Thursday, 27 March 2014

Leeds to Whitby with K4 61994 The Great Marquess and B1 61264 on The Esk Valley

We’d booked ages ago to travel on The Railway Touring Companies “The Esk Valley” running from Carnforth to Whitby on Saturday 22 March 2014. The train was diesel hauled in both directions between York and Carnforth with steam in charge between York and Whitby in both directions. The train proved to be a popular tour and had been fully booked for a few weeks before departure.

I have a bit of a dilemma as I really enjoy a journey behind a superbly restored and maintained steam locomotive but on the downside I know that opportunities of capturing photographs of the locomotives involved will be very limited. In this instance though I’d previously photographed both locomotives as 61994 - The Great Marquess had recently been the guest loco at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and 61264 was captured whilst on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway last year.

We joined the train at Leeds on a sunny but cold Saturday morning. After a coffee we headed for platform 11 from where our train was due to depart. 

Our train was on time or perhaps a few minutes early and were soon settled into our seats and on our way to York where 61994 The Great Marquess was to take over the train.

We arrived in York on time but unfortunately this was to be one of the few times the timetable was maintained throughout the day although this was not due in any way to failures of the steam locomotives. Initially a points failure at the National Railway Museum delayed 61994 on its short journey from the museum to York station to take over duties from the class 47 diesel.

This had a knock on effect of delaying the train further as we waited for a suitable slot down the East Coast Main line out of York. This delay certainly gave the massed ranks of photographers plenty of time to compose their shots of The Great Marquess

Eventually we departed York some 45  minutes late. The good news for us that it was now time for breakfast to be served as we sped up the East Coast main line towards Thirsk and Darlington.

After a good breakfast and several cups of coffee later we were well on our way to Darlington where the train was to be topped and tailed at Darlington North Road with LNER B1 61264. In an effort to claw back sometime 61264 moved from North Road to Darlington station to join the train.

At Darlington our train reversed direction with 61264 now in charge of the train to Battersby. More time was saved at Battersby where the line becomes a dead end. 61264 brought the train into Battersby on the Middlesborough line with 61994 then in charge leaving Battersby but heading onto the Whitby branch line with 61264 being still attached at the rear of the train.

Now one of the drawbacks of the delayed departure from York was that it seemed no sooner had we finished breakfast than it was time for lunch. We managed to cope without too much of an issue though.

Whitby was reached about 15 minutes late after an excellent journey over the picturesque Esk Valley line from Battersby. At Whitby the weather had taken a bit of a turn for the worse and the blue sky which had been in evidence travelling  had given way to some much cloudier conditions with a few spots of rain in the air. The tour didn't originally have a great deal of time in Whitby so we only had time to walk part way into the town past lot of seagulls all anticipating dinner time and some of Whitby’s famous fish and chips.

Obviously on the return journey 61264 hauled our train back from Whitby to Battersby. At this point 61264 was detached with 61994 in now in charge of the train back to York where diesel power would once again take over for the rest of the journey to Carnforth. After the train had departed 61264 was due to head back over the Esk Valley to its home at Grosmont on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

As we headed back towards Middlesborough it was time for dinner. I'm not sure how all the meals are prepared on the train as the space in the train kitchen must be fairly limited but we still managed an excellent dinner comprising Scottish smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes served on a bed of wilted spinach topped with a poached egg and drizzled with hollandaise sauce, followed by roasted red pepper and tomato soup served with freshly baked bread. The main course was roasted rump of Cumbrian lamb on a bed of puy lentils flavoured with rosemary and leeks served with a red wine and redcurrant jus, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese and garden peas. Desert was warm Bakewell tart served with custard and then coffee with after dinner mints. But at this stage you do have to remember that photographic opportunities had been restricted.

Our return journey was once again plagued with delays on the East Coast Main Line and by the time we left York we were running around one hour late. The delays certainly didn't spoil an excellent steam hauled trip over the Esk Valley line. It would be a great shame if this line was to become unavailable to charter trains due to the demands of scheduled services on this long stretch of single track railway line.

After a great day out we arrived back in Leeds around 15 minutes late thanks to the efforts of the train crew to make up time. These aren’t trips where you have to let a little bit of a delay spoil your day but just settle back and enjoy the ride and the food.

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