May / June 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.


June 29th 2017.

On Saturday June 24, at Welwyn Garden City, A3 Pacific 60103 'Flying Scotsman's heads '1Z42', 'The Scarborough Flyer', the 08.10 departure
from Scarborough with 60103 on the front and a Class 47 on rear (for the shunt move from King's Cross).

 The A3
was going well and the station tannoy at Welwyn Garden City gave ample time for folk to get themselves into position for a decent photo. 60103 did
not return to Scarborough but ran with support coach across London to Southall. In the evening 47760 took the train back to Scarborough.

On Monday, June 26, Network Rail ran '1Q18', an overhead line inspection train, up from Heaton (Newcastle) to Derby,via the ECML,
returning north from London and diverging at Doncaster, taking the non-electrified route via Mexborough, Sheffield and Chesterfield,
finally arriving at Derby RTCat in the small hours of June 27. A right NR round robin!

 Using the newly repainted Colas 67s, Nos 67027and 67023, '1Q18' approaches the Hitchin flyover, the second picture showing 'Mentor', a converted 1955-built
 Mk1 BSK coach with pantograph. A roof-mounted,
angled, three piece observation window is used, to observe and film the overhead line. 'Mentor' means
 'Mobile Electrical Network Testing,
Observation and Recording'. Some waggish users referred to it as

The former steam-age Southern Region coach, originally numbered S34616, has undergone further rebuilding since its first conversion,
most notably window alterations, the original window sliders being replaced by modern hopper versions; on the technical side, recording
equipment internally was upgraded to digital status as the demands made by high speed trains increased.
 Diesel locomotives can only be
used for this recording work as a preceding electric locomotive
pantograph 'bow wave' will distort the results.

The second picture shows 'Mentor' in action.

Our present local train operator, Great Northern, has started driver training on the newly- imported Siemens Class 700 trains, to be
 used by sister operator
Thameslink and Great Northern on services via St Pancras International, linking places like Cambridge and
 Peterborough (on the
GN side) to Brighton and Horsham using 25kV power north of the Thames and switching to 650v DC third rail in the south of London.

 On Monday
June 26, crew trainer 700015 takes the 'panoramic' Hitchin flyover towards Letchworth and Cambridge from St Pancras International, for
the first time. Alas, the training run did not go entirely to plan for the second pantograph refused to rise and at Letchworth, after
attempts by the instructor to raise it failed, Control deemed the train a failure and the rest of the run to Cambridge was cancelled! It ran successfully the following day.

Finally, I had better include a pic of a Virgin East Coast Trains
service. News is to hand that the franchise, run jointly between
Stagecoach (90pc) and Virgin (10pc), is not performing well financially and has made a very large loss, which has resulted in urgent talks between the
 Department of Transport and Sir
Brian Souter, owner of Stagecoach, about the future of the franchise.

Veteran East Coast Main Line watchers will inevitably say, 'we have been here before!' Another described the ECML franchise 'as a poisoned chalice'.

A VTEC 91 passes over Durham Viaduct, propelling a King's Cross service from Edinburgh in the summer of 2016.


June 26th 2017.

On June 17th, John Cameron's Class A4 pacific 60009 'Union of South Africa' made what turned out to be a troublesome journey with its BSK support coach

from York NRM to Stewarts Lane depot in Battersea, south London.

 I went north to Peterborough to see it there but on alighting a helpful young enthusiast told me that 60009 was having 'brake problems' and would be
 delayed reaching Peterborough at 14.21.

I must admit then to the folly of making a 45 minutes journey in very hot weather to snap an A4 in passing, that in the event might not turn up!
However Peterborough is an important station with routes coming in from all directions and there was plenty to see before 60009 did
arrive and the station staff are very friendly, backed up by a useful coffee shop
on Platform One. I confess to being a latte addict!

From the North Norfolk Railway came Class 20, 20142 in a bogus but bright 'London Transport' livery, fully lined out and towing Class 44
Peak D8 'Penyghent' in more restrained BR 1963 green.
They are seen arriving at Peterborough on the goods loop from March and did not stop, heading off in the Leicester and Derby direction.

A little later, a Freightliner Class 70, 70003 appeared from the March direction with a Felixstowe to Crewe, Basford Hall working.
The locomotive drew to a halt by some steps and exchanged drivers;
 Peterborough is an important crew change point for all train companies using the station.
 This working is daily, and the boxes seem to pass by forever. 70003 would shortly follow 20142's footsteps across the Midlands.

In a later view, a Virgin East Coast crew await an up King's Cross service and here you can see a King's Cross driver acknowledging with his phone a
driver shortly to be relieved at Peterborough.
 Train crew rostering is a very complex operation and the skill of the roster team must be tested to the limit when things go wrong.
 No surprise then that drivers have mobile phones with them at all times.

Finally, with the temperature still well in the 80s, A4 60009 arrived quietly, no arrival chime whistle, very late, and made a brief stop in
Platform One to set down a crew member.
 I learnt that 60009's exhaust had set fire to the lineside between Grantham and Newark and the ECML was stopped for at least 45 minutes to an hour
to enable the local fire brigades to deal with what was thought to be several fires.

