When was the final cull of sleeper services down to their current scope?

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ainsworth74

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So as I'm sure most of us are aware there are still sleeper services in the UK. Three trains serving six destinations (the Night Riviera linking London and Penzance, the Lowland linking London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the Highland linking London to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen) are the remains of what was once a very extensive network of sleeper services crisscrossing the country. Now I had had in my head that by the end of the 80s and into the early 90s the pattern that we now have had basically been established and the only remaining significant service outside of that pattern was a Edinburgh to Plymouth cross-country sleeper which eventually got killed off at privatisation. However studying my May to October 1989 GB Timetable reveals that that image in my head was extremely inaccurate.

Take for instance departures from Euston (no Kings Cross sleepers by now, indeed there's a lovely note advising that there is now the "added convenience of leaving from just one station: Euston") on Sunday to Friday nights:
EUS SuF.png
(Image shows nine departures from Euston between 2100 and 2359 serving range of destinations including three trains to Glasgow, two to Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and one each to Stranraer, Fort William, Carlisle, Manchester and Liverpool)

Needless to say the very early arrivals at somewhere like Carlisle or Liverpool have an accompanying note to indicate you can remain in berths until a slightly more civilised hour! In the reverse direction there are even two further services to Euston one from Holyhead (and independent train) and Barrow (which joins at Stafford with sleeper cars from Liverpool and seats from Manchester) that don't have sleepers to them from Euston meaning even more sleeper services located around Euston.

Then there's all the Saturday night sleepers to/from Euston to boot which is something that's long gone now with sleepers very much being a Sunday to Friday night operation these days:
EUS SO.png
(Image shows eight departures between 2000 and 2359 serving a range of destinations including two trains to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and one train to Carlisle, Liverpool and Manchester)

As previous very early arrivals include provision to remain in berths until a more reasonable hour and in the reverse direction there are a similar number of services to Euston (including Holyhead but not Barrow). The 2205 from Euston taking over twelve hours to get Aberdeen/Inverness caused me to pause for a moment and looking at it's schedule it's allowed three hours and forty minutes between Preston and Carstairs compared to two and a half hours of it's weekday equivalent. Perhaps they're going via the Cumbrian Coast during this timetable? In any event Euston must have been a hive of activity for sleeper services seven days a week from around 2000 until close to midnight at this period!

I have to say that I found it remarkable that as late as 1989 there were still dedicated sleeper only train to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh with no portion working at all and indeed all of them saw more than one sleeper service per night (though the extra usually conveyed portions of one description or another). Stranraer still being a survivor was also quite eye opening!

Turning to our other remaining London terminus that saw sleepers then and continues to see them now (Paddington) the Night Riviera is there and happily running seven nights a week compared to the usual six nights that it does now. It also still drops off a portion in Plymouth meaning that passengers in 1989 get to remain with their berths until 0800 (rather than getting kicked out 0510ish) or can join their berths at 2200 (rather than having to loiter around until the train leaves Plymouth shortly before midnight)!

But of far more interest, at least to my sleeper starved eyes, are the other services which still exist as late as 1989 which do not serve London at all. The previously mentioned South West to Scotland sleeper remains a seven day a week operation at this time:

PLY.png
(Image shows Plymouth to Glasgow/Edinburgh sleeper service including Saturday night only extension for service to start back from Penzance)

One of those services firmly in the "wouldn't it be nice if" category today! The Saturday night extension back from Penzance was interesting as I don't think I'd ever realised it had extended beyond Plymouth. The reverse direction is similar of course but the extension to Penzance is on the Friday night departures from Scotland so arriving on Saturday morning (which of course neatly puts the stock in the right place to go north again that evening!).

The eye may be drawn to the long wait at Birmingham New Street on every day except Saturday where it goes straight through with just a five minute station call. Well, that's to allow the for a portion to be joined from Poole:

POO.png
(Image shows Poole to Birmingham New Street section of service)

Quite a remarkable service to think about and surely this portion must have died off before very much longer and indeed before the rest of the service was binned in the mid-90s as surely it was only carrying fresh air most days?

