The “Christmas Cracker Tour” remembered, December 1983
Friday 16th December, 1983
"You're the one who's crackers" was the girlfriend's fond farewell as me and a mate left Leighton Buzzard for the "Christmas Cracker II" railtour. Friday's last morning Northampton - Euston "cobbler" was a "solid" roarer turn or so we thought until 86323 droned in to whisk us South to Euston.
With a day return to Oxford bought at Paddington 50008 gave a characteristic noisy run to Reading where even on a cool, grey December morning there was always something of interest. ETH power dominated all passenger traffic including a few pre-Christmas relief's. Booked but unfamiliar to us was 45124 arriving with the 0945 Cardiff-Padd returning with the 1307 Padd-Liverpool. We waited for the 1246FO Portsmouth-Leeds with it's booked Crompton to New St. Today 33018 obliged, passing preserved Hymek 7018 on show outside Didcot's steam centre. We wished we could stay on for more respectable mileage but the Liverpool St rush-hour beckoned so we settled for 50008 to thunder us back to Paddington.
Escaping from a seriously crowded tube, Liverpool St that night was to produce some reasonable loco haulage amongst the endless units. 47135 was steaming superbly on our departure from the Street.
Typically, 37049 appeared to work the 2205 Liverpool St - Cambridge but we had to turn this machine down for haulage as the main event beckoned the 2300 Kings X-Edinburgh. Our early boarding gave us good front coach seats before the returning late evening commuters all piled aboard. Immense good fortune saw 46044 back on at the business end , this was my last 46 for haulage, all those years on the Gloucester-Bristol circuit finally paying off out of London. A ritualistic bellow as we left the Cross alarmed a few normals!
The Moves - 16/12/83 Fr
86323 0817 Northampton-Euston L.Buzzard-Euston
50008 0950 Padd-Oxford Padd-Reading
50004 1115 Padd-Oxford Reading-Oxford
47471 0920 Manchester-Poole (in) Oxford-Reading
33018 1246 Portsmouth-Leeds Reading-Oxford
50008 1515 Oxford-Padd Oxford-Paddington
47135 1735 Liverpool St-Cambridge Liverpool St-Audley End
47458 1835 Liverpool St-Kings Lynn Audley End-Cambridge
47596 2023 Cambridge-Liverpool St Cambridge - Liverpool St
46044 2300 Kings X-Edinburgh Kings X - York
Other Gen - 16/12/83
31138 Wolverton-Ilford ER unit drag
47444 0738 Wolverhampton-Brighton
47489 0847 Brighton-Manchester
31108 - RG
47559 0920 Bristol-Padd
50033 1020 Oxford-Padd
47442 0720 Liverpool-Poole (out)
47487 0720 Liverpool-Poole (in)
45124 0945 Cardiff-Padd
47510 0940 Poole-Newcastle (out)
47462 0940 Poole-Newcastle (in)
47488 Paignton-Padd Addit
47466 1313 Paddington-Penzance (vacs)
45124 1307 Padd-Liverpool
50044 Plymouth-Padd relief
47445 1023 Manchester-Brighton
47462 1240 Poole-Manchester (in)
47497 1240 Poole-Manchester
50038 1415 Padd-Oxford
47130 1650 Liverpool St-Lowerstoft
47579 1630 Liverpool St-Norwich
37021 1654 Liverpool St-Cambridge
47596 1715 Liverpool St-Cambridge
47580 1730 Liverpool St-Norwich
47439 1425 Norwich-Liverpool St
47158 1805 Liverpool St-Norwich
37049 2205 Liverpool St-Cambridge
Saturday 17th December, 1983
By Peterborough the front coach was much quieter with a few "hard core" peak bashers building on their impressive mileages. Getting off any overnight train in the early hours whether at York like this morning, or Edinburgh, Bristol or Birmingham is much the same, rancid!
Bleary eyed photos of our 46 followed as her boiler was watered before continuing North. We camped out in a DMU to keep warm. The "Christmas Cracker II" was to start from Leeds but our tour tickets were valid from York on 45136 on the 0710 Liverpool and the first 2 coaches were soon filled.
At Leeds the 11 coach tour rake was already in with 40028 "Samaria" at the head with her boiler steaming away strongly. Once on the move that special atmosphere perhaps unique to CFPS tours soon had us all contributing to enjoy the "crack".
