West Coast Railways
Charter train operations
|Headquarters||Carnforth, United Kingdom|
The West Coast Railway Company Limited, trading as West Coast Railways (WCR), is a railway spot-hire company and charter train operator based at Carnforth MPD in Lancashire. Using buildings and other facilities previously owned by the Steamtown Carnforth visitor attraction, in 1998 the company became the first privately owned company to be given a licence as a train operating company.
West Coast Railways' operating licence was suspended by Network Rail. The suspension came into force at midnight on 3 April 2015, for a minimum of six weeks, due to ongoing safety concerns relating to a serious SPAD (signal passed at danger) incident involving WCR on 7 March 2015. As of 8 May 2015 at 12:01am, Network Rail have lifted the track access ban that was on the company for eight weeks.
After British Rail closed the Lakeside branch to passengers on 6 September 1965, a group of enthusiasts chaired by Dr Peter Beet formed the Lakeside Railway Estates Company, with the idea of preserving both the line and Carnforth MPD, to provide a complete steam operating system. After agreeing to rent out part of the Carnforth MPD site, but with the counter the development of the A590 road meaning that the complete vision was unsuccessful, Beet developed the visitor attraction Steamtown Carnforth, which became a mecca for steam enthusiasts from 1967.
In 1974 Sir Bill McAlpine became a shareholder in the company, allowing his LNER A3 Pacific No.4472 Flying Scotsman to make Carnforth its home. McAlpine subsequently acquired a controlling interest in the company, in order to fund the purchase of the complete site including the track from BR.
In light of McAlpine's declining interest, in 1990 his controlling interest in Steamtown Railway Museum Ltd was sold to David Smith, who over the following years has bought out most of the minority shareholders. With increasing Health and Safety Executive regulations, and an increased reliance on revenue from supplying and servicing steam locomotives to power enthusiast trains, the commercial decision was taken not to reopen Carnforth as a museum or visitor attraction for the 1998 season. Steamtown Railway Museum Ltd still exists today as the holding company, and operates an extensive railway repair and operating facility on the site. Smith later set up the West Coast Railway Company Ltd, as a train operating company.
West Coast Railway Company (WCR) today is a spot hire company which provides locomotives, stock and crews to other companies within the rail industry. The company operates charter trains throughout the year, many of which are hauled by steam locomotives, and has grown to become the UK's leading special trains operator. The company now provides most of the stock and crews for steam workings on the national network plus a large amount for diesel tours as well. The headquarters, engineering base and depot are at Carnforth, where locomotives and stock are stored and maintained, and where contract work is undertaken for other operators.
West Coast are noted for their ownership and operation of steam locomotive 5972 "Olton Hall" under the guise of "Hogwarts Castle" for the Harry Potter film series, with the "Hogwarts Express" train being featured in each of the films.
March 2015 SPAD and operating license suspension
On 7 March 2015, the 16:35 return up/east bound Cathedrals Express 1Z67 operated by WCR (Bristol Temple Meads to Southend Victoria) approaching from Chippenham, headed by Battle of Britain class No.34067 Tangmere and 13 coaches passed SN45 signal passed at danger (SPAD) at Wootton Bassett Junction on the Great Western Main Line, overrunning the signal by 700 yards (640 m). The incident occurred around one minute after the up/east bound First Great Western service 1L76, the 15:28 Swansea to London Paddington passenger service approaching via the South Wales Main Line from Badminton, Gloucestershire and operated by an InterCity 125 set, had cleared the junction at 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). The signal was being maintained at danger to ensure the safety of train 1L76 after it had passed through the junction, as is standard practice.
The incident was investigated by track owner Network Rail (NR), the Office of Rail Regulation and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB). The RAIB launched an investigation into the incident on 27 March, releasing a statement in which they described the incident as a "dangerous occurrence". According to the RAIB, the SPAD was caused by driver error, after the driver manually switched off the Automatic Warning System (AWS) and Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS) on approach to a temporary speed restriction in the area of line immediately after signal SN43, the signal before signal SN45. These were not reactivated on approach to signal SN45; as a result, the train was not automatically stopped by the safety systems as it passed the signal at danger. 700 yards (640 m) down the line, the train was manually brought to a stop by the driver; it came to a rest across Wootton Bassett Junction.
Following an initial response by WCR to NR over the incident, NR expressed “concern at the WCR demonstrated controls, communication and commitment" considering them inadequate. Following a further meeting on 30 March 2015 between both parties, in an unprecedented reaction NR suspended WCR's operator's licence effective from midnight 3 April 2015. Operators have been banned from certain routes, but this was the first total network ban since privatisation. The suspension notice states:
|“||Network Rail has had concerns about WCR’s performance of its Safety Obligations for some time, and recent events lead Network Rail to believe that the operations of WCR are a threat to the safe operation of the railway. If five of the seven required remedies are completed by May 15, with demonstrable progress towards completion of the other two, the suspension notice will be withdrawn. The required steps include introducing a risk-based driver monitoring regime, and demonstrating that there is an effective and secure system of tamper-evident seals for train protection isolator cocks on all relevant traction.||”|
WCR stated that it was in negotiations with NR regarding the terms of the suspension, and also with other train operating companies in order to prevent the cancellation of many scheduled WCR operated railtours during the period of suspension.
On the 8th May 2015 at 12:01am, Network Rail lifted the track access ban off the company. This means that the company can continue its scheduled tours for the coming months including the first of the Jacobite railtours.
|“||Network Rail has confirmed that it reinstated West Coast Railway Company's track access agreement as of 00:01 this morning, five weeks after suspending the organisation over safety concerns. In a letter to West Coast Railway Company, Paul McMahon, Director for Freight at Network Rail, said that the company welcomed the commitment WCR has made to improving safety through changes to the Safety Management System (SMS), and the appointing of a new Director/General Manager, Head of Safety and Non-Executive Director. The new interim Head of Safety, Alex McGregor, from Lloyds Register and a Non-Executive Director are being appointed before services recommence.||”|
Today WCR operates several regular steam-hauled excursions every summer. The most famous of these trains is The Jacobite (named for the historic Jacobite political movement). It runs along the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct. It runs Monday to Fridays from the middle of May until the end of October and also runs at weekends from the end of June until the end of August. In 2011, WCR added a second "Jacobite" service, leaving Fort William in the afternoons from the start of June until the end of August running on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. 2012 saw this second service increase to five days a week, between June and August.
In 2007, West Coast Railways took over operation of the 'Cambrian Coast Express' running over the Cambrian Coast Line from Machynlleth to Porthmadog and Pwllheli and renamed it "The Cambrian". The service ran from the last week of July until the end of August between 2007 and 2010. Before the 2011 season, WCR issued a statement stating that due to Network Rail's implementation of the new ERTMS signalling on the Cambrian Coast, which necessitated new in-cab signalling equipment, the seasonal steam services had to cease running.
In 2014, WCR introduced a new steam train service for 2015 called 'The Dalesman' which runs from York to Carlisle via Normanton, Wakefield, Leeds, Keighley, Skipton, Hellifield and the Settle-Carlisle Line. It is diesel-hauled between York and Hellifield where steam traction takes over the train and travels along to Carlisle.
Train Operating Company
WCR provides locomotives, stock and crews for many railtour organisers across the country. It also provides crews to some organisations, such as SRPS and Vintage trains, who own their own stock. WCR act/have acted as TOC to the following companies:
- Nenta Traintours
- PMR Tours
- The Railway Touring Company
- Saltburn Railtours
- SRPS Railtours
- Statesman Rail
- Steam Dreams (As of October 2013)
- Vintage Trains
- Compass By West Coast (Formerly Compass Tours)
- North-East Railtours
Former companies operated with:
- The Royal Scotsman (Now with DB Schenker)
- Budgie Transport (Ceased railtour operations in 2011)
- Compass Tours (Ceased trading in 2014, company with similar name now operating)
- Daylight Railtours (Ceased trading in 2004)
- Railtourer (Ceased trading in 2013)
- Shepherd Neame (Ceased tour operations in 2013)
- Spitfire Railtours (Ceased trading after financial difficulties in 2012)
Routes commonly operated over by WCR include the nearby Cumbrian Coast Line and Furness Line, Little North Western Line, the Settle-Carlisle Line and the West Highland Line. The company utilises several sidings at Hellifield railway station, south of Settle Junction, where the lines to Carlisle and Carnforth diverge, allowing easy access to the WCR home base.
The headquarters and main depot is at Carnforth MPD. The former London Midland and Scottish Railway depot coded 10A has workshops for steam and diesel locomotives, and also carriage and wagon facilities to maintain the company's fleet of Mark 1 & 2 carriages. The site includes extensive sidings plus a paint shop.
For half of the year the company also use part of Fort William depot as a base for the stock and locomotives for its "Jacobite" service.
The company owns and operates a fleet of diesel locomotives, which are primarily used to haul charter trains, but have also been hired to other railway operators. The fleet is mainly composed of Class 37 and Class 47 locomotives, but also includes Class 57 locomotives, including the prototype passenger locomotive 57601.
