Sightings



Updatedd 06.12..2018

The latest sightings will appear at the top of this page

Please click on Photo Gallery (top right of this page) as all 2017 trains are featured there.

Tuesday 4th December 2018 **Sighting**
- LMS Black Five no. 44871 on a Cathedrals Express from Victoria to Bath Spa

On a very cold and bright morning I decided the time was right for a cycle ride over the downs to Andover for this Cathedrals Express which was taking a ‘scenic’ route from London to Bath via L&SWR mainline to Salisbury, thence to Westbury and the Avon Valley line. After a number of gloomy days photographing the A4 recently I seemed to be promised some good light for this venture. However having been dazzled all the way by the low sun reflecting off the still wet roads from yesterday’s downpours, by the time I was in position with the train approaching from Whitchurch, the sun had disappeared behind hazy clouds. At least I could take the wider view from the ‘wrong side’ in the cutting leading to the station without having to worry about deep shadows, although the overall light level was evenly low.

Today’s train was supposed to mark the return of the attractive green LNER 4-6-0 Mayflower to the main line, but it has yet to emerge from overhaul after its busy season a couple of years ago, and a Black Five 4-6-0 loco had been procured by Steam Dreams as a replacement. The last time we saw no. 44871 it was acting in support of Flying Scotsman on the Theale to Plymouth Cathex in October – today it had the leading role albeit with a WCR diesel (tucked in immediately behind it) as a precaution. Nevertheless the steamer was doing good work as the train appeared in the distance, and continued to do so as it passed, without the driver easing back the regulator for the run through the station behind me:


Saturday 24th November 2018 **Sighting**
- A4 Pacific no. 60009 Union of South Africa on the Bath Christmas Market from Paddington

The only remaining planned steam excursion train through Hungerford for 2018 is this festive Railway Touring Company (RYTC) trip to Bath. The short days provide limited opportunities to see steam in daylight hours but the outbound journey is scheduled to pass through here at about 09:10 after a water-stop in Newbury Racecourse loop and a further stop to pick up passengers at Newbury main station. There should be good steam action to be seen at each of these re-starts as the loco gets its train underway again, and we should get a good show of steam on a cold morning as it runs through here, now that the speed restriction over the Cow Bridge on the Common has been lifted. The return working is due through here in the dark at about 19:15 – one for the more committed enthusiast!

On the day: the weather forecast is most unpromising and the first raindrops start to fall as I stride purposely across the Common, passing a number of equally hopeful observers congregating at Dun Mill overbridge. I’d already determined to view from a position nearer to Kintbury with tree cover, but nonetheless I’m set up underneath an umbrella as the train approaches up the Kennet valley and I’m cheered by the sight of a very strong display of steam appearing above the trees. It was never going to be a classic shot with the really dreary light and raindrop ‘noise’ affecting the image – so the fact that the steam was drifting across to obscure the latter portion of the train was not a major drawback. I suppose that if ‘atmospheric’ is good, and ‘steamy’ is atmospheric, then this was probably the best result which could have been achieved on the morning:

I’ve observed to RYTC in the past that pictures of their specials would have more sense of occasion if the loco carried a distinguishing headboard, so I was interested to see the very prominent one fitted to the approaching train – but slightly bemused afterwards to read FLYING SCOTSMAN on replaying the image. Clearly this does not relate to the loco which is associated with a location in the southern hemisphere, or to the working which is heading (directly) to Bath. My best guess (failing that this was the only board lying around at the time) is that it is in honour of some luminary from north of the border traveling on the train.


Thursday 22nd November 2018 **Sighting** -
LNER A4 Pacific no. 60009 on a Cathedrals Express from Paddington to Cardiff

‘Number 9’ Union of South Africa is the only A4 Class loco working on the main line currently, and is due to be retired during 2019 when it will return as a museum item to its owner’s private facilities in Scotland. So any opportunities to see this loco of the Gresley A4 class, which holds the world speed record for steam haulage, is to be especially cherished. Fortunately it is visiting our general area three times this week, and I’m hoping today for a better display of steam than was available on Tuesday, especially as the temperature has plummeted overnight. However the heavy frost and sub-zero temperature at 9:00am have dispelled any idea of cycling over to the Vale.

