July /August / September / 2017

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.


October 10th 2017.

On September 18th 2017 46233 'Duchess of Sutherland' appeared on
the ECML with Steam Dream' s Day 4 of 'The Moors & Dales Express', which ran from
Scarborough to York, Doncaster, diverging off the ECML to Lincoln, Spalding and Peterborough where 46233 regained the ECML for the last
leg, after a water stop at Connington Loop, to London Victoria (via the North London and West London lines) to gain arrival at London Victoria.

Here she is arriving at Perterborough, Platform 1, sporting a recently applied yellow stripe, to portray a 1964 restriction, banning the
class south of Crewe due to much tighter overhead line (ohl) clearances of the recently energised 25kV section southwards from
Crewe to Stafford and Rugby, compared to more generous distances from top of tender to ohl of the original 1960 Liverpool and Manchester to Crewe scheme.

I certainly saw such cab stripes, painted on at depot level, on Stanier's surviving Pacifics, Royal Scots, Jubilees and Patriots
during that last full summer of LMS top link power on the North Wales Coast.

Rivet counters will, no doubt, point out that 46233 was never 'striped' as such, being withdrawn before June 1964. The yellow band will disappear when
46233 reverts to LMS livery as '6233', expected over the next winter. Nevertheless, the yellow restriction does recall the final months of the class, before their sudden - and
 shocking - cull at the beginning of
September that year.

It is worth recalling that the class was
officially withdrawn on September 10th 1964, with only 46256 'Sir William Stanier FRS'
being held back to work a 'sign off ' RCTS special to Carlisle, over Shap, on the 26th of that month. 46256 was finally condemned on October 3rd
that year at Crewe North and scrapped shortly afterwards.  What a tragedy she wasn't officially preserved.

The last picture shows 46233 powering through Huntingdon, after the Connington water stop, the photographer overtaking it on a
 following Great
Northern service.

46233 - a magnificent locomotive that is always impressive to watch, wherever she goes in the UK- even south of Crewe!


September 30th 2017.

There is a new, weekly, rail freight flow
through Hitchin. Each Friday a loaded coal or aggregates train leaves Briton Ferry, near Swansea, for
 Ely Papworth freight terminal.

Colas have the contract (or some other operator hires the traction) and the return empties pass through Hitchin on Saturday at lunchtime.

Colas 70807 applies some grunt as it passes under Benslow Bridge today, Saturday, heading for the London area and the GWML.

It is worth noting that Ely Papworth has seen considerable expenditure in recent months, with over 7.5 km of new rail laid internally.

 Watch this
space... More lorries off the road.


September 2nd 2017.

 Tornado climbs over the ECML at Hitchin, on the Network Rail-built single track flyover on August 28th, with an out and back excursion 'The Easterling', from
 King's Cross to Great Yarmouth via Cambridge and Norwich.

 This is the first opportunity I have had to photograph steam on the flyover although I am told it was not the first steam loco to 'christen' the new line.
A red DB 66 was attached to the rear, out of shot, to assist with shunt moves en route at Norwich and Great Yarmouth termini.
 The return was delayed 'by an issue' at Gt Yarmouth and the Cambridge to London section was run in darkness.

On Sunday morning, August 27th, there was a convoy of classic diesel traction, moving from Leicester to Old Oak Common depot for the
 big GWR Open Day today, Saturday Sept 2nd.
Running three hours early (!) freshly repainted 57604  (no branding or name) took 47828 in BR InterCity 'swallow livery' and prototype HST power car
 41001 (from the GCR Nth Railway) up to Old Oak Common, the signaller kindly allowing the consist to run up fast through Hitchin from Peterborough.
 Smiles all round from us locals (the small group of usual suspects), waiting in the empty (for a Sunday) station car park.

On the same Sunday, a diverted Freightliner from Leeds FLT to Ipswich appeared in the late afternoon.
 Instead of an expected Freightliner 'Fred' Class 66, a Class 70, 70017, appeared, applying 'full grunt' to its train of containers, which
 normally leave the ECML at Peterborough and travel across East Anglia via Ely and Bury St Edmunds to reach Ipswich.
 Further NR engineering work at Ely after the big derailment there a fortnight ago led to
 this and other freight diversions through Hitchin and the north and east London areas over the late August Bank Holiday.

August 21st 2017.

On August 2nd, train '6X70' ran from Dollands Moor with 66720, the
rainbow coloured GBRf Class 66. Here it is with new Siemens-built Class 700, 700128, plus its
collection of container flats at each end to provide brake force, passing Arlesey station, right time, on the final Peterborough to Hornsey emu depot leg for
storage and then commissioning for eventual Thameslink service this year.
The container flats appear to be of German ownership. Note the keen young filmer on the right side of the yellow line.

August 10th saw a Doncaster to North Pole (GWR main line) depot move of 'straight out the box' bi-mode Class 800, 800010, Here is the five-car unit, running
on diesel, passing Cambridge Junction, Hitchin.
 These 800 moves are almost weekly
now, although some planned trips from either north to Doncaster or south to North Pole depot,
are sometimes not undertaken, leading to frustration at the lineside!


Finally, the 'Northern Belle; is out and about on a four day tour of Scotland, from Friday, August 11th, to Monday, August 14th, Here is the luxury
 train, comprised
of MK1,2 and 3 coaches, headed by DRS 'Cat' 68002, with one of the latest examples, 68027, in
a new, simpler DRs scheme at the rear, heading north through Arlesey station, at 'mile post 37' from King's Cross.
Despite a 95mph limit
for these new diesels, much of the four day 'cruise' schedule involves some very leisurely point to point running times.
 68027 looks brand
new- it still has factory-applied grease on the buffer heads.
locomotives, with their Caterpillar diesel engines can sound quite loud, with some serious grunt!

