1A76 applied to many classic trains over the years, but locally, a few of us will remember the 5 Mk I’s and the 81/85/86 up front version. 1A76 was unusual in several ways.
1/ essentially a unit turn calling at unit shacks like Long Buckby, Berko and Hemel en route.
2/ Retained 75mph class 310 timings so was nearly always right time.
3/ Ran Mon-Fris and for 2 years only, May 83-May 85
4/ Despite being load 5 and vacuum braked, it was by no means a “solid roarer” train.
5/ Loco hauled stock was booked as train used by Rail House staff that were relocated from Euston to Birmingham and the comfort of Mk I stock, rather than a 310, would help placate those who lived on the Northampton-Hemel corridor.
It was reported that the stock (load 5 or sometimes 6 Mk I’s vb-dh) was a half rake from a split “Oxley Adex rake”. The power was the Oxley “spare loco” being normally diagrammed for 1A76 which may explain the high number of “cans” that featured on 1A76. The inaugural hauled A76 featured 5 Mk IIa’s and 81020, vacuum braked Mk 1’s and more variable 81-86 AC power then became the norm.
To be honest, this was a solidly reliable train that suffered few variations from the norm. Stock problems saw a 310 substituted around twice a month. On 180485 86255 failed on 1A76 in the Berkswell area and received an unbraked rescue push from a following 87. The ever-reliable 85036 worked the train forward from Coventry.
Pretty outrageous, but not power to suit everyone’s tastes, 31263 was kicked out on 1A76 throughout on 131083. It is not known if the train was steam heated on this run but 310 timings were just about held
A “can” approaching on A76 usually got derision, on 030585 this changed to nods of approval, with a unique appearance on this train by 86009.
Despite claims elsewhere, A76 wasn’t a “solid roarer”. A76 from 111183-110584 “roared” just a couple of times in 6 months, class 86 dominating. Only in it’s final few months could it be relied upon to “roar” but never quite solidly, this unpredictablity was all part of the WCML “fun” at the time.
Once out of the West Midlands “day tripper” zone 1A76 had few bashers. At Northampton bashers off the first 2 evening “cobblers” could use A76 to return South. In theory A76 made a “dead” at M.Keynes onto 1B09, the last evening cobbler but B09 was usually a few minutes down. So it was a rapid leap off A76 , up the stairs then the fight against the commuters off B09 on the second steps of stairs to make B09! Again all part of the WCML fun at the time…
“Nightrider” tickets allowed very cheap Evening returns to London and a good few of us used these tickets for “mileage moves” to Euston. In those days you could buy a piece on the train without penalty fares being imposed. So few risked buying a Nightrider in advance as the risk of 86254 or whatever producing on A76 was far too high!
The last turns
The last week (a Bank Holiday week) saw just 4 turns and there were rumours of a “big fix”. No “big fix” could be made, as the loco’s next diagram was an AC “speedlink” long distance turn. A76 roared for all 4 days and 85011 had the honour of working the very last turn. A small group of bashers were out to “celebrate” this last turn on Friday May 10th.
The Gen – based on “log’s readers fairly comprehensive observations)
Class May 83-May 84 May 84-May 85
81 20 wkgs 29 wkgs
85 29 wkgs 49 wkgs
86 the remainder the remainder
Recorded “roarer” appearances on 1A76…