Scarborough Spa Express


I suppose that I may as well start as I mean to go on! This section is going to feature recordings made on board the Scarborough Spa Express quite frequently. Well, living where I do and operated the way it was it was bound to be a favourite!
These recordings go back to 1983. This was the second year of Scarborough Spa Express operation which included the morning and evening circles via Harrogate and Leeds. Pre-1982 the trains had only run between York and Scarborough. 1983 was also the first year when the regular passengers were starting to get to know most of the York drivers and know who was worth winding up for a good run, particularly on the evening circle.
In the previous year, as well as making tape recordings, I had also got into the habit of recording passing times to compare loco performance and, aside from the last evening circle of the season, performance in 1982 was generally pretty mediocre. The section that held most interest was the climb from Leeds to Horsforth, generally at 1 in 100. Aside from that one good run, with 777, the times recorded from Leeds to Horsforth were generally 15 minutes or more. Matters improved dramatically in 1983.
The locomotive in charge of the evening circle on 26th July 1983 was Unrebuilt Bullied Pacific 34092 'City of Wells' which, on this occasion recorded a time of just over 13 minutes from Leeds to Horsforth and just over 9 minutes from Wortley Junction and is heard in this recording passing Horsforth and reaching the top of the gradient just beyond.
These times, which would have been considered excellent in 1982, were beaten, often by a large margin, frequently in 1983.

Click to play - right click to save 34092 passing Horsforth. 26/7/83
This is as good a time as any to introduce Harry Wilson. Harry was one of the York drivers who didn't need winding up. Indeed, to do so would probably have been quite dangerous! Harry's driving style, if that is the correct word, can only be described as interesting. He was always keen to give us a good run and, perhaps because of that intention sometimes went a bit over the top! For the evening circle of 9th August 1983 Harry had the 9F 2-10-0 92220 'Evening Star'. This loco had been quite a revelation producing some excellent performances. On this occasion, although we had a max. of over 70 mph on the way across from York the chances of a good run up the bank out of Leeds was spoiled by signal checks. As this recording starts we are crawling across Kirkstall Viaduct under green signals with the safety valves roaring for all they are worth. On the train we were wondering what Harry was playing at when, as we approach the far end of the viaduct Harry opens the engine up and the safety valves soon shut. I remember thinking that the acceleration on the ensuing 1 in 98 gradient was more like an EMU than a steam loco. Such was the acceleration that, in the just one mile speed rose to 50 mph and reached a max. of 56 mph before Horsforth. Despite the slow start the time from Wortley Junction was just 2 secs over 7 minutes. And although we never found out what Harry was playing at, he was never boring! You will be hearing more of Harry's exploits.
Click to play - right click to save 92220 near Headingley. 9/8/83
When, in May 1980, 46229 'Duchess of Hamilton' first appeared on the main line great things were expected. To say that we were disappointed wouldn't be completely correct since, generally speaking, the loco did all that was asked of it with ease. One theory put forward as to why the loco was never extended was that loco crews were frightened of it! By 1983 things were beginning to change and we had already had some excellent runs over the S&C. This change was mainly due to Kim Malyon who gave the crews the encouragement they needed and often fired the engine. The Duchess was the obvious engine to produce the record time for the climb from Leeds to Horsforth and duly produced the goods during the evening of 21st August 1983. With 46229 in the hands of Driver Wilkinson encouraged and assisted by Kim we reached Horsforth in just over 9 1/2 minutes mainly thanks to a very fast start out of Leeds. This is how the Duchess sounded passing Horsforth.
Click to play - right click to save 46229 passing Horsforth. 21/8/83
Harry Wilson once again! His driving 'style' is well illustrated in this recording made passing Church Fenton with Black 5 4-6-0 5305 on the morning circle on 29th August 1983. Church Fenton, heading east is at the foot of the, so called, Leeds Bank and on this occasion we were travelling at around 60 mph and running pretty well to time. No need for any heroics then, just a breath of steam through the cylinders will do nicely. Not with Harry! Sounds nice though doesn't it!
Now, I wouldn't like to suggest that Harry's driving had anything to do with it but, sadly, on the run from York to Scarborough 5305 failed at Haxby and had to suffer the indignity of a diesel pilot and was removed from the train at Malton. This was the only occasion where the rostered steam loco failed during running and was unable to complete its booked working during 5 years of regular Scarborough Spa Express. Not a bad record. As luck would have it 92220 was in light steam at York being prepared for the following days train and was quickly brought up to working pressure by Kim Malyon, sent light engine to Scarborough and worked the train in the evening.
Click to play - right click to save 5305 at Church Fenton. 29/8/83