Lost Railway Services of Greater Manchester: The European

The story of Manchester’s former Boat Train service to Harwich Parkeston Quay

The European (Glasgow Central - Harwich Parkeston Quay) map

Since the Edwardian times, Manchester Victoria station’s canopy and tiled map proudly advertised the fact it was possible to travel from there to Leeds and the Hook of Holland. Its ticket office windows also reflect the scale of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s ambitions. Today, the railway station is a shadow of its former self, with only six platforms (down from 17) and a leaky roof. Alas, it is almost impossible to get to the Hook of Holland from Victoria without changing at Leeds.

Prior to the late 1980s, there was a direct train for the Hook of Holland ferries. Instead of Hull (as the tiled map suggests), it served the East Anglian port of Harwich. It was an InterCity service known as The European.

The original service linked Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley with the port of Harwich, ending its journey at Parkeston Quay terminal, via Nottingham. Prior to 1982, it traversed the Settle and Carlisle Line. With British Rail running down the line in preparation for future closure, it was rerouted via Manchester Victoria.

In 1982, Manchester Victoria was the city’s main railway station for Anglo-Scottish services. It was well connected by local bus services, had the Trans-Pennine Express services, and an express coach to Manchester Airport (Greater Manchester Transport’s 200 service). Whereas Manchester Piccadilly had one connection with the continent (the Class 124 Trans Pennine DMUs to Hull Paragon), The European offered rail users another option, via Harwich from Victoria.

From Scotland, trains would be joined at Carstairs Junction, with all-electric traction up to Preston. Typical carriages would be the air conditioned Mark 2Fs, built in 1971. South of Preston, these would be hauled by a Class 47 diesel locomotive, with the resultant 10 – 12 carriage train gracing Victoria’s long through platforms. After Miles Platting, the train would continue to Sheffield via the Phillips Park and Ashburys junctions, taking in Marple, New Mills and the Hope Valley line.

From Sheffield, it would follow the present day East Midlands Trains route to Norwich up to March, via Nottingham, Grantham and Peterborough. After March, it would reach Harwich Parkeston Quay station via Stowmarket and Ipswich, connecting with the Dutch ferries.

Minor Tweaks and Diversion

In 1986-87, Stockport was added as an intermediate stop. This was aided by the opening of the Hazel Grove Chord in the spring of 1986. Instead of using the line to Ashburys and taking in Marple and New Mills, trains were sent via Ashton Moss Junction and Denton Junction prior to reaching Stockport and Hazel Grove. From then on, it would use the chord prior to continuing its long journey to Harwich.

May 1987 saw a most controversial change to the timetable. The European would no longer serve Manchester Victoria, Sheffield and Nottingham. Instead, it would follow the West Coast Main Line all the way to Watford Junction via Birmingham New Street, with a slight detour in Willesden for Ipswich and Harwich Parkeston Quay. Though the journey time was reduced, the Mark 2s carried fresh air south of Birmingham. It was barely a footnote on the InterCity timetable.

Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham passengers were placated (or palmed off) with a more modest replacement. The southern section of the 1982 – 1987 service was renamed The Rhinelander. Trains operated from Manchester Piccadilly instead of Victoria. Again, Class 47s were used, albeit under the wires in Greater Manchester. The air conditioned Mark 2Fs were replaced by older Mark 2s from 1963 to 1968, this time with openable windows. First Class accommodation was discontinued.

Sprinterisation

The Rhinelander only operated for a year, as did its revised stablemate via the WCML. The 16 May 1988 saw an extension of the 1987 service to Blackpool North, using the newly opened Windsor Link. For 1988, it was renamed The Loreley. In spite of this improvement, there was a nasty sting in the tail. It involved the loss of loco hauled trains.

Class 156 Super Sprinter units would take over. The original service had 10 coaches. Its immediate successor had 7 coaches. The Loreley would be operated with just…

…2 coaches.

Though the timetable saw improved frequencies, there was terrible overcrowding on popular journeys – most of which hitherto at times The Rhinelander and The European had left at. The section between Manchester and Nottingham was most overcrowded. By 1989, busy services saw 4 coaches added. Even so, it was a marked contrast to the more comfortable Mark 2s.