I’m using the same viewpoint at Bourton at the west end of the Vale of White Horse as on previous occasions because of the chance of capturing the whole train without the intrusion of electrification masts. Mist is hanging heavy in the air when I arrive and it is barely possible to discern the Ridgeway in the far distance. A check on progress reveals that the express has not been unduly delayed by problems in the West London suburbs and is waiting to regain the main line following its water stop in Challow loop while a mix of HST and IET services pass by heading for Swindon and beyond. Just before due time, the green shows for the steam special and its just a case now of an anxious wait for it to appear, hoping not to be blind-sided by an inopportune ‘up’ service. Just after an up IET, its pantograph flashing at rough joint, thunders past in the other direction, the sound of the characteristic A4 chime whistle is heard to the east. Relax – the view will be clear! The sun is weakly penetrating through the misty haze – the lack of strong shadows is something of a relief as I’m on the ‘wrong side’ for photography – and the backlit steam exhaust does its best to obliterate the ugly gantries. At least that will not be a consideration when it comes through Hungerford on Saturday!


Tuesday 20th November 2018 **Sighting** - LNER A4 Pacific no. 60009 Union of South Africa on a Cathedrals Express to Gloucester

The Cathedrals Express brand has flexed somewhat from its original concept but today’s destination is indeed as cathedral city – the train having started from West London and having set off for the Surrey Hills before joining the GWR route via Swindon and Kemble/Stroud. The forecast for the day was for very cold and wet weather so I elected to take the (new) GWR option for a view of the express passing through Tilehurst in the Thames Valley.

As I approached Reading to change trains, Open Train Times indicated that the steam excursion had already arrived at New Jcn, confirmed on alighting by the sight of steam to the east of the station. My electric service northwards was on-time so I was able to stay ahead of the special and was in position on the ‘relief’ side at Tilehurst when it approached some minutes later. Unfortunately the copious steam visible previously at Reading was sadly lacking now as the train drifted through the station and, ironically, opened up when drawing alongside me after I had got my shots ‘in the bag

An indication of ‘what might have been’ is given by the picture of the diesel at the rear receding into the distance under a very steamy cover. Oh well – perhaps better luck when the loco comes through Hungerford next weekend!


Thursday 4th October 2018 **Sighting** - LNER pacific no. 60103 Flying Scotsman on a Cathedrals Express from Theale to Taunton

Following on from the Penny Post competition for tickets on the train, which disclosed its departure times from Theale and Newbury, we can confirm that this information is now available to the public from our usual source Realtime Trains (RTT). You will see that the itinerary is complicated by the half-day nature of the trip – the passengers have to be returned to Berkshire diesel-hauled by early afternoon, but the stock has to be returned to Taunton for other parts of FS programme in Devon and Cornwall. RTT provides access to all three sectors of this itinerary, although it is only 1Z44 which is likely to be of general interest. Click on the relevant headcode in the ID column to access the required information - and please remember, if getting up early to see the steam train, to stay safe and NOT to trespass on any railway or private land in order to get a closer look.

