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All Posts, Transport

Author Guest Post: Kim Fullbrook

Diesels Diverted

Engineering Work. Rail Replacement Bus Service. These are phrases that frighten regular train travellers by generating a vision of slow, delayed journeys. For the enthusiast, engineering work could sometimes open up an opportunity that wasn’t available with normal services as trains could be diverted via a different route. For enthusiasts that try to travel on as many lines as possible, the diverted train might have taken a freight-only route or used an obscure crossover. As a keen photographer, my interest was seeing and photographing these unusual workings, whether they involved a freight-only line or a locomotive-hauled train on a route that normally saw only trains worked by diesel or electric units. The first diverted trains I photographed were in spring 1980 and involved a couple of Deltics running through Cambridge. They were an exciting addition to the usual fare of Class 37s and 47s.

In February 1991 I was delighted to find out about a series of weekends with diverted trains on the GN & GE Joint Line through Sleaford and Spalding. This was one of my favourite lines with its quiet countryside and little signal boxes with mainly semaphore signals. Unfortunately, at that time of year the weather is often dull and wet which makes photography in open countryside difficult. The weather forecast for the 2nd of February was favourable so I drove the 120 miles from home to Spalding. Upon arrival, my excitement was tempered by encountering moderate fog. Fortunately, the trains ran slowly through Spalding so despite the limitations of slide film I was able to get pictures without speed blurring in the dull conditions and the fog lifted later. Fast forward to 2022. Trains are still diverted via Spalding when engineering work blocks the main line, for example on the weekend of 19/20 November, although they are now formed of Hitachi Class 800 series units instead of HSTs or Class 47s hauling Class 91 sets. Cameras have improved hugely with digital technology and it’s possible to get decent pictures even in very dull conditions. The challenge of avoiding rainy weather is the same.

In the late 1990s there were numerous GNER and Virgin diversions off the East Coast and West Coast routes on Bank Holiday weekends. There was plenty of sunny weather when I went out for these diversions and it seems, looking back, that there was more good weather in the late 1990s than there has been in 2022, despite the heatwave experienced in the UK and much of Europe.

With the use of smartphones and web sites showing the up to date position of trains it’s far easier to find out about diverted workings and see them (or travel on them) than it ever was in previous years. Sadly, the range of diversions today is less than in the days of British Rail when route knowledge was wider, traffic levels were lower and fewer bureaucratic barriers got in the way. Today it would be unthinkable to run West Coast Main Line trains into St Pancras, yet this happened in 1992. My book shows a wide range of diverted trains in chronological order, beginning in 1980.

Diesels Diverted is available to order here.