Towards Privatisation

The 1990s saw further change. The Loreley train was discontinued along with the Class 31 hauled Liverpool Lime Street to Sheffield and Cleethorpes service. Therefore, the Liverpool Lime Street to Sheffield section of the latter route would be absorbed by most of The Loreley up to March. Passengers were encouraged to change at Ely for Ipswich and Harwich trains. Beyond March, it would continue to Norwich.

Class 156s would remain part and parcel of the Liverpool Lime Street to Norwich service, well into privatisation. They would regularly feature on Central Trains’ service, along with state of the art Class 170 DMUs. The present franchisees, East Midlands Trains, use 2 or 4 car Class 158s, all attractively furnished. Today, it is not unknown for overcrowding to occur on 4 car units, particularly in the peak hours, or if a First Transpennine service to Sheffield is cancelled.

The Sheffield to Cleethorpes section would form part of North West Regional Railways’ Trans-Pennine Express routes. In 1994, they were extended to the new Manchester Airport railway station, reversing at Manchester Piccadilly, using Class 158 Express DMUs. Today, First/Keolis Transpennine Express operate this popular service, using Class 185 Siemens Desiro units. Even with 3 cars, passengers without a seat reservation may have difficulty finding a seat at Piccadilly. By Stockport, often no chance at all till Sheffield or Doncaster.

The Manchester Piccadilly to Blackpool North section continued to be operated by loco hauled trains till the mid 1990s, with Mark 2As often hauled by Class 37 locomotives. These too were replaced by Class 156 Super Sprinters, albeit with North West Express branding. They too form part of First Transpennine Express’ service, commencing at Manchester Airport, sometimes co-working with the Barrow-in-Furness train (which would split at Preston).

*                                               *                                               *

Is it possible to retrace The European journey today?

To do The European journey, semi-verbatim in 2012 would require a great many changes. The National Rail website recommends boarding the Virgin West Coast train from Glasgow Central to London Euston, then a Tube to Liverpool Street, followed by a Greater Anglian train from there to Manningtree. A change of train is required from there to complete the journey to Harwich Parkeston Quay (known today as Harwich International).

The cheapest walk-on return fare is an eyewatering £144.10 with an average journey time of 7 hours and 15 minutes.

From Edinburgh Waverley, passengers need to board the East Coast service to London King’s Cross, again with a Tube to Liverpool Street from there. At Liverpool Street, a train to Colchester is required, where a change of train is required for the last leg to Harwich.

The cheapest walk-on return fare from Edinburgh is £142.00 with an average journey time of 6 hours and 45 minutes.

Supposing we remained true to the original premise (or near enough), today’s journey would be as follows:

From Glasgow Central:

  • 1140 Glasgow Central – Preston (Virgin Trains);
  • 1410 Preston – Manchester Piccadilly (Transpennine Express) – 33 minute connection at Piccadilly;
  • 1520 Manchester Piccadilly – Sheffield (Transpennine Express) – 30 minute connection at Sheffield (quick half of a Thornbridge ale may suffice at The Sheffield Tap);
  • 1638 Sheffield – March (East Midlands Trains) – approximately 1 hour to spare in March (consider The Hippodrome, a J.D. Wetherspoon house for a late tea time stop);
  • 2004 March – Manningtree (Greater Anglia) – 25 minute connection;
  • 2200 Manningtree – Harwich International (Greater Anglia) – arrival time: 2217.

Journey Time (including connection times): 10 hours, 37 minutes.

From Edinburgh Waverley:

  • 1051 Edinburgh Waverley – Preston (Virgin Trains) – 8 minute connection at Preston;
  • 1323 Preston – Manchester Piccadilly (Northern Rail) – 9 minute connection at Piccadilly (and thankfully, no need to switch platforms as you alight and board your next train on platform 13 – yay!);
  • 1427 Manchester Piccadilly – March (East Midlands Trains) – 29 minute connection time in March;
  • 1804 March – Ipswich (Greater Anglia) – 7 minute connection time in Ipswich;
  • 1935 Ipswich – Manningtree (Greater Anglia) – 16 minute connection time in Manningtree;
  • 2000 Manningtree – Harwich International (Greater Anglia) – arrival time: 2017.

Journey Time (including connection times): 9 hours, 27 minutes.

Now for the most important question: will it connect with my ferry to Hook of Holland? The answer…

Yes!