On the day: just as forecast the day dawned with light cloud thereby nullifying the problem for photographers of having to shoot directly into the sun. In fact as I arrived at my chosen spot on Hungerford Common, I could see mist descending over the town but my limited view remained reasonably clear, although the low level of available light was not ideal for action photography. The train was on time into its station stop at Newbury so there was not long to wait before the sound of the steam exhaust could be heard approaching rapidly from the far end of the Common, shortly after followed by Flying Scotsman bursting out from under Dun Mill overbridge, having blasted the underside of the bridge with steam in characteristic fashion:

The original plan had been for the Pacific to be accompanied by a 4-6-0 for its tour of Devon and Cornwall – Mayflower was to join later in the journey but being unavailable a Black Five was having to deputise. By good fortune this was presumably still in the London area so we were treated to the sight of it double-heading with FS for this first part of the tour:

….. a grand sight indeed, and an unusual LNER/LMS combination! The yellow signal on the up line was initially a cause for concern indicating that an express was imminent with potential to spoil the view, but at the time it was in or approaching its stop at Hungerford (not so good for spectators there). In the interests of balance I took a ‘going away’ shot of the two locos to give more prominence to the Black Five no. 44871, which shot also displays the corridor tender of the Scotsman with its rear carriage connection and porthole lighting the corridor. For today it would only provide a good view of the smoke box of no. 44871:


Wednesday 5th September 2018 **Sighting** -
SR Pacific no. 35028 Clan Line on a British Pullman dining excursion to Bath and Bristol

This premier (certainly premium-priced) steam excursion usually runs in an exemplary fashion and is nearly always routed through Hungerford when traveling to Bristol. Today it took the GW main line through Swindon, but only after getting away from London Victoria some 40 minutes late (no details available just now). The knock-on effect of this delay was to lose its planned path through busy suburbs of W London so that it was over an hour late by the time I was due to set off for the Vale of White Horse, and more to the point it had dropped off Realtime Trains (RTT) leading to a suspicion that it may have failed en route.

However I stuck to my plan only to find on arriving at Bourton in the Vale that no further update on its progress had been recorded in RTT. I thought this difficult to believe and eventually managed to find the train, running in disguise as 129K rather then 1Z91, on the Open Train Times map covering the Ascot to Reading section. The train was clearly still going to be late arriving at my position with few opportunities for making up time along the way – so I amused myself watching its progress along the way e.g. it took the underpass line outside Reading station and emerged onto the most northerly platform line from the old Southern third-rail electric approach to Reading. Another diversion for me was the steady diet of the new GWR IET units passing to and fro under the bridge where I was waiting.

The train was still an hour late after further ‘out of path’ delays when it eventually came into sight and was all-to-soon off and away with another IET unit bearing down on it at speed from behind. Its eventual arrival at Bristol was ‘only’ 49 mins late, which must have caused some disruption for the planned activities in the city. I had chosen to photograph the train at a location where missing masts give a clearer view of the trains but from the ‘wrong’ side. Fortunately the sun was not out when the train passed (don’t often get to say that) so I managed to get an evenly lit but not particularly vibrant shot of this iconic train, with Uffington Hill and the Ridgeway in the background):

The very visible cable channel to the left of the tracks carries the 25kV supply to the next insertion point – the rats (rodents and others) are going to be in for a surprise if they interfere with the cables here!


Tuesday 21st August 2018 **Sighting** -
A4 Pacific no. 60009 on a Cathedrals Express to the West Somerset Rly

Following hard on the heels of the WSSE to Minehead on Saturday 18th August, it now appears that the Cathex on the following Tuesday will also be routed out and back on the Berks & Hants line. This is one of those cases where you have to wait until the details are made available to the public – although people traveling on the train may already have this info direct from the operator. Union of South Africa is again expected to be in charge of the trip and there is a good chance that the diesel support will not be required after the recent rain.

On the day: a warmer day than last Saturday with the promise of some sunshine after early drizzle. I returned to the Common to make the best of the new views available and set up on a fence-post opposite the Thames Water works so that they would be excluded from the view. The sun was only intermittently shining brightly and failed to deliver when the A4 appeared round the curve from Kintbury, but the puffy clouds provide an attractive background to make up for the subdued colours of the main subject:

Today’s warm and humid atmosphere has resulted in a lack of visible steam from the powerful loco, toying with its 10 coach train at the leisurely speed dictated by the conditions for running latter day steam specials but you can appreciate the green foliage for the trees which are still standing!