The final surprise is that as late as 1989 there were still internal Scottish sleepers! Something which I was certain had surely been consigned to the rubbish skip of history by 1989 but here we are, seven days per week:
Scot.png
(Image shows sleepers from Edinburgh/Glasgow Q Street to Perth where they combine and run onto Inverness)

It's also worth knowing that northbound only on Sunday to Thursday nights there were also sleeping cars conveyed on the Glasgow Queen Street portion through to Aberdeen. I'm struggling to work out what that was all about unless it was someway of trying shuffle stock around but otherwise seems an even more bizarre exercise than the fact that there were any internal sleepers still in Scotland as late as 1989! If you'd ask me before this I'd have thought they'd all gone extinct by the early 80s!!

Anyway, hopefully the above will at least be of interest (please do let me know if so, I've sunk more time than I really should into this post :lol:) but to come back to my opening question, considering that as late as 1989 there was a very extensive network of sleeper services (though admittedly smaller than it had been historically) when was the purge? When did the change happen to remove sleepers to places like Manchester, Liverpool and Stranraer? When did we go from two or three services per night to/from the major Scottish cities (including some sleeping car only direct services) down to the current two trains conveying portions only? If it really did happen between 1989 and the mid-90s it must have been one heck of a cull in a very short space of time! Did it get remarked on at all at the time? Or was this lost to either the white heat of privatisation gripping the industry and press or was it lost to the reality, I'd guess, that most of them were very quiet most of the time?
 
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JonathanH

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The current arrangements for the Scottish sleepers date back to this decision in 1995 connected to privatisation.

I seem to recall that British Rail put a load of odd moves in end-of-the-day services around Glasgow to avoid the need for closure procedures on the curves only used by the West Highland sleeper.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/deerstalker-express-is-saved-1600931.html

`Deerstalker express' is saved
Christian Wolmar, John Arlidge
Wednesday 13 September 1995 23:02

The "deerstalker express", the sleeper train linking London with Fort William in the Highlands, which has been under threat for the past year, is to be permanently reprieved.

The new rail franchising director, Roger Salmon who announced last December that the service would not be subsidised, has been forced to retreat in the face of a court judgement and intense political pressure. Today, he will announce the passenger service requirement - the level of service which he is prepared to subsidise - for five of the operators being prepared for privatisation: East Coast Main Line, Scotrail, Midland Main Line, Gatwick Express and Network South Central.

He will say that the six nights a week service will be retained. However, it will have just two coaches because it will be run as part of the London/Inverness/Aberdeen sleeper. It will be disconnected at Edinburgh and will arrive two hours later, at 10.30 am, at Fort William.

Mr Salmon is prepared to put in pounds 700,000 per year to subsidise the service, which is only enough to pay for two carriages attached to the other train. The West Highland service was omitted from the draft passenger service requirement for Scotrail because Mr Salmon argued that it lost around pounds 2.5m a year which could not be justified for around 14,600 passengers. Mr Salmon's retreat is a triumph for Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland who been lobbying strongly for the service.
 

Helvellyn

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I think the recession of the early 1990s helped kill off some of the Sleeper services. My recollection is that by this time services had settled down to be:
  • The Night Caledonian - Euston to Glasgow
  • The Night Scotsman - Euston to Edinburgh
  • The Night Aberdonian - Euston to Aberdeen
  • The Royal Highlander - Euston to Inverness
  • The Night West Highlander - Euston to Fort William
  • The Night Westcountryman - Edinburgh to Plymouth
  • The Night Riveria - Paddington to Penzance
Only the Night Scotsman retained seated accommodation on the West Coast at least.

I think the Night Westcountryman ran with the sleepers attached to a loco-hauled day rake (RFB+5 TSOs+BG).

Motorail was on all services bar the Night Scotsman, Night West Highlander and possibly the Night Westcountryman.

The Night Scotsman had a portion that was detached (Down)/attached (Up) at Carlisle.

The Night Riveria had a portion that was attached (Up)/detached (Down) at Plymouth.

In the run up to privatisation the West Coast sleepers were transferred to ScotRail, motorail was withdrawn and there was an attempt to withdraw the Fort William service too. This is partly what, I believe, was behind.combining them into Lowlander/Highlander services.

