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The usual sequence of events on this trip is for 86259 to leave London Euston with the coaching stock and initial passengers at about 07:10, proceeding up Camden Bank and on to pick up further trippers at Watford Junction, then Milton Keynes, Rugby, Nuneaton and Crewe. 259 will usually be on the 'down' fast at speeds of up to 100mph. With all passengers now aboard, 86259 presses on to Carnforth where it will hand the coaches over to a steam engine and then return 'light engine' to Preston for stabling until early evening. Meanwhile the steam engine will haul the stock through Oxenholme and up over Shap to Carlisle where passengers can enjoy a bit of sight-seeing while the engine is topped up with water.

At the appointed time the train will proceed south out of Carlisle and onto the Settle-Carlisle line. Approximately half way to Settle it will pause at Appleby for yet more water and then continue its journey, crossing Ribbleshead viaduct before reaching Settle and then Hellifield where it will turn onto the line through Clitheroe, bound eventually for Farington Junction just south of Preston. Anticipating its return, 86259 will have run south from Preston to the junction where the stock will once again be exchanged (usually after dark) for a high-speed return to London.

30th January. On this first trip of the year there were five drivers - Phil Cotton, Bill Warriner, Steve Beames, Pete Collins and Ian Mcintosh in company with David Grieff as engineer, although I think one of the drivers was actually just catching a ride home. Although two or three 'faults' were experienced, I was told after inspections the following day, that these were "normal" faults (!) requiring no repair work. Once 259 had returned to Preston for stabling, I took the crew into Blackpool for a fish and chip lunch at Harry Ramsden's. There were very strong winds left over from the hurricane (now called Storm Imogen?) which had dumped two feet of snow onto Washington, D.C. and New York the previous weekend and, whilst eating, I saw three people blown to the ground outside!

There had been a track-side landslip just south of Carlisle which did not affect the down line into Carlisle (but was a harbinger of things to come). The steam engine left Carlisle one minute early bound for Settle but, before travelling two miles, found itself 89 minutes late by reason of that landslip!! The Duchess somehow managed to recoup a bit of time on its journey to Farington sidings and 259, despite now being out-of-path, also 'did its bit' so that the eventual return to Euston was only 22 minutes late.

6th February. The highlight of this day for me was 86259 finally meeting up with, and exchanging coaching stock with 60103 "Flying Scotsman" at Carnforth for the steam trip to Carlisle and then down the Settle/Carlisle line to Farington Sidings. Both of these locomotives had been built on almost exactly the same spot in the works at Doncaster, albeit many years apart. "Flying Scotsman" was about 40 minutes late returning to Farington Sidings but, despite hauling the coaching stock together with a diesel loco on the back (equivalent in all to about 15 carriages in weight), 86259 arrived back at Euston just 6 minutes late on the day's schedule. Bill Warriner and Phil Spice were drivers with David Grieff as the engineer.

12th February. A landslip at Armathwaite, north of Appleby, resulted in the closure of the Settle-Carlisle line for "several months" until stabilization of the area is accomplished. This event instantly terminated the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express trips for the foreseeable future. Although re-routing these trips to the Cumbrian Coast Express track would have been feasible, regulatory issues concerning the trip 'operator', West Coast Railway Company Ltd ("WCRC"), had arisen causing the Office of Rail Regulator to suspend WCRC's operator licence for the time-being. Following later reinstatement of their operator's licence, 86259 was luckily able to recommence its hauls to Cumbria on 2nd and 9th April, that on the 2nd being re-routed as a Cumbrian Coast Express while that on the 9th was already planned for the coastal route.

2nd April 2016. Due to the Armathwaite landslip this trip was re-routed to the Cumbria coast and is reviewed on Cumbrian Coast 2016.


30th January 2016. 86259 at Willesden TMD in preparation for its 50th birthday outing on the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express. © Stephen Beames (the driver) on Flickr.


Stunner - 86259 at Euston 30/01/16. Preserved AC locomotive 86259/E3137 'Les Ross'/'Peter Pan' pictured at Euston on the morning of 30/01/16 waiting to depart with 1Z86, the 0710 Euston - Carlisle (86259 was booked as far as Carnforth), the RTC 'Cumbrian Mountain Express' charter train. This run also doubled as a 50th anniversary run for the loco, hence the headboard. © RMC1490 (Kevin Cooper) on flickr.

30th January 2016. Left to right: Stephen Beames, Les Ross & Ian Mcintosh at Euston posing before departure. © Stephen Beames (one of the drivers) on Flickr.

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The 50th birthday headboard, commissioned by Les Ross and made by Tom Doyle of 'Sign Depot' in Warwick, now sporting a little bit of 'road' dirt.

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30th January 2016. A banner, celebrating 86259's half-century and used on Les Ross' stand at the Warley Model Railways Society event at the NEC in 2015, being held by Steven Beams and David Grieff on Preston's bay platform.

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30th January 2016. 86259, with Ian Mcintosh at the controls, waits briefly in Oubeck Loop for a faster train to pass whilst on its way 'light engine' back to Preston from Carnforth.

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'Soggy Les' The rain tumbles down as the first leg of The Railway Touring Company's 'Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express' eases through Hest Bank on 6th February 2016 with Class 86/2 No. 86259 'Les Ross' in charge. The train was slowing, no doubt in anticipation of it's scheduled stop in Carnforth U&DGL (Up and Down Goods Loop) where the Class 86 will be removed in favour of No. 60103 Flying Scotsman. © John Whitehouse on Flickr. Reproduced with permission, all rights reserved.

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6th February 2016. Two locos, both built at Doncaster but a (human) generation apart, meeting up for the first time ever at Carnforth to exchange coaching stock on the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express. 60103 (Flying Scotsman) is using this as a test run after its refurbishment before being repainted green and making its much-publicised heritage run from Kings Cross back to York Railway Museum.