Diesel power replaces steam as heatwave hits heritage railways and main line tours

THE heatwave in late June and early July has hit the heritage sector on both the national network and preserved lines with diesel traction replacing steam because of ‘tinderbox’ conditions on the lineside.

On all routes affected by the dry weather, a Network Rail protocol has come into force whereby a steam locomotive must have a diesel positioned behind the tender and, in effect, doing all the work, ironically echoing the end of BR steam in 1968.

One exception has been West Coast Railway’s ‘Scarborough Spa Express’, where the diesel was allowed to go at the back of the train.

In a year in which we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of diesel and electric traction replacing steam on the main line, diesels are taking over from steam on both the national network and heritage lines because of the fire risk. Due to the steam ban in place on the East Lancashire Railway, there has been the rare sight of diesel-hauled dining trains. Class 40 No. 40106 Atlantic Conveyor is seen passing through Irwell Vale with the ‘Lancastrian Lunch’ diner on July 1. EMMA SEDDON

The protocol, it is understood, has prevented A1 Pacific No. 60163 Tornado, which has been undergoing repairs since its April 14 failure on the 90mph ‘The Ebor Flyer’ trip, from being driven off the Nene Valley Railway for an essential main line test run.

Network Rail’s London North Western network has gone one stage further than the fire risk protocol by banning steam altogether on certain routes like the West Coast Main Line.

Accordingly, trains like Statesman Rail’s July 10 ‘The Fellsman’ were diesel-hauled between Lancaster and Hellifield on the outward and return journeys, with Jubilee 4-6-0 No. 45690 Leander backed by a diesel coming on at Hellifield.

Steam was temporarily banned on Severn Valley Railway services following a spate of lineside fires.

Fire crews from Kidderminster and Bewdley were called out to embankment fires at Eardington station, Chelmarsh, Kinlet and Cankhorn on Sunday, July 8.

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