The Night Westcountryman went because it didn't really fit in any franchise, plus from a political point of view it was less critical. Scottish Sleeper withdrawal was too controversial whilst Cornwall was too for the Tories in the run up to the 1997 election.
 

gg1

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The Night Westcountryman went because it didn't really fit in any franchise, plus from a political point of view it was less critical.

Surely it would have been no worse or no better a fit for Scotrail as the London bound sleepers were?

I agree with your second point though.
 

JonathanH

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  • The Royal Highlander - Euston to Inverness
  • The Night West Highlander - Euston to Fort William
The Night West Highlander was a portion of the Royal Highlander during this period, presumably detached at Mossend.
 

30907

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There was a surplus of Mk3 sleepers by then so I suspect
- the Glasgow-Aberdeen one-way sleeper was one way of getting revenue at little expense (the Perth-Aberdeen train was already there)
- the Poole service was an attempt to improve the economics of the Westcountryman which was struggling with reduced Rosyth-Plymouth traffic (which then disappeared altogether before privatisation, rendering it hopelessly uneconomic).

Worth pointing out that there was still significant parcels traffic on overnight trains then IIRC.
 

Mag_seven

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I'm sure that the plan for the ECML sleepers was that they were to revert to Kings Cross after the ECML was electrified - in the end it didn't happen so places like Berwick and Newcastle lost their services completely as a result.
 

Bald Rick

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  • The Night Caledonian - Euston to Glasgow
  • The Night Scotsman - Euston to Edinburgh
  • The Night Aberdonian - Euston to Aberdeen
  • The Royal Highlander - Euston to Inverness
  • The Night West Highlander - Euston to Fort William
  • The Night Westcountryman - Edinburgh to Plymouth
  • The Night Riveria - Paddington to Penzance

That is my recollection of services from 92/3. Possibly the Poole service was still running then but the grey matter can’t remember!

@ainsworth74 - of course none of these trains ex Euston were as long as we have now, even with the Motorail vans. I think the allocation of resources in readiness for privatisation brought home how much the sleepers actually cost, and that’s when services started being combined for the trunk haul.

Also around then some of the papers / parcels traffic started disappearing, which shortened the trains further.
 

Cowley

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I did a few of the sleepers in Scotland in the 90s and both trains from Aberdeen and Inverness were long. A pair of 37s, a generator car, numerous sleeping cars, some seated coaches and something like three Motorail vans to make up about 16 coaches.
All well loaded from what I remember too.
I guess cheap internal flights were starting to bite around then too though, or was that a bit later?
 

Bald Rick

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I did a few of the sleepers in Scotland in the 90s and both trains from Aberdeen and Inverness were long. A pair of 37s, a generator car, numerous sleeping cars, some seated coaches and something like three Motorail vans to make up about 16 coaches.
All well loaded from what I remember too.
I guess cheap internal flights were starting to bite around then too though, or was that a bit later?

Hmm, now you say it, there would have been one or two longer trains. Platforms at Euston that could take them were the issue.

Ryanair ran its first London (Stansted) - ‘Glasgow’ (Prestwick) Flight in September ‘95, Easyjet followed two months later with Luton - Glasgow (proper) and Luton - Edinburgh. And UK travel changed forever.
 

Cowley

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Hmm, now you say it, there would have been one or two longer trains. Platforms at Euston that could take them were the issue.

Ryanair ran its first London (Stansted) - ‘Glasgow’ (Prestwick) Flight in September ‘95, Easyjet followed two months later with Luton - Glasgow (proper) and Luton - Edinburgh. And UK travel changed forever.

Interesting stuff BR.
I must admit that I don’t even know where or how the cars were unloaded back then?
My stepbrother was at Uni in Aberdeen in those days so I made numerous pilgrimages up there to see him. I do remember that he flew up there a couple of times though and it was just starting to take off (so sorry about the pun :oops:).
I suppose looking back at it things were on the cusp of changing...
 

Helvellyn

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That is my recollection of services from 92/3. Possibly the Poole service was still running then but the grey matter can’t remember!

@ainsworth74 - of course none of these trains ex Euston were as long as we have now, even with the Motorail vans. I think the allocation of resources in readiness for privatisation brought home how much the sleepers actually cost, and that’s when services started being combined for the trunk haul.