Saturday 18th August 2018 **Sighting**
- A4 Pacific Union of South Africa on a West Somerset Steam Express to Minehead

The second and final WSSE of this reduced programme for the year is due to be travelling on its usual route via Newbury, Westbury and Taunton now that the line is open again after the recent 3-week shutdown. It is scheduled for a water stop outbound at Theale loop (inconveniently located on the up-side of the line) and to depart Newbury at 10:18 after picking up local passengers. It is likely that the steam loco will still be needing diesel assistance – unless the weather changes dramatically in between times – and the water stop may be not be needed. If running to plan the train should pass through Hungerford just before 10:30

On the day: the Met Office forecast of a dry and occasionally sunny day was looking rather suspect as I set off across the Common in light drizzle on a gloomy morning. I was making for the area around Dun Mill overbridge which NR have recently blitzed of lineside trees and bushes, hoping to take advantage of the additional views which have become available as a result. The clearances have been dramatic in effect, but it is a pity that the work coincided with Thames Water removing their Leylandii screen so that the water treatment works has now come into play when composing your photographs. The train was running more or less to plan and the appearance of a healthy steam plume as it rounded the far curve by the loop line indicated that diesel assistance had been dispensed with. I took a short sequence of shots and have chosen a square format which omits the offending works. On another occasion I shall set up with a wider lens setting and allow the steam plume to mask out the unwanted item. This is part of the process of getting used to shooting at a ‘new’ location:


The raw look of the recently savaged cutting will soften as the vegetation returns, but hopefully NR will not let it get into a state again that it need such draconian action to rectify! Much of the detritus was dealt with on site, which explains the liberal distribution of piles of wood chips littering the banks.


Saturday 28th July 2018 ***Sighting*** - The West Somerset Steam Express from Paddington to Minehead, crossing the Vale of White Horse

As predicted in my recent article in the quarterly CHAIN Mail, this train is unable to access the direct route via Newbury, Westbury and Taunton due to the extended closure of the Theale to Newbury section for the electrification project. Passengers due to board the train at Newbury will now be taken by bus to/from Reading to connect with the train, which is currently expected to be hauled by the A4 Pacific no. 60009 Union of South Africa, presumably with diesel assistance as in the two recent sighting reports.

On the day: I’d recently checked out the view from the lineside south of Shrivenham when looking out for Berks & Hants line trains, diverted via the Didcot – Swindon route while our line was closed, and was reasonably pleased with the results in the bright light of the heatwave. Seemed like a good idea to repeat the exercise for this occasional steam train, which ironically was operating on the day after the fine weather had come to an end. The clear blue skies on leaving Hungerford were replaced by puffy clouds while the sun had resolutely disappeared from this end of the Vale. On arriving 15 mins early I was alarmed to find that the special had left its water-stop at Challow 10 mins early and was already in the next section. Fortunately I knew from before exactly what angle I needed to take and was able to get in position in time to capture the fast-moving train, by now a further two minutes up on schedule:


In spite of my best efforts to lift the scene, the muted liveries of the locos and carriages betray the fact that this was rather a gloomy prospect, and a monochrome version of the image is generally more satisfactory. The gloominess was further enhanced when I was riding back through torrential rain and stinging hailstones!


Saturday 21st July 2018 **Sighting** -
LNER A4 Pacific no. 60009 Union of South Africa on a Cathedrals Express from Southend to Poole

Today’s Cathex was unexpectedly routed through our area (but not along our local line which is closed for 3 weeks), and to better effect was also scheduled for a water stop at Andover - providing more than the usual quick flash as it passes at speed. Being at a weekend with many people using the service trains to and from London, I was not optimistic of getting a clear shot of the special pulling into the platform. However yellow line discipline and a helpful fireman (of the Fire & Rescue type) who stepped back after indicating to the loco where to stop for its refill, gave me a reasonably satisfactory shot of the big loco arriving:

The current extended spell of hot dry weather has dictated that the steam loco should have diesel loco assistance to avoid setting lineside fires – no. 47760 is barely noticeable behind the steamer with its WCR maroon livery matching the coaching stock, and for good measure no. 47580 is at the rear of the train for reverse working.