The next ferry to the Hook of Holland is 2315, which is great if you’ve come in from Edinburgh, though cutting it fine if you’ve come in from Glasgow. The 2315 ferry would arrive in Holland by 0745 – sufficient time to weigh up Dutch rail operations and enjoy a decent look around Hook of Holland. Happy days!

In spite of all this I could stick to National Rail’s recommended route. However, it wouldn’t be true to shadowing the route of the lost European service which left Manchester Victoria, with 12 carriages and a Class 47 locomotive at the front.

S.V., 30 May 2012.

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34 thoughts on “Lost Railway Services of Greater Manchester: The European

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  1. In your Edinburgh example, it would be easier to extend the connection time in Piccadilly and wait till 1533 for the EMT to Norwich?

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      1. Hi Connaire,

        Quite possibly. On re-reading this article, the same train could be true of the Glasgow Central example. Hence:

        • 1533 Manchester Piccadilly – March (arr. 1735);
        • 1804 March – Ipswich (arr. 1928);
        • 1935 Ipswich – Manningtree (arr. 1944);
        • 2000 Manningtree – Harwich International (arr. 2017).

        Needless to say, our Glaswegian passengers will have more time between disembarking their train and checking in for the Hook of Holland ferry. Panic over, and a more attractive journey time of 8 hours 37 minutes. 🙂

        Bye for now,

        Stuart.

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  2. Very interesting indeed thanks, I used to watch these trains pass through Hazel Grove
    We watched almost every weekend they were building the Hazel Grove Chord line and it was great to have InterCity services passing through. The same happened when the project RIo HST’s were running Manchester to London St Pancras in 2003/4
    Thanks, Steven

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    1. Hi Steven,

      Heady days! I would still say that a Class 47 and a rake of Mark 2fs is more comfortable than a quartet of Class 158s or Class 170 Turbostars. Given how overcrowded the present East Midlands Trains [Liverpool Lime Street – Norwich Thorpe] service gets, six air conditioned loco hauled carriages would be better – so long as full disabled access is permitted.

      I remembered seeing the HSTs on the St. Pancras service, and always wanted to board one to the capital. It’s a shame that service no longer exists, as it would have offered Mancunians a direct link onto Eurostar services (without changing at London Euston via tube, or Sheffield Midland).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  3. Hi Stuart,
    Thanks for your message.
    I fully agree that a 47 and a rake of Mark 2 air conditioned carriages.
    I’m not a fan of DMUs, although the 185′s are ok.
    I live in Weston-super-Mare (since 1998) so lots of HST’s – my favourites.
    It is a shame that you could not go on one of the St Pancras to Man Picc HSt’s.
    Best Wishes, Steven
    p.s I agree full disabled access should be enabled.

    Like

  4. Hi Stuart, my brother Steven has already posted some comments and I would like to echo what he has said. There was also the North-West Dane that ran from Blackpool North to Harwich PQ via the Hazel Grove Chord and the same route. Just over six years in 2006 ago I produced a commemorative booklet that celebrate the 25th anniversary of the line from Stockport to Hazel Grove being electrified and also 20 years since the Hazel Grove Chord opened to traffic. Striking A Chord With Electric was born from my brothers suggestion to do a booklet as a follow on from a series of displays I had put together earlier in 2006. It was very enjoyable to put the booklet together and although it only had a small print run of 330 copies the fact that I only have ten copies left proves that it was well worth doing it.
    Cheers Paul

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    1. Hi Paul,

      I’ve got to look into that route. Perhaps this explains why there was a DMU service from Blackpool North to Cambridge (1988 – 1989), before that was changed again to the current set up (Liverpool Lime Street – Norwich, plus separate services to Blackpool North from Manchester Piccadilly, and Cambridge from Ely).

      Would love to see ‘ Striking A Chord With Electric’. I’ve not seen any electric trains on the local service to Hazel Grove lately, and I’ve always copped for seeing Pacer units instead. I wonder if the electrified Blackpool North line would see an all-electric service from there to Hazel Grove? That would neatly tie in with the 30th anniversary.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  5. As a Mancunian who went to University in Colchester in the 1970’s the train then and in the 1960’s that went to Harwich was the Harwich Boat Train. It originated at Piccadilly not Victoria and travelled through the Woodhead tunnel to Sheffield Victoria until that line shut being steam hauled for the rest of the journey which at one time included Spalding rather than Peterborough. In the seventies it started taking your East Midlands route reversing at Sheffield but travelling through Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket from Ely on to Ipswich before reaching Harwich. Another correction to your map is that any train from Watford Junction would never reach Ipswich to get to Harwich as the junction is at Manningtree in Essex not in Suffolk.