Also around then some of the papers / parcels traffic started disappearing, which shortened the trains further.
I have an old poster somewhere of the Royal Highlander on the Highland Mainline - 2x37s, Mk 1 generator car, Mk 1 BG, seven sleepers, lounge car and 5 motorail vans - 17 vehicles in all (including locos). Ditching motorail would have automatically lost some traffic allowing some sleepers to also go from the formation, probably two based on 15 cars not being carried that would have been a mix of couples and families (1 SLEP + 1 SLE would have removed 25 berths, or a maximum of 50 beds but 15 car loads of families of four would have been 60 people).
 

JonathanH

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I have an old poster somewhere of the Royal Highlander on the Highland Mainline - 2x37s, Mk 1 generator car, Mk 1 BG, seven sleepers, lounge car and 5 motorail vans - 17 vehicles in all (including locos). Ditching motorail would have automatically lost some traffic allowing some sleepers to also go from the formation, probably two based on 15 cars not being carried that would have been a mix of couples and families (1 SLEP + 1 SLE would have removed 25 berths, or a maximum of 50 beds but 15 car loads of families of four would have been 60 people).
Here is a picture found using a search on flickr


Looks like 2x37 - Brake Van - 6 sleepers - lounge car - 2 Mk2 seated coaches - Brake Van - 3 Mototrail vans

Your own postings 11 years ago in this thread are also useful including a video of the Aberdeen sleeper - amazing how long that train is having been on an Aberdeen service more recently that was only four coaches north of Edinburgh.
 
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Cowley

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Here is a picture found using a search on flickr


Looks like 2x37 - Brake Van - 6 sleepers - lounge car - 2 Mk2 seated coaches - Brake Van - 3 Mototrail vans

Your own postings 11 years ago in this thread are also useful including a video of the Aberdeen sleeper - amazing how long that train is having been on an Aberdeen service more recently that was only four coaches north of Edinburgh.

Wonderful photo.
What was happening up there got me out of bashing retirement, I did an all line in 94 to cover a load of these trains as nearly all of the 37s employed on those duties were ex freight nb locos, plus the Kyle and Oban lines had a resurgence of loco hauled service in the summer as well.
 

Cheshire Scot

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The final surprise is that as late as 1989 there were still internal Scottish sleepers! Something which I was certain had surely been consigned to the rubbish skip of history by 1989 but here we are, seven days per week:
Scot.png

(Image shows sleepers from Edinburgh/Glasgow Q Street to Perth where they combine and run onto Inverness)

It's also worth knowing that northbound only on Sunday to Thursday nights there were also sleeping cars conveyed on the Glasgow Queen Street portion through to Aberdeen. I'm struggling to work out what that was all about unless it was someway of trying shuffle stock around but otherwise seems an even more bizarre exercise than the fact that there were any internal sleepers still in Scotland as late as 1989! If you'd ask me before this I'd have thought they'd all gone extinct by the early 80s!!
There was a surplus of Mk3 sleepers by then so I suspect- the Glasgow-Aberdeen one-way sleeper was one way of getting revenue at little expense (the Perth-Aberdeen train was already there)
Historically the internal sleepers to/from Inverness only ran Monday to Friday nights plus a single sleeping car working south on a Sunday afternoon to work a Sunday evening Glasgow only to Inverness on a Sunday night with no balancing southbound overnight train - interestingly that Sunday night northbound train also conveyed a staffed RMB which had worked south on the same train as the empty sleeping car. I don't recall when the Saturday night and remaining legs for Sunday night were added.

I am pretty sure the Glasgow to Aberdeen was added before Mk3 sleepers started to become available. I believe it was mainly aimed at offshore workers heading for early flights out of Dyce (hence one way only) who were presumably already travelling on the 23.30 from Qn St and catching the 01.05 from Perth, and with the ScR in Mk1 sleeper days having 5 x SLC allocated but only 4 used, I assume they then had 5 x SLEP and decide to use the fifth, perhaps on the basis both Craigentinny and Polmadie would hold at least on spare SLEP for ECML/WCML services which could be borrowed if need be whereas with Mk1s there were very few SLCs on Anglo-Scottish workings - and most of these on the West Country service (for some reason the bulk of the WR sleeper fleet were SLC whilst ER and LMR were predominantly SLF and SLS)

I seem to recall that British Rail put a load of odd moves in end-of-the-day services around Glasgow to avoid the need for closure procedures on the curves only used by the West Highland sleeper.
At the time the withdrawal of the FW sleeper was proposed it took the east/west curve at Cowlairs in one direction and the line between Springburn and Cowlairs in the other, in both cases the only passenger train on the route and some contrived services were to be created to avoid the need to propose closure.

