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On Saturdays 2nd April & 9th April 2016 this trip was hauled from London Euston to Carnforth by electric-blue locomotive 86259. At Carnforth a powerful steam locomotive took over the train for the journey to Carlisle via the coast line and back to Carnforth via the West Coast Main Line over Shap.

The train normally leaves London Euston at around 07:10 and speeds north along the West Coast Main Line. It stops to pick up more passengers at Milton Keynes (where passengers from Watford Junction join by service train), Rugby (where passengers from Northampton join by service train), Nuneaton, Crewe and Preston. At Carnforth a steam locomotive takes over the train for its onward journey around the Cumbrian coastline.

Passengers pass through Silverdale and over the Kent Viaduct where there are excellent views across Morecambe Bay. The trip continues through Grange-over-Sands, then crosses the Leven Viaduct en route to Ulverston and either travels the loop line through Barrow-in-Furness or uses the direct link between Dalton and Park South Junction. The journey then heads north along the Cumbrian Coast, through Foxfield, Millom, Ravenglass and Sellafield. It hugs the coastline as far as St. Bees, travelling beside the seashore with fine views over the Irish Sea. Passing through Whitehaven, the route continues beside the cliffs at Parton, before arriving at Workington where the steam locomotive will take on more water.

The line between Maryport and Carlisle has limited clearance and formerly carriages had bars across window openings to prevent passengers leaning out and being injured when passing through bridges. The restrictions still exist and on no account should any passenger attempt to open windows and lean out during this part of the journey. Shortly thereafter the train will arrive in the Border City of Carlisle where there will be a short break with time to discover the sights.

Later in the afternoon, the steam locomotive hauls the train south from Carlisle. It climbs almost continuously through the Eastern Lake District to Penrith, before tackling the final ascent to Shap Summit. Then it descends from the summit to Tebay, and passes through the beautiful Lune Gorge before continuing to descend through Oxenholme Lake District to Carnforth. Here the electric locomotive 86259 takes over the train for a fast (up to 100mph) run back to London stopping at the same stations as on the outward journey to set down passengers.

2nd April 2016. Following the landslip at Armathwaite, this trip was to have been diverted as a Cumbrian Coast Express. 86259 left Euston in the dry to speed the passengers north but passed through wet weather in the Midlands and then back into dry conditions by the time it reached Carnforth. At Carnforth it exchanged stock with 46233 Duchess of Sutherland but, since this engine is not able to undertake the Cumbrian Coast route because of its dimensions, the trip went by steam engine to Carlisle and was therefore neither a 'Mountain' nor a 'Coast' Express! 259 returned to Crewe for stabling in its bay and subsequently returned to Carnforth to collect the carriages, which were 70 minutes late arriving there. Notwithstanding now being 'out of path' 86259 was able to get back to Euston only 2 minutes late! Jim Clarke and Phil Spice were the drivers on the outbound leg while John Daniel and Bill Warriner saw to the return.

9th April 2016. Travelling south from Willesden to pick up its rolling stock, 86259 was held short of Euston station as the rolling stock had not yet arrived. It later transpired that a first class carriage in the middle of the stock consist had developed a fundamental fault which would have caused the entire trip to be cancelled unless this faulty unit could first be extracted from the set and left behind for repair. Thankfully this was eventually accomplished and the remaining nine coaches were delivered from Southall into Euston by diesel loco 33207 ready for 86259, at the cost of significant delay in its normal departure time, to be brought forward into the station and coupled up to leave northbound with John Daniel and Phil Spice driving.

Fiddlers Ferry loop

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I normally leave the rear cab of 259 at Milton Keynes and enter the front of the carriage stock to distribute leaflets, about the electric traction involved in part of the passengers' overall excursion, rejoining the loco at Rugby. I found train staff hard at work planning how to deal with fitting an almost-fully-booked 10 carriage trip into the available 9 carriages. They eventually arrived at the decision not to stop at Preston to collect the trippers intending to board there since the carriages would already be substantially filled. We therefore passed non-stop through Preston at about 40 mph in front of some rather aghast faces!