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    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the amendment and your recollection of 1960s operations. It also completes a puzzle I’ve been trying to solve over the Woodhead line passenger services.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  6. Ah well that was a great bit of History Stuart and took me back to my younger days in the mid 1980’s. I too remember with fondness catching the “European” or as I always remember it the 1E87 (did it always have that reporting code) i recently found one of those white strips of paper that they used to stick in the door windows THE EUROPEAN, not worth a fortune but a nice memento of times gone by,
    I remember Sat 10th May was the last day of the Blackpool – Cambridge and have some pics at Sheffield it carried the headboard made my enthusiasts “FAREWELL BLACKPOOL -CAMBRIDGE. Routed via New Mills Central.. Also i think that Sat 10th May might have been the last day THE EUROPEAN was routed via New Mills Central? Well thanks for a interesting read

    Kind Regards

    Steve

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    1. Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your comment on The European. I would assume that the British Rail Timetable changed the following Sunday [11 May 1986], and would have taken the Hazel Grove Chord from then on.

      Around the last week in May 1986, I boarded The European with my late Nana from Manchester Victoria station to Glasgow Central. We were treated to air conditioned Mk 2 rolling stock and a Class 47. Then we copped for a 20 minute wait at Preston (probably for a change of loco to electric traction) and a delay at Lancaster. Afterwards, I would spend the best part of my half term holidays in Scotland (with close friends in Clynder). It seemed a little scary being opposite Faslane base.

      The European has a special place in my heart. In spite of having travelled great distances by rail before starting school, my 1986 journey was the first I could remember properly. It seemed all the more special because I had two comics (the usual Beano and my other favourite DC Thomson comic, Topper).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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      1. Hi Stuart

        Well the new timetable commenced on Monday 12th May 1986 as I also had the pleasure of travelling on the last Class 31 loco hauled passenger train via New Mills Central with Mk 1 carriages between Manchester and Sheffield, and return journey as far as New Mills Central, where my friend was the signalman on duty at the the time (Oh the fun we used to have)
        I didn’t work for the railways at the time, but I felt it an honour to pull off for the 1E87 “The European”, and watch it pass Southbound. Like yourself I have fond memories of it.
        I enjoyed many visits to New Mills Central signal box in the mid 80’s. So much so that I eventually got a job working on the railways and transferred to Chinley where I have been for 17 of my 24 years.
        If you look on DerbySulzers website and look up the New Mills area you will see a pic of The European setting off from New Mills Central, after being stopped and cautioned by the signaller and powering up as it sets off again. Its a cracking shot!

        Steve

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  7. I travelled from Liverpool Central to Parkeston Quay in 1956 for an exchange visit with a boy who lived in Brunswick (Braunschweig). I remember some of the passing stations and some of the stops: they included Manchester Central where the train reversed, we passed though Chorlton-cum-Hardy, stopped at Guide Bridge, passed through Woodhead Tunnel, stopped at Penistone, Sheffield Victoria, Gainsborough, Lincoln Central, Spalding, and March, (I forget whether we stopped and reversed at Ely or just crossed the King’s Lynn line on the level north of the station), then stopped at Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. I’m no expert on carriage formations or locomotives, far from it, but I vividly remember that the European railway carriages at Hook of Holland looked foreboding and enormous in their olive drab livery; an excellent on board breakfast at Amersfoort as we passed through Holland; and that the passengers for Berlin had to travel in special carriages which were locked at Helmstedt (the Inner German Border) and supervised by armed Volkspolizei who didn’t allow anyone to alight until arrival at Berlin

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    1. Hi Brian,

      Interesting observations on UK and mainland European rolling stock in 1956. Today we take the intricacies of border control within most of mainland Europe for granted.

      Did the Liverpool to Manchester section take the Cheshire Lines Committee route via Widnes and Dunham Massey before reaching Central via Deansgate [Timperley] and Cornbrook Junctions. If so, that along with the Woodhead line is quite a fair number of closed lines. Part of your journey would have also took in today’s Metrolink lines between Timperley and Chorlton-cum-Hardy via Cornbrook.

