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About Summiteer

~The Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express~

26th January 2013

Heavy snowfall fell in the north of England on the night of Friday 25th, would we be able to get to the station? Will the train be in the right place (after the derailment in Salford, three days earlier)? Are both engines in the mood? The weakest link will break the chain, fingers were firmly crossed.

Oliver Cromwell

Winter CME from 11th Feb 2012

The bait. Why should I always be the spectator? Last year we booked on a trip in May, but it was cancelled. When The Railway Touring Company listed their winter programme, I spotted a gem. The first run of the season was to be a Double-Headed Black 5 - hauled, Cumbrian Mountain Express up the West Coast Mainline and then back via the Settle & Carlisle. All we needed was a little snow and two "in-form" crews and engines, is that too much to ask for?

Scroll down for photos and a description of the day....

Blackburn Railway Station

Blackburn Railway Station

At least four inches of snow fell on Friday night. We had to get to Blackburn for a connecting train to Preston. I was up at 05:00hrs checking the rail news on t'internet and then clearing snow off the car. We arrived at a dark Blackburn Station in good time for the 07:16 for Preston.

Preston Station

Here Comes The Train

The charter train started at Manchester Victoria, then picked up at Bolton and arrived in Preston a few minutes later than scheduled. As this was an extra-special event, we'd booked First Class at a price of .... well quite a lot!

First Class Travel Table Furniture
First Class Service
Table Stuff

The plush carriage even had a wall-papered ceiling. Waiters served drinks and snacks. All passengers received a tour programme. We are being pulled by two Black 5 Engines, Nos. 44871 and 45497. Both owned by Ian Riley and based at Bury. Does this help to explain my visit to The East Lancashire Railway last week? Remember this one?

Black 5 No.44871

No. 44871 at Bury - The Leading Engine on Today's Train

At Carnforth

Watering at Carnforth

If you are on the train, it is not too easy to see the train (obviously!) All doors with drop-down windows were occupied by seasoned travellers and some went to great lengths to protect themselves from soot and the effect of cold, rushing air:



Anywhere else, he'd be arrested and locked up on suspicion of planning some devious act of malevolance.

The Natland Express

Passing Natland, South Cumbria

Nth of Oxenholme

North of Oxenholme

Well, if you can't be at the lineside, employ some Special Agents! Don and Nicola read my appeal on The Natland Blog for any contributions - the above two photos were taken at roughly the same time, but from different sides of the track.

Steaming to Grayrigg

Near Grayrigg

Grayrigg Steam

Passing Red?

No, red is for the siding, we're green for "line clear". I was ready for the Grayrigg curves, an opportunity to see the engines from the train. I was really looking forward to taking a photo of Lowgill Viaduct on the old Sedbergh line.

The Lune Gorge

The Lune Gorge

The wind direction (NW) pushed the exhaust steam and smoke across my view of the Lowgill Viaduct, so no photo this time. However, by the time we entered the Lune Gorge, we had great views up to Tebay, with Jeffrey's Mount on the left and Howgill Fells on the right.

To Shap

Approaching Shap

Shap is the summit of the West Coast Main Line and at 916ft above sea level represents a significant climb for steam engines. Our "5's" made it look easy. I will offer links at the foot of the page and you too can watch the train head over Shap!

Shap Wells

Fantastic Location!

Penrith Black Fives

Racing Through Penrith

Carlisle Station Steam Engines

Carlisle Railway Station

Soon enough we arrive at Carlisle, our destination. Everyone hurried off the train to go and look at the engines, so we crossed over to the other platform, where everyone else was and had a look at these triumphant legends of the "steam era". The headboard is a bit of a mystery to me, maybe they couldn't find "The Cumbrian Mountain Express" board.

Reversing Engines

Reversing Engines

The train comprised two engines, a support coach (seen here), 10 carriages and a Class 47 diesel brought up the rear. I believe it is not unusual for such a train to have a diesel in tow - maybe it's providing the heating, maybe it's just insurance against any type of engine failure at the front end. At Carlisle, the engines can use a triangle of track to turn around and face forward again for the return trip.


The Border Town's Main Street

We found a good pub in Carlisle for a beer and a light lunch.

Peter and Harry

Peter & Harry

Two of my travelling companions. My brother and Harry are "old" school friends and collectively know a vast amount about trains and railways. Heritage diesel loco's, especially Class 40's are their favourite.

Carlisle Station

Resting in Carlisle Station

Lots of photographers were busy at the station.

Rail Photographers

A Troop of Rail Photographers - 3 names so far ...

The black-jacketed enthusiast is Ruairidh MacVeigh, the bright blue coat belongs to "Cazdeltic" (Callum?) and the chap third from the left is Allan McKever and he took the following two photos:

Black 5's at Carlisle

44871 and 45407 at Carlisle

Departing Carlisle

Departing Carlisle at 14:30hrs

And so begins the trip south over England's most scenic railway line - the Settle & Carlisle. It is true that I had now surrendered a window seat and thus was less likely to take photos. However, enjoy the next few photos, there's still plenty to see....

Train at Cumwhinton

Charles Little's photo at Cumwhinton

Isn't that a fantastic scene and wonderful photograph?

Langwathby Train

Near Langwathby

Watering at Appleby

Taking Water at Appleby

Passengers had time to disembark and have a look around Appleby Railway Station.

The Engines at Appleby

Engines at Appleby

Soon enough, we're on the move again. Photo opportunties strictly limited as the weather closed in on the impressive climb to Ais Gill. Hundreds of photographers welcomed the train at Ais Gill summit, again refer to the links down below.

Passing Greengate

Black Fives 44871 and 45407 head past Greengate (just south of Kirkby Stephen) in rapidly deteriorating weather and light, by David Horner. Note the rods in tandem, both down in this photograph.

Arten Gill Blea Moor Signal Box
Arten Gill
Blea Moor Signal Box

Crossing Ribblehead Viaduct

Ribblehead Viaduct

Crossing the famous viaduct in the fading light and encroaching gloom of a chilly winter afternoon. Camera away, we progressed through Settle and Hellifield and on to a final water stop at Chatburn. Then the steepest climb on the journey, up Whalley Bank to Blackburn. We left the train at Blackburn, thus answering the question of why did they get a service train from Blackburn to Preston at the start of the day? The charter train's route back to Manchester did not go through Preston Station and most travellers had to catch the next service train to Preston - we did that awkward bit of the journey in the morning, rather than the evening.

Leaving Blackburn


Somewhere in there, the steam engines pull the train away from Blackburn.

44871 at Carlisle

No.44871 at Carlisle

Guest photos are reproduced with the kind permission of the photographers. Copyright remains theirs and no photos from this website should ever be used without my permission or that of the guest photographers.

The Railway Touring Company

YouTube video by Stephen Thompson

YouTube video by Phil Bentley and there are many more videos on offer if you look around.

Try Flickr and then search by "Cumbrian Mountain Express" to see the many photos by all manner of folk, including some of the contributors who have helped me with their submissions.

Don Shore's walking adventures: Boot Boys

When Trainspotters Fail! - contains one mildly offensive expletive.

Most photos copyright Richard Ratcliffe 2013 ©

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Take me back to the start ....

Take me home....