12th July 1985

"You could barely hear a sound as my feet raced across the ground 'cept the clatter of pens as they fell to the ground"

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 day.

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