Full steam ahead as The Great Britain XVI set to call at Margate

The Great Britain VI - Starcross pictured in Devon Photo Jamie Horton

By John Horton

Get your cameras ready, it’s full steam ahead, as Stanier Black 5 steam loco 44871 pulls into Margate at Platform 2 this Saturday (April 13) hauling “The Great Britain XVI”.

This is  day one of nine when prestigious steam locos haul the train throughout the length and breadth of Britain, North – South- East -West.

Photo Jamie Horton

Fares start at £3,295, for First Class travel ,and £3,895 for Premier Class on the highly sought after annual tour of Britain. It starts from London Victoria, travelling down to the Kent coast via Medway and Faversham, arriving at Margate on Platform 2 at 9:54am, a quick stop to let a train pass and a prompt departure booked at 10:04 and onwards to Southall via Ashford. There another Black 5 will be attached, the train setting off double headed to Cheltenham Spa.

Times are scheduled as  follows:- Train Reporting Number 1Z30

Faversham                               08:55

Whitstable      09:06               09:31               Stops to take on water

Herne Bay                               09:38

Birchington                             09:48

Margate          09:54

Then as follows:- Train Reporting Number 1Z31

Margate          10:03

Broadstairs                             10:10

Ramsgate                                10:15               Platform 2

Minster South Jcn                 10:23

Sandwich                                10:30

Passengers stay in a hotel overnight before starting day two, double headed steam locos again to Lancaster Via Crewe.

Day 3 sees a change of engines to Bulleid Pacific 34067 TANGMERE as they head to Glasgow, changing locos en route at Carlisle, two more Black 5 locos take Tangmeres place.

Day 4 sees the train travel through spectacular scenery the Highlands have to offer, from Glasgow to Inverness over Druimuachdar and Slochd summits, 1315 ft above sea level. Passengers stay in a hotel overnight at Inverness before day 5, this is optional for passengers to travel to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Photo Jamie Horton

Day 6 Inverness to Edinburgh with free time in Aberdeen, Day 7 Edinburgh to Liverpool, at Carlisle the two Black 5 locos are detached and replaced once more by 34067 TANGMERE.

Day 8 sees the departure from  Liverpool to Swansea, again the two Black 5 locos take charge, whilst Day 9, the final day of the tour, departs The Vale of Glamorgan line via Barry to Cardiff, the train heads to the Severn Estuary via Swindon before a high spirited run along the Western Mainline to London Paddington.

Photo Jamie Horton

This is only the second time that “The Great Britain” rail tour has visited Thanet, the last time was in 2010. It is also only the second time the tour hasn’t visited Devon and Cornwall, usually the second day saw it run down to Penzance and back up the next day.

It is noticeable that the Locomotives hauling the service this year are minimal, as previous years saw a multitude of steam locos utilised:- 46100 Royal Scot, 70000 Britannia, 34046 Braunton, A4 60009 Union of South Africa ( retired now) and many more, however several are receiving or have just received overhauls and are ” running in”, whilst others are awaiting attention, such as King class 6024, 60532 Blue Peter, A2 60163, A3 Flying Scotsman, 70013 Oliver Cromwell and 5029 Nunney Castle.

To have such a low count of available locos is disappointing but the versatility of the Stanier Black 5s speaks for itself, as they haul 95% of the entire tour, with only 5% covered by Bulleid Light Pacific, Battle of Britain class loco 34067 Tangmere being used on short legs of the journey.