Once stationary, it seemed that the entire contents of the train decamped on to the platform to get sight of the loco being watered, by which time I had escaped and was making my way to the overbridge by the RHM flour mill to get some shots of the departure. It is clear by comparing the exhausts produced by the two locos that the Class 47 diesel is doing by far the lion’s share of the haulage as intended, the A4 producing no visible steam vapour in the hot and humid air with just a trace smoke after coal was added to the fire prior to departure:


Thursday 28th June 2018 **Sighting** - A4 Pacific no. 60009 Union of South Africa on a Cotswolds circular Cathedrals Express

Having surveyed the view earlier in the week, I decided to return to this viewpoint by the NT car park at White Horse Hill for the evening return of this Cathedrals Express with ‘number 9’ in charge. The loco has only recently returned to the main line after undergoing firebox repairs. UK Steam Info had already indicated that the train would be ‘piloted’ by a diesel loco because of the current high fire risk in the countryside – so there was to be no impressive displays of the steam loco hard at work. This fact together with the challenge of shooting into the sun between masts and wires persuaded me to take the ‘long view’ for my shot of the train. From this distance (c.2 miles) it is just possible to make out the shape of the steam loco with the Class 47 diesel (with the large Union Flag on the body side) coupled up behind, but presumably providing most of the drive. The train is entering a section with one-sided mast supports which are less obtrusive than the normal OLE gantries. However this picture is more about the wonderful views from the top of the hill, with Badbury hillfort prominent of the far side of the Vale, beyond which the ground falls away into the upper Thames valley, with the Cotswold escarpment just discernable on the far horizon some 30 miles away:


Thursday 14th June 2018 **Sighting** -
LMS Black Five 4-6-0 no. 45212 on the rearranged St David’s Day Cathedrals Express to Cardiff

My new-found preference for shooting steam trains ‘under the wires’ from station platforms has been defeated in the Vale of White Horse as none of the several stations along the way survived into the 21stCentury. However a chance return to Bourton just to the east of Swindon has yielded a stretch of track which has a reasonably clear view of ‘down’ trains from a road overbridge. When siting the masts for the OLE, it happens in some cases that ground on one side or another is unsuitable or unavailable for the deep piling needed for secure location, so the support structure hangs off just the one up-rated mast which is the case in point here.

After an unpromising start to the day, the forecast fine weather materializes and I’m in position 20 mins early, weighing up the risks of being wrong side if the sun comes out, masked by steam from the very brisk wind blowing across the track, and being blind-sided by an ‘up’ train just when the steamer passes. Fortunately none of these occurs and the Cathex passes by still accelerating after its stay in the loop at Challow waiting for its path. I note that the 10 coach train is accompanied by a WCR Class 47 diesel at the rear which may well have been helping the Class 5MT loco to keep time on this line where 125mph expresses operate.

The resulting picture shows the steam train in the setting of the Vale, with Uffington Castle visible of the skyline – something of a contrast to my ‘in your face’ picture of Flying Scotsman at Goring last week:


Tuesday 5th June 2018 **Sighting** -
LNER Pacific no.60103 Flying Scotsman on a half-day Cathedrals Express from London through Oxford

I elected to visit another of the Thames Valley stations for the repeat of last Thursday’s Flying Scotsman outing on a lunchtime Cathex, and as the day was less muggy, verging on feeling chilly in the stiff breeze, I took to two wheels for a ride to Goring & Streatley, two stops further north than my previous viewpoint at Tilehurst. Although the train was early into Oxford Parkway again, and away on time after its stopover there, trouble was in store when it was brought to a stand after running along the avoiding line behind the GWS steam centre at Didcot. By then the Up Relief line – its booked path – was closed and the extra traffic on the Up Main was queuing back to Goring all the way from Reading.

