This day I started at the west end of the 2 mile 182 yard long Cowburn Tunnel. First up to catch me out emerging is class 158788 working 1M08 1744 Ely to Liverpool Lime Street. These sets are not best suited for this kind of journey.
Climbing hard against the 1 in 150 gradient is class 142 Pacer unit 142051 with 2S14 1046 Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield class 2 local service.
The last time I was here was on 26/4/1986 to photograph Gresley V2 No 4771 Green Arrow on a railtour. 21 years, 3 months later I was back for whatever came by. Desiro class 185 unit 185106 clears the tunnel with 1B13 0928 Cleethorpes to Manchester Airport.
An east bound Desiro is about to enter the abyss. 185112 is about to cross below the Pennines with 1B74 1052 Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes.
A Central Trains branded three vehicle class 158 unit 158810 drops down the 1 in 150 grade with 1M07 0757 Norwich to Liverpool Lime Street cross country service.
Just a few minutes after the westbound sprinter passed by, an eastbound unit in the more usual green colours of Central Trains livery approached. 158852 is on an unidentified working climbing towards Cowburn Tunnel.
Turbostar 170634, operated by Central Trains, forms 1L17 1052 Liverpool Lime Street to Norwich. The set will be working hard against the 1 in 150 pull to the summit about three quarters of the way into the tunnel eastbound.
At last some freight and Freightliner Heavy Haul 66622 wheels 6H80 TThO 1050 Radcliffe Power Station to Dowlow empty lime hoppers. The Midland Railway started work on the 3,702 yard long tunnel in 1888 with it opening in 1891. When the headings met they were 1 inch out vertically and met exactly horizontally.
Looking west from the overbridge at Transpennine Desiro unit 185141 climbs the stiff 1 in 150 grade which will continue for 3/4 of the tunnel length before the summit is reached and then the line falls at 1 in 100. The service is 1B76 1152 Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes. The large metal curving pipe and tank in the bottom right was part of the plumbing used to collect water from the hills and feed it to two water tanks at Chinley for steam loco use.
Central Trains class 158 sprinter 158786 enters the tunnel with an unknown working heading east.
This three car class 158 sprinter is 158812 and is diagrammed on 1M12 0857 Norwich to Liverpool Lime Street cross country working.
Turbostar 170521 is about to enter the gloom with 1L19 1152 Liverpool Lime Street to Norwich. To the left of the unit used to be buildings for the construction of the tunnel and a railway going over the hill to the vent shaft half way along the bore. See http://www.picturethepast.org.uk/frontend.php?keywords=Ref_No_increment;EQUALS;DCHQ009369&pos=10&action=zoom&id=82720
EWS class 60 tug 60040 is running about an hour late with 6E51 ThO 1233 Peak Forest to Selby loaded stone hoppers. The train is heavy and the tug is making slow but steady progress against the 1 in 100 pull which will ease shortly to 1 in 150 for the journey through most of the tunnel.
I was waiting for this train to appear before moving off to another location. The heaviest trains are entrusted to the mighty class 60 and 60040 has a mixture of 22 JGA and HOA bogie hoppers on the drawbar.
60040 enters the tunnel with its 2,000 tonnes of stone making the Mirrlees 8MB275T 3,100hp power plant sing. The noise in the bore will be quite deafening until the driver shuts the power off near the east end of the tunnel.
Chapel-en-le-Frith is a new location for me and First Group branded 156428 slowly approaches the station with a class 2 local working 2H96 1211 Blackpool North to Buxton.
156428 stands in the grade 2 listed station which became famous on 9th February 1957. That day a freight was stationary on the other line when 48188 approached at speed and out of control. The steam pipe to the loco brake had burst and severely scalded driver John "Jack" Axon. His fireman Ron Scanlon had jumped clear earlier to try and pin some wagons brakes down but only managed a few. Despite the actions of the injured John Axon as he tried to slow the train, it hit the rear of another freight killing guard John Creamer. Axon and Creamer died and Axon was postimously awarded the George Cross for his actions. It was donated to the NRM in 2007. A plague to the memory of Axon and Creamer adorns the station building. Also caught up in the crash was a two car DMU in this platform that had been evacuated before hand.
156428 departs for Buxton some 10 minutes late. The 20 leverframe signalbox was built by BR in 1957 to replace the Midland Railway 'box destroyed by the tender of 48188. The signalman was unhurt having evacuated the 'box. So why didn't guard John Creamer leave his brakevan?
On the freight only line to Peak Forest which runs close to the station is 60021 with the very early, by 2 hours, 6M22 TX 1120 Leeds Hunslet to Tunstead empty cement tanks. The loco is working up grade at 1 in 90 for several more miles through Dove Holes tunnel to the summit at Peak Forest quarry.
Back at Chapel-en-le-Frith and 156454 runs past the signalbox and slows for its station stop forming 2N91 1437 Buxton to Blackpool North.
After a brief stop 156454 sets off again falling away from the station at 1 in 58. Blackpool is some distance away.
Another move on what was rapidly turning into a nasty wet day. Sprinter 150225 departs Chinley station with 2S22, the 1446 Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield class 2 local all stations stopper.
With rain drops bouncing off the platform of the much reduced station, from its steam days, 60047 passes through with 6H96 1500 off Tunstead to Bredbury loaded stone hoppers.