The 'Flying Banana Railtour'
It was a marvellous day, a celebration of the wonderful service these trains have provided for nearly 43 years, which took in the majority of the routes and locations they have served in the West Country, Cotswolds, and South Wales to name but a few.
GWR did a really good job of making the day a memorable one, everyone one on board received a commemorative window sticker, a reservation label showing a different liveried class 43 for each coach, and a GWR Tote Bag containing a reproduction of the two 1976 BR official publications, "Inter-City 125 - It's the Changing Shape of Rail" and "Rail 125", along with a reproduction postcard featuring an Inter-City 125 set in Sonning Cutting in the 1970's. The best however, was a GWR booklet celebrating 18 May 19 the last day of service of the GWR HST's, with pictures taken throughout the day across the GWR network. It really was a lovely touch.
The timings were largely kept throughout the day until approaching Worcester Shrub Hill where a track fault caused 20 minutes of delays. Time was made up by restricting access to the platforms for photographs, and it enabled the schedule to be recovered.
The four legs for the day were:
1Z22 0524 Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington via Bath Spa, Chippenham, Swindon, Didcot Parkway and Reading - Arrived on time at London Paddington at 0706.
1Z23 0737 London Paddington to Camarthen via Reading, Didcot Parkway, Oxford, Charlbury, Moreton in Marsh, Worcester Shrub Hill, Hereford, Newport, Cardiff Central, Port Talbot Parkway and Llanelli) - Arrived 13 minutes late at Camarthen at 1343.
1Z24 1349 Camarthen to London Paddington via Swansea, Cardiff Central, Gloucester, Swindon, Didcot Parkway and Reading - Arrived 5 minutes early into Paddington at 1830.
1Z25 1857 London Paddington to Plymouth (non-stop) - Arrived 3 minutes early at 2200.
Notably the train achieving 127mph between Swindon and Didcot on the 1Z22 leg, with 43198 leading into Paddington.
Unfortunately, 43002 "Sir Kenneth Grange" developed an overheating alternator on the latter stages of the run back to Paddington from Camarthen, and was shutdown between Reading and Paddington, leaving 43198 to do all the work from the rear. We still attained 104mph on the run in to Paddington though.
On leaving London Paddington for the final time at 1859 (2 minutes late) we were on two power cars, but an announcement was made that we would be stopping at Taunton to enable an assessment of 43002's condition to be made. As a precaution the two standby power cars from Bristol St Phillips Marsh were being sent to Taunton, where a decision whether to couple them on and travel to Plymouth with 4 power cars would be made. Although a disappointment to break the non-stop aspect of the trip, a return to Plymouth with 4 power cars was an interesting prospect.
This leg also saw the final Pullman Dining service on an HST, which was fairly well patronised, and a chance too good to miss.
In the end, 43002 behaved, the spare power cars were not required, and we travelled non-stop for the entire journey, arriving at Plymouth (Platform 5) 3 minutes early at 2200, a run of 3 hours 1 minute.
Finally, after a brief stop at Plymouth, the empty coaching stock was hauled off to Laira, with the 5Z25 2241 Plymouth to Laira T&RSMD leaving 16 minutes early at 2224. As the set left for the last time, the people gathered to watch gave a round of applause...a fitting send off.
It truly was a wonderful day, and one I feel very privileged to have experienced.
Hopefully the photos attached will be of interest to your members and followers of the website. Needless to say these are just a small number of the several hundred I took on the day!!
Kind Regards. Dave Field. Many thanks David
1895-1900. The engine is of the 1901 class; these were light and ideally suited for the china clay branches. Rebuilt as pannier tanks, some survived at SBZ shed until 1950-51.
The section of the signal box shown is the western end extension, added in 1893 following the gauge conversion.
The engine is standing on the branch platform. Notice the lightly-laid track (the branch -Cornwall Minerals Railway- had never been broad gauge). Compare with the bullhead rail of the main line, visible background right. In the foreground is some old-style point rodding. Point rods were painted red in those days.