Eventually the log-jam started to clear and the Cathex, now running a half an hour late, was the first train to run on the re-opened Up Relief. In fact a considerable relief given that it was due back in London Victoria for a second excursion of the day. Now with a clear road ahead and an incentive to make up lost time, the steam special came storming round the curve into Goring, giving the waiting crowd an exciting demonstration of steam power in action. One up-side of the delay was that the sun had started to break through the overcast skies, giving an extra sparkle to the liveries of the loco and its stock. However karma was nicely restored for me when a camera-phone-toting lady stepped out into my field of view just as the train arrived. From my low vantage point sitting on the platform I was unable to take evasive action and I’ve had to rely on post-processing to make something of the shot:


Thursday 31st May 2018 **Sighting** - Flying Scotsman on a lunchtime Cathedrals Express to Oxford, returning via the Thames Valley

Flying Scotsman is working a couple of half-day Cathexs in the next fortnight, unfortunately not on our line. The morning run on each of Thurs 31st May and Tues 5th June travels out from Paddington by the Wycombe line to Oxford and returns via the Thames Valley route through Didcot and Reading to Victoria, whereupon it does an evening trip round the Surrey hills circular. If you happen to live near the line or have reason to be in the area you may be able to fit in an afternoon view of this popular locomotive. The timing appears to be the same for each run with the train passing through Goring at 15:11 and Reading at 15:26.

On the day: an unpromising weather forecast suggested the best option would be a train trip to one of the Thames Valley stations – and so it was that I alighted from one of the new GWR electric units at Tilehurst station, two hours early in sweltering heat, but threatening thunderstorms. However the four track spinal route was continuously busy with GWR long distance and local services, Cross Country units bisecting the GWR services at Reading, and regular freight traffic. It was particularly interesting to see the new bi-mode express trains running fast under electric power from the OLE (railway jargon = overhead line equipment), but with less impact than the remaining HSTs still working the route.

Flying Scotsman was early into its stop at Oxford Parkway, and with the aid of three different maps off Open Train Times was traced through Oxford, round the Didcot avoiding line, and safely installed on the relief line towards Reading, thereby avoiding the need for an unplanned dash across the footbridge had it been switched to the Up Main. The station was deserted when I arrived but heaving with spectators, including family groups with school half-termers, by the time the steamer burst on the scene, and was all too soon disappearing towards the complex trackwork entering Reading:

Clearly the trick to photographing trains under the wires is to get down to track-level, and within the span of the masts, for a clear view. This is difficult to achieve at other than station locations. The train is due to run again next Tuesday 5th June – see 1Z72 1223 London Paddington to London Victoria for details.


Saturday 26th May 2018 **Sighting** - Merchant Navy Pacific no. 35028 Clan Line on the The Quantock Intruder to the West Somerset Steam Rly

The first steamer on our line this year is this UK Railtours excursion to Minehead - the prior British Pullman trip to Bristol on 16th May took place during one of the 4-day shutdowns inflicted on us by Network Rail. The train on 26th May picks up at Newbury guaranteeing an appearance here, but you should note that it seems that the steam loco will be remaining at the WSR over the weekend (at least) and the return journey of the Intruder will be diesel-hauled. So best turn out for the morning train for some steam action. The plan on Realtime Trains at 0805 London Paddington to Minehead West Som Rwy indicates that the outbound train is at Newbury 10:08-10:14 and passes Bedwyn at 10:30 i.e. approx 10:25 at Hungerford. The train returns diesel-hauled at about 21:00 passing Hungerford.