Several Class 37 locomotives were purchased from Ian Riley Engineering, which ceased its spot-hire operations in mid-2004. In 2005, WCR won the contract to haul The Royal Scotsman luxury train. As a result, its two operational Class 37 locomotives and a Class 47 were repainted into a revised maroon livery, officially known as Royal Scotsman Claret, based on that of the Royal Scotsman carriages. In late 2005, WCR sold its two operational Class 37 locomotives (nos. 37197 and 37261) to Direct Rail Services (DRS), and received four Class 33 locomotives in exchange. As of 2011, WCR started investing in more Class 57 locomotives, bought from Advenza Freight, Harry Needle Railroad Company, Freightliner and former Arriva Trains Wales/Virgin Trains locomotives from Porterbrook Leasing.
The company's coaching stock consists of vacuum and air plus dual braked Mark 1 and Mark 2 coaches, mostly painted in the British Railways maroon livery, albeit with West Coast Railways branding on the bodyside. Some of these coaches were built as BR Pullman coaches.
Locomotives listed here may be operated by West Coast Railway Company assuming they have the appropriate mainline certification. They are not owned by WCRC and are made available to operate by their respective owners who are listed.
Some engines may not now be operated on the mainline because their mainline or boiler ticket has expired or may be on display away from the national network. 5972 Olton Hall is currently on a 2-year loan agreement from November 2014 to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Leavesden for their Harry Potter tour.
|Key:||Operational||Under Repair||Expired Mainline Certificate/Withdrawn from Service/Stored||Under overhaul/restoration/stored||Due to be certified in near future||Undergoing testing/Mainline Certification||Operational, Heritage Railway/Museum|
All locomotives below are owned and operated by West Coast Railways.
|Key:||In service||Under Repair||Stored||Spares Donor||Currently non-operational on Network Rail|
|Number||Class||Name||Livery||Date Acquired||Into Traffic||Previous Operator||Status||Location|
|03196||03||-||BR Blue||July 2002||July 2002||ex-British Rail||Stored||Carnforth|
|D2381||03||-||BR Green||March 1976||March 1976||ex-British Rail||Stored||Carnforth|
|08418||08||-||EWS Red||August 2010||November 2010||ex-EWS||Depot shunter||Carnforth|
|08485||08||-||BR Blue||August 2010||September 2010||ex-EWS||Depot shunter||Carnforth|
|08678||08||Artila||Glaxo Blue and Black||November 1994||November 1994||ex-Glaxo, Ulverston||Under repair||Carnforth|
|33025||33||Glen Falloch||WCR Maroon||September 2005||November 2005||ex-Direct Rail Services||Operational||Carnforth|
|33029||33||Glen Loy||WCR Maroon||September 2005||March 2006||ex-Direct Rail Services||Operational||Carnforth|
|33030||33||-||DRS Oxford Blue Original||September 2005||N\A||ex-Direct Rail Services||Spares Donor||Carnforth|
|33207||33||Jim Martin||WCR Maroon||September 2005||November 2005||ex-Direct Rail Services||Operational||Carnforth|
|37214||37||WCR Maroon||May 2006||May 2006||ex-Preservation||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|37516||37||Loch Laidon||WCR Maroon||February 2009||June 2009||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|37518||37||Fort William/An Gearasdan||InterCity Swallow||October 2013||October 2013||ex-Ian Riley||Operational||Carnforth|
|37668||37||-||WCR Maroon||December 2007||October 2014||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|37669||37||-||WCR Maroon||March 2011||March 2015||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|37676||37||Loch Rannoch||WCR Maroon||November 2007||November 2008||ex-EWS||Under repair||Carnforth|
|37685||37||Loch Arkaig||WCR Maroon||December 2007||May 2010||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|37706||37||-||WCR Maroon||December 2007||December 2008||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|37710||37||-||Loadhaul||December 2007||N/A||ex-EWS||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|37712||37||-||WCR Maroon||December 2007||June 2008||ex-EWS||Stored||Carnforth|
|47194||47||-||Railfreight||September 2005||N/A||ex-Fragonset||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|47236||47||-||RfD||December 2006||N/A||ex-Fragonset||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|47237||47||WCR Maroon||January 2011||July 2011||ex-Advenza Freight||Operational||Southall|
|47245||47||-||WCR Maroon||April 2004||April 2006||ex-HNRC||Operational||Carnforth|
