The May timetable of 1988 saw the first scheduled HST working to Stratford-upon-Avon when a mid-morning departure from London Paddington arrived which then formed an afternoon return to the capital. To check clearances for the Mk3 stock a gauging train formed of 31237 + coach 19173 was sent to Stratford on 14 October 1986 and I assume that it ran so far in advance of the first HST working in case any work on the platforms was needed. It wasn't an especially high-tech event with just visual checks on all 3 platforms being carried by a couple of men on the train. I never did find out the headcode but here is 31237 in P1 after arrival and a run-round in the Down Goods Loop prior to making 2 more trips to the crossovers outside the station and checking platforms 2 & 3.
I reeled off a stack of pictures of 31237 at various stages in the clearance checking process at Stratford-upon-Avon on 14 October 1987 but won't upload too many as they are probably of little interest to non-locals. The first HST from Paddington to Stratford ran on 16 May 1988 but the late morning arrival on a sunny day made for tricky lighting conditions. Here is one effort from the Alcester Road overbridge as the train arrived to be met by just 2 photographers such was the lack of interest in the type in those days.
A time of transition at Leicester. The attractive and charismatic semaphore signals were not long for this world on 25 May 1986 as the multiple-aspect replacement for the platform-end signals shows. Approaching the station is 31126 with what my notes say is the 08.12 Cambridge to Birmingham and I take this to be correct as I rarely noted details of workings in those days so must have been told by someone who knew. I do know that the locomotive is 31126 which along with the 2 coaches formed a DMU replacement. The livery carried by 31126 was relatively new at the time and here is a shot taken at Guide Bridge on 2 May 1984 when it still carried BR blue.
The first of 2 photographs from Nottingham taken on 18 May 1991. This one shows 31410 just to the East of Lenton Junctions and on the way to Nottingham station with a mixed set of NPCCS including a couple of red Royal Mail vehicles working towards the station. In the background is a disused yard with what appears to be a single track left in place along with a goods platform and canopy.
This picture was taken from the same spot as the one above but with an 85mm lens rather than a 50mm version on my Olympus OM1n. The train is a Kingsbury to Humber empty oil working with 31255 + 31180 providing the power. Class 60s were not far away by this time and would soon take over these heavy trains from pairs of class 31s and indeed in 2021 the bigger locomotives still operate on them.
Oops! Class 31/4 31457 was off the road at Reading on 14 May 1988 with a breakdown crane in attendance and with what i tale to be jacking points fixed to the bogies. The position of the locomotive looks a bit dodgy as there seems to be quite a drop to the left of the line judging by the rooflines of the industrial units. 645
Class 31s have been very much part of the U.K. railway scene for many years although in 2021 just one example, 31128, is allowed onto the main line. They were never the strongest engines and their adhesive qualities were not helped by the A1A wheel arrangement which meant that some of the loco's weight was borne on unpowered wheels. Nevertheless, they did a lot of valuable work both on passenger and freight trains and had a particularly pleasant and rasping exhaust note, especially when being worked hard. This picture, taken on 16 February 1994 shows 31178 at Barrow-on-Trent with a Bescot - Toton departmental.645
For many years it was the practice to have a spare locomotive stabled on a through road at Birmingham New Street to provide cover in case of a failure or to do a bit of shunting, perhaps with a Royal Mail train. On 15 July 1989 31414 was on duty and although I don't often take portrait pictures of static subjects this one was hard to resist as it stood 645 with 85037 which was unfortunately mostly in shadow.
Another place where I took a few locomotive portaits was Manchester Victoria where in the 1980s there was always an engine or two ready to bank heavy eastbound freights up the still climb to Miles Platform. I can't find a note of the numbers of this pair of class 31s waiting for their next job nor that of the class 45 with a Liverpool to York or Newcastle service waiting for its departure time but guess that it was probably sometime in 1987. A single class 25 was often found to be doing this job and it's quite probable that the adhesion of the nominally less powerful locomotive would make it superior for this work than a single class 31.
The suburban passenger service in the West Midlands was branded "Midline" in the late 1980s and on 23 April 1988 a Midline Day was held with a display of locomotives at the recently reopened Birmingham Snow Hill station, a visit from the Hastings DEMU which worked Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon trains and various other attractions. This locomotive, 31413, had just been been repainted into a slightly bizarre colour scheme and had worked into Snow Hill hauling a selection of stock including 40122, the last class 40 still operational on the main line. This was carrying a headboard (in April) apparently advertising a Christmas event...
It wasn't just steam locomotives that worked the Sunday Luncheon Expresses dining trains into Stratford-upon-Avon from London Marylebone. It was discovered that using a diesel from Banbury to Stratford saved enough coal to avoid having to rstock the tender at the terminus; a messy and hard job for all concerned. On an extremely dull, cold and wet Sunday in 1987 a class 31/4 did the job along with ETHEL 2 (97252) providing power for the train and such was the weather and general lack of interest from photographers that I was the only one here. There was quite a bit of shunting involved to get the ETHEL on the front of the train ready to be coupled to whatever steam locomotive was on duty and this gave the chance for a picture of what appeared to be class 25 hauling a passenger train out of the Down Goods Loop, the class 31 being out of sight pushing the stock back into platform 1.
Another class 31 to visit Stratford-upon-Avon was 31112 some time in 1986 on another dull and gloomy Sunday. It's seen here just after arriving in platform 1 with a short ballast and spoil train from Bescot after some work on the North Warwickshire Line. The train as about to be propelled into the Down Goods Loop and the ground signal can just be made out along with the shunter. Stratford didn't have any Sunday trains at this time in the winter so there were no issues with the engineering train avoiding other services.
Stratford's Down Goods Loop wasn't much used once steam had finished as there was clearly no need for the water crane and what little freight remained on the line before it was truncated in 1976 passed straight through the station. It was always therefore worth a shot on the occasions when anything went in there as 31112 did in order to run-round its ballast and spoil train in 1986. The upper quadrant signal in the background was the least used of any in the station area along with the corresponding one shown here which controlled the entrance to the loop. The class 31 ran into platform 1, reversed, re-entered the loop from the north end and then propelled its train into platform 1 as can be seen below.
Once 31112's train was in platform 1 at Stratford it would have been able to leave for the return journey to Bescot. When I took this shot the points from the loop hadn't been changed back for the main down line nor had the ground signal been cleared. I seem to recall that the crew had a break for a while before setting off and that it was too cold and dull to hang around any longer.
The class 101 DMMU known as Iris was taken from Derby to Bishops Lydeard on Tuesday 18 March 2008. The power provided was 31459 which, in its black livery, provided a nice contrast to the two different yellows of the unit. I wanted to be in the Evesham or Pershore area at some point during the day so just went to the nearest point to my home where a reasonably wide view could be obtained so as to show all 3 vehicles. Here is 5Z08 passing Croome Perry wood after being in the loop at Abbotswood for some time to allow the passage of a class 170 on a Cardiff service and an Arriva Voyager on a Cross Country train.
The footbridge at Portway, near Elford, is a decent enough and pleasantly quiet spot for afternoon photography although the high-tension wires are a bit distracting. This picture shows 31308 hauling a Bescot-bound ballast on a beautifully sunny 25 October 1993.
Another photograph of a class 31 hauled departmental, this time the morning Bescot to Toton train, shows 31106 on the Castle Donnington line. It has just left the main Birmingham to Derby line at Stenson Junction and will run along the freight line to Sheet Stores Junction. I've included this picture because of the filthy state of the locomotive - very much the norm at the time, 2 March 1994.
The Network Measurement Train running with power cars 43062 + 43154 failed in the Bristol area towards the end of the week ending 30 April 2005. NR's 31233 was depatched light diesel to Stoke Gifford to return the train north but Network Rail then decided that a single 31 would not be allowed to work single-handed. 31285 was also sent south and the whole ensemble worked north in the early afternoon of Sunday 1 May. The train, running as 5Z19, is pictured here at Defford being driven by Mike Jones who kindly gave me the details of the working. The sun wasn't fully out but at this time of day (13.31) on this line the backlighting would have been rather harsh if it had. A video clip of the train can be found on the link.
From the kitchen window of my then nearby home on a date I can't find in my notebooks but probably in 1985 I saw 31426 arrive at Stratford-upon-Avon with the Derby Lightweight Ultrasonic Test Train (TDB975007/8) in tow. It went into the Down Goods Loop where the class 31 was detached, ran along the up main line to the crossover before being coupled to 6Z08 and prepared to leave. Here, the second man watches the locomotive approach along the by then rarely used loop which was taken out of use within a few weeks.
It wasn't many minutes before 31426 was coupled to the Ultrasonic Test Train in Stratford-upon-Avon Down Goods Loop and a brake test carried out. After establishing that the crew were OK with my crossing the line I moved to a mound of earth for a slightly higher viewpoint and took this picture as 6Z08 left the loop to use the crossover (which the signalman maintained wasn't fit to use!) and joined the up main line towards Bearley Junction. The set has entered preservation and details can be found here on the brilliant Railcar.co.uk website: essential viewing for anyone with an interest in first generation DMUs.
