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2014 and, once again, The Railway Touring Company has organised a series of the ever-popular Cumbrian Mountain Express trips with the West Coast Railway Company. This year these outings ran on Saturdays - 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd of February, and 1st and 8th March. Two summer excursions were also planned for July 12th and 19th.

On the return journey on February 1st there was a pathing stop at Tring quite late in the evening but, undeterred by the hour and the cold rain, we found two youngsters waiting patiently on the platform at Tring with their cameras. The driver and I invited them into the warmth and shelter of the cab to look around and sit in the driver's seat - an unexpected treat for them!

The following week, while hauling the passengers back south from Carlisle, the steam engine "Galatea" had an unfortunate breakdown which delayed the start of the return journey by about two hours. When we finally got going we found that a Pendolino was catching us up so we were forced to stop on the slow line at Warrington. The Pendolino had a scheduled stop there and I saw some photographs being taken of 86259 from the platform. It transpired that the photographer was, in fact, the driver of the Pendolino who had been keen to see the restored loco but had not, until then, crossed paths with it.

The remaining two Saturdays in February went without incident but the return trip on March 1st found us approaching a green signal a little south of Warrington only for it to turn red (not amber) just before we passed it! The driver got on the GSM-R and was told there was a signalling system fault between Warrington and Crewe so we were obliged to travel pretty slowly to Crewe - sometimes at just 5 - 10 m.p.h.

On 8th March the fault light in the loco cab lit up! It was caused by a faulty cooling blower on traction motor 2. The traction motor was isolated to prevent further damage developing but this did not unduly slow our return to Euston and the blower was fixed at Willesden depot when they had got hold of the relevant tooling.

On 12th July, after an extended period of warm dry weather, there were two instances of steam hauled charters leading to fires on the East Coast routes and one instance on the West Coast. Since an emergency-services fireman's strike was planned on 19th July until midday, arrangements were made for 86259 to take the stock (and passengers) all the way from London Euston to Carlisle.

This was another first for '259 in restoration. The first time the loco had pulled a passenger-carrying train from London to Carlisle since 2003 in its Virgin days. It travelled 'light engine' back from there to Preston for stabling and thence to Farington sidings to collect the train on its return. The steam engine took the train along the Settle - Carlisle line with a class 47 diesel on the back for 'insurance' purposes.

The 19th July trip was notable not only for 86259 visiting Carlisle but also because my webmaster, Jim, got into the cab at Crewe for the passage back to Nuneaton. Being much more used to 3¼ m.p.h. he found the ride at up to 100 m.p.h. quite bemusing!

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Jason Rodhouse captured this shot at the Marina at the bottom of the Whilton flight of locks on the Grand Union canal early on February 1st 2014. 86259 is up on the West Coast Mainline on the right whilst yards just out of sight on the left-hand side of the photo are six lanes of traffic on the M1. Not quite as idyllic as a canal towpath is usually! All three transport infrastructures (road, rail and canal) are taking advantage of the Watford Gap route through the range of hills in this area.

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47580, on hire to the West Coast Railway Company from the Stratford 47 group, has brought in the empty stock from Southall depot.

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Top "Troubleshooter" and friend, David Grieff.

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Don't worry! Before we leave Euston driver Ray Poole will open his eyes!

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Calling at Milton Keynes, and Ray wonders if the passengers are ever going to get into the train.

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Carnforth where 86259 hands over - on this occasion to 45699 "Galatea".

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West Coast Railway Company's 57313 at the blocks at Euston, having brought in the stock for this particular Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express. The loco still carries signs of the equipment used to drag Pendolinos when it was a Virgin 'Thunderbird'.

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Pete Collins in the driving seat, leaving Crewe and passing the Heritage Centre.

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Over Pete's shoulder, approaching Preston.

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Friday evening in Willesden depot all ready for tomorrow's outing.

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On the outward journey passing Rugeley Power Station with, today, John Daniel doing the driving.

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Stabled for the afternoon in Preston parcels sidings. Driver Bill Warriner (left) and David Grieff pose for the camera!

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Driver, Pete Collins. (Photo: Robin Mathams)

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At Baswich, Stafford on one of the outward journeys. (Photo: Robin Mathams)

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Speeding through Rugeley Trent Valley on the way home. (Photo: Robin Mathams)

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Saturday 19 July wasn't a particularly good day for steam traction in Carlisle due to issues beyond the control of the Railway Touring Company, the organisers of the 'Cumbrian Mountain Express' charter from London Euston to Carlisle. Passengers did not appear to be particularly awe-inspired, but perhaps rather dazzled by the electric blue livery of 86259/E3137 'Les Ross' as it reached its destination without the usual change over to steam traction at Carnforth. At least the FBU strike produced the prospect of a rare visit of an 'AL6' locomotive on a passenger service at the Border City.(Photo: Gordon Edgar)(Words: Gordon Edgar)

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259 drawn to a halt at Carlisle Citadel after some severe bouts of rain. Windscreens cleaned by rain and wipers but the platform surface is still soaking wet!. (Photo: Gordon Edgar)(Words: Webmaster)

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Now detached from the coaches and awaiting the return 'light engine' to Preston. This photo is Gordon Edgar taking a photo of me (Les), looking at him, taking a photo of me, looking ...........The bridge railings are nicely painted as is the lamppost just in front of the cab but methinks the painter could do with a longer ladder. (Photo: Gordon Edgar)(Words: Webmaster)