Special working in connection with the Tour de France

Sunday 8 July 2007

This article was written and closed on Saturday 14 July 2007

[PHOTO: train and staff at platform: 44kB]

Above: 1001 and staff wait for departure time at Maidstone West, during their day’s outing as an Operational Response Unit. Photo by Dave Markwick.

On Sunday 8 July 2007 our two-car train was used as a mobile “Incident Response Unit” in connection with the London-Canterbury stage of the Tour de France cycle race.

Running as Train Reporting Number 3Z99, our “Tour de Force” was operated by motor coaches 60116+60118. Our train’s role was to convey Network Rail and TOC staff to any rail incident that could have arisen during the day; many roads in Kent would be be closed or heavily congested.

In the event, our train set off from St. Leonards Depot at 0815, reaching Grove Park Depot at 0941; along the way our 2-car DEMU — thanks to having enough power for a 6-car train — was able to make up several minutes which had been lost at Tunbridge Wells, where a Down train had been crossed over to the Up platform ahead of it.

[PHOTO: station platform with trains: 33kB]

Above: Our 1957-vintage train meets a London Underground East London Line train dating from 1960, at New Cross station where we reversed. Photo by Andy Armitage.

After collecting several TOC & Network Rail Operations staff plus some members of the Signal & Telegraph department, we headed north at 1030 to New Cross for reversal as booked; we then ran along the North Kent Line as far as Slade Green where we turned on the triangle, and to Barnehurst where we reversed. From Dartford we proceeded to Strood and the Medway Valley Line.

[PHOTO: trains at station: 48kB]

Above: Our 2-car train leaves plenty of platform vacant behind itself at Maidstone West. This photo by Andy Armitage neatly illustrates how the SR DEMUs were equipped with an outward-opening door on the offside, to allow emergency exit by traincrew without having to pass through the engine-room.

At Maidstone West there was time for the on-board staff to stretch their legs for 10 minutes, before we followed a stopping service to Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.

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Above: 1001, three Class 73 electro-diesel locos, and two rakes of wagons in the West Yard at Tonbridge. Photo by Chris Birks of GB Railfreight.

At Tonbridge we laid over in the West Yard for nearly an hour an a half to 1429, during which time we had a change of driver.

From here, the plan went “out of the window”. Some debris (deceased livestock) was on and about the Down Hastings line north of Wadhurst and, although it was not preventing trains from passing, it needed to be removed.

[PHOTO: train stopped between stations with staff on track: 50kB]

Above: Note the shoe-paddle laid across the secondman’s window, which is a commonly-used (unofficial) visual reminder that the handbrake has been applied. Following the correct procedure is especially important when stopped by unusual causes. In this case the driver has “screwed down” his train to fully secure it before leaving the cab, and staff on & about the track have used the train as protection whilst he liaises with Control by telephone. Photo by Dave Markwick.

When our train arrived at the debris, the Operational staff aboard arranged for the traction current to be isolated and the Short-Circuiting Bar from motor coach Mountfield was used as per procedure to prevent accidental recharge. Several of the railway staff using our train assisted in removing the debris from the railway; this grim task completed, the train continued to Hastings station.

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Above: Andy Armitage took this fine study in old-fashioned railway equipment at Hastings station: the mechanically-interlocked signal-box operating cable-operated semaphore signals… and of course our green train with its floor-mounted diesel-electric generator!

We had just 10 minutes to wait at Hastings to get a path via Rye to Ashford, where we arrived at 1645; during that time several intending passengers were disappointed to discover that our “proper train” (as one called it) was not in service this time.

From Ashford we ran onward to Canterbury West where our guests detrained; once our presence was no longer required, we headed back for St. Leonards earlier than scheduled at 1740; we managed to make it to Ashford just in time for the next ‘path’ across the Romney Marsh. As our train had a clear road and a non-stop run, the HDL staff on board were treated to the novel experience of passing through Appledore at speed and approaching Rye under clear signals; our arrival at Ore neatly cleared the single line in time for an Up train.

Our 2-car train arrived back at the depot at 1850, its duty complete.

[PHOTO: staff line-up by motor coach: 43kB]

Above: Some of the Incident Response Team with our train at Ashford International. Photo by Dave Markwick.