A normal day on the Circuit

Scottish shenanigans involving 27018, 26014 and 20212

20212 and 27018 at Kirkcaldy

20212 and 27018 at Kirkcaldy

Saturday the 18th January, 1986 was the date. A dreicher, colder, generally more horrid January day on the east coast of Scotland would be hard to imagine. So it shouldn’t really have come as too great a surprise that half of the day would end up being spent behind two NB engines…

It all started normally enough for a day’s bashing on the Circuit (the Edinburgh-Dundee services), with a move for me across from Glasgow on 47716. It was all going rather too smoothly: I even had time to rake in some slops before sauntering up to the business end of the 0915 2J01 to Dundee.

I was fairly happy to see 27018 on the stock. Fairly surprised as well, since it wasn’t due off maintenance at Haymarket for another five days. Hmm. This usually meant that they were very short of engines and had had to go straight to the last resort of chucking out whatever was waiting to be repaired. Oh well, I crossed my fingers and sat back ready for some steaming mileage from one of the Kings of the VB. Or so I thought.

I should, of course, have known better. The 59 miles of the Circuit saw fairly intensive semi-fasts run with locos generally the wrong side of 25 years old, creaking DMUs on locals that were old when Cliff Richard was young, slow freights and fast trams. If something could go wrong, it probably would. Even the things that went wrong, went wrong. If something went right, it was probably only because there just wasn’t enough ‘wrong’ left to spread around that day… There’s a story, which you can choose to believe or not, that one controller who took over the line lost a stone in weight in a month. I can believe it.

In short, I didn’t have to raise my eyebrows too high when 27018 shut down south of “immaculate” Aberdour. Or when, after being started up again and staggering into the station, it shut down again. Or when, after being started up and staggering to Burntisland, it shut down again. Frankly, you can take the last two sentences and etc etc them all the way to Kirkcaldy, where the driver finally admitted defeat and failed the engine.

And asked control for a “wan thoosand” from Thornton to take us forward. While I was waiting on Kirkcaldy for some Type 1 mileage. 27046 came in from Dundee with the Waverley service. I decided to flag it just to see what would happen.

After about 40 minutes, the unmistakeable black clag cloud billowing from under the overbridge heralded the arrival of a Circuit 20. 20212 no less, one of the Circuit regulars along with 20204 and 20219. We used to joke they should be renumbered 20/4xxs as they worked so many passenger trains over the line…

By now, the driver had at least got 27018 ticking over again, so the 20 multi’d up and we set off, nose-first, at an average 32mph, with clouds of clag coming out of the Type 1.

At Markinch, a few familiar faces got on. They’d bailed from 27046 in the tried and tested Circuit drill of “If it hasn’t gone past by x station, there must be a riot and it could produce!”

After quite some time, we got to Dundee, where it was decided to send the station pilot back to Waverley to save the complicated shunting movements necessary to release the 20 and 27.

26014 at Dundee

26014 at Dundee

Since the station pilot was 26014, we had no objections in theory to this, as 26s were ‘banned’ from the Circuit passenger turns at the time after some, ahem, pyrotechnics, so were quite rare at that point… I doubt I’d had it for a year or two myself. We couldn’t really lose out, as there were no spare 47s, so it had to be a 27 that dropped on the diagram back to Dundee anyway, maybe with 26014 as well. No doubt Control were very pleased with this idea.

We said our farewells to the 20, though it would probably be more a case of ‘until the next time’; got some slops for the NB run and took our grandstand seats for 26014 over the Tay bridge. All went well, for, oh, about three minutes, when 26014 ground to a halt on at Wormit with total loss of vacuum.

Enter 20212. Again. It pushed 27018 up to the yard, dumped it, then ran up behind our train and pushed it at rather a good lick to Leuchars, where everyone got turfed off as 20212 pulled the stock back into the loop, uncoupled from the rear, ran round and dropped on to the front of the 26. You can probably guess the fatal flaw in this plan. Of course, 26014 was going to do its best to lose the vacuum 20212 was generating.

20212 and 26014 at Leuchars, ready to storm off into the afternoon. Well, totter, really.

20212 and 26014 at Leuchars, ready to storm off into the afternoon. Well, totter, really.

We set off again. 26014 was powering only intermittently, and 20212 was now chucking oil out like it was going out of fashion, which made bellowing rather a messy affair. Our pace to Waverley was, well, leisurely. Even a chive near to us turned to his father and asked: “Why is the train going so slowly daddy?” as we ambled up from Ladybank.

We were so late, the crew bailed at Dalmeny for their turn back to Dundee, the 1315 (at the time this was a 101), and the Edinburgh crew took us into Waverley.

The appearance of the ‘eyes in the sky’ for the 1415 2J13 meant a 27 was dropping: 27012 no less. It did its usual solid stuff and got us to Dundee and back, where we would do the 1815 back to Dundee. 27010 backed on, and we set off for some more VB miles. In theory.

010 was clagging badly, and shut down when it got to Aberdour (obviously the station of choice for 27 failures that day). Frankly, Dundee and Thornton had by now run out of spare engines to throw at us, since 27003 and 27024 were taking it in turns to drag a 101 between Perth and Dundee, and 20212 had probably run out of oil. So Zanussi had to drop in 47464, which pushed us to Burntisland. Where the brakes locked on. After some battering, the train limped to Kirkcaldy, where the train was caped. By now the 2015 wasn’t that far off, so the Dundee contingent took this home and I took 27046 south to Edinburgh, bailing at Haymarket for the shove.

Except… 47716 had failed in front of us, so we were diverted via Grahamston…

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