      The Gainsborough station you would have called at is Lea Road and continued via Sleaford. Today, the Sheffield to Lincoln section is served by Northern’s stopping service. There’s every chance you may have traversed the King’s Lynn line via Ely.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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      1. I don’t remember whether we went through WIdnes Central or Hough Green, nor whether we stopped there or even at Warrington where we might have taken the now closed line which by-passed Central Station. Gainsborough was indeed the Lea Road station which I see is nowadays one of UK’s least-used stations, and we did indeed stop at Sleaford. I remember passing through some pretty remote spots in the Fens like Manea and Emneth. March was a big station in those days with substantial canopies like those at Ipswich. I remember the boat as having been comfortable (lucky me it was First Class!) and feeling really quite oppressed by the sheer mass of the European rolling stock and the Vopos with their padlocks and side-arms!

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  8. Growing up near Nottingham, I fondly remember the “European” of the early and mid 1980s.

    Sadly, boat trains in the UK are now almost completely defunct – killed off by cheap air travel, better cars, faster roads and the channel tunnel.

    In the mid 1980s I remember the European ran very empty south of Sheffield, so the rot had set in by then. Certainly you see very few ferry passengers travelling by rail via Harwich nowadays.

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  9. Also, for your information here is a small correction….”The European” began running via Manchester Victoria in May 1983, not 1982.

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    1. Hi Mr. (or Ms.?) Hemmelig,

      Sad but true unfortunately, given that it’s easy to get a cheap flight to Holland these days. A good journey has to be savoured and offer enough time to watch the world go by, be it the Hope Valley or across the North Sea.

      Not that you’d call it a Boat Train in the proper sense now, there is still a daily journey to Heysham Port. It is an extension of the Leeds to Morecambe service operated with Pacers or Sprinters. A world away from the loco hauled carriages!

      Thanks also for the correction regarding the Manchester Victoria change.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  10. Great to read about the variations on this route over the years. Like Brian, I also used the route which started at Liverpool Central, but joined at Manchester Central. This was 1960 and I was at school in Blackpool and travelled out & back for school holidays to see my parents in the services in Germany, so I became something of a regular. This meant starting at Blackpool Central, which still existed then, and using one of the very frequent services to Manchester Victoria. Then came the issue of getting across Manchester, with a younger brother in tow, to reach Central station. After that, the routing issues were left to BR! Looking now at the maps, it can’t have been straightforward to get to Guide Bridge from Central, but I remember, like Brian, that we took the Woodhead route to/from Sheffield. The electric locos were a real novelty.

    In those days, the train was known as the North Country Boat Train, although this term was mainly used at Parkeston Quay, to distinguish it from the London-bound trains that most of the boat passengers would be using. The return journey from Harwich would often be on a Sunday, which could entail some strange diversions and lengthy delays, due no doubt to the joys of engineering work.

    It was particularly interesting to see both that the train subsequently went from Manchester Victoria, which would have saved the cross-Manchester grief, and that there was actually a Blackpool starting point at one stage. A pity that it was about 25 years after I could have made use of it!

    Thanks for a very interesting site.

    Like

  11. Interesting article and comments. This train in its various guises has reared its head several times in my life…..

    As a trainspotter in 68-69, I used to visit Sheffield Victoria to see the EM1 locos. The passenger service was pathetic for a station with 5 or 6 platforms; just one arrival per hour from Manchester Piccadilly whose loco would run around and take it back, possibly from another platform. The station was effectively a terminus of a branch from Manchester, except that is for one train, and one train only which continued on to the east and this was the daily boat train.

    From 75 to 78 I was at Liverpool Uni and used the trains to get to and from my home in Doncaster. I experienced lots of interesting permutations, but one such was a train which went from Manchester Victoria to the Hope Valley via some strange route, it was the boat train again.

    Then on 83 I actually caught it for the purpose of catching a boat!! I went down the east coast and changed at Peterborough if memory serves me correctly.

    The shrinking into a two car DMU is sad enough, but the final vestige is/ was a class 153 single unit stopping service to Harwich from Peterborough which me and my family caught a few years back from Thurston where the mother in law lives.