Hmm, now you say it, there would have been one or two longer trains. Platforms at Euston that could take them were the issue.
I recall platforms 1 & 2 were favoured for sleeper arrivals, and of course there were far fewer early daytime 'InterCity' arrivals than in more recent years. And of course Mk1s were about 2m per vehicle shorter than Mk5s, BGS and GUVs a further 2 metres shorter so a train of say 14 seated/sleeper coaches plus a BG on each end (16) would be around 36m shorter than today's formations.

Were Motorail GUVs loaded in parcels docks then attached front ex Euston (detached rear on arrival)? For many years the Highlander conveyed motorail GUVs Crewe to Inverness.

The Glasgow/Edinburgh to Bristol with Mk1s ran with load 16 - 7 including 3 sleepers Edinburgh, and 9 inc. 4 sleepers Glasgow (except on summer Friday nights when both portions had extra seated vehicles and ran independently), an increase of two from the days when it terminated at Birmingham. I don't recall whether it extended to Plymouth with Mk1s or if Mk3s were in use by then, nor whether it continued to run with 16 with Mk3s.
 
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WesternLancer

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So as I'm sure most of us are aware there are still sleeper services in the UK. Three trains serving six destinations (the Night Riviera linking London and Penzance, the Lowland linking London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the Highland linking London to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen) are the remains of what was once a very extensive network of sleeper services crisscrossing the country. Now I had had in my head that by the end of the 80s and into the early 90s the pattern that we now have had basically been established and the only remaining significant service outside of that pattern was a Edinburgh to Plymouth cross-country sleeper which eventually got killed off at privatisation. However studying my May to October 1989 GB Timetable reveals that that image in my head was extremely inaccurate.

Take for instance departures from Euston (no Kings Cross sleepers by now, indeed there's a lovely note advising that there is now the "added convenience of leaving from just one station: Euston") on Sunday to Friday nights:
View attachment 92341
(Image shows nine departures from Euston between 2100 and 2359 serving range of destinations including three trains to Glasgow, two to Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and one each to Stranraer, Fort William, Carlisle, Manchester and Liverpool)

Needless to say the very early arrivals at somewhere like Carlisle or Liverpool have an accompanying note to indicate you can remain in berths until a slightly more civilised hour! In the reverse direction there are even two further services to Euston one from Holyhead (and independent train) and Barrow (which joins at Stafford with sleeper cars from Liverpool and seats from Manchester) that don't have sleepers to them from Euston meaning even more sleeper services located around Euston.

Then there's all the Saturday night sleepers to/from Euston to boot which is something that's long gone now with sleepers very much being a Sunday to Friday night operation these days:
View attachment 92342
(Image shows eight departures between 2000 and 2359 serving a range of destinations including two trains to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and one train to Carlisle, Liverpool and Manchester)

As previous very early arrivals include provision to remain in berths until a more reasonable hour and in the reverse direction there are a similar number of services to Euston (including Holyhead but not Barrow). The 2205 from Euston taking over twelve hours to get Aberdeen/Inverness caused me to pause for a moment and looking at it's schedule it's allowed three hours and forty minutes between Preston and Carstairs compared to two and a half hours of it's weekday equivalent. Perhaps they're going via the Cumbrian Coast during this timetable? In any event Euston must have been a hive of activity for sleeper services seven days a week from around 2000 until close to midnight at this period!

I have to say that I found it remarkable that as late as 1989 there were still dedicated sleeper only train to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh with no portion working at all and indeed all of them saw more than one sleeper service per night (though the extra usually conveyed portions of one description or another). Stranraer still being a survivor was also quite eye opening!