On the day: grey skies and raining at Hungerford ready for the GWR trip up the valley, and conditions not improved much by the time I arrived at Bridge 99 near Crofton. A small group of 9 photographers were assembled, waiting for the train and tracking its progress among the extra services which were being diverted this way today. The train arrived only a few minutes late, delayed by the extra traffic, and was clearly determined not to cause any delays itself by tackling the climb to Savernake Summit beyond Crofton with evident vigour. At first sight, this may appear to be a Pullman special but only the first carriage behind the loco (for its support team) is used in the Pullman formation. However the rest of the stock (Riviera Trains’ Royal Duchy set) is turned out in a consistent and attractive chocolate and cream.

One of the Bruce Trust canal boats was passing along the canal at the time, but unfortunately declined the invitation to wait to be photographed with the steamer. However I do have a montage version of the two together in case the need arises. To confirm the arrangement for diesel haulage on the return trip, the special was followed very closely by a Class 67 also en route for Bishops Lydeard, leaving the assembled company to wonder why it wasn’t coupled up to the rear, as is often the case with other excursion trains.


Wednesday 16th May 2018 ***Sighting***
- Merchant Navy Pacific no. 35028 Clan Line on the British Pullman in the Vale of White Horse

Since the Berks & Hants line is closed for 4 days again this week, I’m obliged to travel over the GW main line to see the first run this year of the steam-hauled British Pullman – not an attractive proposition on a windy day and with the line blighted by the nearly completed electrification work. I resolve to shoot from the wrong side to avoid drifting exhaust but am thwarted by the high parapet of the overbridge by Shrivenham station, which would need an assault ladder for a view over. So I’m resigned to a substandard outcome (taken through the bars of the steel security fence), hoping that the exhaust would be clear and unobstructing. However the loco has been sitting in the loop at Challow for 20 mins waiting for a path. Once under way the fireman is clearly stoking up and condensation is much heavier than you expect at this time of the year. At least the acceleration is lifting the exhaust clear of the loco and support coach, but the headboard is the only indication of the train of Pullman coaches following along behind!


Friday 27th April 2018 **Sighting** - a diesel-hauled British Pullman weekend excursion to Devon, Cornwall and the West Somerset Railway

We are used to seeing the famous Pullman carriages of the Belmond Hotels’ luxury dining train on its twice-yearly visits to the Berks & Hants line on the way to Bath and Bristol, usually hauled by its contracted steam loco Clan Line (Tornado in the last couple of years while no. 35028 was receiving maintenance). An entry appeared on Realtime Trains today suggesting that such a train may be involved in a trip to Truro, even though there was no obvious advanced publicity for the event. Waiting at Newbury station, I was only slightly disappointed when I found out that the train was in fact being diesel-hauled – the Class 67 locos front and rear carrying a matching livery to that of the Pullman carriages:

The train is due to return at Sunday tea-time, presumably hauled by the same locos but with 67021
at the front. It is unfortunate that the next steam-hauled British Pullman to Bath is scheduled for
16th May during the next 4-day closure of our line.

The new (inconveniently sited) footbridge at Newbury is open but without lifts for the time being. The old bridge is now CLOSED and scheduled for removal overnight 2nd June weather permitting (wind limitations when it is lifted out of place). The siting of the new bridge will apparently make more sense when development work at the station is completed, as a result of which the station buildings and platform access will be relocated. DMU in the up platform is the usual Bedwyn service, today running half an hour late, but now early for departure for Paddington having been cancelled between Newbury and Bedwyn, out and back! Good job I had not planned to use that service to today and traveled an hour earlier!!


Thursday 5th April 2018 **Sighting** -
LMS Black Five no. 45212 on a Cathedrals Express from Ipswich to Salisbury

The Black Five was again at work today for Steam Dreams with yet another outing solo on a Cathdrals Express, taking over the train to Salisbury at Willesden, a convenient swap-over point close to the Southall steam depot of West Coast Railways. The diesel-hauled first sector from Ipswich was late arriving for the change-over but the steamer was able to make up 14 of its 21 minute late departure in spite of further holdups getting to the SW main line out of London.

I’ve covered two of its three excursions along this line already this year, but decided to have yet another go with the promise of good light for photography. In fact on arriving at Whitchurch (a third different viewpoint) I immediately ruled out my usual shot of a ‘down’ train across the tracks from the ‘up’ platform due to the strong side-lighting. The view from the old goods yard (the car park) has opened up recently with lineside undergrowth clearance providing a chance to use this angle again. Unfortunately the characteristic station buildings are lost in this view, to be replaced by a good close-up portrait of the loco at work:


Thursday 22nd March 2018 **Sighting** -
LMS Black Five no. 45212 at Andover with a Cathedrals Express to Sherborne

A similar working to that of a fortnight ago, but starting from Newington in Kent this time – the steam loco again was in charge of the train without diesel support/back-up – no doubt much to the delight of the purists. The train had stopped at Overton, two stations back from here, for water and running a few minutes late was in danger of delaying the next service train – thus providing the excuse for a lively passage through Andover with a clear road ahead:

It appears from the moderate interest shown that the Black Five is not a crowd-puller like some of the celebrity pacifics, but it looks good and certainly was impressive passing at speed within a few feet of me. I understand
that Steam Dreams will be using the loco again later in the year due to the unavailability of Mayflower which they had originally hoped to use.


Thursday 8th March 2018 **SIGHTING** -
LMS ‘Black Five no. 45212 on a Cathedrals Express from Horsham to Sherborne & Yeovil Jcn

What a difference from a week ago when Oliver Cromwell and its St. David’s Day train were unable to operate due to the dire weather condition! So better luck for Steam Dreams and their customers today in blustery but mostly sunny, almost spring-like conditions, although snow was still lining the country roadsides for my trip down to Worting Jcn near Basingstoke. The train was running to time and it was more than a little disconcerting to find it standing at the junction signal when I arrived at my vantage point – with just enough time to get set before it hooted (a Stanier whistle) and set out across the complex trackwork where the Winchester and Salisbury lines diverge:

At the last minute I decided to cross to the other side having seen how the steam was swirling around the train. The Black Five 4-6-0 locos are not as famous as the ‘glamour’ types of Pacifics, but this one (from Lancashire) was very well presented and obviously up to the job, accelerating its 9-car train smoothly past without undue fuss and just enough exhaust to complement the puffy clouds in the blue sky. The season is well underway again!


Saturday 10th February 2018 ** Sighting** -
the first steam trains in the 2018 season of mainline excursions

The season in this part of the country gets underway with two excursion trains passing close by our area and giving viewing possibilities:

1. Oliver Cromwell on The Cotswold Venturer Paddington Worcester round trip – departs Rdg 09:06, Didcot 09:38, Oxf N 09:38 and returns via the Sapperton route with Swi 17:55, Milton Jcn 19:13 after water, RDG 19:40

2. Clan Line on The King Alfred to Winchester – departs Basingstoke 12:41, Worting Jcn 12:47 and returns via Havant and Petersfield

On the day: the weather forecast was such as to deter all but the most enthusiastic fans from travelling to the edge of our area to see these trains. I’m grateful to an Oxfordshire correspondent Frank Close for his picture of Oliver Cromwell passing through Radley, north of Didcot, on the outbound run of the The Costwold Venturer – he reports that photography was challenging in the biting cold conditions:

Evidently the wires are not up yet on the stretch to Oxford, but the station is saddled with the galumphing great footbridge needed to provide the necessary clearance for them. (Note the three stage/two landing ascent which will provide aerobic exercise for travellers heading south from Radley). The log of the outbound journey on RTT suggests an uneventful run, with an on-time arrival at Oxford and all of its 11 minute late restart from there having been regained on reaching Worcester.