Steam Dreams: The Cathedrals Express. 4th, 6th & 8th Oct. 2018, a six leg tour taking 60103 Flying Scotsman to the farthest reaches of the GWR South West network, ably assisted by last minute substitute 5MT 44871 (for 61306 Mayflower) plus 47760 for return workings. The mouth-watering prospect of this tour did not disappoint as these two unlikely partners raised the echoes whilst doing battle with Great Western metals through Somerset, Devon and eventually meeting their match on a slippery hill in Cornwall.
Day 1 leg 1: from Theale to Taunton reaches Athelney on the Somerset Levels as the thick fog of the early morning is on the retreat. The view of the track from Windmill Hill, Curload is just about acceptable as we repeat a shot of a few years ago of distant views as far as Cogload and a dramatic pass at track-level and although 47760 is attached to the rear it is not contributing.
Note: the angle of the half-barrier crossing gives an impression of trespassing, however the camera is safely positioned on the road markings of the non-barrier side.
Day 1 leg 2: from Taunton to Plymouth would reach our next viewpoints of Tigley and Rattery Banks after sunset although the passing airliner, with maybe an adult male from north of the border “flying” (think about it!) is still in bright sunlight, however, there is enough light to witness a truly spectacular show from both locomotives and crews (see the fireman hard at work on FS between 5:45 & 5:55) with the fires beginning to reflect in the exhaust and this time with 47760 sent on ahead. As the train disappears into the dusk we are reminded that the farmers’ day finishes only when the work is done!
Day 2 leg 3: from Plymouth to Penzance because of forecast heavy rain I skipped this leg and missed 60103 piloting 47760, so we pick up the action again in the afternoon for …..
Day 2 leg 4: from Plymouth to Par featuring the climb from St Germans to Trerulefoot in incredible visibility as we zoom out in glorious evening sunlight from the tower of St Michael’s Church, Landrake about three miles away. The climb is a severe test at the best of times but now after the earlier rain and gale force northerly winds shaking the autumn leaves onto the track things quickly become problematic. The train is struggling to gain any momentum as it rounds the curve from St Germans’ Station and by the distant sounds, almost drowned out by the rustling leaves, it is clear that 44871 is again double-heading with 60103 on the front. Despite this, 47760 is called into action to get things going again as evidenced by the strong diesel exhaust. The train slowly picks up speed and although 44871 is doing “her bit”, 60103 like most Pacifics, is finding it hard to maintain traction until it eventually clears the trees and starts to contribute to the combined effort. The subsequent zoom and pan here was spoiled by the late re-positioning of two onlookers during filming, an unfortunate phenomenon that seems to accompany “Scotsman” runs, requiring a lot of video modification and loss of quality in order to keep them out of shot. The high positioning of the second camera puts a little bit of “visual” to the acoustics of the two locos as they head away to Trerulefoot on an easing gradient.
Day 3 leg 5: from Plymouth to Exeter is captured in very flat light at Powderham on the Exe Estuary as the train rounds the bend under the pedestrian bridge, powering past and away towards the Exminster “straight” where in steam days the locos could have picked up water “on the go” from the Exminster water troughs, all an ever distant memory now. “Scotsman” in the role of "pilot" has little to do along here and lets the “5” do most of the work!
Day 3 leg 6: from Exeter to Bristol captured as the pair attack Whiteball after a standing start out of Tiverton “Up” loop and pass Pugham Farm foot crossing. 60103 is working hard now and they make a fine sight and sound as the pair disappear towards Burlescombe and that bit of luck with the timing of the Down service finishes off what must go down as a highly successful series of runs in the Westcountry.
Many thanks and congratulations to all involved.