Turning to our other remaining London terminus that saw sleepers then and continues to see them now (Paddington) the Night Riviera is there and happily running seven nights a week compared to the usual six nights that it does now. It also still drops off a portion in Plymouth meaning that passengers in 1989 get to remain with their berths until 0800 (rather than getting kicked out 0510ish) or can join their berths at 2200 (rather than having to loiter around until the train leaves Plymouth shortly before midnight)!

But of far more interest, at least to my sleeper starved eyes, are the other services which still exist as late as 1989 which do not serve London at all. The previously mentioned South West to Scotland sleeper remains a seven day a week operation at this time:

View attachment 92345
(Image shows Plymouth to Glasgow/Edinburgh sleeper service including Saturday night only extension for service to start back from Penzance)

One of those services firmly in the "wouldn't it be nice if" category today! The Saturday night extension back from Penzance was interesting as I don't think I'd ever realised it had extended beyond Plymouth. The reverse direction is similar of course but the extension to Penzance is on the Friday night departures from Scotland so arriving on Saturday morning (which of course neatly puts the stock in the right place to go north again that evening!).

The eye may be drawn to the long wait at Birmingham New Street on every day except Saturday where it goes straight through with just a five minute station call. Well, that's to allow the for a portion to be joined from Poole:

View attachment 92346
(Image shows Poole to Birmingham New Street section of service)

Quite a remarkable service to think about and surely this portion must have died off before very much longer and indeed before the rest of the service was binned in the mid-90s as surely it was only carrying fresh air most days?

The final surprise is that as late as 1989 there were still internal Scottish sleepers! Something which I was certain had surely been consigned to the rubbish skip of history by 1989 but here we are, seven days per week:
View attachment 92356
(Image shows sleepers from Edinburgh/Glasgow Q Street to Perth where they combine and run onto Inverness)

It's also worth knowing that northbound only on Sunday to Thursday nights there were also sleeping cars conveyed on the Glasgow Queen Street portion through to Aberdeen. I'm struggling to work out what that was all about unless it was someway of trying shuffle stock around but otherwise seems an even more bizarre exercise than the fact that there were any internal sleepers still in Scotland as late as 1989! If you'd ask me before this I'd have thought they'd all gone extinct by the early 80s!!

Anyway, hopefully the above will at least be of interest (please do let me know if so, I've sunk more time than I really should into this post :lol:) but to come back to my opening question, considering that as late as 1989 there was a very extensive network of sleeper services (though admittedly smaller than it had been historically) when was the purge? When did the change happen to remove sleepers to places like Manchester, Liverpool and Stranraer? When did we go from two or three services per night to/from the major Scottish cities (including some sleeping car only direct services) down to the current two trains conveying portions only? If it really did happen between 1989 and the mid-90s it must have been one heck of a cull in a very short space of time! Did it get remarked on at all at the time? Or was this lost to either the white heat of privatisation gripping the industry and press or was it lost to the reality, I'd guess, that most of them were very quiet most of the time?
Excellent bit of research and interesting post in general. Thanks.
 

CW2

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I recall the pairs of 37s on the Scottish sleepers with some fondness. There were four locos which were repainted into Inter City livery which were supposed to be dedicated to those trains, namely 37505, 37510, 37683 and 37685. As Cowley says, it wasn't long before any old pair of NB 37s would get strung together, and if they worked OK they might stay on the train for several nights on the trot.
Early November 1993 I was en route to Stirling for a steam tour with 44871 over the Highland Main Line to Inverness. 37505 + 37510 were on the Aberdeen (which I did to Dundee then doubled back to Stirling for the tour) and 37683 + 37685 were on the Inverness. After an overnight at Inverness, the following (Sunday) morning we had 44871 south as far as Aviemore - but only after watching 37175 depart hauling a defective HST on the Kings Cross service. On arrival at Aviemore we had some time to kill before heading back to Inverness with 37431 to pick up the southbound sleeper. Meanwhile a southbound weekend Land Cruise came through - a full rake of raspberry ripple Mk 1 coaches with matching locos. Yes, they had taken 37683 + 37685 off the sleepers to work the land cruise, leaving us with whatever Inverness could cobble together for the run south. 37170 + 37251 was the answer. Excellent.
 