|47270||47||Swift||BR Blue||May 2010||May 2010||ex-Preservation||Under repair||Carnforth|
|47355||47||-||Fragonset||May 2010||N/A||ex-European Metal Recycling||Stored||Carnforth|
|47368||47||-||Railfreight||December 2006||N/A||ex-Fragonset||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|47492||47||-||Rail Express Systems||March 2010||N/A||ex-Preservation||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|47500||47||-||WCR Maroon||December 2009||July 2010||ex-EWS||Stored||Carnforth|
|47526||47||-||BR Large Logo||December 2006||N/A||ex-Fragonset||Spares donor||Carnforth|
|47746||47||Chris Fudge 29.7.70-22.6.10||WCR Maroon||March 2011||October 2013||ex-Preservation (BT4F)||Operational||York|
|47760||47||-||WCR Maroon||February 2007||April 2008||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|47772||47||-||Rail Express Systems||June 2008||N/A||ex-EWS||Stored||Carnforth|
|47776||47||-||Rail Express Systems||February 2007||N/A||ex-EWS||Stored||Carnforth|
|47786||47||Roy Castle OBE||WCR Maroon||February 2007||October 2008||ex-EWS||Operational||Derby|
|47787||47||Windsor Castle||WCR Maroon||February 2007||February 2008||ex-EWS||Under repair||Carnforth|
|47802||47||-||DRS Compass||September 2014||N/A||ex-Direct Rail Services||Stored||Carnforth|
|47804||47||-||WCR Maroon||February 2007||June 2007||ex-EWS||Operational||Carnforth|
|47826||47||-||WCR Maroon||April 2005||June 2005||ex-Virgin Trains||Operational||Carnforth|
|47832||47||-||WCR Maroon||September 2014||October 2014||ex-Direct Rail Services||Operational||Derby|
|47851||47||WCR Maroon||April 2005||June 2005||ex-Virgin Trains||Operational||Carnforth|
|47854||47||Diamond Jubilee||WCR Maroon||June 2003||February 2004||ex-Virgin Trains||Operational||Carnforth|
|57001||57||WCR Maroon||January 2011||March 2011||ex-Freightliner||Under repair||Carnforth|
|57005||57||-||Advenza Freight Blue||January 2011||N/A||ex-Advenza Freight||Stored||Carnforth|
|57006||57||-||WCR Maroon||April 2011||June 2012||ex-Advenza Freight||Operational||Carnforth|
|57313||57||-||WCR Maroon||January 2013||April 2013||ex-Porterbrook||Operational||Carnforth|
|57314||57||-||WCR Maroon||January 2013||April 2013||ex-Porterbrook||Operational||Carnforth|
|57315||57||-||WCR Maroon||January 2013||March 2013||ex-Porterbrook||Operational||Carnforth|
|57316||57||-||Unbranded Arriva Trains Wales Blue||January 2013||March 2013||ex-Porterbrook||Operational||Carnforth|
|57601||57||-||WCR Maroon||November 2003||February 2004||ex-Porterbrook||Under repair||Carnforth|
Bold = Current number
|Pre Tops Number||Tops Number||Class||Name||Livery||Owner||Status||Location|
|D1762||47580||47||County of Essex||BR Blue (with Union Jack)||Stratford 47 Group||Operational||Carnforth|
|D1755||47773||47||-||BR Two-Tone Green||Vintage Trains||Operational||Tyseley|
|D1656||47798||47||Prince William||Royal RES||National Collection||Operational||York NRM|
|D407||50007||50||Hercules||BR Blue||Boden Rail Engineering||Operational||Washwood Heath|
|D417||50017||50||Royal Oak||Network SouthEast||Boden Rail Engineering||Operational||Washwood Heath|
|D1015||~||52||Western Champion||BR Maroon||Diesel Traction Group||Operational||Crewe|
|D9000||55022||55||Royal Scots Grey||BR Blue||Beaver Sports (Yorks.) Ltd||Operational||On Hire to GBRf|
|D9002||55002||55||The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry||BR Blue||NRM||Operational||York NRM|
|D9009||55009||55||Alycidon||BR Green||Deltic Preservation Society||Operational||Barrow Hill|
|E3137||86259||86||Les Ross||1960's BR Electric Blue||Les Ross||Operational||Willesden|
- STATEMENT - West Coast Railways suspension notice, Network Rail, 2 April 2015
- Rail Accident Investigation Branch (27 March 2015), "Dangerous occurrence at Wootton Bassett junction, Wiltshire", www.gov.uk
- STATEMENT – Network Rail revoke West Coast Railways suspension notice, Network Rail, 8 May 2015
- Butt 1995, p. 115
- "Obituary - Dr Peter Beet". The Guardian. 7 December 2005. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "Steamtown miniature railway". Mike Hanson. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "Steamtown Museum, carnforth". BBC Domesday. 2012-02-06.
- "Steamtown early 1970s". Mike Hanson. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- Johns, Cedric (8 April 2015). "SPAD stops Tangmere at Wootton Bassett". Heritage Railway (Horncastle: Mortons Media Ltd) (201): p59. ISSN 1466-3562.
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