On 13 July 2002 there was a Lramington Spa to Workington charter, 1Z31, with FM Rail's 31128 and 31459 providing. This isn't a great time for photography on the GWR line between Leamington and Birmingham and I chose Lapworth station which at 07.25 in the morning was a bit on the shadowy side. It was too late to go anywhere else but at least there was a reasonably large gap into which the locomotives almost fitted.
The footbridge just to the west of West Ealing station was a justly popular spot for railway photography for decades and I made several trips there in the late 1980s. Among the large number of main line freight trains on 30 November 1989 there were a few trip workings incluing this one with 31125 taking fuel oil to Old Oak Common. Itwas pictured taking the line towards Castle Bar Park and Greenford and will turn right ant tghe end of the branch before running alongside the LUL tracks at Park Royal and on to Old Oak.
The fuel tanks to and from Old Oak were slip worked with the previous train and 31125 came back along the Greenford Loop later in the day on 30 November 1989. The flats in the background were built on an extensive goods yard, sidings and a milk dock which received huge volumes of milk every day from across the West Country. This picture from Wikipedia gives an idea of the size of the site. The milk tanks had to be taken across all four main lines to the sidings and unloading facility on the extreme right of the picture; that must have given signallers a pathing dilemma given that this was a extremely busy line.
In 1989 it was commonplace to see small locomotives such as class 31s working quite heavy trains. This picture taken at Barnetby on 13 January 1990 shows 31203 taking a heavy train of steel for export from Scunthorpe to Imminham Docks, This was a regular trip and I saw the same locomotive several times during the day either running light engine back to Scunthorpe or returning to the docks with another load. One of the main attractions here was the array of semaphore signals, now gone, not to mention the quantity of freight to photograph hauled by a good variety of motive power.
The view from the eastern end of Barnetby station gave a shot of Barnetby Station signalbox along with more semaphores. A Humber Refinery to Kingsbury train of loaded tanks hauled by 31156 + 31289 just catches the early morning sun on 13 January 1990 as it passed the'box with the heavy frost yet to disappear from the sleepers.
Once the sun was high enough to clear the lineside trees on 13 January 1990 a move was made to New Barnetby to vary the pictures a bit. This is another of the Scunthorpe to Immingham Docks steel trip workings with 31203 pictured accelerating away from Barbetby station. The view in this direction isn't seen as often as the one looking east and it must be said that the more open view with some background interest is more appealing.
In 1989 several summer-dated holiday locomotive-hauled trains ran from the timetable change in May. In this area there were several booked for class 31 power including the one pictured from Leeds to Tenby. Unusually, on 15 July, it ran with a single locomotive, instead of the booked pair. The singleton was 31405 and is seen passing Northfield, Birmingham. In the course of less than 2 hours, no fewer than than 8 loco-hauled passenger trains passed this spot, along with a police car called by a worried local inhabitant who thought I was a likely candidate for suicide by jumping off the bridge onto the railway line. Suicidal with sunshine and all these trains?!
A short while after the train shown above had passed Northfield on 15 July 1989 the SO Leeds to Paignton came along with 31408 + 31455 providing the power. I haven't been to this location for a long time but with the advent of ovehead electrification to Redditch and Bromsgrove and the usual rampant and unchecked growth of lineside vegetation I doubt that there is much of a shot in 2021.
In the winter of 1984/85 there was a spate of crew training runs between Birmingham and Banbury. These employed any old locomotive lying around Bescot including classes 20, 31, 37, 40, 45 and 47 and on 22 January 1985 31134 with 3 grubby Mk1 coaches was provided. The ensemble in seen here about to pass through Leamington Spa on the up main line. The GWR North Signalbox was still in use at the time and the Ford factory with its own foundry was still operative on the down side of the line. This site is now a supermarket. Of course.
The field adjacent to the Derby main line at Water Orton was a good spot to photograph a bunch of locomotive-hauled passenger and freight traffic, even on Saturdays, in 1988. This picture shows an almost ex-works 31186 taking a set of MGR HAAs from Bescot to Burton-on-Trent on 11 January 1988. This is another spot I haven't visited for a while but I can't imagine that the tatty post and wire fence with convenient gaps is still there which allowed access to a small hump in the grass giving a useful foot or two of extra height. 645
This picture doesn't feature in my notebooks so I can't quote the locomotive number or the date on which it was taken. I do know that the train is a Croft Quarry to Bescot loaded ballast and that it was taken from the footbridge over the flyover line at Nuneaton which allowed freights to avoid having to cross all 4 lines of the West Coast Main Line. The line and its surroundings were full of character and the abandoned sidings show that it once was once a busy spot and once that I should have liked to have visited in earlier times. My only other trip there was to photograph an unusual locomotive-hauled passenger train on 23 September 1989 when 47973 on a Pathfinder special running from Swindon to Middleton Towers which this locomotive hauled from Birmingham New Street to Melton Mowbray. If anything, the backdrop to this picture, Hatshill Quarry, is even better than that in the picture of the ballast train, apart maybe from the skips...
On 14 May 1994 A1A Charters ran a railtour from Preston to Weymouth Quay. Part of the itinerary unsurprisingly included a pair of 31s, one of which was a coal sector locomotive. This was pleasing from a photographic point of view as these locos were rare on passenger turns. The train is seen here passing Ashchurch at 09.48.
The nearest to a freight train the Stratford-upon-Avon line ever sees is the occasional engineering working which uses Stratford station's run-round facilities. In this picture, 31105+31107 and their now-empty train of ballast hoppers have finished work, run-round and are heading back to Bescot. They are seen passing the attractive GWR station at Wilmcote, the first out of Stratford-upon-Avon at shortly after 8am on Sunday 15 May 1993.
Another engineering train is seen here in the Down Goods Loop at Stratford-upon-Avon on Sunday 10 January 1988 with 31257. This location would be unrecognisable in 2020 and the line and associated signalling including the East 'Box have gone, the gasholders have been demolished and the chimneys of Stratford-upon-Avon Canners have gone along with their factory. The OTP involved in the work can just be seen alongside the signal box.
Later in the day on 10 January 1988 the engineering work had been completed and 31257 had been run-round its train ready for departure to Bescot. I was fortunate in that I knew the signaller well and with the line closed to passenger traffic was allowed free change to wander around wherever I wanted. The sun came out as the train began to reverse from the loop into platform 1 at the station so that it could leave on the up main.
It didn't take long for 31257 to complete its movements and it was soon on the way back to Bescot on 10 January 1988. This shot was taken by standing on the point rodding just to give a little extra height and with the well-known gasholders forming the backdrop. The OTP, which I think was a TRAMM, followed under its own power as soon as the preceding train had reached the end of the signalling section, Bearley Junction.
I was surprised to find a pair of 31s on this short ballast train from Bescot to Gloucester on 30 May 1997 as they were not all that active by this time. The train, hauled by 31450+31306, is pictured passing the site of Defford station on the Birmingham to Cheltenham line. The locos returned north light engine a couple of hours later.
The annual Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham used to attract several dedicated trains from various parts on the country. On 26 September 1990 one of the specials was hauled by 31403+31423 which after dropping off its passengers ran from Birmingham International to Leamington Spa in order for the locomotives to run-round before heading north to Oxley for servicing. This ECS is pictured here climbing Hatton Bank at 11.45, just about catching the sun.
In the summer timetable of 1993 a Birmingham New Street to Pwllheli train ran and was booked for a pair of 31s. The ECS ran from Tyseley and this working is pictured above at Bordesley Junction on 22 May 1993 behind 31166 + 31146.
31249 is shown below passing Leamington Spa on 21 December 1984 hauling a rake of pressurised gas tanks from Bromford Bridge to Fawley. The signal box behind the tanks was demolished shortly after the date of this picture. I don't imagine that the class 31 worked this train throughout and it was probably swapped at Banbury or Didcot. Today, a train like this would never be entrusted to such a small engine (even if there were any) and would certainly be in the hands of a 66.
Pictures of tube stock at Leamington Spa have been ten-a-penny in the years between 2010 and 2020 but there were fewer taken in 1984 when the occasional train ran. This one shows 31198 passing the station on 21 December 1984 with 31198 providing the power. Brake vans were used as barriers and for brake force in those days; a more attractive photographic subject than the bogie tanks used today.
Thursday 30 March saw a then rare locomotive-hauled move booked through Evesham in Worcestershire, a 4Z07 Derby to Old Oak Common with 31105 and 31106. The train is here seen at Evesham signal box, the token having just been exchanged after traversing the single line from Norton Junction. The tiny patch of sun just caught the Network Rail locomotive nicely.
