October/November/December 2018

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.



December 31st 2018.

Here is today's 10.17 King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley Hogmanay charter passing Arlesey station, running about 21 mins late.
 Booked to arrive at Edinburgh at 15.55. Return is at 05.45 on January 1st. A charter for the young at heart, keen to celebrate 2019’s arrival
 along Princes Street and in the famous gardens (ticket only).

 Haste ye back, by good old BR InterCity train throughout! DB 90040 is on the front, with 90035 holding the tail lamp.


December 30th 2018.

Sitting on Biggleswade station yesterday, waiting for my train to Hitchin, which would be a nice cosy Class 365, not the new Siemens-built emu's with rock hard seats.

And whilst waiting, LNER 91119 ‘Bounds Green Depot’ raced through, up to Kings Cross with an ex-Edinburgh job.

 Tried to capture it on my mobile!

91119 has the 1989 BR InterCity livery to mark 30 years of service on the ECML.

Cumfy seats, specified by old BR! Class 365


December 27th 2018.

 While we sit back and eat mince pies, this is the scene on Christmas Day at Milton Keynes station- hard hats on double time!


December 13th 2018.

On Sunday, December 9th, a second steam charter went down the ECML from King's Cross to Lincoln, for the popular Christmas markets held there.
B1 4-6-0 No.61306 'Mayflower' was booked for this turn, to the eager anticipation of East Coast Main Line watchers of a certain age.
 Alas, 61306, despite an out and back loaded test run from Carnforth WCRC on Friday, couldn't be ready to move south,
so WCRC's Black Five 44871, already busy in the south, based at Southall, stepped into the breach.

Here she is, stopping to set down at Stevenage, about 15 minutes late, with the return from Lincoln. The engine is sporting a Scottish Region '65J' shedplate
which belonged to Fort William's ex- Caledonian Railway, (CR) shed until 1960 before the shed code was taken up by Stirling, another, larger ex-CR depot,
which also had Black Fives on its books for many years.

Fort William, in the 21st century, is no stranger to the comings and goings of WCRC Black Fives on the very popular, summer 'Jacobite'
service from 'Fort Bill' to Mallaig and it is highly appropriate that '65J' has come back to the town.

In old 'BR money' 44871 was always a LM 'North Western Lines' allocated engine, spending time at several sheds adjoining the WCML, but for the first six months
of 1952 44871 took up a '6J', Holyhead shedplate. 44871 lasted to the very end of steam in 1968 and this writer, jostling among the crowds with his roll
film camera, admits to stepping down on the tracks at Manchester Victoria for an unobstructed photo.
 I wouldn't dare do it today, but put it down to youthful enthusiasm 50 years ago this year!


December 11th 2018.

6233 catches the morning sunlight at Langford Siding (site of) just south of Biggleswade.
 Loco was hauling the ‘The Lyndum Fayre’. an RYTC charter from King’s Cross to Lincoln on December 8th 2018, for the Christmas markets there.


November 27th 2018.

Over the last two weekends, the ECML has been shut for engineering work between Peterborough and Doncaster and services have been diverted to the east
of the ECML via the old GN/GE joint route to Lincoln, which is not electrified.
 This has meant Class 67s dragging some principal LNER expresses that are booked for Class 91 electric haulage, between
Peterborough via Lincoln and to Doncaster.

Being diesel, LNER HST services were unaffected, going via Lincoln and further north to Leeds, Edinburgh and on to (and from) Aberdeen.

One or two trains- for operational reasons- were dragged all the way from London King's Cross as far as Doncaster, where the rostered 67
would be detached, ready to haul the next LNER service south as far as Peterborough and the 'drags'
would continue till the end of service.

Below is former Arriva Trains Wales's 67002, dragging LNER's 91112 on train '1S22', the 14.00 London King's Cross to Edinburgh.

The consist is passing the Langford Wind Turbine Farm, a dominant feature of the Bedfordshire landscape, and the first wind farm to be
seen going north from London by rail or road. Despite the abundance of electricity in this area, 91112 has its pantograph firmly down!

Blue 67002 does have one positive claim to fame; after construction in 1999 at Meinfesa, Alstom's factory in Valencia, Spain, 67002 was used
for high-speed testing at Alstom's La Sagra test facility in Toledo.

When 67002 was tried on the standard gauge RENFE Madrid to Toledo high-speed rail line, a top speed of 143mph was achieved. In the UK a
specified speed of 125mph was required by these 30-total 3,200 bhp Bo-Bo locomotives for Royal Mail TPO contract work which sadly ceased in 2004.
 Since then the 67s have had to slowly re-establish their career with mainly passenger work, including Royal Train duties, as well as being
'Thunderbird' rescue locomotives, stationed at strategic points along the East Coast Main Line.