paul1609

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So as I'm sure most of us are aware there are still sleeper services in the UK. Three trains serving six destinations (the Night Riviera linking London and Penzance, the Lowland linking London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the Highland linking London to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen) are the remains of what was once a very extensive network of sleeper services crisscrossing the country. Now I had had in my head that by the end of the 80s and into the early 90s the pattern that we now have had basically been established and the only remaining significant service outside of that pattern was a Edinburgh to Plymouth cross-country sleeper which eventually got killed off at privatisation. However studying my May to October 1989 GB Timetable reveals that that image in my head was extremely inaccurate.
I was sent on the Plymouth to Edinburgh sleeper a couple of times when i first joined the Navy in 1990. The clientele was almost entirely Navy or MOD to the extent that there were ratings, officers and civilians coaches arranged to keep us apart and the berths were even allocated by branch for the ratings. it was a real party experience. However Rosyth Naval base (as opposed to the dockyard) started to close in 1993 and all the ships had moved elsewhere by 1996 so at a stroke the sleeper lost what I would estimate to be over 95% of its customers. I think this was why the service ended rather than rail privatisation tbh.
 

WesternLancer

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Can anyone comment on how well used the internal Scottish sleepers were? And did anyone bat an eyelid when they went?
You might have thought that with spare Mk3s or a run on Mk5 order, it could have been an SNP pledge to re-instate them...:lol:

I was sent on the Plymouth to Edinburgh sleeper a couple of times when i first joined the Navy in 1990. The clientele was almost entirely Navy or MOD to the extent that there were ratings, officers and civilians coaches arranged to keep us apart and the berths were even allocated by branch for the ratings. it was a real party experience. However Rosyth Naval base (as opposed to the dockyard) started to close in 1993 and all the ships had moved elsewhere by 1996 so at a stroke the sleeper lost what I would estimate to be over 95% of its customers. I think this was why the service ended rather than rail privatisation tbh.
V interesting to read that post Paul.

More broadly, you might have thought that the dynamic entrepreneurs of the private sector would have been able to rebuild that ex RN/MoD customer share with a burst of their entrepreneurial flair as the heady enthusiasm of rail privatisation got underway at around the same time....;)
 
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Cheshire Scot

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Can anyone comment on how well used the internal Scottish sleepers were? And did anyone bat an eyelid when they went?
I recall them being reasonably well used but seldom full, and sleep was not a problem.
In earlier discussion re your Fort George layout Isktra it crossed my mind that your fictional terminal might in addition to a sleeper from London perhaps have a much earlier sleeper arrival from Edinburgh. There was after all for many years the 01.00 without sleepers from Glasgow to Oban, so why not an overnight to Fort George.
The seating section was certainly well used by bashers!
In my experience the seated sections were well used by passengers with no railway interest - maybe the bashers came in their masses in the later years.
In general when travelling in a seated section of a sleeper service I found, unless travelling at a busy time like Fri or Sun night or some days in summer, most times it was possible to get full use of a compartment to myself but never on the internal Scottish services.

You might have thought that with spare Mk3s or a run on Mk5 order, it could have been an SNP pledge to re-instate them...:lol:
Within the last eighteen months or so there was a proposal to run a Thurso to Edinburgh overnight using Mk3s - I'm pretty sure there was thread on here - but in the end it was not taken forward.

I was sent on the Plymouth to Edinburgh sleeper a couple of times when i first joined the Navy in 1990. The clientele was almost entirely Navy or MOD to the extent that there were ratings, officers and civilians coaches arranged to keep us apart and the berths were even allocated by branch for the ratings. it was a real party experience. However Rosyth Naval base (as opposed to the dockyard) started to close in 1993 and all the ships had moved elsewhere by 1996 so at a stroke the sleeper lost what I would estimate to be over 95% of its customers. I think this was why the service ended rather than rail privatisation tbh.
I used to wonder why the Bristol got extended to Plymouth and guessed there might well have been a baseload of MOD Plymouth to Rosyth/Faslane clientele. I wonder did they previously travelled to Bristol to join it. When it was extended to Bristol it was still just about feasible as a Birmingham to Scotland service but the subsequent extension to Plymouth effectively removed it from the original market.
 