The patch of sun mentioned above didn't last long enough to illuminate 4Z07 as it slowly pulls forward towards Evesham station where it will wait for a few minutes to allow a Turbo to clear the track from the south. The stop just gave me time to swap my long zoom lens for a wider angle version to get this shot passing the peg. I always think the bracket signal looks a bit lop-sided and sad, having lost 2 arms some years ago.
In 1998 the field to the north of Water Orton was an easy and quite decent location for traffic on the Derby fast lines. On Saturday 6 February 1988 I went there just to photograph anything that came and was happy enough when 31121 came south with a freightliner train which after checking the WTT found was a Leeds to Rugby via Bescot service. For some reason I took this shot in vertical format and have cropped the medium format slide to produce a landscape format better for this purpose. 645
The long reign of class 31 on Birmingham to Norwich was due to come to an end in 1988. This shot was taken on 14 November 1987 from the convenient mound of ballast alongside the line at Water Orton. Access was through the gate on the extreme right and this was usually open and always left unlocked and therefore much used by photographers. 645
The mound of ballast (and the open gate) mentioned above are clearly visible in this view as an unidentified class 31/4 leads the 12.20 Birmingham to Norwich service through Water Orton on 14 November 1987. I can't imagine that the advent of sprinters on thses trains was exactly welcomed by passengers and it's almost certainly true that the railway's revenue from them dropped once enthusiasts stopped travelling. 645
This photograph of 31468 on a Norwich to Birmingham New Street train was taken at Bromford Bridge on 14 May 1988, just before the class finished working these diagrams. This was another picture taken in vertical format in order to show the River Tame in the foreground but I have cropped it in order to better fit on this page. 645
Towards the end of class 25's working life 31s were to found covering the some of the trip freights from Bescot, including T48 covering Langley Green, Rood End yard and the Handsworth terminals. Here, 31132 is returning from Albright & Wilson's works at Langley Green in the Black Country on 3 October 1986 with 6T48. This is one of the very few photographs I managed here in anything but poor light and could hardly believe my eyes when the sun broke out as the train appeared on the curve with empty chlorine tankers. The landscape here has changed dramatically since 1986 and much of the industrial infrastructure has disappeared much to the downturn in its attraction for photography.
After taking the photograph of 6T48 shown above, there was time for a quick trip to the road bridge at the other end of Langley Green yard to get this shot of 31132 coming slowly down the up loop line before rejoining the main line. I haven't been back here for years but I do know that the semaphore signals have gone and that the yard and most of the adjacent factories have gone.
Here's an unrepeatable shot. 31142 runs over Eagle Crossing box on the now-closed line from Stourbridge Junction to Bescot on 16 June 1987. The train, Bescot's 6T42, comprised a rake of freightliner flats which I imagine came from the terminal at Dudley. Sadly, this was my only visit to this location and it had to be on a day characterised by dreadful weather, but at least I did record the scene before it all went. Even should the line re-open in the future, the Black Country landscape will have changed and, of course, the signalbox and all the railway infrastructure will have long gone.
I spent a couple of hours during Monday 15 June 1987 on a road bridge just to the north of Acocks Green station on the GWR Leamington Spa to Birmingham line. Something must have been going on on the Coventry line because I saw several diverted locomotive-hauled InterCity trains along with quite a variety of freights. One of the more interesting trains photographed was the Chipmans weedkiller hauled by 31127 shown heading towards Tyseley. This section of the route used to be four-track north of Dorrdige and was heavily used in the days of steam and early diesels until much of the freight traffic was lost to road transport and a number of passenger routed elsewhere.
I had a day around Bletchley and the line from there to Bedford on 7 April 1990 with the intention of photographing some class 31s on the household and industrial waste traffic going to and from Forders Sidings near the site of the brickworks, the worked-out clay pits of which were used as a landfill facility much in the style of Calvert. A few minutes after I arrived 31271+ 31294 arrived in the platform line with empty wagons which had brought contaminated material from Chatham in Kent via Gillingham Yard. Not the best angle for a picture but with such good light I wasn't going to turn it down.
This picture was taken at Bletchley on Saturday 7 April 1990 a short while after the one above and shows 31415 propelling a short rake of vans into the yard. The train had just arrived from Bedford and was a regular weekend working at the time. There were many of this sort of train all over the network in those days but all have now disappeared with the exception of a few EMUs used for postal traffic on the WCML.
The really good early light on 7 April 1990 didn't last and by the time I arrived at Forders Sidings near Stewartby station on the line to Bedford there was lot of cloud around and the sun had moved around towards the West. This picture of 31301 + 31180 was taken from a level crossing with a train of household waste from Cricklewood and although there was a gantry of semaphore signals there I didn't have a sufficiently wide angle with me to include it in the picture. Here is another view of 31301 at Wilmcote in the company of 25287 on 7 October 1984 and another on just about its final journey at Evesham on 19 December 2007 when en-route to Long Marston.
Class 31 was a common sight around Birmingham in 1992 and on 13th May of that I spent a few hours at Whitacre Junction photographing 3 westbound workings all of which were either loaded or empty ballast trains routed along the goods loop. This picture shows 31107 leaving the loop with a long set of low-sided wagons fronted with a brake van. I wasn't able to identify the originating point but assume that it was heading for Bescot Yard to be stabled.
Unlike the train shown above I do know the origin of this train; it came from Croft quarry near Nuneaton and was headed by 31512 + 31158 both chucking out some smoke as the heavy train began the exit from the loop at Whitacre Junction and moved away towards Bescot. The brace of OTP machines in the background had come from the Bescot direction, crossed over just out of sight around the corner and were working under permissive rules as they entered the loop prior to going back towards whence they had come.
An empty stock move from Burton-on-Trent to Eastleigh was showing to run on Tuesday 3 December 2019 and the headcode, 5Z31, appeared to offer a clue to the motive power likely to be allocated. After a session in the swimming pool at my gym I drive to Hatton which I knew would be one of the few spots reasonably clear of shadows at this time of the year where it was confirmed that 31128, the sole main line certified class 31, was in charge of the train. I wouldn't usually bother with a load of a single coach, in this instance a Mk1 generator vehicle, but the combination of the locomotive and clear sunshine made it worthwhile. Here is 5Z31 approaching Hatton station at spot on right time and a few seconds before a Stratford-upon-Avon bound unit went around the curve on the branch. Those few seconds made all the difference as the unit cast a heavy shadow from the low sun right across the up main line. I hadn't seen 31128 for a while but here it is at Long Marston on 27 February 2007 in its Fragonset colours and taking some barrier coaches into the site for another move later in the day.
I went to Manchester Victoria more than a few times in 1985/6. There was a convenient 08.05 HST from Birmingham New Street to Piccadilly which cost £7.25 return and very rarely had more than a handful of passengers aboard until the Stockport stop; indeed I sometimes had an entire carriage to myself for most of the journey. From Victoria a 20p bus ride on the frequent Picc-Vic service made the rest of the trip very easy. On 27 February 1986 I was taking various shots on the old Exchange station, westbound trains being best photographed from the wrong side of the fence adjacent to the car park. This view shows 31170 heading West with a long rake of various empty ballast wagons probably from Guide Bridge. A class 37's nose can just be seen in the background. This was 37122 on station pilot duties waiting for its next banking job for the climb up Miles Platting bank.
Tuesday 25 July 2006 was the date picked for a trial run by FM Rail, conveying coal from Daw Mill Colliery to Rugeley Power Station. It was booked for class 31 traction, with no fewer than 3 examples being used. The train of PGA hoppers had a late start from Coalville and was arriving for reversal in the loop at Whitacre Junction just as I arrived at 08.25. 31454 was at the front and here is something of a grab shot as it heads into the headshunt under the road bridge. 31601 + 31190 were at the other end. A hot box detector had been set off on the run from Nuneaton and examinations were carried out while it was in the loop here. Fortunately, this didn't halt the run and the train eventually departed for the colliery at 09.40.
Here is the shot of the FM Rail test working for which the gallery at Whitacre Junction had been waiting on 25 July 2006. 31190 + 31601 + 31454 take the 6G20 09.24, (rescheduled to be 13.00) Daw Mill Colliery to Rugeley Power Station through the junction at 12.43. The train was heavily delayed through a late start from Mantle Lane, Coalville and hot box problems on some of the PGA stock, all of which were shown on TRUST as "cripples". Still, the ensemble makes for a very pleasant and colourful sight, and the 3 hours spent waiting were filled both with some interesting workings and chat. For another view of this after reversal at Bescot, have a look at Andy Williams' shot taken at Leamore, near Walsall later that day.
This picture is dated Sunday 23 March 1986 and shows 31260 at Stratford-upon-Avon with a short engineering train including a crane which was to be used to lift some steel drain material from an open wagon. The crane was self-propelled and at the point this picture was taken was crossing over to the up line by means of the very rarely-used crossover, shown in this picture, adjacent to the bracket signal just outside the station. This and following 2 pictures were taken on a Praktica LTL3 SLR which although mechanically suspect had a very decent f2.8 lens.
