October / November /December / 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.


January 4th 2018.


Highlight of the month was on Wednesday evening, December 20th, with 'Royal Scot' returning from Peterborough to Southall WCRC depot with
support coach, after railtour duties north of Peterborough to York, deputising for 'Duchess of Sutherland' which is stopped for tube repairs.
Here is 46100 'Royal Scot' passing through Hitchin well into mid-evening, hauling its support BSK coach. I set the camera to 16,000 ISO, 250 sec, altered
colour balance to suit station lighting and hoped 'to get summat sharp' by chance if nothing else.
 My camera, a Canon 7D, surprised me! No flash of course.

On the previous day, the 19th, GBRf assembled four recently bought ex-DBS Class 66s into a convoy to move from Peterborough to Eastleigh
Works, Southampton, for repainting and renumbering into GBRf livery. DBS have recently sold, reportedly,'up to a dozen 66s' to GBRf.

Here comes 66238/058/016 and 66046 running under the '0Z65' headcode, passing the Network Rail cutting works at Great Wymondley, between Hitchin and Stevenage.
 Two have only recently been repainted into nice DB red, a livery that photographs well on overcast days.

Half an hour after the GBRf convoy, 90029, hired to VTEC from DBS, pushes a Leeds to King's Cross service up to the terminus.
 A very good pal of mine (and Hitchin Town supporter) was driving this train.
 He didn't see me perched up on the cutting, but he will acknowledge us photographers at Hitchin with a brief double tone on the horn as he races through.
Note the stump remains of the telegraph pole in the foreground; this area of the ECML was still semaphore-signalled up to 1974/75, with
mechanical signal boxes still using the old but trustworthy single needle telegraph for communication despite 100mph running by Deltics.

The delivery of new Siemens-built Thameslink Class 700 emus continues via the Channel Tunnel.
On December 21st came '6X70', Dollands Moor to Hornsey EMU depot, with 66773 bringing twelve car 700127, passing Stevenage
 in bright morning sunshine, after travelling up through Kent and Greater London in darkness, the driver no doubt happy to see a winter dawn break, well
north of London, on the way to Peterborough;  there he would be relieved by a fresh driver to take the lengthy train south to Hornsey,
north London.  The curious-looking new barrier vehicles are not often seen on this side of the Channel.

A few minutes earlier, before 66773's arrival, blue DBS 90034 drew up at Stevenage to make its last stop before London King's Cross, with a
VTEC service from Leeds.

I was out with my camera on the last day of the old year. In fading light I managed-just- to get the very last up working of a
 Grand Central hst, the 12.12 from Sunderland to King's Cross.
Grand Central have replaced their three hst sets with further ex-First Great Western Adelantes, released from the West of England by further electrification.
Now the three distinctive black hst sets are moving to East Midlands Trains at Etches Park depot at Derby.

One set was already de branded by January 1st!

 In this picture, with a friendly hoot from the driver, '1A61' hurries up to London with power cars 43480 and 43467 doing the traction.


December 18th 2017.

Despite the snow, Monday, December 10th, another delivery of the 'hard-seat' Class 700s took place, having made its way without too
much fuss from the Channel Tunnel with a filthy GBRf 66704 in charge of 12 car 700135, en route to Hornsey depot for commissioning work and inspection.
 There are only a few 700s left to deliver and standing down of the Great Northern's popular Class 365s cannot to be too far off.

 People will miss their superior comfort and less claustrophobic seating; the Class 365s were among the last
BR-built emus from York BREL, back in the late 80s before the factory closed down for good.

Siemens-built 700135, and attendant translator vehicles, is seen below passing Hitchin, heading south to Hornsey, with 66704 far up front,
having run north to Peterborough from Kent in order to be 'right side of the line' arriving at Hornsey's much enlarged emu depot.

The two Rail Operations Group  Class 47s, 47813 and 47848 continued to supply traction for the weekdays Wembley to Barrington Quarry spoil train.
 Here they are, passing Royston at a fair old lick, hurrying back up to London a few minutes earlier than expected.
 The photographer was having a welcome coffee to warm up when they appeared!

On Wednesday word came that ROG's 56301 would take over the spoil working. So it proved.
  Below is 56301, still in base Jarvis Rail stripes heading up slow, just south of Hitchin on Friday, December 15th.
 Network Rail have been carrying out landscaping work on the cutting behind, grubbing out vegetation and tree roots and rolling down black, plastic matting.
 Top soil is awaited. Trees can cause quite a lot of damage to trains when bad weather threatens as we all know, as well as leaf fall which puts trains
 out of service, undergoing expensive wheel turning.

 At one time, under Network Rail, there was only ONE gang of men along the entire 400 mile ECML route engaged in this sort of preventative work.
 Under fresh NR management there are now reportedly fourteen gangs engaged.

