Friday, 2 May 2014

To Robbie Burns country!

Time for the Mid Cheshire Rail Users' Association (MCRUA) special spring train! Today it started at Hooton and as usual picked up along the Mid Cheshire Line, and, since Compass Tours now operate the service on behalf of MCRUA, places beyond. We joined at Mobberley not long after six o'clock this morning. Our destination was Ayr in Scotland, via Kilmarnock.

All pictures except the one at Altrincham are by Ivan (so his copyright - do not use without his permission via me). Please click on any of them for a larger image.

Early morning at Mobberley, waiting for our train; Malc, me, Peter 

The train, provided by Carnforth-based West Coast Trains, comprised a Class 47 diesel loco at front and rear (Roy Castle OBE on the front), and thirteen ex-BR Mk2 coaches. Here it rolls over the crossing to enter Mobberley station, one of its many pick up stops this morning.

The picture below is taken from Charlie Hulme's excellent 'North Wales Railway' site ( and is by Greg Mape, so it's his copyright. His original caption is most informative, so I have reproduced it beneath the picture.

A busy early-morning (06:48) scene at Altrincham on 2 May. A West Coast 47 departs with the Hooton to Ayr excursion run by Compass tours / MCRUA, while a Northern Class 142 pacer heads for Chester with the 06:18 from Manchester and pair of Metrolink trams led by 3017 arrives (Greg Mape).

The train routed via the Mid Cheshire Line to Stockport, picking up passengers there, before turning right at Heaton Norris junction just north of Stockport viaduct, along the route via Denton and Ashton Moss to Manchester Victoria. Having picked up there it continued to Bolton, Chorley and Preston picking up passengers at each of those stations. From Preston, it was non-stop to Kilmarnock and then on to Ayr, our final destination.

We made good progress up the West Coast Main Line from Preston, through Lancaster, past Carnforth of 'Brief Encounter' fame and the home of West Coast Trains, through Oxenholme where the Windermere branch peeled off to the left, and began the climb of the infamous Shap bank. Roy Castle OBE (our leading Class 47 locomotive) was hauling thirteen coaches plus a 'dead' Class 47 (equivalent of at least two more coaches), so felt the gradient. This was reflected in our speed dropping until we were put into the loop line south of Tebay to allow a Virgin Voyager to pass us. Once out of the loop and over the summit the train swept down to Carlisle and into Scotland.

We'd booked first class (well worth it) so had four comfortable reclining seats around a table, and aligned with the window (not the case in second class, which not only has narrower seats to get 4-across instead of first's 3-across, but all seats don't align with windows as they pack more rows in!). Malc and me above.

On the other side of the table, Ivan and Peter

Just north of the Solway Firth we turned left at Gretna Junction onto what for me were new metals, those of the former Glasgow and South Western Railway. Annan, Dumfries, Sanquhar, and several smaller station passed the windows before we arrived at our first set-down stop, Kilmarnock where some of our passengers alighted. The train diverged left over a single line to join the electrified Glasgow - Ayr line at Barassie Junction. Troon and its celebrated (by some!) golf course passed by our train, as did Prestwick Airport. Out to sea the strange humpy shape of Ailsa Craig came into view, an island about ten miles off shore formed from a volcanic 'plug' and the source of stone ideal as the raw material for curling stones.

Minutes later, we drew into Ayr and decided it was time to go to church!

On leaving the railway station in Ayr we immediately made our way to the West Kirk (Malc, me, Peter above). One shouldn't forget one's priorities on such days out, and so we came to this place of reverence.

Ivan preaches from the pulpit while I raise a glass to his praising of the great beers and the superb fish & chips served in this place! You can't beat Wetherspoons (for that is where we are) for an excellent pint and a good lunch at the right price.

Suitably refreshed Malc and I celebrate finding a loo on the way back to the railway station (the Gents was locked due vandalism, but the Ladies did us just fine).

Seen from the platform at Ayr station, our train lurks in the sidings before entering the station for us to board

South West Scotland is largely cattle country as this picture taken soon after we set off on the return journey shows

Here begineth the feast (those Mk2s ride well, as the level of wine in Malc's glass with no spillage testifies). It's traditional on MCRUA outings to bring 'posh snap'; good quality food and plentiful wine to wash it down. So we did. In fact such was the enjoyment of this feast that Ivan took no more pictures after this!

The next MCUA trip is in September, to Berwick. Can't wait!


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