Iskra

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I was sent on the Plymouth to Edinburgh sleeper a couple of times when i first joined the Navy in 1990. The clientele was almost entirely Navy or MOD to the extent that there were ratings, officers and civilians coaches arranged to keep us apart and the berths were even allocated by branch for the ratings. it was a real party experience. However Rosyth Naval base (as opposed to the dockyard) started to close in 1993 and all the ships had moved elsewhere by 1996 so at a stroke the sleeper lost what I would estimate to be over 95% of its customers. I think this was why the service ended rather than rail privatisation tbh.
That's a very interesting and amusing post, thanks for sharing!

I recall them being reasonably well used but seldom full, and sleep was not a problem.
In earlier discussion re your Fort George layout Isktra it crossed my mind that your fictional terminal might in addition to a sleeper from London perhaps have a much earlier sleeper arrival from Edinburgh. There was after all for many years the 01.00 without sleepers from Glasgow to Oban, so why not an overnight to Fort George.
Thanks for the info! And, yes- great minds think alike- watch this space ;)
 

Cowley

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Can anyone comment on how well used the internal Scottish sleepers were? And did anyone bat an eyelid when they went?

I only did it once (1988 from Inverness to Glasgow), there was a loco change en route - I think we set off behind 47604 and arrived at Queen St behind 47644 (604 must have taken the Edinburgh portion forward). This was in early May and the train was pretty busy.
The heating was going full blast and it was too hot to sleep anywhere. We asked the guard if we could sleep in the BG on the mailbags with the windows open.
He said “Aye lads, nay bother” so we did, and we were so zonked out that we didn’t even notice when the train was split. :lol:
 

xotGD

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I only did it once (1988 from Inverness to Glasgow), there was a loco change en route - I think we set off behind 47604 and arrived at Queen St behind 47644 (604 must have taken the Edinburgh portion forward). This was in early May and the train was pretty busy.
The heating was going full blast and it was too hot to sleep anywhere. We asked the guard if we could sleep in the BG on the mailbags with the windows open.
He said “Aye lads, nay bother” so we did, and we were so zonked out that we didn’t even notice when the train was split. :lol:
So you missed the bit of the journey where you had a pair of Duffs working in tandem between Perth and Stirling. (Or had that practice ended by 88?)
 

Cowley

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So you missed the bit of the journey where you had a pair of Duffs working in tandem between Perth and Stirling. (Or had that practice ended by 88?)

I didn’t know that it happened that way, I just assumed they’d split at Perth?
 

MarlowDonkey

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Was there not also a proposal to run sleeper services through the Channel Tunnel? Didn't that get sufficiently far advanced that a set of coaches was built? I think they were called Nightstar and eventually sold to Canada without ever running in service in the UK.
 

WesternLancer

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Was there not also a proposal to run sleeper services through the Channel Tunnel? Didn't that get sufficiently far advanced that a set of coaches was built? I think they were called Nightstar and eventually sold to Canada without ever running in service in the UK.
Yes, that's correct - I don't think the carriages were even completed before the project was put on hold and presumably UK govt sought a buyer for the stock. I have used them in Canada. In reality the case for them was undermined by EU flight deregulation c1995 as per up thread mention of Ryan air etc, but I think it was Prescott's ministerial tenure when the decision was finally taken to abandon the service proposals.

I guess it is fairly possible that if BR (and continental services) privatization had not happened before 1997, and Labour been genuinely interested in reversing it (rather than just pretending they might be) it would have been more likely that the services would have come to fruition given the money sunk into the project by that point.
 

geoffk

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I was sent on the Plymouth to Edinburgh sleeper a couple of times when i first joined the Navy in 1990. The clientele was almost entirely Navy or MOD to the extent that there were ratings, officers and civilians coaches arranged to keep us apart and the berths were even allocated by branch for the ratings. it was a real party experience. However Rosyth Naval base (as opposed to the dockyard) started to close in 1993 and all the ships had moved elsewhere by 1996 so at a stroke the sleeper lost what I would estimate to be over 95% of its customers. I think this was why the service ended rather than rail privatisation tbh.
The Plymouth - Edinburgh sleeper also picked up at Cheltenham (not shown on the OP's timetable) as I used it once in the 1980s when living in Gloucester and attending a conference in Stirling.
 
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