After the steam section of the trip, 259 left Carnforth on time. A minor fault manifested itself on the return when a circuit breaker popped out at Preston, Crewe and Milton Keynes although this was but a minor irritant. Even when 'on path' the train can be put onto the slow line to allow faster traffic to pass. Whilst on the 'slow' we came up behind another WCRC train which was suffering from a hot axle problem and we also encountered a freight train with a similar problem. Hot axle bearings can force a speed reduction to 10 mph whilst the offending consist is pulled out of the path of other traffic so delays build up quickly whilst traffic on the 'fast' sails past 'full blat'. We spent 45 minutes in the Fiddler's Ferry loop near Warrington whilst a stack of delayed Pendolinos were let past us and we were therefore 55 minutes late into Crewe.

Paul Steane acted as engineer on this trip because, unusually, David Grieff was feeling a little poorly that day. Steve Beams and Bill Warriner were the return-leg drivers.

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2nd April 2016. 86259, now arrived from Willesden, coupled to the coaching stock and waiting to depart Euston at 07:10 as 1Z86 bound for Carnforth. © Colin Sheppard on Flickr

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2nd April 2016. 86259 waiting to depart Milton Keynes after collecting passengers, complete with headboard which the photographer regarded as "horrible". © MKRAIL on Flickr

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2nd April 2016. 86259 passing at speed through Atherstone and spraying rain off the catenary equipment with its pan. © Graham Nuttall on Flickr.

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2nd April 2016. Another good shot, spraying rain off the catenary equipment with its pan, this time at Chorlton. © wwatfam on Flickr.

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2nd April 2016. At Carnforth with the Duchess of Sutherland now coupled to the rolling stock and facing north ready to depart towards Shap before 259 departs south for stabling at Crewe.

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2nd April 2016. 86259 now stabled in Crewe bay on Platform 8.

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2nd April 2016. One of the 'football specials' which 259 has pulled in the past (see Pretendolino) passing through Crewe en route to Liverpool. Part of 259 visible at the extreme left of frame.

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8th April 2016. The day before the next trip with 86259 sitting on No.1 road at Willesden together with 92033 which had been engaged on the overnight sleeper to Scotland on behalf of GBRf.

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Coming in to the platform at Euston to complete the stock exchange prior to the 9th April trip. Note how inclement is the weather in London whereas the next photo near Stafford shows a nice dry day further north.

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9th April 2016. 259 brings the rolling stock off the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line around Queensville Curve just south of Stafford station.

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9th April 2016. Red coaches on Red Bank at 10:28, 26minutes late. © Brandon Jones on Flickr.

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9th April 2016. 86259 outbound on the Cumbrian Coast Express travelling at 100mph through Bay Horse station. © steamdriver12 on Flickr.

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9th April 2016. 1Z86 heading north, 24 minutes late, at Cathiron. © Ryan Davis on Flickr.

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9th April 2016. Sitting next to the Royal Scot on the handover at Carnforth.

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This locomotive with the Royal Scot train was exhibited at the Century Of Progress exposition, Chicago, 1933, and made a tour of the Dominion of Canada and the United States of America. The engine and train covered 11,194 miles over the railroads of the North American Continent and was inspected by 3,021,601 people. W. Gilbertson. - Driver. T.Blackett. - Fireman. J.Jackson. - Fireman. W.C.Woods. - Fitter.

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9th April 2016. 86259 southbound near Winwick Junction, Warrington. © Ian Chapman on Flickr.

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This a photo of 86 259 waiting at Acton Grange Junction (the junction where we waited on the Helsby line on April 9th), taken by our trip engineer for that day Paul Steane.

And now some very unusual (train) photos of a container ship passing 86259 on the Manchester ship canal whilst 259 was stopped on the Helsby loop of the West Coast Main Line!

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