Revolution Trains’ long awaited – and much delayed due to Covid – ‘Sweet Caroline’ railtour on board the former Southern Region General Manager’s Saloon 975025 Caroline finally took place this weekend carrying the Revolution team, our guests and our competition and charity auction winners.
Traction for the day was provided by 37418 ‘An Comunn Gàidhealach’ in its stylish BR large logo livery. The locomotive is named after the Assocation founded in 1891 to preserve and develop the Gaelic language, making its Highland stag motif especially appropriate.
After all on board had been given a goody bag featuring a variety of mementoes of the day, we set off, with our driver Carl at the controls accompanied by driver conductor Tom, who had joined us at the last minute (after some frantic phone calls and emails!) when GBRf came to the rescue as it was realised that Carl did not sign for all of the planned route.
Our route took us from Derby, southwest to the WCML, north to Cheshire and into Manchester before looping round via the Hope Valley line and back via the huge locomotive depot at Toton. The route was designed as a loop, with no reversals, to optimise our use of Caroline’s unique ability to permit passengers to ride in the saloon with the driver.
Those on board included those who had won our ‘Sweet Caroline’ competition for those who pre-ordered a model – some coming from as far afield as Ireland and Australia – and the high bidder in our charity auction to raise money for cancer research UK.
As well as enjoying the on-board catering and views, the opportunity was taken to examine the Revolution pre-production model samples – even comparing the colours of the seating on the model to reality!
As some may know, the saloon is named after Caroline Mayo, a long time employee of the RTC who died of cancer in 2019. There is a photograph of her and explanatory plaque on board.
After leaving Crewe we stopped briefly at Sandbach for a photo-opportunity, the light drizzle failing to dampen the spirits.
On the freight only branch via Middlewich we stopped briefly in the loop there to allow GBRf’s 66759 with limestone from Hindlow to Small Heath in JNA box wagons (as offered by Revolution Trains) to pass.
After skirting south Manchester we picked up the Hope Valley route via New Mills and Chinely and on to Edale, by which time by some miracle the sun had started to come out.
Although the best views are forward, the rear saloon was popular as it had far better acoustics…
After returning to Derby, and saying goodbye to some guests, the majority of the party remained on board as we reversed back into Loram’s depot for an additional treat.
Sweet Caroline hi-viz vests were donned, and the party was led on a tour of Loram’s workshops at Derby, and we were given a guided tour by rail maintenance and ops director Ross.
As well as Caroline, Loram maintains Network Rail’s test vehicles including the New Measurement Train and Ultrasonic Test train, and those who wished to were able to climb on board and see the equipment for themselves.
The success of the day has encouraged us to think of other ways we can use our contacts in the industry to enable our customers to get more of an insight into the ‘real’ railway, and raise money for good causes, and we will be saying more about this in due course.
And finally we would like to sign off by saying a huge thank-you to Ross, Carl, Darren, Shanice and Andy from Loram, Tom from GBRf, Andrew, Charlotte, Steve, Neil and Sir Peter at Network Rail, Stephen at Procast for the superb headboard, and our guests on the day Gareth, Paul, Seb, Stewart, Bob, Mark, John, Eamon, and the two Philips.