Here is a view of the crane itself, now on the up line, as it approaches the wagon containing the work materials and here is another shot showing the wagon along with 2 brake vans. I am standing close to the Goods Loop which was still in occasional use at this time. By the time of the black & white image shown via the link in the previous caption it had been severed and was awaiting removal.
On Sunday 14 May 2000 a pair of Fragonset class 31s were booked to take the "Torbay Quarryman", running as 1Z36, from Crewe to Newton Abbott from whence top and tail 66s took the train to Meldon Quarry and Paignton. 31602+31601 are seen here amongst the spring blossom at Defford, Worcestershire. I very nearly missed this photograph as I decided to drive over to Defford in my 1969 Morris Minor rather than my more modern and considerably faster day-to-day car, and underestimated the extra time required. No sooner had I set up my cameras than the 31s absolutely flew under the bridge leaving me little time to react. The leading locomotive had its appearance changed quite radically after the demise of Fragonset when it entered Network Rail's fleet. It is seen here as it passes Honeybourne with a varied consist heading for Long Marston from both Bletchley (coaches) and Gloucester (tanks), not for once leading a test train as shown here on the North Cotswold Line in April 2011 before the track doubling work had finished. The new down line is in position in this image but not yet operational.
One of the few remaining class 31s to be active on the national network, 31452, took a new rail grinding set, numbers 79401 to 79404, to Okehampton on 5 May 2017. I wasn't able to get out for this but went for the return on Saturday 13 May when it ran as the 11.45 from Okehampton to Chaddesden Sidings, 4Z02. My default location for a northbound afternoon shot on the Gloucester to Birmingham is Defford as it has a decent rural backdrop and if feeling lazy is very accessible. Although running as a class 4 the formation was limited to 45mph which meant that a number of loops were visited on the way north so it was just 2 minutes early when it was heard coming over the River Avon at Eckington. The sun had disappeared in the few minutes since 66174 had gone south which was a pity but such a rare working was well worth recording, not just for the locomotive but also the consist which usually is seen only at night.
One of the regular biennial rail events is due to take place at Long Marston during the week commencing 19 June 2016 and the first rail-borne exhibits arrived on Saturday 20 June 2016. This was a railvac hauled from Derby by 31452 and was about 10 minutes early arriving at Honeybourne in poor light on an afternoon that saw intermittent breaks at, unfortunately, the wrong time. Running in front of 6Y31 was 1P51 from Great Malvern led by 43002 in a representation of its original colour scheme. I hadn't photographed this before so took a record shot although I do think that the admirable HSTs look best as designed; in a consistent overall livery.
My primary target at Hatton on 11 February 2016 was 1Q04, a test train from Derby to Derby via Reading. I was expecting this to be led by Colas liveried 37421 which had been on the appropriate diagram earlier in the week but a couple of early messages said the 31233 had replaced the 37. Anything is better than DRS 37s on these trains which have become a bit old hat but it was a surprise that a 31 had been turned out; I thought I had seen the last of these on such workings. The train reached Landor Street some 40 minutes early and without knowing if the early running would continue I changed my plan to go to Bentley Heath as 1) I might not make in time and 2) if it did run early the sun would be too straight for a decent image. The road bridge at Hatton seemed the best bet so that was the spot for me. 1Q04 turned up 12 minutes early with 97301 under power on the back of the formation completing the overall yellowness.
A rare Saturday morning train to and from Long Marston ran on 28 March 2015 when DCR's 31190 took a single large box wagon from Washwood Heath to the site before picking up 86235 and 3 coaches which were scheduled to go to Leicester and East Leake respectively. I arrived just after the inward working had reached the gate where it waited for a few minutes before being waved into the exchange sidings. It can be seen that the former No 1 road has been covered over with tarmac, presumably to make it easier and safer for crews to carry out inspections of stock leaving the site. The Long Marston shunter removed the box wagon and 31190 was coupled onto the stock before the train, running as 6Z32, was moved onto the branch to Honeybourne at which point the wagon was propelled back so that 31190 and its train could reverse a short way and recouple it to the consist.
Given the unpleasant weather conditions on 28 March 2015 I originally had no intention of going anywhere for a second shot but then thought that a drive over to Honeybourne would be worthwhile so as to take a wider view of the train with its interesting and unusual load. It wasn't long before 31190 poked its nose around the bend in the background, stopped at the token cabin to replace the single line staff, and then ran forward into the branch road at Honeybourne station. As 6Z32 approached the road bridge a clearish patch of sky came from nowhere and I was lucky enough to take this image in decent light witha nice dark sky before the sun was obscured again within a few seconds.
There are quite frequent test trains along the North Cotswold Line and on Wednesday 30 April 2014 one ran from Derby to Kings Norton (later forming a separate train back to Derby) with 31233 leading a short formation including a DBS. The weather at home was ideal with clear blue skies but as I drove to Evesham the warm sunshine triggered some heavy cumulus and cumulo-nimbus clouds. By the time I had arrived in Briar Close most of the sky was cloudy although to the south some clear patches were forming. The train, 3Q13, had run early for most of its journey but was held close to right time mto allow a class 180 Adelante forming 1W21 from London Paddington to clear the single line from Evesham West Junction to Norton Junction. Just as 31233 appeared in the distance the sun began to clear the cloud and by the time it was passing the signal box it was at about 95% strength. Good enough for me...
Test trains powered by class 31 locomotives which run south along the Birmingham to Leamington Spa line are generally, in my experience, operated with the locomotive propelling the coaches and DBS. I don't mind the occasional photograph of the formation this way round but would like to take one with the locomotive leading from time to time. On Thursday 24 April 2014 a 3Z06 from Derby to Eastleigh ran which was reported as having 31285 leading so I made up my mind to go to Bentley Heath for a shot bearing in mind that class 31s are slated for early withdrawal from this traffic. I've been writing that statement on and off for a couple of years now... Anyway, a booked stop at Small Heath South Junction was missed out which meant that I wouldn't have made it to Dorridge in time so made a diversion to the nearest available location to my home and ending up at Hatton station roadbridge. It wasn't long before the distinctive sound of a 31 was heard coming towards Hatton North Junction about 22 minutes early and just as the light began to improve from the very poor levels that had ruled until that moment.
The Ultrasonic Test Train started a week's tour on Monday 14 October 2013 by running from Derby to Alexandra Dock Junction via Long Marston. The locomotive was 31233 which led from Derby with DBS 9708 being on the other end of the formation ready for moves away from reversal points. Had the weather been decent I had had several shots and a bit of chasing around in mind but with leaden skies and frequent heavy showers the order of the day I just went to an occupation crossing on the Long Marston branch for a record shot of this relatively unusual train on this line. Running as 3Q22, the train left Derby around 50 minutes late but by avoiding the need to sit in various loops along the way was 5 minutes early when it passed me on one of the more overgrown parts of the track and going by an electricity supply pole gradually moving away from the vertical. Because of the need to run, when recording, at no more than 30mph some lines are covered at night hence the array of spotlights on the front of 31233 used when video cameras are in use.
After running to the end of the Long Marston branch on 14 October 2013 the crew of 3Q22 changed ends and headed back towards Honeybourne, Evesham and Worcester for another reversal before making their way to Alexandra Dock Junction. With DBS 9708 now leading the train ran cautiously over 3 occupation and foot crossings before 31233 was opened up to achieve line speed for the branch, 20mph. The better shots along here are for trains coming in this direction so maybe it would have been advantageous from a photographic point of view for 31233 to been leading for this leg but there haven't been many DBS-led trains along here so I was happy enough, given the conditions, for things to have been the way they were.
On Friday 13 September 2013 a light engine move was shown to run from Washwood Heath to Long Marston but this was cancelled before departure. It was replaced with a 6Z31 which was powered by DCR's 31190 + 31452 and turned out to be another Railvac move. I haven't seen much about 31452 recently so thought that a picture would be in order. The shot at Honeybourne was the obvious one for me and I arrived just as RTT showed the train passing Evesham about 25 minutes early. It arrived within a few minutes and is here seen on the Long Marston branch having left the North Cotswold Line at Honeybourne North Junction.
My plan for the afternoon also included a trip to Hatton but as the road there took me past Long Marston I stopped off for another picture of 6Z31. I nearly missed it as I was chatting to a couple of friends picking sloes just down the road but just reached the bridge in time for this view as the slightly mis-matched green pair arrived at the end of the branch from Honeybourne. The light was getting worse by the minute and some ominous looking clouds were building up in the Stratford direction. The train was due to continue to Eastleigh via Worcester, Gloucester, Bristol and Salisbury although at this moment there was nothing visible in the yard as 6Z31 rolled into the exchange sidings. I didn't have time to hang around but understand that something else was picked up here and went off with the Railvac also in the train's consist.
