Railway Touring Company
'Buxton Spa Express'

Preston d 06:25   
Wigan NW  06:47 - 06:51    
Golborne Jn 07:06    

Eccles 07:26    
Manchester Victoria 07:30-07:41   
Miles Platting 07:46    
Ashton Moss N Jn 07:55    
Denton 08:03-08:40    
Heaton Norris Jn a 08:52
(attach 76084)
Heaton Norris Jn d 09:17
Stockport 09:21-09:31    
Hazel Grove 09:41   
Chinley S Jn 10:00   
Great Rocks Jn 10:16-10:43    
Topley Pike 10:52    
Buxton SB  10:59-10:59   
Buxton URS a 11:01 rev 
Buxton URS d 11:11
Buxton a 11:15   

Buxton d 14:20
Buxton URS a 14:25
Buxton URS d 14:35
Buxton SB 14:37   
Topley Pike 14:46    
Great Rocks Jn 14:52-14:53   
Peak Forest 14:59    
Chinley S Jn 15:11   
Edale 15:20    
Dore West Jn 15:43    
Sheffield a 15:54-15:58   
Brightside UDS 16:10-16:35   
Aldwarke Jn 16:48   
Moorthorpe 17:06    
Hare Park Jn 17:17   
Wakefield Kirkgate 17:26-17:53   
Horbury Jn 18:05   
Mirfield E Jn 18:14   
Brighouse a 18:24-18:47   
Milner Royd Jn 18:55   
Hall Royd Jn 19:09   
Copy Pit 19:17   
Accrington 19:35   
Blackburn a 19:50  
(detach 76084)

Blackburn d 20:00
Lostock Hall Jn 20:14   
Preston a 20:25   

Preston d 20:43 Diesel  
Wigan NW a 21:06    
Manchester Victoria a 21:40           

The Buxton Spa Express, 25 February 2017

Pictures by MLS members and guest contributor Richard Putley. Notes by Charlie Hulme.

Steam specials through Stockport have become something of a rare event; even those advertised are prone to cancellation or diesel replacement. 45690 Leander last passed through on 25 June 2016; a steam train promised for 17 December ran as scheduled, but was diesel-hauled (a very last-minure change) after the planned loco's certificate to run had not arrived in time. A 'Buxton Spa Express' on 4 February was cancelled due to 'low bookings' but a repeat run on 25 February did run as scheduled.

Above: 76084 and 45690 Leander pass the site of Davenport Junction, accelerating away from the 25 mph restriction round the curve at Edgeley Junction, having made a scheduled non-passenger stop at Stockport station to allow a Manchester Airport - Cleethorpes train to overtake. Picture by Charlie Hulme; note the spectators in the car park which was once a coal siding.

Davenport station platforms were a popular spot for photograpers, adding to the crowds waiting for train to Manchester (Picture by Tony Martin). The train ran was hauled by 45690 alone from Preston via Manchester Victoria (taking water at Denton) to Heaton Norris Junction, where 76084, which had run light-engine from the East Lancashire Railway, was added as pilot.

Standard Class 4 2-6-0 76084 is a newcomer to post-1968 main-line steam running, after being returned to steam in 2013 and passed for main-line running in 2016, winning the Heritage Railway Association's 2016 Locomotive Restoration Award, as the 76084 website reports.  Built at Horwich Works, it entered BR service at Lower Darwen shed on 28 March 1957, making it one of the youngest preserved steam locos currently in working order. It was just ten years old when withdrawn by BR in 1967.

Rainy weather and crowds at Hazel Grove (Peter Cross). From here the train climbed the Hazel Grove Chord and proceeded to Buxton via Chinley and Peak Forest. Steam trains now rarely attack the steep gradients of the direct route to Buxton via Whaley Bridge. This would allow simpler operation at Buxton, as the train would set back from the station into the sidings, and then proceed forward later on to the Peak Forest line. However, it seems this would be unpopular with some paying passengers' because reversing the whole train means that the same passengers remain nearest to the loco.

Peak Forest (Richard Putley). On the right are the EWS-branded hopper wagons which have been transferred from dwindling coal traffic to the well-known Tunstead to Salford Hope Street stone train. Jubilee class 4-6-0 Leander, turned out in 2014 after an overhaul in BR lined black livery, which although not usually associated with the class it did carry between 1949 and 1952,  is a stalwart of preserved steam operation. It was built for the LMS railway in 1936, one of a series named after Royal Navy ships, and worked until 1964 when it was sent for scrap and dumped in Woodham's yard in Barry.  Rescued in 1972, in has had several owners. Currently it is owned by Chris Beet, son of the late Dr Peter Beet who was a pioneer of preserved steam, it is part of the West Coast Railways fleet based at Carnforth.

After all the passengers on the 10:48 service train arrival from Manchester had alighted, the pair of Class 150s was shunted over to Platform 1 (which thanks to the awkward track layout trains cannot arrive into) to form the next scheduled train back to Manchester at 11:25.

The special then ran into Buxton Up Relief sidings where 76084 ran round to the other end of the train to pilot it in to the station and disembark the passengers (Picture by Richard Putley).  'Propelling' trains into stations with passengers aboard is no longer allowed by safety rules; Freight company diesels have helped out on such occasions in the past. The ensemble then returned to the sidings, the locos paired up again, left the coaches behind and headed together to the triangle of lines at Chinley to turn. Later, the procedure at Buxton was repeated in reverse to depart towards Peak Forest and Sheffield.

The train reached the Hope Valley line via the curve to Chinley East Junction, which was lifted by British Rail, only to be re-instated for freight after the running of locos around trains at Chinley station has led to some mishaps. Ken Millward captured the train negotiating the junction, with both locos 'blowing-off' at their safety valves.

A final view by John Tate of the train passing Edale heading for Sheffield, Wakefield, Accrington and Blackburn where 76 084 was detached to return to Bury, and 45690 took the train to Preston, whence passengers for Manchester were returned with diesel haulage and Leander returned home to Carnforth.

The immediate future for local main line steam looks bleak at the time of writing. A Preston - Sheffield train on 5 March was cancelled. The next appears to be a Liverpool - Scarborough train planned by the Railway Touring Company for 10 June 2017 which is to pick up at Manchester Piccadilly and run via Stockport and Hazel Grove, with second class fares at 99 return.

Last update March 2017. Comments welcome: