Wrote too soon! It’s gone to Edinburgh again today!
More soon.


January 28th 2020.

A little update on the status of the LNER Class 91s whose withdrawal programme is getting 'real' so to speak, in the light of Azuma deliveries.

LNER 91132, which sports 'Support Mental Health' vinyls, came off lease after completing its final duties on Friday evening, January 24th.

Its last day saw it in traditional top flight as below:

1S04 06:15 KGX - EDB,  5S04 11:37 EDB - EC,  5E21, 14:58 EC - EDB 1E21 15:30 EDB - KGX,  5Y21 20:06 KGX - BN

It is now stored at Bounds Green depot, awaiting either lease disposal, stripping for parts and scrapping.

 91132 is shown below pushing up to London with an Edinburgh express, passing Langford, south of Biggleswade, on Jan 20th, just a few
days before it was switched off after 30 years of ECML service.

91132 has the unfortunate distinction of being involved in two major accidents, Hatfield (October 17, 2000) and Great Heck (Selby, Feb 26,
2001), although in neither case was the locomotive itself heavily damaged.

In the light of events and number superstition being what it is, the authorities decided to renumber 91023, as It was then, to 91132, but
avoiding 91123 which is what it should have become following Doncaster Works upgrading and other modifications to make the class more reliable.

I now hear that another, 91104, also finished duties today, Monday, January 27th.  -   More on that soon.


January 26th 2020.

  A few work site photos at King’s Cross on Saturday, work that brought no less than six GBRf Class 66s into the terminus at 14.00.
 Engineers are renewing signals, trackwork and overhead line equipment while the old 1980s power signalbox was having its ECML responsibilities moved to
 York Regional Operating Centre (ROC).

 In one of the disuuuused Gasworks Tunnel portals (abandoned in the last major work in 1976) new track and ohl was being installed to allow more
 flexibility of access to the east side of King’s Cross station.
 Engineers can be seen below drilling into the roof (the Grand Union Canal is just above!) to install ohl.

 King’s Cross station was declared a NR work site with no public access.

 The photos below appear via Twitter.


The ECML remains completely shut from Peterborough to London King’s Cross.
 Only Hull Trains, using their Class 180s, still run all the way to the capital, diverted via the Midland Main Line to St Pancras International.
 More locally, buses take passengers from Stevenage and Hitchin to Luton Parkway, and from St Neots, further north, to Bedford.
 Buses connecting with Thameslink trains to St Pancras. Not a great weekend to travel!
 LNER services start and finish at Peterborough, again with connecting bus and coach replacement services to the MML.

 NR and contractors have enough on their plates! All work had  got to be signed off in the early hours of Monday.

Much work goes on elsewhere on this part of the ECML. Coming home last night, I saw this huge track machine on its low loader, parked
 up outside the village store, here in Langford.

 Trackwork are based in Doncaster, and I think the hgv driver was having problems getting access to the ECML, due to parked cars in the road leading to the
 level crossing where another machine was already at work nearby, at 00.15hrs.

Outside the shop! Mighty machinery awaiting its task.

Bus timetable at Hitchin for passenger information, warning of the above engineering works effecting train services, is shown below.


January 24th 2020.

Damage to the overhead electric wires between Hitchin and Peterborough is causing disruption out of Peterborough this evening.

Trains are subject to cancellation, delay or revision.

Delays are expected until 19:00.

Disruption is expected on Grand Central, Great Northern, Hull Trains, LNER and Thameslink services.

This is a developing story and will be updated when more information is available.

Passenger Advice
Great Northern and Thameslink
Trains operating between Hitchin and Peterborough will be affected as below:

XX:20 departures from Hitchin to Peterborough will run express between Hitchin and St Neots.
If you need any stations in between, speak to station staff
Alternatively, XX:50 departures will run as normal.
Passengers may also travel to St Neots and then board a London service for intermediate stations.

Network Rail colleagues are on site and will be assessing the extent of the damage.


January 25th 2020.

Luckily things had calmed down when I went home from Hitchin tonight. Today, no trains at all, once more, not even diverts via fenland which will disappoint the photters over there.
Some trains are diverted to St Pancras International, Lots of buses about though!
One thing I did find out. King’s Cross signalbox is being shut down and control moves to York. Must be the first London terminus to be signalled from the north of England!


January 22nd 2020.

Below is today's (22.01.20) Trans Pennine Express delivery. It started early at Eastleigh at 07.08, came up the South Western via Basingstoke
and then to Reading, Great Western, and arrived at Acton Main Line at 12.47, and a few mins later (crew change?) it gained the North London
Line and then over to the East Coast Line, joining at Harringay.

Here is 802207, under its own 'steam', passing the handy background leylandi at Langford, south of Biggleswade, 15.03hrs in very gloomy conditions.
Arrival at Doncaster Carr IEP depot was 18.44, two minutes early. The blanked out windows in the first coach are part of the buffet area.


January 17th 2020.

The gradual fleet change over, on LNER, continues. Two more Class 91s are earmarked for withdrawal at the end of January.
 91104 survived a minor works visit to Doncaster and was back at work today, along with threatened 91116.
 Both were on early King’s Cross to Edinburgh turns today so won’t be back till after dark, so no photo opportunities!


Here is another Azuma delivery, on Monday January 13th 2020.

That was an Eastleigh Works to Doncaster Carr depot via Acton Main Line. Another all-electric 801 is awaiting delivery in the wake of this 801.


January 15th 2020.

There was a spot of early morning bother at Hitchin yesterday (14/01/2020), which disrupted London-bound trains for about three hours.
 The first of the year’s Acton Yard to Hitchin stone trains, operated by Freightliner was  slowly pulling into the stone siding behind the station at
 about 06.00 when two of the bogie JNA wagons at the rear came off the road and fell into the soft.
 One set of wheels cut through a signal or switch cable, off to the left. All up slow signals went to red! Delays to Thameslink trains, no doubt backing
 up, full of getting frustrated commuters from Cambridge and Peterborough.
 It a couple of hours to fix the cabling and ‘normal’ service resumed at 10.00.

 This is the scene, below, at 16.00.
 The late turn gang have turned up from, well, could be anywhere, to prepare the bogies for packing and jacking.
 Why the two JNAs came off is still not known. They will be there for some time, hopefully out of the way of the next stone delivery, which originates from Somerset.



January 13th 2020.

In the gathering storm clouds today, a very dirty Class 66 dragged another brand new all electric LNER Class 801 to Doncaster from Eastleigh Works.

 There it will be ‘bolt tightened’, tick boxed for acceptance, and sent out on mileage accumulation.

Two more Class 91s are scheduled to be withdrawn at the end of this month.

 91104 which is one, is already stopped for minor repairs at Doncaster Works.

 Will it come back? Nobody knows, least of all, LNER staff!


January 12th 2020.

The ECML is silent! Complete engineering block on between Hitchin and Peterborough. Track possessions in force over 50 miles.
 Phew! All inter city trains are diverted via Cambridge and Ely. Locals like me have to use a half-hourly coach service. It will be like this every weekend in January.

Here are some photos below so far, from me and pal Mike Trigg.

Mike took his grandson up to Cadwell footbridge to see no less than three engineering trains lined up below!

The two photos below show ro-rail vehicles on drainage work near me at Langford.

Yesterday’s coaches at Hitchin. The one furthest from camera was hired from Newcastle, rail operators scour the country for coaches!

Peterborough, Saturday via Twitter. A UNO bus from far off Hatfield!


January 1st 2020.

 The 07.00 Greater Anglia Norwich Crown Point depot to LNER Bounds Green facility, (for tyre turning).
 The Greater Anglia Mk3 coach sets are used on the fast, half-hourly interval Norwich to Liverpool St services, Class 90 - hauled.

 DRS’s 37402 and 37424, below,  head through a deserted and cold Baldock station on the Hitchin to Cambridge branch. Baldock is primarily served by Thameslink services to
 and from Cambridge to Brighton or King’s Cross.

 The station is only part time staffed. A platform cleaner arrives by timetabled train, brushes the platforms and then boards a
 following train and repeats the process at every station towards Cambridge. Jan 1st, 2020.

Norwich Crown Point is full of brand new Stadler emus at present, which require prepping and testing before use, a process that had caused great difficulties for
GA, with the new trains failing to activate level crossings on rural branches.
 The Mk3s are sent to LNER at Bounds Green, who now partly maintain the GA Mk3 fleet. It takes the maintenance pressure off Norwich Crown Point.