HDL Green Dragon railtour

Saturday 18 April 2015

This article was last modified on Monday 13 July 2015

[PHOTO: Train ascending gradient in countryside: 73kB]

Above: Our train tackles the long ascent to Pilning from the Severn Tunnel, during the return leg of our Green Dragon railtour. Photo by David Tutton.

Hastings Diesels Limited’s 60th public railtour was from Hastings to Cardiff, via Redhill, Guildford, Woking, Basingstoke, Salisbury and Bath.

Our original route via the Great Western Main Line was not available on this day because of electrification work between Didcot and Swindon, hence this interesting route which seemed to meet with approval and was certainly varied.

Upon arrival at Cardiff, dozens of our railtour-goers transferred by bus to visit the Barry Tourist Railway, where they were well looked after. Interestingly, our train also visited Barry Island once, in 1997 before the Barry Tourist Railway was developed.

On the way home, those who like traversing unusual sections of track were treated to an impromptu reversal near Newport and a trip along a short section of track at Maindee triangle called the Hereford Loop. This was planned at very short notice after a tiny piece of grit became lodged in the horn-valve causing it to stick partially open.

Thanks to the professionalism of our operating company GBRf, arrangements were rapidly made: the horn was isolated, and the train turned round and driven from the other end while our staff resolved the problem. The small amount of time lost was regained before the next station-stop too! As a result of this, the train returned to the depot having had an odd number of reversals and so facing the other way to when it set out.

As will be seen, time-keeping was generally good with Cardiff reached 4 minutes early and some set-down points likewise on the way home. Your editor particularly enjoyed thundering homeward through Hampshire at 75mph beneath a perfect spring sunset, infused with the sensory accompaniment of English Electric diesel-electric kit working flat-out!

Historical data

The train was formed thus: 60118-60501-69337-70262-60529-60116, with motor coach 60118 Tunbridge Wells leading upon departure from Hastings.

The publicity leaflet and timings remain available. The actual running times have also been published.

Cab video footage

We mounted a new (GoPro) unattended forward-facing camera in the cab and recorded significant chunks of the route. Our drivers were being conducted over the route resulting in a near-constant exchange of information in the leading cab; precisely synchronised sound recorded elsewhere in the train (vestibule of leading car, or the rear cab) has been used instead in the first two clips below, with no soundtrack on the others. We hope you like the resulting footage!

[PHOTO: YouTube capture: 32.8kB]

Above: Salisbury towards Trowbridge (9m21s) with audio from vestibule of leading car

[PHOTO: YouTube capture: 49.1kB]

Above: Cardiff towards Newport (12m58s) with audio from rear cab


Various photographers have taken video-footage depicting this railtour and have uploaded it to YouTube; the following are links to some starting-points but do not represent a definitive collection:


[PHOTO: Train in distance: 76kB]

Above: On this pretty spring Saturday morning, our 1957-vintage train negotiates the curve off the Guildford branch to arrive at Woking.

[PHOTO: Trains and signal-box at station: 57kB]

Above: The old signal-box at Woking provides a fitting architectural echo of a bygone era as our train waits in platform 5; the traincrew changed ends (as they had done at Redhill) to proceed towards Basingstoke and Salisbury.

[PHOTO: On-board view of bridge over tracks: 61kB]

Above & below: West of Basingstoke is Worting Junction, where Up trains from the Southampton direction cross over the Salisbury lines by means of this enormous skew steel-girder bridge at Battledown Flyover. Our train passed beneath it on our way towards Andover.

[PHOTO: Train passing beneath bridge: 58kB]

[PHOTO: Cathedral spire plus train: 46kB]

Above: This imposing view shows the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, with 1001 accelerating away from the station in the foreground; the photo is courtesy of Wilson Hill. After Salisbury we turned right at Wilton Junction to follow the Wessex Main Line all the way through Westbury and Bath to just outside Bristol Temple Meads.

[PHOTO: Bridge over railway and river: 74kB]

Above: The Dundas Aqueduct is well over 200 years old and carries the Kennet & Avon Canal over the River Avon and the Wessex Main Line—the latter of course arriving some 50 years later in 1857 and having to be worked beneath the canal by Brunel.

[PHOTO: Train under stone bridges, seen from train: 58kB]

Above: A look back at a HST which passed us in the picturesque Sydney Gardens section just east of Bath. Our train was also photographed here in preservation in June 1997.

[PHOTO: Train in countryside: 105kB]

Above: 1001 passes Pilning on its descent into the deep cutting which leads to the Severn Tunnel and Wales. Photo by David Tutton.

[PHOTO: Railway track and tunnels: 75kB]

Above: On the steady falling gradient our train approaches the Severn Tunnel (4 miles 628 yards); in the foreground is the considerably shorter Ableton Lane Tunnel (97 yards).

[PHOTO: Train in suburbs: 68kB]

Above: Just a mile from our destination of Cardiff Central station is Splott, where Kelvin Lumb photographed the DEMU as it passed.

[PHOTO: Train in countryside: 95kB]

Above: On our return journey three-and-a-half hours later, Kelvin Lumb selected another suitable vantage-point to capture the passage of our train: Duffryn, on the approach to Newport. Motor coach 60116 Mountfield is leading.

[PHOTO: Railway track, signal and bridge: 71kB]

Above: The sticking horn-valve on motor coach Mountfield necessitated our train being turned round on the Maindee triangle immediately east of Newport station. This was the view from the rear of the train at Maindee North Junction as the traincrew changed ends; the wrong-road signal is cleared to take us over the Hereford Loop to Maindee East Junction to resume our intended route.

[PHOTO: Train in sunshine: 71kB]

Above: Our industry partners at GBRf moved quickly to work around the difficulty and soon had our train making good time—so good in fact that we were back on time before reaching Salisbury. Our own technical staff were also hard at work to ensure our train could reverse as booked at Woking some three hours hence: in fact they had fixed the faulty horn-valve even by the time David Tutton photographed us here at Pilning, as we climbed out of the Severn Tunnel!

[PHOTO: Evening meal on the train: 53kB]

Above: None of this unduly concerned our passengers, of whom those in Club Class settled down to a fine evening meal which also included dessert and refills of wine.

[PHOTO: Train in station at dusk: 54kB]

Above: As twilight fell, the railtour reached Woking where the traincrew once again changed ends as scheduled, taking the train to Guildford, Redhill and on to home territory via Tonbridge to Hastings.

Further photos