 At present seven Class 67s are stored out of use, including pioneer 67001 but the majority of the serviceable Class 67s remain with DB
Cargo UK with Colas Rail operating 67023 and '027.


November 14th 2018.

On Tuesday (13/11/2018) hired-in DB 90029 races north to Newark Northgate with the 14.03 departed from King’s Cross, a regular 90 diagram when LNER require its services.
 There are two on hire from DB and they are based at Bounds Green as required. For scheduled maintenance they return to Crewe, their birthplace.


 InterCity is back! Fresh out of the shops is 91119 ‘Bounds Green’ heading north to Edinburgh, right time approaching Biggleswade at
 11.55, having departed from King’s Cross at 11.30.
 Celebrating old BR InterCity and 30 years of the Class 91 on the ECML.
It had already done a return trip to Leeds earlier in the morning, in time for the 11.30 to Edinburgh, returning from there at 17.00.


November 10th 2018.


 Hitachi, as part of the Inter City Express Azuma programme, are to take over, from tonight, management of Craigentinny (Edinburgh) and
 Bounds Green (north London) LNER train maintenance depots.

 Whether they, Hitachi, agree to take, on other train operators’ servicing and stabling is not known.

 LNER’s Bounds Green depot, takes on regular wheel lathe work for Greater Anglia Class 90s and looks after Grand Central Class 180s, for stabling. It’s all good stuff!!
(Roger Carvell)


November 8th 2018.

Calling at Stevenage on its way south is ‘1Y87’ the 14.02 York to King’s Cross about eleven minutes late.
Hired-in East Midlands Trains power car 43075 brings up the rear. EMT power cars and a complete EMT HST set are regular sightings on the
East Coast Main Line deputising for LNER sets undergoing unplanned or scheduled servicing. Tuesday, November 6th.


November 6th 2018.

Colas 37099 (built for BR as D6799 in 1962) heads down the ECML near Biggleswade, light engine from Tonbridge in Kent to Derby.
 October 28, 2018. I can’t yet trace any possibilities that 37099 worked down the North Wales Coast during the period they were used
 on the Crewe 
to Holyhead turns in the 1990's.

 37099 was laid aside for scrap by EWS but eventually reprieved and went into preservation before Colas revived the loco for national network use.


October 30th 2018.


There was a test run last Tuesday (23/10/2018) from Doncaster Carr depot to King's Cross and back, using IET 'Azuma' 800301 in full LNER colours which, in
 the flesh, so to speak, looks very good.

 Here is 800301 passing through Langford, just south of Biggleswade, some 40 miles out from London,  on the return trip, running very fast.

 Notice the pantograph is raised fairly high just here. The train is actually passing over a foot and farm vehicle crossing:
the contact wire is gradually raised in height on the crossing approach to give maximum vertical clearance to road vehicles.
 Then it gently drops to normal safe height above the train. This section of the East Coast main line was electrified in the mid
 1980s which means it is now showing its age.

 On marshy or unstable ground, full portals are used to keep the overheads in place which happens near Huntingdon where the River Ouse runs close by
 On solid ground a simple mast is erected both sides and a braced support wire stretched across to carry the catenary, unlike the original
1960s  Manchester to Crewe electrification which, and still has, solid steel portals throughout.

The name 'Azuma' has been taken up by LNER and is branded thus on the middle of the coaches as can be seen on the picture.

The name 'Azuma' has not been taken up by sister trains on the Great Western Railway and it remains to be seen if 'Azuma' catches on with the travelling public and staff.

 The rather obscure Japanese word 'Azuma' comes from the 15th century and is said to mean 'from the East'. It had everyone reaching for 'Professor Google' and his online word directory!

Despite all the recent testing of Class 800s on the East Coast Main Line it was announced this last week (Oct 25) that introduction of the new Hitachi-built trains has now been delayed until the new year.
 During recent test running north of York, the train's electrical frequencies interfered with signalling.

 Hitachi and Network Rail are trying to find a permanent solution so the 'Azumas' can work to Edinburgh and Glasgow so no new date for service entry has been given.
 The busy King's Cross to Wakefield and Leeds service is the priority.

From King's Cross to Doncaster the multi aspect signalling, (MAS) was installed over 40 years ago for HST services, and being much simpler and
 older (and due for renewal now) is less affected by modern electrical frequencies generated by passing trains.

It was so much more simpler in steam days!


October 24th 2018.

Full sun here but a tad windy with a cold bite at times.

