The last overnight (1B08 02.44 Derby-Bedford / 1F04 05.49 Bedford-Derby. Winter 1991-1992 timetable)….Thanks to Jason Hall
With the end of 1V01, the Waterloo-Yeovil overnight, my days of regular overnighting seemed over. I had done that train 210 times out of Waterloo since my first trip in June 1986, with all bar six 50s featuring, as well as having several 33s and even a DEMU. It had become a way of life. Once it finished although I remained desperate, there was no one train that defined the start of a day out, or the beginning or end of a work shift. Other overnights were often used to position for a day out, but never to the degree that 1V01 had been. By the time my interest in 50s finally began to wane in the Summer of 1990, my interest in 31s which had always been firmly in second place, began to become more pronounced.
Local overnights had finished in May 1987 with the end of 1M10 and 1P03 but there remained for several years some local loco hauled services. The return of the morning hauled Bedford-Derby brought with it a regular RTC sector 47/9, which proved to be surprisingly solid. So much so that I rarely made the effort to call to find out what was on it. The monotony was broken on the morning of 12/11/90 when I arrived at Bedford station to find 31970 running around the stock! That was done to Derby and I was late for work, but it seemed right at the time. It was 11/07/91 before I found something else of note, this time 31105, which was done to Leicester. During the entire period of RTC diagramming, I never once had cause to cover the entire diagram as an overnight.
That was to change from the start of the Winter 1991-1992 timetable. With Regional Railways unable to provide a sprinter and with RTC 47/9s now seen as expensive, the parcels sector agreed to provide a 31/4, Inter City the stock, and Regional Railways the train crew. And so began a local 31 hauled overnight which would soon become the start or end of many a shift at a time when 31 haulage altogether was truly at a national minimum.
I was keen to get started and on 30/09/91 I was at Derby for my first taste of the new overnight. The move would start with the last HST from St.Pancras after work, or boarded at Bedford. This train would run via Nottingham and arrive at Derby at about 01.00. I would usually get my head down in the crew office next to the by now closed buffet counter, and with light out, was never once disturbed. That morning 31442 was at the head of 1B08, 02.44 Derby-Bedford, formed of a mix of Blue and Grey and Regional Railways liveried MK2 PVs. The lack of compos made the train less comfortable that I was hoping but the lights were often off or dimmed, making at least some sleep possible. For the next few months though covering the train and expecting a 31 was to prove challenging.
After covering six times to date, and finding 31s on each occasion, I was confident 31442 would produce as allocated on 12/10. Of the six occasions to date 31442 been on it five of them so when 47442 was turn up, it felt like a wind up. By all accounts 31442 was still on shed and driver had simply taken the wrong 442. To add insult, 47442 was unable to provide heat and it was freezing! From then on it started to fall apart. 02/11 I turned up for 31427 and found a lot of 47 bashers. Thinking it had all gone wrong we were then all directed toward 156402 stood in the bay. By all accounts the stock had been pinched to cover for a failure the previous evening and was now in Newcastle! On 18/11 I turned up for 31408 but due to a points failure and the need to turn the train at Trent, 158766 was provided. On 13/12 Derby had no stock or locos and offered a taxi instead. I was told there were other mornings that similar occurred and those present were simply offered the first service train to London. Naturally I was to have several 47s on the diagram, an unavoidable but not entirely unacceptable outcome to a two hour haul on the last HST. Of all of them I was most pleased with 47467 on 09/12, its battered Scottish appearance as a 47 should be presented.
Things soon began to settle and parcels sector 31s were to become the norm, with a sprinkling of 47s filling in the gaps. Other sectors 31s were to provide additional interest but this was to be rare. On 18/03/92 I was at Bedford to see the arrival from Derby, fully expecting the 47 that I had flagged for a night’s sleep approaching from Oakley. It was soon apparent that the 47 hadn’t managed it and in rolled 31461. Fearful of another ticking off by Waterloo TCS, I did it only to Wellingborough on the return 1F04, 05.49 Bedford-Derby and returned to London on an HST. 20/03/92 I was at Derby for the full round trip with 31435.
Even when allocated a 31, sometimes sleep seemed more important and I would be at Bedford in the morning to have the return for some distance. 30/10/91 was notable as once on 1F04 with 31442, I was told that 31402 was the Derby-London commuter. I bailed 31442 at Leicester for 31402 into London, a stonking run with her easily keeping type 4 timings. 31402 would work back out of St.Pancras that afternoon and little did I know when I left her at Wellingborough and watched her depart with 1F06, 17.30 St.Pancras-Derby, that this would be her last ever passenger service.
Failures whilst en-route were rare but on 22/02/92 I was to experience quite an amusing fiasco whilst at Leicester on 1B08. 31450 had been pretty poorly all the way from Derby and at Leicester the driver failed her. At that time of the morning all Leicester could offer was a spare 60 so off the depot came 60094. Then a very air only loco attempted to couple to what was that morning some very vacuum only stock. This didn’t go well and 60094 retired to the depot defeated and 31450 was reattached. 31450 then performed without any further problems! I wasn’t at Long Eaton to see the group of disappointed faces as I’d left 1F04 that morning at Leicester. This was the last time however a vacuum only set of stock was allowed to work the service. Another recorded instance was 16/12/91 but I wasn’t there to endure it. On this occasion 31427 failed on arrival at Bedford leading to the return starting at Leicester formed of an HST.
On occasion the arrival of the overnight back at Derby was not always the end to the day. On 11/10/91 on arrival at Derby with 31442, the loco ran round and I was to enjoy two return trips to Crewe vice Sprinters. On 15/04/92 31450 ran round at Derby and I was disappointed with a brief run to Nottingham as the 08.00 vice a Sprinter, where it then ran as ECS back to Derby.
The finale came with the end of the timetable on 09/05/92. 31438 was at the head for the last run, all being completed with little drama. On arrival at Derby I headed over to Birmingham for the SVR diesel gala, which went someway to dampen the knowledge that with the loss of this train, my regular overnighting way of life was over. No other overnight was to truly become a part of the daily routine, and neither would my wife allow it anyway!
Total round trips completed - 50
Total part trips (1B08 or 1F04) – 2
Number of round trips per loco (1B08 and 1F04)
31413 – 3
31418 – 7
31421 – 8
31427 – 2
31429 – 2
31432 – 1
31435 – 1
31438 – 5
31439 – 1
31442 – 6
31450 – 5
47442 – 1
47473 – 1
47575 – 1
47971 – 1
47972 – 1
Others – 31461 (1F04), 47467 (1B08) and nearly 60094!
Thanks again to Jason Hall for the memories.