EAST COAST MAIN LINE NEWS
July /August / September / 2017
Line (ECML) is a 393-mile long (632 km)
major railway link between London and Edinburgh via Peterborough,
Wakefield, Leeds,York, Darlington and Newcastle, electrified along the
whole route. Services north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness use
The main franchise on the line is operated by Virgin Trains East
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.
COMPILED AND EDITED BY GEOFF POOLE
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
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
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
temporary 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
Despite a 95mph limit for these
new diesels, much of the four day 'cruise' schedule involves some very leisurely point to point running
68027 looks brand new- it
still has factory-applied grease on the buffer heads.
These 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
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
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
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 min
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.
If 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
On July 1st, the 'Peoples' Engine',
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
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.
It 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.
20118 was built in 1962
as D8118, 20132 in 1966 as D8132. Both took on their new TOPS numbers in Dec 1973 and have
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
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
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