DCR is quite often contracted to run trains between Eastleigh, Westbury and the West Midlands for which green-liveried 31190 is generally used. On 13 August 2013 such a working took place when the locomotive was used to haul a Railvac from Westbury to Washwood Heath. The wondrous RealTime Trains proved its worth yet again and showed that 6Z31 was in the Fenny Compton area not far off forty minutes early which meant that a quick trip to Hatton station was my best option to give a bit of background to a short formation. While waiting, a late running 4O09, the 10.18 Freightliner from Trafford Park to Southampton ran through the station with 66565 + 66517 on the front. Not a shot that I would set out to take but as I was there... At this moment, 31190 was in Hatton Down Goods loop to allow a class 168 from Marylebone to overtake but was soon released and came through the platforms with a goodly amount of exhaust smoke and accompanying noise. My interest in wagons is almost in negative territory but I did take another view of the Railvac as it went away in a cloud of smoke. I find it odd that the lamp posts on platforms 2 and 3 at Hatton are not vertical - I checked this image's "verticals" against other structures and the posts are definitely leaning! I hate seeing photos taken on a slant, particularly when it so easy to correct, and always make an effort to ensure that mine are on the mark.
Most of the locomotive-hauled test trains that visit Stratford-upon-Avon do so late in the evening meaning that some after dark photography can be practised. On Monday 29 July 2013 an unusual set of timings saw 3Q55, with DBS 9701 and 31285, arrive in daylight at 19.45 and indeed on a sunny evening. Here is the train arriving into platform 1 at the terminus spot on time and just about managing to dodge most of the shadows. This view will soon be a thing of the past as planning notices have been issued giving notice that a new, additional, bridge with lifts for disabled (and possibly lazy!) passengers is to be built roughly in the area of the two square gravel patches on the island platform.
This test train, 3Q55, had originated from Derby and was headed for Didcot via Nuneaton, Coventry, Nuneaton, Washwood Heath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Leamington Spa, COD Kineton and Oxford. It left Stratford right on time, 19.56, with quite a healthy noise from the elderly 31285 after a break to allow the driver to change ends. I am always happy to record another working with a class 31 in charge as they surely won't be doing this sort of work for many more months. The light was lovely although the sun had just dropped enough for the shadow from the platform to encroach slightly on the train's wheels.
A class 31 hauled test train ran north from Cornwall to Tyseley on Saturday 16 March 2013. The weather was horrible with heavy rain, low cloud and a cold wind but as class 31 locomotives are apparently soon to cease their work for Network Rail I tied in a trip to a farm shop with a run to Hatton station to try for a photograph. The train, 3Q02, was running some ninety minutes earlier when it reached Leamington Spa but was held in the centre road for a short while to allow a CrossCountry Voyager to pass by. I feel that station shots are sometimes better than open countryside in bad weather conditions as 1) a solid background looks better in misty conditions and 2) it is sometimes possible, as was the case today, to shelter under the footbridge! Here then is 31233 leading its short train through the platforms while making a lot of noise on the 1/110 climb from Warwick. I saw 31233 at one of my favourite 1980s locations, Manchester Exchange on 27 February 1986 while in the company of 31289. I imagine that 31233 is probably just about the only thing in this old photograph still extant.
I understand that Network Rail's association with class 31 haulage on their test trains is, in March 2013, about to finish so when I saw that 31465 was to visit Stratford-upon-Avon during the night of 8 March I made up my mind to go for a shot. The train, running as 3Q01, the 22.27 from Tyseley to Derby via the West Midlands and Banbury, was due to arrive at the terminus just after the 23.15 passenger train to Oxford had left so I arrived in plenty of time to set up my tripod and do a test exposure or two. Night photography is so much simpler with good digital equipment than with film as it takes only a few seconds to ascertain the correct exposure rather than taking several with bracketed exposures in the hope that one will be correct. I heard 31465 approaching and saw that everything had worked out well with the DBS leading into platform 1 meaning that a shot of the 31 preparing for departure would be on the cards. The crew soon had the locomotive's lights on and I was able to take four or five shots with slightly different exposures to hopefully ensure a decent result. For anyone interested, the exposure on ISO 400 was 2.5 seconds at f13 with the colour temperature set to 3000K.
The third revenue earning train of the week used the Long Marston branch on Thursday 7 January 2013. DCR's 31190 in it's 1960's style green livery ran light diesel from Cardiff Riverside to collect a short set of flat wagons which it was booked to take to Marcroft Engineering at Stoke-on-Trent. The inward movement, 0Z31, was about 20 minutes early arriving just after noon and I hoped that the loaded train, 6Z31, would get away early as the booked time was 14.20; far longer than I wanted to hang about in the cold and rapidly deteriorating light. I drove around the corner from Long Marston and walked to one of the three foot crossings over the branch and had to wait only about fifteen minutes before I heard the train rattling down the line to my position on a stile which gave just a little extra height. Because of the unprotected crossings, although virtually never used by walkers, the train had to slow to a crawling place as it passed me. The early running, ninety-five minutes, didn't continue beyond Honeybourne where 6Z31 sat until its booked time before joining the North Cotswold Line to Evesham, Worcester and beyond. This was not 31190's first visit to the line; here it is with a more colourful train at the "old" Honeybourne in November 2009.
A train of stored coaching stock from Bletchley to Long Marston should have run on Thursday 13 December 2012 but problems were encountered when the locomotive, 31602, wouldn't start at Washwood Heath. In the event it ran later in the day but only as far as Gloucester. Coincidentally, a train of three chemical tankers was booked to run from Gloucester to Long Marston on the same day but this was also cancelled. I was interested to learn therefore that both sets of stock were amalgamated on Friday 14th and that the whole lot was booked to go to Long Marston around lunchtime. The weather had been dire with torrential rain but when I looked from my home towards the south-west at noon there was a small but definite improvement in the light. I went straight to Honeybourne station and was pleasantly surprised to find that the sky was clearing and the sun was just about poking through the cloud. In fact, just before 6Z78 came into view at Honeybourne North Junction there was enough of a shadow to make me move down the ramp of the footbridge because the shadow cast by the bridge was across the Long Marston branch. The train of DRS and Wrexham and Shropshire coaches tailed by the chemical tankers is here seen passing around the back of Honeybourne station's platforms as a class 180 Adelante heads off towards Evesham and Worcester.
I believe that the Network Rail class 31s are shortly to lose their test train duties and be transferred to other work so when the opportunity for a shot of 31285 with the UTU on the North Cotswold Line presented itself on the morning on 17 October 2012 I thought that a trip to Evesham station might be worthwhile. I took a bit of a gamble as I didn't know whether the locomotive or the DBS would be leading but hoped that the former would be the case as a lot of the up line through the platforms was shadowed thus not giving much of a chance of a going away shot, not that I like them anyway. After a clear early part of the morning a lot of cloud began to build up during the drive from Stratford-upon-Avon and this added another unknown to the formula. Fortunately, the potential problems with the train's formation and the sun were resolved when 3Z13 from Tyseley to Bristol Kingsland Road via Worcester, Evesham, Oxford, Evesham, Worcester and Bromsgrove came into view and ran into the station already showing some early signs of Autumnal colouration, especially in the shrub alongside the locomotive.
A test train operated by DRS was buzzing around the South-East during the week commencing 1 October 2012 with locomotives 31106 and 37419 sandwiching three Network Rail coaches. I believe that class 31s will not be appearing on test trains for much longer so with the final run of the week being from Eastleigh to Derby during the afternoon of 6 October I decided to go to Hatton North Junction if 1) the 31 was leading and 2) if there was a reasonable prospect of some decent light. Condition 1) was fulfilled and at around 4pm there was more sun than cloud in Stratford-upon-Avon so off I went in case there was some early running. In the event 1Q14 ran exactly to time and arrived at 5pm in a patch of thick cloud in between quite long spells of beautiful evening sunshine.
The Structure Gauging Train which had been working around the South-West and powered by 31105 was due to return to Derby RTC overnight on Friday 10 February 2012. The locomotive failed at Fenny Compton, just to the south of Leamington Spa, and on the following day 97304 was sent light engine from Derby to rescue the train. I had assumed that 97304 would have been dropped onto the front of the failed class 31 but in the event it was clearly an easier move just to hook it up to the rear of the train and drive the whole lot from the dead 31105. By the time 3Z15 had reached Hatton North Junction the light was rather low and the shadows rather longer than I should have wished so all in all not too successful an outing. In retrospect I would have better going a bit further south but when I left home I didn't know the timings for the move so went to the closest location for me.
One of the regular test trains from Derby to Eastleigh ran on 16 January 2012. On this occasion it ran as 3Z15, indicating that it was just a transit move and also as usual the locomotive, 31465, was marshalled on the back of the formation with a DBSO providing the driver's accomodation. I wasn't going to wait at Hatton for this but it passed Tyseley some 35 earlier than scheduled so I thought that a short wait in the cold would be OK. Unfortunately, it was held to right time in Dorridge up loop... The light was really past its best when the train appeared but as I was there I took a record shot.
