This is a report of London Midland’s Farewell 150 tour, run in support of the Railway Children Charity, and to say goodbye to the 150s which have served the West Midlands (and the Snow Hill lines in particular) for 26 years.
Saturday, 12th November started early, on the 0557 CrossCountry service from Nottingham, formed of a Class 170 ‘Turbostar’. The train ran early, resulting in a few minutes wait adjacent to the yards at Derby, with various trains in evidence including a Network Rail Class 31, some MK2 Driving Trailers, several DRS Class 37s, the Class 43 (HST) Measurement train and even an unidentified ‘Peak’.
The rest of the journey to Birmingham New Street was on time and I found my way to Snow Hill station to join the tour. We were given wristbands (to save having to find our tickets later) and allowed down to the train. The tour was formed by 150001 (one of the two prototypes) and 150106, and left 10 minutes down at 0800 bound for Worcester Shrub Hill via the Stourbridge Line, picking up additional passengers en-route.
After our arrival at Worcester, the return working to Birmingham New Street began. This worked via the Lickey Incline, and I’m informed that we reached the top at 34mph. After this, we briefly joined the Cross City Line, reaching the units maximum speed of 75mph (announced onboard) before slowing to join the freight only Camp Hill line allowing us into New Street, thence up to Walsall and back, via Soho. The next part of the trip saw us rejoin the Stourbridge line at Galton Junction, bound for Kidderminster.
The reason for our return to Kidderminster was to allow the tour train to access the
wonderful Severn Valley Railway, for a run up to Bridgnorth. To join the SVR, it is necessary to perform a shunt over the mainline – first into the reversing siding, then onto the down main, before shunting onto the SVR, then reversing into Kidderminster Town station. This manoeuvre took around 30 minutes to complete, slightly longer than intended due to the signaller at Kidderminster Junction being unable to clear the route onto the preserved line.
Our run up the SVR took around an hour (25mph maximum speed, as with most preserved lines), stopping at various stations along the way to allow SVR services to pass and to provide those of us onboard with photo opportunities. Once at Bridgnorth, we had a 50 minute break allowing us to stock up on food (and for some, beer) and use the facilities. At this time, the raffle which had been conducted was also drawn and the prizes given out (sadly, no prizes for your writer). The return journey took us along the SVR, then straight out onto the mainline to return to Snow Hill, via Stourbridge for the third time. On the return, we took in some freight loops at Stourbridge Junction and Rowley Reigis.
After stopping at Snow Hill, the tour proceeded through Moor Street and into Tyseley depot, where several 170s and 172s were stabled. We waited here for some time, and were able to observe several 172s passing on the mainline – these trains have all but eliminated the 150s (though 150104 and 150109 were observed in service). After some negotiation, our driver obtained an earlier path to Leamington Spa, where we had another stop for photographs and a break, before proceeding onto Stratford upon Avon. This was our final stop, before heading back to Birmingham with stops at Moor Street (where I left the train) and Snow Hill, before the train ran onto Worcester Shrub Hill.
London Midland did a fantastic job organising the tour, and helping to raise money for the Railway Children. The day was very enjoyable, the onboard staff were absolutely fantastic, and the itinerary interesting. So, thankyou London Midland!
For additional photographs, please visit my Flickr site.
If you’d like some additional information on the Railway Children charity, visit their website (external link).