It meant getting out with the camera while the light still holds mid-afternoon before the clocks go back.

  October 22nd, on the ECML, was fairly routine but with some anticipated Hitachi Class 800 testing cancelled.

There was only one interesting working along most of the English length of the ECML.
The 09.00 Edinburgh to King's Cross, 1E08, was terminated (only 7min down) at Northallerton with
passengers transferred to following LNER services. RTT says the service was cancelled due to traction problems.

Thunderbird 67012 was launched and sent to assist by dragging the entire train up to Bounds Green servicing depot, just next door to the famous Alexandra Palace.
Here is former Wrexham and Shropshire's 67012, once named 'A Shropshire Lad', heading up to Bounds Green now as '5E08' with the Class  91,
91112, pantograph down, hanging the red tail lamp.
Another task for the night shift at Bounds Green.

The failure would be discussed at the daily traction meeting to go over what
 could be learnt from the failure of 91112. One thing is for sure- the 91s are not getting any younger!

The method of Thunderbird ECML working is that as soon as there is a call from north of either Doncaster or York, the
 Thunderbird at King's Cross leaves to head north to cover at Newcastle as the other call out 67 goes south on its rescue mission.
A few minutes before 67012 passed by, sure enough, a lone 67022 headed north to replace 67012 at Newcastle.

Today I went out and caught the first Class 800 in the new LNER livery, bearing the 'Azuma' name on each coach.
 The term 'Azuma' has not been taken up by Great Western Railway with their own 800s.

LNER 'Azumas' are due to start services to Newark and Leeds in December but this is increasingly unlikely as the class has interference
issues with existing power signalling.

There is also a problem with the gangway arrangements between coaches; it is claimed you can use the end fittings to climb up, reportedly.


October 16th 2018.

Busy scene at King’s Cross today at 16.30. That’s my Great Northern train on the left, a twelve car Class 387 to Peterborough, first call at
 Biggleswade, my stop! Over 100mph required to keep ahead of following LNER and Grand Central services through the Welwyn bottleneck.

Windows washed while u wait! King’s Cross at 16.15 today. Nice little scene at the buffers!


October 9th 2018.

On the ECML last week, Hull Trains experienced two major failures of their tiny, four-strong Class 180 Adelante fleet.

On Oct 2nd, Tuesday evening, a northbound Class 180, had a failure near Sandy, blocking the down fast line. Passengers were transferred
to a following Thameslink service to Peterborough, which arrived alongside to transship passengers.

 The nearest rescue loco was a Class 37, which had to be summoned from Leicester, some distance away.
 However it arrived before midnight and dragged the expired Class
180 off the down fast and dumped the dmu in a siding at Sandy, where, as of
Tuesday, it remains.

 So Hull Trains, which advertises 92 daily services a week from Humberside to London King's Cross was down to
three serviceable ex-FGW Class 180s.

 Fate struck again on Friday night when another Class 180, 180113, caught fire and had to be stopped in Grantham station for passenger evacuation.

 With the overhead current switched off for firefighting, massive delays built up along the ECML and it wasn't until after
midnight that power was restored to the overhead lines.
 Damage to the Class 180 was confined, as in previous fire incidents with this type
of train, to the underside equipment. No injuries to report, I am pleased to say.

 These incidents have happened before to Hull Trains, voted the UK's most popular train company - an open access operator.

 Now Hull Trains is running an emergency timetable between Hull, Beverley and London King's Cross, with some services starting and finishing at Doncaster.

Management must be desperate for a robust solution and the continuing disruption has brought public criticism from Hull civic leaders.
present the new build fleet of five Hitachi Class 802 bi-modes are not due in service with HT until the end of 2019.

 When Hull Trains first started in 2000, a scratch set, (and very nice too), blue and grey MK2 aircon coaches were hired in to help start
services, with preserved Class 86, Bo-Bo, 86101 'Sir William Stanier FRS' and an ex-Virgin West Coast driving trailer providing the
traction as far as Doncaster.

 Hull Trains first ordered four Class 170 Turbostars, which were replaced in 2005  by a quartet of Class 222
Meridians, which in turn, as Hull Trains had become fully part of First Group, gave way to redundant FGW Class 180s in 2009.

Shown below are two pics of the Class 86 hire, taken in 2008 at Hitchin and more recently, a Hull Trains Class 180 in action near
Biggleswade in September and an earlier view of two HT 180s on arrival at King's Cross in May this year.

Hired in push - pull MK2 set with a DVT and a Class 86.

A Hull Trains Class 180 at Biggleswade in September 2018.

Two HT 180's on arrival at Kings Cross in May 2018.