‘Great Britain XI’ triumphs over adversity

With steam running throughout from King’s Cross to Victoria via Scarborough, Ais Gill, Kyle of Lochalsh, Llandrindod Wells and Swanage, using seven different steam engines, this year’s ‘Great Britain’ tour was as ambitious as its predecessors. As Brian Sharpe reports, the 11th trip in the series was again a great success, if not quite as originally expected.

Every year looks like being the last one but the following year it is advertised again by the Railway Touring Company and the 11th ‘Great Britain’ railtour duly appeared in the 2018 tour brochure and set off from King’s Cross on Thursday, April 19 in the capable hands of LNER A3 Pacific No. 60103 Flying Scotsman.

What has become predictable for the ‘GB’ series is that the train will not run with the originally advertised motive power. This tends to be for a variety of unforeseen reasons and not entirely as a result of locomotives being unavailable.

On day two, SR Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35018 British India Line heads the York-Carlisle leg of the tour past Sheriff Brow. DAVE HUNT

Even Flying Scotsman was advertised as provisional, as the National Railway Museum had not finalised a new operating agreement for the A3 at the time that ‘GBIX’ was originally advertised. However, once the new agreement had been agreed for Ian Riley to continue to run the engine, a firm booking was made.

Flying Scotsman hauled the leg from King’s Cross to Scarborough on day one, taking a roundabout route via Hertford, Cambridge, Peterborough and Lincoln. To save unnecessary light engine mileage, Scotsman took the train back from Scarborough to York on day two where it handed over to the recently-overhauled SR Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35018 British India Line, which is now a
fully-fledged member of the West Coast Railways’ main line fleet.

The Merchant Navy took the train on to Carlisle, making its debut on the Settle & Carlisle line in the process. The engine made an apparently effortless climb of the ‘long drag’ in glorious weather and with no sign of the steam leak that had plagued the engine on its earlier runs.

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