August 4th 2017.

Class 90s continue to deputise for VTEC Class 91s as the latter continue to
receive attention at Doncaster Works. In turn, Class 90s rotate through
the hirings from Crewe. The 90s are still used mainly between London, Newark and Leeds, often doing two or more round trips per day.

On a hot July 16th, DBS 90020 'Collingwood', in obsolete EWS livery, rolls gently to a booked stop at Stevenage with the 14.08 King's Cross to Newark North Gate.
 Stevenage station was built in the mid-1970s by
the Stevenage Development Corporation to serve the new town, replacing
an older GNR-built station a mile north. In turn the 'new' station is beginning to show its age as the passage of high speed trains is
having an effect on its brickwork- the narrow platforms under the bridge also require care, especially if reading a newspaper!

In the second view, 90020 awaits the 'RA' as an Edinburgh to King's
Cross service approaches, non-stop through Stevenage.
 Work is in hand
to extend the platforms at Stevenage for the coming VTEC Class 800
'Azuma' trains, although actual building work seems rather slow.

August 1st 2017.

I got into my stride with snapping the ECML south 'box diverts', sent
this way all last week because of Network Rail engineering work in the Oxford area.

First, on July 27th 2017, is the 06.12 Leeds FLT to Southampton MCT deep sea boxes, passing Hitchin on the up slow, 'right time' at 11.29 with 66554.
From here it will go down to the London area, up onto the North
London Line and then descend at Acton Wells Jct and onto the GW main
line and west to Reading, turning south west for Basingstoke and Southampton.
 The normal route via Basingstoke and Oxford is shorter
and avoids London.
 This diverted train ran almost every day but did
not produce a Class 70, although one was recorded going south on a
train of boxes at 09.00 while I was still in bed!


Earlier last week, on July 25th, the late afternoon 12.13 Leeds FLT to Southampton MCT boxes produced sister locomotive 66556, 'five minutes
early' over Hitchin's Cambridge Jct.

As it ran slightly early it was almost bowled by a down 'right time' Great Northern service to Peterborough. Boy, that was a close one.
the 66 had been running faster I would have been well and truly bowled!
 As I have written before, daytime freight south of
Peterborough is almost non-existent,  just timetabled emus, HSTs, Class 180s, VTEC Class 90 and 91s.

July 18th 2017.

Daytime freight is sparse, except for the daily building
blocks from Heck, near Selby to Biggleswade and Bow in East London,
plus the returning 'Scunny Steels' from the Channel tunnel to Scunthorpe, British Steel.
 I hear that there is going to be a big 'eng
block' near Oxford at the end of the month which will result in
Freightliner diverting their Leeds to Southampton 'boxes' via the ECML and the London area, so that will produce a
 Class 70 or two!
One to watch.

On July 1st, the 'Peoples' Engine', A3 Pacific 60103 Flying Scotsman ran from King's Cross to York (one way, diesel back) with 'The
Yorkshireman', a Steam Dreams charter.
 To everyone's pleasure the
train was allowed to run 'down fast' for some distance and here is the
engine himself, passing Arlesey station, a few miles north of Hitchin, right time.
 The tour was not without incident; a passenger suffered a
'medical incident; and the train was delayed somewhat at Alfreton.

A couple of hours after 60103 had gone down to York, it was the turn of Hastings Diesels Limited to appear with their July 1st out and back
'Cleethorpes Clipper'  from Hastings to Cleethorpes, a novel excursion from one seaside resort to another via Lincoln.

Here is 'Thumper' 1001, with a 'Cleethorpes Clipper' headboard, heading on the down slow just north of Hitchin, northwards towards
Peterborough where 1001 will diverge onto the ex-Gn & GE line to Lincoln (reverse) and onwards towards Cleethorpes via Market Rasen.

is worth recalling that the Hastings demu made its second railtour as far back as 1996 to Crewe and Chester.
 Hastings Diesels Ltd has no
less than fifteen of the distinctive 1957 narrow-bodied demu coaches
either being restored, stored, or active at their well-equipped depot in Hastings.
 The company even does contract maintenance work for South
Eastern, with their large fleet of emus,

If events on July 1st were memorable, the following Tuesday, July 4th was even better with a pair of 'vintage' GBRf-owned English Electric Type
1s or Class 20s in new money, gracing, nay, whistling down the East Coast Main Line, on a move from Tonbridge in Kent to Doncaster.

was built in 1962 as D8118, 20132 in 1966 as D8132. Both took on their new TOPS numbers in Dec 1973 and have remained
 unchanged ever since.

20118 once headed a railtour to Amlwch in the 1990s.

The pair are seen passing through Welwyn North station, after having just passed over the famous Digswell Viaduct.
 The 20s will shortly
pass northwards through the two Welwyn Tunnels which also form, with
the viaduct,  part of the two track 'Welwyn bottleneck' of the East Coast Main Line.

Lastly, and later on July 4th, Colas Class 37, 37175 took a bow with
'Mentor', the overhead line inspection train, seen approaching Hitchin
from the north at teatime.
 It's itinerary will take it as far as
Stevenage, reverse, and back north to Hitchin, then east to Cambridge
before returning again by the same route and home, eventually, to Derby RTC.

37175 was built as D6875 in 1963 and delivered to Cardiff Canton for South Wales freight duties. After a spell in preservation, it is now
operated by Colas who have taken over much of Network Rail's track and overhead line inspection duties,
tasks that will take 37175 all over the country.