|The day started just like any other day but this was to
become no other day in my living memory. Just after 10.15 the
phone rang, an excited voice informed me that there was a class 25 out
on the York - Cardiff relief train (25278). Would I be covering
it? Well, the only questions for me were could I get to York and
could I get the time off (in that order). I calmly finished my
coffee and phoned a few friends to pass on the gen. My boss worked
on the floor above me so I ambled upstairs and asked if I could take the
afternoon off. By now he knew the score, there was a "new engine"
or something similar out for me and so, sure I could take the afternoon
off. Good, I thought, not really much time for me to get much more
done before lunch and so I decided to call it a day workwise and by
10.45 I was on my way.
Now this is 1985 and computer programs such as
Autoroute are all in the future. I had only a vague idea of how to
get to York from Shirley, Solihull but shirley two hours would be
enough? (Years later, Autoroute says No, two hours and thirty five
minutes are required for this journey). I made my way over to the
M69 and M1 north, a slightly longer route than it might have been
nowadays but I
needed motorway speeds. My car, a Triumph TR7, was cranked up to
an average speed of 90mph and I began to eat up the miles. I could
have terminated my journey at Sheffield and caught the train from there,
it would only have lost me a few haulage miles but a lot of credibility
points. I had said I would be at York for the train and at
York I would be. Credibility points count double so I up'd my
average speed to 100mph.
There were no signs for York, Scotch Corner perhaps but not York.
It might well have been 'Scotch Mist' as far as I was concerned for with
no co-pilot I had no idea where I was. At last, somewhere north of
Leeds a sign appeared, York 14 miles and I had 21 minutes to do that in,
it was going to be a close run thing. The roads no longer allowed
speeds in excess of 60mph and once in York itself it was down to
whatever the cars in front were doing. With five minutes to go I
arrived at the set of traffic lights on Nunnery Lane, in front of me was
the station and one car. The lights changed, I decided not to stop
but the car in front did. TR7's have good brakes. I was
stopped at those lights for three very long minutes.
As I pulled into the station car park my heart sank. It was one
of those "Pay the Man at the Gate" jobs but I really didn't have the
time. Now my luck started to turn, he was chatting to a couple of
female tourists and I drove straight past him. But there's no
place to park! I had to go half way into the car park to find a
space, the time was now 12.55, zero minutes to go. I could see the
class 25 over the far side, past the main running lines. The brain
takes just a few milliseconds to make a decision, mine had to consider
do I run back down the car park, past the attendant (who might want some
money), into the station and through the ticket barrier (where I might
need to produce some validity, don't ask!) or do I run through the hole
in the fence, across four or five sidings and onto the main southbound
platform at York. Fifteen seconds later I was clambering onto the
platform and starting my "Chariots of Fire" run to the footbridge.
It was Einstein who said that as you approach the speed of
light time stands still. As I ran down that platform time slowed
to a crawl. I passed one of the BR Platform staff who shouted at
me. "Hey, yoouu, stoooppp" was all I heard as the Doppler effect
kicked in and his voice receded into the background noise. Pens
flew out of the pockets of my suit and cascaded to the ground, there was
no time to stop for them. I reached the footbridge as the whistle blew.
People were just a blur, their voices echoing in my head as my heart and
lungs drove me ever onward. I saw two people heading towards the
exit, they had seen friends or relatives off on the train I was trying
to catch and one of them said "I do hope he makes it". My brain
responded with something like "So do I, I've just driven for two hours [and 160
miles] for this". But there were no words from me, I had shut down
(almost) all non essential bodily functions including I think breathing, everything was focussed on
my legs. I leapt down the stairs, three at a time and onto the
platform. I grasped the nearest door handle and opened it.
Within a second of closing it the train jolted and started to move.
It was two minutes late departing.
With that I collapsed into the nearest compartment. I remember
seeing my face was bright red, I was covered in sweat and unable to speak for many
minutes and miles. Eventually I washed and recovered enough to head up the
train and see who was on board. Not many was the answer. One
of the Brads had shown up [Mr. Desperado himself, Brendan] and
notwithstanding the high cost he was taking it all the way, Top Man!
Nick joined the train at Birmingham but the Preston Roadshow didn't make
it. So few people were turning up for it we wondered what else
might be out. (I was sacrificing a new 31 by taking it all the way but
it was worth it!)
We arrived at Cardiff just a few minutes down and with thirty minutes
before a train back. It was HST moves all the way back to York. I then drove down to Sheffield and slept overnight in the car
for the following day's Summer Saturday trains. It had been a great
day and funnily enough one, that I'll never, ever, forget to my dying