The first test train to run over the redoubled North Cotswold Line was scheduled for Monday 12 September 2011 and was booked for class 31 power along with a couple of coaches and a DBSO. It's seems quite often that the DBSO leads southbound trains of this sort from Derby but today rail blue 31106 was in charge and was on the front as 3Z13 headed from Worcester towards Oxford where it was to reverse, retrace its steps and then go south from Worcester yard to Bristol. This suited me quite well as the light at Honeybourne, if the sun co-operated, would be in the perfect place. The train was reported some thirteen minutes late at Norton Junction but this tardiness increased to the point that it seemed possible that it had gone off-route at Norton and worked straight to Bristol. Just as I was giving up hope, the yellow front end of 31106 came into sight and ran slowly into the new platform 2 where it was booked to stop for one minute. Unseen but not unheard was a down HST, 1W02, heading for Worcester which was right under my feet as I pressed the shutter. As can clearly be seen, the sun didn't make it to the station quite in time, being just visible in the background; but this bad fortune was soon to be reversed.
The booked stop at Honeybourne of 31106 with 3Z13 to Bristol via Worcester, Oxford and Worcester took a bit longer than the one minute allowed in the schedule. The driver, after stretching his legs on the platform, returned to his locomotive and seemed to wait for the down HST to leave before moving off towards Moreton-in-Marsh and Oxford. If this was deliberate then I am grateful; thank you, especially as the very strong winds had blown some clouds away in the last few moments! Some photographers would no doubt winge about a photograph like this because another train is in the shot but I really like the HST being there as it shows that the North Cotswold Line is a revitalised route with the potential for improved time keeping and greater capacity. I think that this may be first locomotive-hauled train over the new up line, other than engineering trains which ran before the line was fully open, and it is certainly the first rail blue class 31 to have used the track. A lot of work in and around the station is still going on with the bulk of it concentrated on the new and very substantial footbridge, the source of quite a variety of new photographic opportunities.
A Network Rail test train was scheduled to run from Bristol to Derby on Sunday 1 May 2011. Two class 31 locomotives, 31285 + 31465 were double-heading 3Z33 but problems with at least one of them caused the train to be held over at Banbury while things were sorted out. The original solution was to send a NR class 97 to top the train back to Derby on the following day but in the event repairs were made which meant that the 31s didn't need any extra assistance. So, on the Monday morning, a new schedule was entered with the train booked to leave Banbury at 12.20 and run to Derby via Hatton and Birmingham. This time it ran to time and here seen making a quite leisurely climb of Hatton Bank with just 31285 providing the power about 30 minutes before the light would have been in an ideal position. Still, the working was ususual enough for this not to matter too much...
Test trains along the North Cotswold Line seem to be quite frequent at the moment and Wednesday 27 April 2011 saw an out and back run by 31602 with a track recording coach, generator vehicle and DBS. The train, running as 1Z13 from Derby to Bristol via Worcester and Oxford, had run south in the late morning but the weather was quite dull so I decided to wait for the afternoon run back to Worcester in the hope that the sun would come out as had been forecast. The section of the line has recently seen the reinstatement of double track although as is clearly visible the new down side has not yet been commissioned, 31602 leading its short train along what will become the up line when the work is complete.
During my visits to Manchester Exchange and Victoria stations in 1985 and 1986 I was never fortunate enough to have access to a Freight Working Timetable. This meant that I was rarely able to identify a working unless a local enthusiast was on hand to help out. I know that this train of loaded oil tanks pictured on 27 February 1986 probably came from the Stanlow refinery but I have no idea of its destination. What I do know is that it was banked to the summit of Miles Platting bank because I heard the rumble of the class 37 together with the different sound of the 31s being opened up a little while later. The leading locomotive is now in Network Rail yellow livery and here it is at Defford in January 2005 along with 31285 having been sent to rescue a failed NMT HST.
Another test train ran from Derby RTC to Long Marston during the week commencing 24 October 2010, the return, 1Z15, being scheduled for Monday 1 November with a departure time of 13.44. Having seen the skies turn cloudy during the late morning I had just about decided not to bother but when the sun started to break through at about 1.30pm I changed my mind and made for a bridge near the village of Aldington with, I thought, about 15 minutes to wait. Within about 90 seconds the yellow end of 31465 with its 3 vehicles in tow came into view and is here seen passing the distant signal and the treadle operating the barriers at Clayfield Lane crossing, some distance to the east. I was fortunate that the sun was just coming out of some thin cloud which gave an almost spotlight appearance to the illumination. Much engineering work is ongoung around here in connection with the imminent redoubling of the line and several track workers are visible, returning to the small makeshift yard on the right of the track.
A test train, 1Q11, was scheduled to run from Derby RTC to Long Marston on Monday 20 September 2010, with an arrival time of about 14.30. It left Derby about 200 minutes late, thus missing its path, and was given a new schedule timing it to pass Norton Junction, near Worcester just before 17.00. The chance of a late afternoon shot gives a few different photographic opportunities on the Long Marston branch so I went across, more in hope than expectation that it would actually run. It didn't. The following morning saw me having a drive around Warwickshire and Gloucestershire in my Morris Minor so I took my camera and found myself at Long Marston at about 11.30, a possible time for an arrival. There was no activity so I carried on with my toddle around the lanes, half of which were closed for resurfacing, before going home for lunch. A while later I had a text from a friend saying that 31285 had left Worcester Yard, where the train had spent the night, and was on the Cotswold Line so I thought that I may as well have another try. Just as I arrived, the resident shunter was on its way along the exchange sidings and I could something rumbling along the branch and here is 31285 with one coach and a DBSO arriving 24 hours late in a lucky piece of cloud, the sun being almost exactly straight down the line when out. Note all the lights and the camera mounted on the front.
I hadn't previously seen a DBSO on the Long Marston although think that one may previously have visited on a day of dreadful weather so here is 9701 tailing 1Q11 and 31285 awaiting permission to enter the site. When the train had entered the exchange sidings, the shunter pulled out of the headshunt and was attached to the DBSO before the crews, just about visible, went off towards the control tower. The scene on the previous day was quite similar when a Virgin liveried class 86 was being moved after an open day on Sunday.
A rare nocturnal locomotive-hauled move to Stratford-upon-Avon ocurred on Tuesday 28 October 2008. The Structure Gauging Train, running as 1Q06, the 17.59 Derby RTC to Derby RTC via Stratford left Derby about 30 minutes late, but with a similar layover scheduled at Snall Heath I didn't expect much delay by the time it reached my home town. I had a call from a signaller friend when 1Q06 was at Shirley on the North Warwickshire Line and this was my cue to make the short journey from home to the station. It was a very cold evening following some heavy snow during the late afternoon and platform 2 at Stratford was not the cosiest place to be at 20.35! The final train of the day to Birmingham and Stourbridge Junction hadn't been gone many minutes when 31233 heading the SGT with 31105 on the back rumbled around the curve and into the platform.
The Structure Gauging Train was booked to stand at Stratford-upon-Avon for about 10 minutes so I waited for the driver to switch on the lights on the front of 31105 before taking my photographs. It is many years since last I did any night shooting but I did remember that an exposure of 15 second at f5.6 using 100ASA film used to give a good result here, so that was my starting point on 28 October 2008. I like the effect of the differing colour temperatures of the street lighting in the background and the starburst caused by the long exposure. The road was already set and the platform-end signal showing a green aspect and it wasn't long before the driver blew his horn to mark the end of photography for the evening and went off with a wave into the dark. The laser gauging beam was switched back on as the train moved off, giving quite a show on the curve out of the station. I should have taken my video camera too...
Two trains with "Z" headcodes were booked to pass Hatton in the late morning on 3 November 2008. The first was 1Z12 from Derby RTC to Lovers Walk (Brighton) and comprised of a Network DBSO and coach propelled by green liveried 31190. Presumably because the locomotive was on the back of the train, it elicited very little enthusiast interest and just one posting on an email group appeared on my BlackBerry. Here is 1Z12 about to pass Hatton station in very poor light a few minutes early with 31190 producing a fair amount of noise and exhaust smoke.
The morning of 22 December 2009 in Stratford-upon-Avon started off with low temperatures, icy roads and worst of all freezing fog. This was a bit of a shame as a Tyseley to Derby via Stratford with top-and-tail class 31s were booked to come here twice in the space of not much more than an hour. I was in two minds whether to bother going out or not but decided that a short trip to Stratford station might be worth while where a photograph would at least have a solid background, essential in foggy conditions. A friend travelling to Birmingham 'phoned me from somewhere near Shirley as 1Q12 passed his train, incidentally in bright sunshine. The test train was due to at Sratford at 09.42 but it was seven or eight minutes late when it appeared through the fog and came to a stand in platform 1 with 31602 leading a single coach and 31601.