40028 thrashed over Standedge in style before passing the familiar 40 haunts of Stalybridge and Guide Bridge where 40001 was stabled amongst her class 37 replacements and doomed class 76 electrics. Stockport, Crewe and the underrated "Marches" line followed to Shrewsbury and Hereford . Here the photo stop included Father Christmas who no doubt had flagged his reindeer for some quality mileage. Once in South Wales 40028 generated much interest from the locals an uncommon rare beast for them.
Cardiff offered a two and a half hour break for 40028 to be refuelled and the stock watered. Many opted for some "Brains" pubs, others a blast on the "top" Cardiff-Newport corridor with it's many freight and loco hauled services. 33027 on a Crewe-Cardiff, 33065 on a Brighton-Cardiff, 45120 on a Cardiff-Birmingham and 45139 on a Portsmouth-Cardiff were to oblige.
Just after three o'clock 40028 reappeared from Canton and departed on what was to be a memorable journey for many of us. 4 minutes of a wall of sound followed through the Severn Tunnel then Swindon and Didcot West Jn for a crew change at Oxford where we were still just about right time. A saunter through Evesham followed to arrive at Worcester Shrub Hill. Here the quoted Salvation Army band produced for some noisy Christmas Carol renditions. "Jingle Bells" will never sound the same anywhere else! Here also the guy who carried a Christmas tree round with him all day was still much in evidence.
The atmosphere dipped a little during the ascent of the Lickey as we were banked not by 2 massive south Wales's syphons but by 45146! At New St 40028 was replaced by another namer 40034 "Accra" who returned us across the Pennines and on to York in style. Near midnight she ran round to return the ECS to Leeds. We didn't expect as we admired the beast that this would be her last passenger turn. 40034 was withdrawn on Jan 6th just three weeks after the "Christmas Cracker II".
The Moves - 17/12/83 Sa
45136 0710 York-Liverpool York - Leeds
40028 1Z36 Christmas Cracker tour Leeds - Cardiff
(via Staly, Stock,Crewe,Shrewsbury)
43022} 1230 Swansea-Padd Cardiff - Newport
45139 1010 Portsmouth-Cardiff Newport - Cardiff
40028 1Z36 Christmas Cracker tour Cardiff - New St
(via Didcot W, Oxford, Worcester)
45146 (banking) Bromsgrove-Barnt Grn
40034 1Z36 Christmas Cracker tour New St - York
(via Stoke, Stock, Leeds)
The Gen - 17/12/83 Sa
47527 0005 Kings X-Edinburgh
45112 0754 York-Llandudno
45146 0705 Liverpool-Scarborough
33027 1003 Crewe-Cardiff
33065 0820 Brighton-Cardiff
45120 1335 Cardiff-Manchester
47140 1935 Birmingham-Padd
Sunday 18th December, 1983
Still in high spirits after such a good day a few of us awaited the overnight South. 47428 was our power on a lightly loaded rake of Mk1's here we all drifted off to sleep on the long way round via Lincoln.
Kings X at nine on a Sunday morning was a world apart from the night before at York and there was much "Humbug" in the air!. We walked to Waterloo where 50047 was power for the 1110 Exeter. At Basingstoke we made the 1200 Reading-Portsmouth with it's booked 33/1 and 4-TC. These trains were only hauled on Sundays and were always something special. 33107 powered us from Basingstoke to Winchester for 33115 back to lonely Michledever, a Sundays only loco hauled haunt. The pub followed before 33108 returned us to Basingstoke for 50005 to Andover on an Exeter. Here condemned 2-BIL and 4 SUB units were the only thing of interest before 50001 returned us to Waterloo. 310055 did the honours in returning me home to end a cracker of a weekend.
The Moves and Gen- 18/12/83 Su
47430 2025 (17/12) Kings X-Aberdeen
47412 1E35 up
47522 2140 (17/12) Edinburgh-Kings X
47428 2230 (17/12) Edinburgh-Kings X York - Kings X (via Lincoln)
50047 1110 Waterloo-Exeter Waterloo - Basingstoke
33107 1200 Reading-Portsmouth Basingstoke-Winchester
33115 1208 Portsmouth-Reading Winchester-Michledever
33108 1308 Portsmouh-Reading Michkedever-Basingstoke
47471 1322 Poole-Newcastle
50005 1410 Waterloo-Exeter Basingstoke - Andover
50048 1225 Exeter-Waterloo
50001 1345 Exeter-Waterloo Andover - Waterloo
055 1803 Euston-Rugby Euston - L.Buzzard
Christmas Cracker Phot Spot
This article first appeared in Traction many years ago, the proceeds going to the CFPS who ran the tour…………….