After 56301 had passed, making quite a sound, it was the turn of Network Rail's Class 37, 97301 to appear, puttering along, running
light up to Welwyn Garden City from Peterborough. There it would reverse and return to Hitchin, where it is currently based, for use on
the Hertford Loop, where European Railway Traffic Management System signalling trials (ERTMS for short) have been taking place in
conjunction with 'The Yellow Submarine', a former Great Northern Class 313 dual voltage emu, now converted to a test train and based at Willesden on the WCML.
 A photo of this unit is required- it can be elusive! The reference to 'yellow submarine', is, at a  guess, that it used to disappear beneath the surface on
 the former 'big tube' Moorgate branch in its passenger days.
Below is 97301, just catching the last usable sunlight-almost- of the day. Somebody left a cab door open!

A few minutes earlier, train '1E09' followed through, the 09.30 Edinburgh to King's Cross. Bringing up the rear was power car 'Spirit of Sunderland', suitably
 decorated to promote the town. Ironically, it is Grand Central, rather than Virgin East Coast, that mainly serves the
north east town with its distinctive black and orange HSTs, which are due to be replaced by further Class 180s this month, moving over from
First Great Western which no longer requires them due to electrification progress.

Below is an earlier 2012 view of Grand Central 43423 powering up to King's Cross with a female driver and traction inspector or manager at
the sharp end.


December 11th 2017.

Below are two photos of Britain’s newest train, the Class 345, to be used from next year on Crossrail.  These are built at Derby and been seen at Crewe!

 I did the short trip from Stratford to Liverpool Street the other night. Seats are hard as is the trend, unfortunately, but OK otherwise.
 Full air con and display info. Mind the gap! 

This shot shows the interior described above.


December 4th 2017.

Train '1E06', the 06.50 Glasgow to King's Cross, actually started from
Edinburgh Waverley at 08.00, 45 minutes late. There were problems at
Glasgow Central and the train was cancelled while staff sorted matters out by putting 91107 on the front, coupled to the DVT from Edinburgh Waverley.
 Berwick was passed at 09.27, 47 minutes late and the train, having
lost its booked path was unable to regain much lost time.

  Here is 91107, passing through Stevenage at 13.30. This is a spectacle most ECML watchers, over 400 miles, go out for with their cameras!
Sometimes this 'bunker first' running has occurred in hot weather if the air conditioning in the DVT cab has failed.
This VTEC saga comes with the news that the Government has decided to curtail the joint Virgin and Stagecoach franchise in 2020, amid persistent
rumours that both participants wanted 'out' due to less than expected profits.
 If the
neighbouring-and more profitable-Virgin West Coast franchise goes to another operator, it will spell the
end of the Virgin logo on British trains.

On the same day of  91107's energetic pull, instead of normal push, up to London, it overtook a double-headed Class 47 operation, the
movement of spoil from London to Foxton (for Barrington Quarry) south west of Cambridge on the Hitchin to Cambridge branch.
This is a daily weekday run from Wembley to Foxton, where the train reverses into the quarry with loaded spoil from the Crossrail scheme which is
getting closer to completion in 2018/19.

Rail Operations Group's 47815 and 47848 pass through Stevenage, up slow, at 13.24 on November 24th. It has been some years since Class 47s were seen in
double-headed formation and the workings have attracted photographers from far and wide.
 One ROG
driver reported seeing 15 'photters' near Foxton alone! Both these Class 47s date from 1964 and 1965- truly 'old BR' and still going strong.
They are expected to remain on this operation until early January when Freightliner take over.

Some better pics of the two 47s, taken on the first day of ops for ROG, November 13th. The locos are standing on the new Down Cambridge Flyover at Hitchin,
awaiting the green signal to rejoin the old route to Cambridge at Hitchin East Junction.

Finally, a look at 46100 'Royal Scot', hurrying north through Arlesey, north of Hitchin with a special to York (one way steam) on November 23rd.
 'Royal Scots' were unknown, (except for 46162 on the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges) on the southern end of the ECML until 2009 when, in true 'hell-raiser'
Royal Scot fashion, 46115 roared across Welwyn Viaduct, with full 'Caley hooter' and 'clag', blackening washing hung out across
Hertfordshire. Ghosts of Crewe North men, looking down, were probably smiling. We weren't complaining either!


November 20th 2017.

Two great 'panned' shots by Roger Carvell are shown below, along with the report of his chance encounter with the Royal Train, on
 Tuesday November 14th 2017, racing through Hitchin
in the early hours.

On Tuesday evening (14/11/2017) I went up to London to have a few pints with a Fleet Street pal and railway enthusiast.

