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In November 2013 I was given about 1½ days notice that 86259 was to pull the Virgin Trains' "Pretendolino" from King's Cross, taking Chelsea Football Club supporters to an away game in Newcastle; a trip organised by West Coast Railway Company.

259 travelled to Wembley depot on the preceeding day, staying overnight in the company of its intended rolling stock. Bill Warriner took the train into Euston to meet the catering supplies delivery at about 5:00am, thereafter driving the train around, past the Kilburn junction for King's Cross, and stopping at Hornsey signal for the diesel (47237) to take the train back into King's Cross station. Things did not auger well for Chelsea on this trip as the kitchen car was found at King's Cross to be out of service, due to a fault, such that no drinks or snacks would be available to any passengers on the trips both out and back!

Micky Valla drove the loaded train from King's Cross down the East Coast Mainline. Its Network Rail route plan showed a 7 minute stop at Doncaster for a crew change whereas the actual crew swap was to be at York so he used the GSM-R to call ahead to request a routing straight past Doncaster but this was declined because a scheduled service was intended to pass 259 at that point. The train therefore dutifully waited (for more than 7 minutes!) for that to happen before continuing on its way.

Alan Grenfill and Steve Chipperfield then took over at York for the run to Newcastle at which they arrived just 1 minute late to offload the passengers to make their own way to the football ground. The 5 hour wait in Newcastle for their return was spent at Heaton depot where 86259 disconnected from the Virgin DVT and did a 'run around' to the other end of the stock for the trip back.

Torrential rain encountered on the return journey meant that at level crossings the loco lost traction due to road dirt on the line (the speedometer reaching 140mph each time the wheels lost their grip!) with the drivers, Jim Clarke or John Daniel, having to juggle with the power controls to re-establish smooth forward progress. Arrival at King's Cross was 2 minutes ahead of schedule.

Despite the fillip of 259's blue/white colour scheme, Chelsea lost to Newcastle 2:Nil!

Travelling in the locomotive, I get to see the countryside to the front and sides of the track but I only see the train itself when I get out at stops. Therefore I am reliant on enthusiasts to capture images of the train en route and often I find that I am unable to contact them for permission to use their images on my site. Accordingly to avoid infringing copyright I can only provide links to webpages which the copyright holder has used to 'publish' his own work. Links to noteworthy images that I have found on the internet are shown below but will be 'broken' if and when those images are subsequently removed.



4:45am 86259 has lead the Pretendolino set up from Wembley into Euston.


West Coast's 47237 has arrived at the stops on platform 2 at King's Cross.


Meanwhile at the country end 86259 is ready to lead north to Newcastle when the Chelsea supporters have boarded.


Ready to leave the capital.

Img Cheetham

Between the Welwyn tunnels at 07:51. Photo: Alan Cheetham.


Driver, Micky Valla, asks: "Do we have to stop in Doncaster? Oh. We do, do we?."


The wait at Doncaster gives David Grief the chance to remove the remnants of a late pigeon from the front marker light. It'll do nicely for lunch.


Passing the National Railway Museum at York.


We've arrived at our destination.


Stabled for the day at Heaton depot where the loco ran round the train because the TDM push/pull facility is not currently working.


'Ello, 'ello, 'ello. So you lost, then!


No railway fans, these. They all seem more interested in the coach than in the loco.


At bit more interest shown in the loco, back at King's Cross.