The 09.07 from Tyseley to Derby via Stratford-upon-Avon is here seen in platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon with green liveried 31601 about to lead the short ensemble away from the station and off towards Hatton where it was booked to reverse and return to Stratford before going back towards the West Midlands via the North Warwickshire Line. The train had arrived here seven or eight minutes late, but with a ten minute break booked was spot on time leaving. The temperature was hovering around zero degrees celsius and the remaining snow and frost wasn't shifting at all, but the fog was beginning to thin a little by the time 1Q12 left the oddly coloured Great Western footbridge behind.
As I mentioned above, 30601 + 31602 were due to make two visits to Stratford-upon-Avon on 22 December 2009. Here is 31602 leading 1Q13 through a misty Wilmcote station after running both ways along the single track between Bearley Junction and Hatton. A solitary passenger is waiting for the 10.27 from Stratford to Stourbridge Junction which, if 1Q12 had been running late, might have blocked this shot. Fortunately though, it was on time and came quietly out of the mist just as a very weak sun appeared for a few seconds and gave a touch of illumination to the front of 31602. New station signs have been erected hereby London Midland, and here is an example showing that the new operators of the station have taken some trouble to keep the size and shape of the new signs consistent with the older versions.
During their second visit to Stratford-upon-Avon on 22 December 2009, 31601 + 31602 had their ten minute break at the station before returning north and on to Birmingham via Henley-in-Arden. The light at was so poor that I really couldn't be bothered to move any further than the other platform at Wilmcote station to get a final shot before returning home. Here then is 31601 in its relatively new green paintwork leading the short formation of 1Q12 under the Great Western footbridge just as a shaft of sunlight broke through the fog and did its best to ruin the picture; it was just above the footbridge and shining straight into the lens. I said it before, but I do wish that London Midland would buy a few pots of paint and return the footbridges along this line to the Great Western's colour scheme of chocolate and cream. Maybe it might be possible during 2010, the 175th anniversary of the company's inauguration...
A rake of Mk2 coaching stock has been trying to escape from Long Marston for a couple of weeks but for various reasons apparently revolving around school holidays and unavailable locomotives, it didn't happen until 9 November 2009. The motive power on the day changed from 47812 to 31190, the green liveried locomotive running light diesel from Washwood Heath to collect the coaches. An early departure from Long Marston took place but the train, 5Z47 to Barrow Hill, had to stand time on the former East Loop at Honeybourne until both an up and a down train had passed and cleared the single line between Moreton in Marsh and Evesham. Here, 31190 and the six coaches stand on the loop from Long Marston in quite dark and misty conditions, the Cotswold Hills being virtually obscured by the murk.
As soon as the HST shown in the linked picture above had reached Evesham it was possible for a cew member from 31190 to insert the key in the ground frame at Honeybourne swith the points and call 5Z47 to come over the spur and onto the Cotswold Line spot on time at 13.25. The train was then to run via Evesham, Worcester, Droitwich Spa and the Lickey Incline to Birmingham and on to its destination at Barrow Hill. This shot will not be possible by this time next year when the Cotswold Line receives double track as trains from Long Marston will run on the tracks on the extreme left of this picture past the platforms at Honeybourne station and join the main line just south of the platforms.
A test train, the first to run over the line since a major possession during the summer, went up and down the North Cotswold Line on 23 September 2009. I wasn't able to photograph the morning run in the up direction but did go over to Evesham for the return from Oxford. The train, 4Z10 from Derby, was powered by 31106 which has recently been repainted in the rail blue that it carried in earlier times. I don't, these days, chase around as soon as a new paint job appears but prefer to wait until the locomotive comes within easy reach before getting a picture. If that happens to be a nice sunny shot then that's great, but on this occasion the sun was firmly covered as the train approached Evesham station so I took the opportunity to take the photograph from the north side of the line, meanwhile hoping that an opportunity for a sunny shot will come along soon. The locomotive was very clean and reflections from the vegetation in the cutting are clearly visible. Note also the lower quadrant signal in the background; it looks very much as if the signal wire tensioner needs a turn or two as the angle of the arm seems a little awry.
Now and again, late running of a train is an advantage to the photographer. This was case on 5 February 2009 when 4Q08, the Laira to Derby test train ran some 270 minutes behind schedule. I wasn't expecting to see this but the late running gave the opportunity for a shot, despite the uncomfortable coldness getting through my walking boots and into my toes after a couple of hours at Hatton North Junction. The train could be heard for ages on the climb of Hatton Bank, the relatively light traffic on the adjacent M40 for once not masking the sound. 31190 propelling DBO 9703 and 2 coaches was going at quite a speed when it came around the bend from Hatton station, the crew no doubt keen to make up some time and get home.
Whilst I was out and about on 12 October 2006, several messages came through saying that 31105 and 31106 were in charge of a 4Z07 10.00 Old Oak Common to Tyseley. I decided to delay my lunch and hang about for this. It soon became apparent that a delay was going to occur, as several northbound units passed at snail's pace and I was told that the passengers from a Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon were detrained and told to await a replacement bus service. After about an hour, a S & T gang appeared and set to work on some of the trackside equipment. After another hour or so, trains began to move again and 4E44, the 09.29 Southampton to Leeds freightliner, which had been sitting in Hatton's down goods loop for the thick end of 2 hours, slowly made its way around the curve and on towards Birmingham. 4Z07 came shortly afterwards just after the light had just about caved in. I suppose it's OK to get 31s and 37s now and again, it's just a shame that they appear only on this type of working. I would much rather see and hear them on proper freight trains rather than these lightweight affairs...
31106 and 31190 have been topping and tailing a radio reception testing coach, 977869, around Hampshire for the past few days and were scheduled to return from Eastleigh to Derby on Saturday 10 February 2007. 2Z02 was some 3 hours late leaving Eastleigh but there was clearly a lot of recovery time in the original schedule as it passed me at Hatton at 14.09, probably only about one hour late on the booked timings. Here is the train, led by 31106, crawling up Hatton Bank towards a red signal caused by the previous unit being an all stations local. There was a surprising amount of snow in the cutting, but it must be said that I really don't like snow shots without the sun, unfortunately, it was too late to move to a clearer location where the snow might have thawed...
I'm not keen on going-away shots but did want a photograph of 31190 in its new coat of green paint. In the event, the sides of the locomotive were pretty grubby after running around for most of the week so the colour didn't show up too well. Just as the train passed under the bridge at Hatton the signal cleared to yellow and the 31s were opened up prior to passing through the station, which is just around the curve in the background.
A small bonus during the morning of 8 August 2007 was the appearance of 31459 with a trial run of the Structure Gauging Train. This was running as 1Q06 from Derby to Derby via Birmmingham New Street and due to what appeared to be some dodgy regulation was allowed out of Derby in front of a Virgin Voyager. This resulted in it being routed via the slow lines at Kingsbury Junction rather than Lea Marston. This didn't bother me too much as the southbound shot here isn't that brilliant, especially for a very short train. Here is the return working pictured at 11.35 with 31459 pulling away from a signal check. It looks as if the train has recently been freshly painted and it gave a chance to have a closer look at the stock - I don't recall having seen it in daylight before; it appears to be a mostly nocturnal set.
I had just had my breakfast on the morning of Saturday 7 June 2008 when a text message from a friend living in Shirley arrived on my telephone. This said that 31190 + 31602 had just passed him, en-route to Stratford-upon-Avon with a single coach forming a 1Q16 Derby to Derby via Stratford, Hatton, Stratford, Henley-in-Arden, Birmingham, Stourbridge Junction, Round Oak, Birmingham, Hatton, Birmingham and Derby. I received the message at 09.20 and had about 20 minutes to collect my thoughts, wits and camera to make the 10 minute walk down to the station. Stratford-upon-Avon isn't very good for photographs on a sunny morning but one has to make the best of a bad job and here is 31190 arriving in platform 1 with its short train.
As I arrived at the station I remembered that it was the day of the third Open Day in recent times at Long Marston - there was quite a bunch of enthusiasts waiting for a bus shuttle to the event. The arrival of 1Q16 was an unexpected bonus for them and one or two are visible in this shot as 31602 tails 1Q16 under the canopy in Stratford-upon-Avon station. Any locomotive-hauled train here is a rarity and I was pleased to have had the tip-off just in time to get down to the station for a few record shots.
1Q16 was booked to stand in Stratford-upon-Avon for 10 minutes which gave the crew a chance to use the facilities and to buy a cup of coffee from the excellent station café. It also gave those heading to Long Marston the chance for some photographs before the train headed off to Hatton. Even though the sun was completely wrong for this shot, I decided to go part way along platform 2 for the departure as this gives a view of the attractive infastructure of the GWR station, albeit with a decidedly non-standard, slightly pink footbridge!