 Coming home on the 00.04 to Cambridge from King's Cross, an odd looking passenger train with curtained windows came slowly into view,  near Finsbury
 Park, with, even in the dark, clearly a spotless, shiny Class 67 on the front with all headlights on.  I was beginning to suspect a 'special' train, and a right royal one!
The 00.04 calls at Finsbury Park, and a great chance to confirm my suspicions as claret-coloured  'Queen's Messenger' slowly came into
 view again, on an adjacent platform, hauling the Royal Train, in fact the entire Royal Train with a companion claret 67 on the rear.
 There was no fuss from the platforms, few present showed any curiosity as the train discreetly passed through Finsbury Park and back once more into
 the darkness of north London.

 All curtains were closed in the Mk2 and 3 coaches except one window where a Royal equerry could be seen working at a laptop.
With enough battery left on the tablet, this was a chance to track the Royal Train's progress on On Train Times mapping.

 Normally no one is meant to know the whereabouts of the Royal Train, and on the railway it can be a sackable offence to divulge any information to the public.
 But hang on, I had just seen the Royal Train! It must feature on the signalling diagrams to which anyone can access either at home or on a train.
With OTT mapping up and accesssed I chose King's Cross to Hitchin under the London and North Eastern heading.
 This was going to be an interesting exercise as the 00.04 raced north.
There was my train's headcode, the 00.04, a Class 365 two set unit, got into its 100mph stride from Finsbury Park. At around midnight there are no
VTEC northbound expresses left in the system, the last, the 23.30 to Leeds HST has long gone ahead.

 There are a few local Class 2 headcodes still about, including mine, but on the slow line, and already some way behind was a '1Z90'.
 Curious! A Class 1 train on the down goods? I clicked on its headcode and, ah!- talk about security, it described itself as a morning London Overground Richmond to
 Stratford service, calling at all stations.
 Not on the GN main line it was! That, I knew, must be the answer, the Royal Train, throwing out false descriptions as it went along, in the interests of security.
There was a Network Rail block on that night, both up and down fast lines were temporarily red-lamped for overnight maintenance.
 Everything north would go slow line from Woolmer Green, which marks the opening out to quadruple track once more north of the Welwyn 'bottleneck'.
On reaching Hitchin I got off, and as late night passengers made their weary way home, I held back on the platform, which emptied quickly.
 Not even the night charge-man or even British Transport Police were in evidence, standing in the cold with an expectant look.

 Sensible lot! It was just me, the lonely platform and a red signal. 'Shouldn't be too long',  I thought.
 'Two 67s and eight on will soon follow'. Sure enough, five minutes after my train had left, the signal went to amber and then green.

 Time to switch to tablet camera mode under the canopy lighting for best effects.
 'Film or still?' The 'Cyclops' headlights hove into view, switch cine on. 'Test! Damn! Cine has stopped!' 'Oh heck!' I had time to switch to still photo, an impossible feat, surely.

  The Royal Train, gaining speed, rushed through, much too fast for the night mode shutter.

 Only one thing to do, pan round and grab a chance photo of the claret train going away. So below, are my attempts. 00.50hrs,  Wednesday (15/11/2017), The Royal
Train, with HM Queen aboard, going to Hull, 2017 City of Culture.
I am sure Her Majesty was unaware of my attempt at recording her journey but as a subject of hers, I thought I had better try.

 No one else in Hitchin was going to, republicans or monarchists!


November 14th 2017.

I see the media is making a story from hoteliers and council officials that Llandudno has NO trains on a Sunday outside summer.
 I do hope the
new operator has plans to change that!
If Lowestoft and Gt Yarmouth has Sunday trains year round, then I hope Llandudno  gets its Sunday trains back.

Attached are four views of 60103 at King's Cross, under the famous clock, which has seen most if not all of Doncaster's (and Darlington's) finest
 over the decade.

 60103 ran on Armistice Day, Nov 11th 2017.  Note the smokebox poppies. This was a special from Norwich which,
oddly ran up to the capital in the mid to late afternoon. The A3 was later detached at Ferme Park yard, outside King's Cross, and made its
own way to Southall WCRC depot, while the Norwich excursionists returned late on Saturday night under diesel power via the outward
route through Hitchin and Cambridge.

November 13th 2017.

On Monday November 6, Govia Thameslink Railways inaugurated the first twelve-car Class 700 services from Peterborough to London King's Cross.
 At present, there are two early morning
weekday departures from Peterborough at 06.53 and 07.33.
 Here is the 07.33 arriving at Hitchin
with 700125, right time at 08.22. The driver is adjusting his blind as the sun at this time of the year
is low in the sky and facing directly north - not good for southbound train drivers!

 A traction inspector is also riding with him to make sure everything runs smoothly. Word has it that GN drivers like the quicker acceleration compared with
designs of emu but passengers, as I found out, have to endure sitting on a very hard seat cushion for their journey of often an hour or more

 There is also much more standing room than is really required for outer suburban journeys and thus there has been much criticism of
these German-built trains in the railway press.

