Sunday, 23 March 2014

Topping and Tailing

Friday and Saturday were two ‘not bad’ March days. Cool with some sunny periods and scattered showers mixed in and night time temperatures down to round about frosty levels.

As this is a gardening and weather blog topping and tailing might conjure up visions of a very early crop of gooseberries. In fact this was topping and tailing of a very different sort, the sort done with steam locomotives. We’d booked a trip by charter train making a journey along the picturesque Esk Valley on the northern borders of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. The train began its journey in Carnforth heading via Skipton to Leeds where we joined the train then onto York, Middlesborough, Battersby and finally Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. 
The railway term topping and tailing refers to the need to have a steam locomotive at the front and rear of the train with each one facing in opposite directions. Much of the line from Middlesborough through the Esk Valley is single track with trains only able to pass at some stations. 

There were plenty of onlookers watching and photographing what could be one of the last steam hauled journeys along this beautiful stretch of line as improvements to the normal service train network may leave no suitable space on the line for special charter trains. That would be a great pity. I noticed that our charter train was fully booked weeks ago. It certainly meant a busy day for the train staff as along with another one hundred or so others we’d decided to book a full meals’ service on the journey which comprised of breakfast, lunch and evening meal.

Between us we managed around 250 photographs so there’s plenty of editing and deleting to do. The two steam locomotives working the train were 61994, The Great Marquess which hauled the train from York to Battersby and 61264 which was attached to the rear of the train at Darlington and was in charge of the train from Batttersby to Whitby.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful day, and your photos are great. What a shame there won't be time for the steam trains to travel on that line now. Let's hope they can squeeze the odd one in. We've been reading a lot of John Betjeman here lately and feeling nostalgic for railways gone by.

    1. The old steam locomotives have so much more personality than today's plastic trains.

    2. It's the same with so many things. People won't be looking back in fifty and a hundred years, marvelling at the beauty of things we're creating today.


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