Engineering, signalling and the British weather… main line steam charter trains suffer during early days of December

A combination of engineering work, signal failures, a breakdown and severe weather conditions all conspired to adversely affect several main line charters over the period December 2-10, Steam Dreams bearing the brunt of the disruptions.

On Saturday, December 2 a ‘Cathedrals Express’ running from Southend to Alton and Winchester
via Upminster and Barking was the victim of Network Rail engineering blocks on the West Coast Main Line which resulted in the train being diverted across London and eventually held in south west sidings, two hours down on its scheduled timing.

Late arrival

According to Network Rail the problem was caused by an emergency possession to repair overhead line equipment at North Wembley resulting in the empty stock from Southall to Shoeburyness being delayed by 126 minutes.

Given a green the ‘Express’ – worked by ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 No. 45212 – made up some time but was still 90 minutes adrift arriving at Alton.

The late arrival denied passengers for Winchester the opportunity of visiting the city (by road). They and the remaining passengers travelled on by train to Alresford where a carol service was held in a nearby church.

Interestingly on arrival at Alton the ‘Black Five’ came off its train which was worked forward by the National Railway Museum’s loaned 4-4-0 No. 925 Cheltenham, the ‘Black Five’ making for Ropley where it was stabled in readiness to work another ‘Cathedrals Express’ to Bath.

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