The Shambles 26/05/12

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317666

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As you can presumably tell by my username, I'm a big fan of the Class 317 EMUs, and when I was told a pair would be running on a railtour up to York I swiftly made sure I would be on board!

After dragging myself out of bed at 04:00 and walking to the station, I caught the 05:21 Cambridge - Liverpool Street. At the moment, on most Saturdays, there is engineering work in the Hackney Downs area, which results in West Anglia trains being diverted via Stratford. For me, it's brilliant when this happens as the usual 4-car 379s on Saturday Cambridge - Liverpool Street trains are replaced by pairs of 317s. In this case it was 317655+658, both of which are in full NXEA refurbished state (Polar bear livery with dark blue doors, 379-style seat covers and carpets). I made myself comfortable in 655's pantograph coach and settled down for the journey to Liverpool Street. On the way I noticed that 655's transformer makes a strange noise, as well as the usual buzz there's a sort of whining noise that's an octave higher, something I'd never heard before.

Anyway, after arriving at Liverpool Street a few minutes early, and stocking up with supplies from the nearby Tesco, it was time to head for Shenfield. I'm also a fan of Class 315s, and so decided to catch the 07:10 'Metro' service. This was 315809+835, 809 being the second of the class to be painted in Greater Anglia 'red doors' livery. (And also my favourite 315!) After an uneventful journey to Shenfield, it was time to wait for the tour.

This eventually pulled in, complete with headboard. I was disappointed to see both units were painted in red doors livery, as I don't think it suits the 317s very well (although at least it looks slightly similar to the old WAGN red doors livery that they were painted in after being refurbished back in 2000), although I was then delighted to see that one of the units was 317661, my last required /6 for haulage. Result! The other unit was 317672, the last-built 317.

After a few photos, I made a beeline for my seat in Coach B, 661's pantograph car. All windows were open, which not only was good for ventilation but for motor noise as well. The first leg of the journey to Stratford wasn't massively unusual, as fairly recently there was a daily 317/7 working up to Norwich and back in the evening peak. After we reached Stratford the train made its way onto the North London Line, which felt a lot slower than the line on a Class 378 (probably because we were stuck behind one!)

Somewhere near Canonbury (can't remember exactly where it was) we diverged from the NLL and travelled over the freight-only line to the ECML at Finsbury Park. One thing I didn't realise is that the line passes almost directly above Drayton Park station. Despite having used Drayton Park a few times I had never realised that there was a freight line right above it!

After a stop at Finsbury Park, where somebody got off despite having a ticket to York (they only used the tour to clear the line from the NLL to the ECML), the train continued up via the Hertford Loop, calling at Stevenage and Peterborough. After leaving Peterborough it was non-stop to York, allowing 317661+672 to really stretch their legs! The noise in the pantograph car was deafening, but also sounded absolutely brilliant. Whilst walking through the train I did notice some passengers looking rather unimpressed at how draughty and noisy the 317s are, perhaps they hadn't read the description of the railtour properly!

Eventually we reached York, and with ears ringing it was time for some photos, before filming the train depart into the sidings. It was then time for a quick visit to the NRM, and to stock up with more food for the journey back to Shenfield.

When it was time to leave York and start the return journey, I noticed after the doors closed a 'ding ding' on the bell from the guard. I had absolutely no idea that 317s even had driver-guard bells, or that they could even be crew-operated. Just goes to show you learn something new everyday!

The return journey was a bit more eventful, as we had to stop just north of Doncaster for a 91 from Leeds to go in front of us, and at one point there was some sudden Step 3 braking (could smell the dust and everything) and we were pulled over in Carlton loop for five or ten minutes. I'm not sure why, as nothing overtook us, but not to worry as we were soon on our way. After many hours of enjoying the traction motor scream we eventually got back to Shenfield a few minutes early, just as the sun was setting.

It was time to head home now, and once again I decided to do this by 315. This was the 21:14 from Shenfield which was 315804+839. So that was both of the 'red door' 315s in one day! I changed at Stratford for the 21:59 back to Cambridge, which was 317890+884, eventually walking through my front door at about half eleven.

Overall, it was a fabulous day, and I'd like to thank UKRailtours, GBRf and Greater Anglia for making it happen. It was also good to see that £10,000 had been raised for the Motor Neuron Disease Association, so not only was the £20 ticket price well worth it, it went to a good cause as well.

Photos from the day are on my flickr, the link of which is in my signature.
 
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Welshman

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A very enjoyable and interesting report.

As I was not familiar with the timings of this tour, could you possibly say how long it took to cover the Finsbury Park/Peterborough/York sections, and return. Thank you.
 

317666

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Outward: Finsbury Park 09:20, Peterborough 10:30, York 12:13. Those are the printed times I have in front of me but we did arrive in York at about 12:08.

Return: York 17:07, Peterborough 19:03, Finsbury Park 20:23. We left York a couple of minutes late and did lose time when we were pulled over in Carlton loop, but this meant that our booked stop in Claypole loop near Grantham was removed so we actually got to Peterborough a few minutes early.
 
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