The test trains operated by Network Rail are undergoing significant changes to their motive power and mode of operation. In connection with this a DBSO formerly used by Anglia Railways has recently been on trial. This will eliminate the expensive use of topped-and tailed locomotives and will, no doubt, be a source of irritation to photographers who are obsessed with the traction source. Personally, I find these vehicles to be of arguably more interest than a 40 year old class 31, of which everyone has had plenty of opportunities to obtain photographs. This train, 5Z47 from Foxhall Junction, Didcot to Derby is seen about to pass under the footbridge at Hatton North Junction with 31105 propelling DBSO 9714. Use the hyperlink for a closer look at the DBSO on its run south to Didcot earlier in the day. The use of Foxhall Junction as the destination of the southbound run was to allow the formation to reverse on the triangle at Didcot to allow the DBSO to be tested.
There should have been a train to Long Marston from Derby Engineers Sidings on Tuesday 29 January 2008, but this was cancelled during the morning. Instead, 31454 was sent light diesel from Gloucester as 0Z67 to pick up something and take it back to Gloucester. I went across to the Long Marston site to see a rake of 7 InterCity MkII coaches waiting in the exchange sidings and thought that a nice picture of a complete IC train was going to be a distinct possiblity. Here is 31454 just after arrival awaiting instructions and permission to enter the sidings.
As far as I am aware, 31454 is the first InterCity liveried locomotive to have entered the yard at Long Marston under its own power, and it's always nice to get a record of something new on one's favourite patch. The booked departure time was 14.55 but the train, now running as 5Z68, started to move along the exchange sidings at just after 13.30. Here it is, complete with the 7 MkIIs, as it heads towards the "One Train Only" branch to Honeybourne, running alongside some of the recently arrived ferrywagons which came in a couple of weeks ago.
I just had time to switch lenses from my long telephoto to something a little shorter before 31454 joined the branch. The sun had been shining a short while before 5Z68 moved but dipped behind a thick layer of grey cloud just at the wrong time. Still, the uniform appearance of the locomotive and coaches is aesthetically pleasing and a sight not seen for some time.
My usual move after Long Marston is the quick dash to Honeybourne to photograph the train arriving at the end of the former East Loop. Today though, I had planned on going somewhere for a change, but found the entrance gated and locked. In the event, things turned out quite well because 5Z68's driver brought his train forward beyond the spur to the main line to give his colleague a shorter walk to the ground frame where the telephone and block instruments are kept. This is an unusual move and I wonder if it was to save time because there was only available a limited amount of time to get through the single track section to the passing loop at Evesham station. Whatever the reason, it was good to record the move; it is strange how these little things can make a difference to the session.
I couldn't resist including this shot showing 31454 chucking out some black exhaust as it propelled the stock back towards the point giving access to spur across to the main line. The driver's colleague has just obtained clearance to put the token into the ground frame, which will be released by Evesham signalbox, and within a few seconds operated the levers and signalled 5Z68 to come forward.
Here is my final shot of the day as 31454 brings its 7 MkIIs across the spur and joins the main line to Evesham, before heading off to Worcester for a run-round and going back to Gloucester. It would be an understatemment to say that the train made a spirited departure from Honeybourne - I haven't a 31 make such a racket for years - and it was audible for ages as it went away. I believe that the coaches are destined for Meldon Quarry and will be taken there tomorrow, 30 January 2008.
The date of this photograph is 2 May 1984 and it shows 31126 propelling its train of ballast wagons into the CCE sidings at Guide Bridge. There were many such workings in this area at the time and I saw representatives of class 25, 31, 37, 40, 45 and 47 doing the honours on just a couple of visits. This really was a busy location and the atmosphere of the vintage railway here was tremendous, not least because of the 1500 volt DC electrification and the regular passage of class 506 units. How I wish I'd been here earlier when the DC locomotives of class 76 and 77 were in use. It was not only the railway that was vintage in retrospect - just look at the cars in the adjacent parking lot!
The line at Wilmcote station doea not see many locomotive-hauled trains so on Sunday 25 February 1984 the visit of 31301 + 25287 was more than welcome. The engineering possession commenced at the station and this train was standing just outside the work area. I waited for quite a while on an occupation bridge to the south of the station, but as is usual on these occasions, there was no movement and the locomotives remained switched off for several hours. Click on this hyperlink to have a closer look at 25287.
The regular cement trains from Earles Sidings to Greaves sidings, near Harbury were, by 1985, generally in the hands of class 47 locomotives. However, on 3 August 1985 a pair of 31s were diagrammed for the duty as shown here as the train, headed by 31280 + 31188 awaits a path south of Leamington Spa. Quite a gap in traffic would be needed as the sidings were on the down side. This train would have had to be propelled from the up track and across across the down to access the sidings. The heavy train would have made the locomotives work hard on the stiff climb past Whitnash and onwards to Harbury tunnel. One of the ubiquitous class 116 DMUs is sitting in the down platform with a train bound for Birmingham Moor Street.
Here is an earlier shot of 31280 passing Leamington Spa taken on 26 May 1984, but this time on a much more unusual duty. 56099 had failed with its train of car-carrying vehicles and the 31 must have been summoned to rescue it. I don't know the working involved but imagine that the destination was either Dorridge sidings or Small Heath in Birmingham. The time was 07.00 and I was on my way to London to sit an examination, but luckily remembered to pack my camera just in case. Note the array of class 116 DMUs in the platforms; the one in which I had arrived from Stratford in visible to the left, in platform 3.
There have long been what some of use still call departmental trains between Bescot and Toton. This short example hauled by 31403 was pictured at Lea Marston on the morning of 26 March 1993. It is always a matter of doubt whether this sort of train will run via the fast lines as seen here, or the slow lines via Whitacre Junction and it is often a matter of some frustration when freights appear and disappear in the distance when standing at Lea Marston, but you pays your money and you takes your choice...
Worcester still had a dedicated parcels service in December 1984, which the local catalogue used extensively to despatch its goods. Here is 31289 with the 3V16 Birmingham Curzon Street to Worcester van on the 15 December passing the station prior to shunting the van into position for loading. The ballast hoppers in the background are also worth a glance; there are not many of those around in 2006.
Just about everything in this photograph has gone. 31286 was standing on the down goods loop outside Stratford-upon-Avon station with the Chipmans weedkilling train on 16 June 1987. The signal box, signals and gas holders have long since disappeared, the loop itself has been lifted and the locomotive and stock have been scrapped.
Earlier on the same day as the picture shown further up the page, and in the only bit of sun I saw all day, 31142 took a few containers to Dudley freightliner terminal. This shot was taken from the canal towpath at Dudley Port which meant that the only available shot was one of the loco going away. It was fortuitous that there was an empty flat behind the locomotive.
Not far from the above picture as the crow flies, but a long way in terms of an operating railway is this shot of 31456+31441 on the Manchester to Paignton Pullman train on Saturday 19 June 1986. 31s were the booked motive power for this train which gave an extra touch of variety to the line out of Birmingham Street. The photograph was taken at Longbridge station in the days before Cross-City electrification was even a spark of an idea. The following Saturday saw a class 58 on this train - click on the hyperlink to see   58025  doing the business.
31414 was selected to receive a bizarre colour scheme of two shades of blue, full yellow cabs and red buffer beams with the colour extended underneath the cabs. I was keen to get a record of the locomotive, but in the days before mobile communication became portable it was not easy to find out what any particular engine was doing on any particular day. This was one of the reasons for a visit to the first SVR diesel gala on 7 May 1988 as it was hired in to attract the punters. The train is seen here approaching Bewdley Tunnel with one of the morning workings from Bridgnorth. 645
An ECS move from Carnforth to Didcot was run on Friday 22 April 2005 to provide stock for a private steam charter the following day. FragonsetFwhitacre's 31454, in Intercity livery complete with the Swallow motif was provided to power the stock which is seen here passing Hatton Station Junction at 17.33, some 30 minutes later than the booked time and in predictably awful light.
Steam enthusiasts were in kettle heaven on 26 October 1986 when both Mallard and Sir Nigel Gresley were booked to run from London to Stratford-upon-Avon only 1 hour apart. As was usual at the time, diesel locos were used to bring the train from Banbury to Stratford. Instead of the 45,47 or 50, on this day the trains arrived behind 31s. Had I know this in advance I would have chosen a better location but here is a view of an ex-works 31407 passing Wilmcote showing my attempt to incorporate some autumnal colours into the scene.
A pair of 31s is seen here leaving Stratford-upon-Avon with another Sunday morning engineering train. It is using the very rarely-used crossover from the down to the up line and I do remember that the signalman was not at all happy about this move, fearing that the train would end up "in the dirt". The unusual viewpoint was chosen to best capture this movement and to be out of the way if the worst happened! The recently severed connection to the former down goods loop can be seen on the left of the train.