The other two pictures show the interior - a lot of passengers having to stand - and about to be waved off at Stevenage on the last leg of the journey to King's Cross.
 But note, despite millions of pounds of
investment in new technology, the train cannot leave until the traditional green flag is raised by the Stevenage train dispatcher.

The Siemens Class 700 trains will, from 2018, bypass King's Cross terminus altogether and leave the East Coast Main Line at what is now
called Canal Tunnel Junction (once Belle Isle of steam fame) and dive underground to call at nearby St Pancras International and then cross
central London and carry on to destinations in East Sussex and Surrey, for so long envisaged in the age-old BR Thameslink 2000 plan.

October 23rd 2017.

The ECML ticks along nicely and seems to have escaped the extreme weather of late - in other words, the knitting has held up! I'm sure the Overhead Wires
give the 'orange army' anxious moments in times of extreme weather.

A hired-in DB 90 continues to clock up mileage every day with VTEC out and back services, twice daily to either Newark or Leeds from
 King's Cross, the 110mph limit of the 90s keeping the class off the longer distance trains where the 125mph of the 91s is more critical to
acceleration and time keeping.
The new-build IEPs continue to and from Doncaster to West London (for GWR). I hope to photo a green GWR asap!

  Below is 90036 'Driver Jack Mills' pushing up to London, passing Great Wymondley, south of Hitchin with an up Leeds diagram on September 26th.
90036 was replaced by sister loco 90029 in early October but is scheduled for VTEC this coming week once more.

The operation of a weekdays Crossrail spoil train from Wembley to Foxton (for Barrington Quarry) continues, using Class 56s, 56081 and 56301.

 This is a Devon and Cornwall Railways operation that had previously been worked by hired in 66s from DBS
and GBRf. Now DRS have to do it themselves! Two 56s are required as the train weighs 2,200 tons and is outside the timing abilities of
 a single Class 56 as laid down by Network Rail. Others, rightly, had thought two 56s were used in case
one broke down! The train diverges from the ECML and takes the Cambridge branch at Hitchin.

  Below is 56081 and 56301 hurrying through Royston (on the Cambridge branch) with the empties at lunchtime, October 16th.

 Another view below that, shows 56031 in the lead on an earlier working on October 5th passing Hitchin South en route to Wembley.
 The empty wagons look like they have taken quite a battering and produce a loud wheel flange squeal when joining the ECML at
Hitchin which has led to public complaints from those living nearby.

The 'leaves on the line' season is upon us throughout the UK and the familiar blue water tanks are out and about again, with varying types of motive power.

  Below shows GBRf's 66732 taking a train of pristine tanks, from Thrall. York, to Tonbridge, in Kent. In operation, the distinctive blue will quickly disappear behind a
 brownish coating of track 'gunge'. 66732 passes Great Wymondley on September 26th.

The Great Northern contract is undertaken once again by DB with 66s, with a train spraying from Harringay, north London down to Huntingdon
or Foxton on the Cambridge branch, at least twice in 24hrs.

The pictures below show 66111 and 66151 spraying through Royston (going rather fast!) on the first day of operation, Monday, October 16th.
 The train did not run on Tuesday owing to problems with the spray equipment, meaning an unscheduled  trip down to Peterborough for adjustment.

  Alas no Flying Scotsman, due this weekend gone. It ran hot at Peterborough last weekend and is now at Wansford, on the Nene Valley Railway.
 Engineers had to lift the locomotive and run out the middle set of driving wheels and take them away for specialist repair.
 Attention is focused on the axle box bearings.

October 13th 2017.

70013 'Oliver Cromwell' and its First Class BFK Mk2 support coach make a splendid sight as the engine races along the up slow through
Hitchin, with '5Z79', a Peterborough (Nene Valley Railway) to Southall (West Coast Railways) depot run.
 The engine had appeared here the
previous Saturday with its WCRC stock and piloted by maroon Brush Class 47, 47746 on a Southall to
 Norwich train for a Sunday excursion
from there to Rowsley (Peak Rail).

On its return in the evening, 70013 was detached at Peterborough and stayed on the nearby NVR for servicing before steaming out again on
Wednesday, October 11th, to return to west London.

70013's next charter is the 'Bognor Belle' from London Victoria to Bognor Regis on Saturday October 21st, organised by the Railway Touring Company.

The Britannia class were no strangers to the former Southern Region area but appearances on the East Coast Main Line in early BR days were
rare until the early 1960s when seven were reallocated to Immingham (40B) and worked to King's Cross and back on the Cleethorpes express diagrams.

On a personal note, I copped many Britannias going down the North Wales Coast on a summer Saturday but oddly, 70013 always escaped my notebook!


October 4th 2017.


I did my best, but 45212 was going like a good 'un so options
for a photo without flash limited.

First time I have seen this engine through Hitchin - and a Lostock Hall one too.

Memories of 1968 for me.