 Despite that, a young enthusiast snapped 'the going away shot' as 60009 set off for its planned water stop at
Conington Loop between Peterborough and Huntingdon.

Meanwhile. northbound service trains were held for some considerable time at Peterborough, with two I saw not even booked to call there.

Of course, behind 60009 were following VTEC, East Midlands, Grand Central and Hull Trains services piling up their delay minutes.
 Not a good day for main line steam's reputation. Network Rail reacted quickly and on that blistering Saturday afternoon insisted that all steam trains on the
network must now be piloted by a diesel during the heatwave.

The last picture shows a 'guilty' 60009, passing Huntingdon, now even much later than planned, piloted by DBS 66047. Despite there being
many Class 66s stabled at Peterborough over the weekend, those are GBRf ones which have nothing to do with steam charters, so DBS 66047
had to be summoned from Doncaster. A classic example of how fragmented the national railways have become.


June 19th 2017.

There are odd 'freight' moves, such as the movement of third
rail (south eastern) emus from Kent down to Doncaster WABTEC for refit and updates.
are two workings, done in different ways.

On June 4th, Europhoenix Class 37, 37800, took a Class 375 Electrostar forward from Wembley to Doncaster.
 Here is 37800 passing through
Hitchin, right time.
 This Class 37 has couplings that eliminate the
need for barrier coaches which are subject to availability issues.

 37800 was built by English Electric at Vulcan Foundry and
delivered to the Western Region at Cardiff Canton in 1963 as D6843.
 37800 is a much travelled locomotive which, in the mid-1980s was seen on the North Wales Coast Line with test trains from Crewe.
 It went abroad to France in 2000 for a year of TGV line construction work.
 Another claim to fame was, while hauling a freight train to
Llanwern Steel Works, falling into the River Ebbw!.
A shunter had
wrongly set the trap points and off the road and down the bank she went, fortunately without injuries to the
 crew - perhaps they donned
life jackets!

The photos below show the traditional way of dragging third rail emus 'off patch' so to speak.
 In a colourful promotional livery, GBRF Class 66, 66711
arrives at a very hot Peterborough on Saturday, June 17th, with another
southeastern emu, this time a Class 465 'Networker'.

 This move involves two barrier vehicles converted from former Southern Region/Merseyrail Class 508 driving trailers; these are owned
by the Arlington Group, based at Eastleigh Works.
 This is a regular
Saturday afternoon ECML working from Slade Green depot, near Dartford, to Doncaster WABTEC.
 The return move takes place at night, delivering
a refreshed unit back to its Kent haunts.
 Southeastern are repainting
their earlier emu stock into overall dark blue to match the high-speed Javelins.


June 19th 2017.

Here are the most recent steam moves up and down the ECML (south).

On Sunday June 4th, 46233 is seen racing through Huntingdon towards Peterborough, right time with the 'Peak Forester' (Ealing Broadway to
Rowsley Peak Rail and return). 46233 came off at Derby but was ready for the return from Derby southwards, right time.

On the following Thursday, June 8th, 46100 moved from its temporary base on the Nene Valley Railway to Southall, West Coast Railways depot.
Here he
is, cantering through Arlesey, north of Hitchin, on the up slow, with a friendly 'Caley Hoot' and a wave from the fireman with a nice
repainted BSK support coach in tow.


May 22nd 2017.

I got up early this morning
to track '1M16', the up Caledonian Sleeper. At 06.00 RTT said it was passing Grantham, so time for a
 brew up first! Thankfully it was running to
time, so I then nipped on my bike down to the station.

The lads on the ticket gate kindly let me through, despite the up platform full of sleepy-looking, Monday morning look,  commuters at 06.45!

Here is Caledonian Sleeper 92010 bringing diverted '1M16', the Inverness, Fort William, Perth and Edinburgh overnight sleeper, 16
coaches long, 06.58 at Hitchin.

Minutes earlier, a whole battalion of silent commuters boarded the 06.47 to King's Cross, each one locked into the polite rush for a seat!
 The pull of London
starts well outside the capital. Bowler hats were sometimes seen back in the 1970s when
BR Mk1 suburban stock, non-gangwayed, (known as 'square-enders at Hitchin) was used up till 1977.

 A lucky few survivors are now at
Llangollen. Working dress today is much more casual, often with personal stereos,
free Metro, rucksacks and fold up bikes, plus take away coffee. Used to do it myself!

The booked Class 56 has failed to turn up today, maybe tomorrow!


May 20th 2017.

On Monday, May 15th , 1A05, the 07.30 Edinburgh to King's Cross was in
trouble almost from the start. With a 14 minutes late departure, 'Thunderbudgie'
DBS 67021 came to the rescue after Virgin 91112, on the rear, was shut down with 'traction problems'.
 The train, with passengers, was dragged
as far south as Peterborough, where, now over 177 minutes late, the train
was terminated and passengers transferred to the next available King's Cross VTEC service.
 67021 then awaited a suitable path and departed
ecs south to VTEC Bounds Green depot for the train to be examined,
although more likely, the errant locomotive.

May 16th 2017.

The subject of Class 91 availability continues to be a worry, and VTEC continue to hire DBS Class 90s to cover diagrams.
The picture below shows a rather faded livery former EWS 90039 at King's Cross, awaiting departure on May 16th 2017 at 14.08 to Newark North Gate.

Earlier that morning it had ably completed an out and back to Leeds VTEC service. The hired-in 90s tend to cover the shorter distance
workings to Leeds or Newark North Gate but some reports say they have reached York.

 Note to modellers! The EWS lettering and numbers are not
meant to be white. They just faded after several years ploughing
through rain and the carriage washer!

There have been one or two specials this week, Saturday included, including a pair of DRS 68s on the Northern Belle pullman excursion today
 but I have not been able to see them.

First Hull Trains have amended their logo to include a heart. Their Class 180s are related to the Arriva Class 175s, with a similar body shell.
 This has all to do, at a guess, with Hull being nominated as
the City of Culture this year.

 A Class 180 sits under the sunlit roof
at King's Cross on May 16th 2017 at 13.18. It's next task is the 13.48 back to Hull where it arrived at 16.17.


May 12th 2017.

Two photos below taken just south of Hitchin today, next to the fields, a pair of five-car 'Azumas' (it'll never catch on, that name) form '5X80'

Doncaster to North Pole IEP depot, west London, passing Hitchin to the south of the town, a few minutes early at 11.10. Nos 800001/2 were
operating under diesel power rather than taking the available 25kV.

The promotional red stripey one was used for the big visit by then Prime Minister David Cameron, to Newton Aycliffe, to open the Hitachi assembly plant.

There's going to be a lot more of 'em about soon. Then we won't take any notice!

Their similarity to home-grown Japanese trains is clear by the style of window spacing and sliding, rather than Mk4 space-saving plug doors, that we
have got used to.

Right away, driver!


May 11th 2017.

The Great Northern and Thameslink
railways took delivery of another brand-new Siemens-built Class 700 emu today.

 The German-built eight car 700035 was collected from the
Channel Tunnel at Dollands Moor by GBRf 66772 and left for
Peterborough (Eastfield) at 03.09.

After traversing Kent and Greater London it arrived at Peterborough at 07.34. Then, a few hours later it retraced it's steps, heading up to London, having
earlier passed the Class 700's new home depot at Hornsey at dawn! The reason why these new trains, this is the third, are delivered in this
roundabout way is unclear.

Here, GBRf is pulling 700035 through Hitchin, heading up to Hornsey. The barrier wagons, with containers, seem to contain a power unit
within them, judging by the smoke stains on the rear example.

This delivery run takes place on the Wednesday of each week, under the head code '6X70'.


May 8th 2017.

On Saturday (May 6th 2017) a
railtour ran from Yorkshire across to Hull and then south via Lincoln and onto the ECML proper
at Peterborough. At Hitchin a few of the 'usual suspects' gathered for D9009 'Alycidon's arrival. When it did, we expected it to hurtle
 through, but it got signal-checked! So we had a 'slow motion' view of the 'beast' as the driver brought the Deltic slowly, but never
 stopping, up to the signal, anticipating a green aspect.

 The photo shows D9009 opening up! It was wonderful! Just like old commuting days in the late 70s. The entire train was correctly

in blue and grey and because it is rated at 100mph, D9009 duly obliged!

 New DRS 68022 was hanging the tail lamp on the rear- it was

required for ECS moves out of and back into King's Cross. The day out was very successful and ran to time.

By contrast, sadly, 'Tornado', came
south later in the evening, 77 minutes late at Hitchin after the train ran into water truck supply issues at Newark.
 The Peterborough Fire Brigade topped her up in the station instead!


May 8th 2017.

Tonight, Real Time Trains showed an unusual  '0Z86', Wembley to Doncaster move (via the North London Line).
It transpired to be 'Caledonian Sleeper' Class 86101 'Sir William Stanier FRS', running light engine, down fast through Hitchin at
22.41. So glad I snapped it, just!

Class 86s were not unknown on the ECML in their heyday but the sight of only one of the two operational ones is always worth taking time off for.

 I am not sure why 86101 has been summoned to Doncaster.

Normally this engine works the Caledonian Sleeper ECS (empty coaching stock) into Euston at night from Wembley, and then takes out the
 overnight arrivals, (ECS),
when they come in from Scotland.

The second pic shows a typical 'train crew going home' arrival at Hitchin, 22.45hrs. Great Northern dual voltage 313134 has arrived from London Moorgate and earlier turn train crew
have used it to come home on while the late turn train dispatcher looks on.

 There are no guards on these trains which use part of the old London Transport 'Great Northern & City' underground line to Moorgate.

 40 year-old 313134 now continues on to Letchworth Garden City where it will be stabled for
the night, ready for the next early turn driver, probably at 04.00! No such thing as 9 till 5 working on the railway.