    By this time I was a rather sad figure rambling on about proper trains, wood head electrics, etc etc to the amusement/annoyance of my wife kids and fellow passengers!!

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    1. Hi Trainspotter_1,

      A real shame to hear how Sheffield Victoria was underused in the late 1960s, which of course explains its closure.

      Could the strange route into Manchester Victoria be the line from Park to Ashburys, where our train would have joined the Hope Valley line via Marple and New Mills Central?

      Today there isn’t a direct service from Peterborough to Harwich International. For the timetable dated 06 January 2014, at least two or three changes are required, often at Stowmarket and Manningtree. There are two journey options which involve a single change. The 1818 involves a change at Cambridge, though 36 minutes wait between trains. The next one at 1950 involves a change at Manningtree (22 minutes between trains).

      From the Real Time Trains website, the 2200 from Manningtree is diagrammed for Class 360 EMU operation. The 1944 service from Cambridge, a Class 158 DMU. Both services operated by Greater Anglia.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  12. The North Country Continental is the proper name for the Boat Train originally given by the Great Eastern Railway. The GER built Parkeston Quay in 1882 and the Boat Train first ran in 1885. It was a collaboration between the GER and the Great Central Railway (GCR) and had nothing to do with the Lancashire and Yorkshire.
    The GER ran the train as far as Lincoln Central, using the Sleaford avoiding line, then the GCR’s direct line via Torksey to Sheffield Vic, over Woodhead, round the bottom of Manchester into Central then CLC to Liverpool Central.
    The first change of route was about 1959/60 when the Torksey line closed and the train went via Gainsborough, though it didn’t stop there.
    At the end of summer 1963 the train was cut back to Manchester and used Piccadilly instead of Central.
    During this period there were various changes to the stops including going into Sleaford.
    In 1967 or 1968 the train stopped running through from/to Harwich Town.
    When Woodhead and Sheffield Vic closed to passengers in 1970 the train was diverted via Sheffield Midland and the Hope Valley.
    In May 1973 the train used the Joint Line for the last time and was diverted via Peterborough, Grantham and Nottingham, reversing at Sheffield.
    The downgrading of the Settle and Carlisle is only indirectly relevant. In 1982 the Nottingham-Glasgow train (remnant of the old Thames-Clyde Express) was diverted off the S+C to run from Sheffield via Manchester Vic to join the WCML at Preston. Between Nottingham and Manchester this and the Boat Train ran very close together so in 1983 they were combined into a through train Parkeston Quay to Glasgow cutting out duplication between Nottingham and Manchester.
    For most of the 1960s through to 1973 the traction south of Sheffield was usually a class 37, class 47s came in with the change of route to go via Nottingham.
    The train also has an interesting catering history. It was the first train in Britain to open the restaurant car to all passengers and conveyed a restaurant up to 1969, though when the train ran through to Liverpool the restaurant car was detached at Sheffield Vic to go back on the southbound working. In the 1970s the buffet car was often one of the 1936 Gresley vehicles the last pre Nationalisation coaches in BR service.
    MisterC

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello Stuart,

    Delightful webpage, but your map contains a mistake: you have Ely and March the wrong way round. Also, the Hippodrome in March is a good fifteen-minute walk from the station (each way) – I believe there may be a nearer option (but I simply don’t remember as it’s a while since I’ve been there).

    I was born in Greater Manchester to a mother from March whose uncle and grandfather were both train-drivers who lived in March – and another cousin was a train-driver who lived in Harwich – although I have lived most of my life in London. Hence my delight in your work here – many thanks!

    Best,

    Aidan

    Like

  14. Hi Aidan,

    Thanks for spotting the mistake! I have just corrected it, and switched the positions of March and Ely. Therefore, what was mistakenly March is now ‘Lakenheath’.

    Glad to see you enjoyed the article. If I remember rightly, March was very much a railway town. Till the 1980s, it had a most important steam and diesel depot. In its heyday, March railway station must have been an amazing place, but my last journey in 2006 saw the lovely canopy and buildings fall into disrepair. I am glad to see there’s a ‘Friends of March Station’ group.

    Being as your relatives are from March, you may be familiar with the G.E.R Sports Ground, home to March Town United. Its main stand (built by the G.E.R themselves) is a joy to behold and – definitely – on my list of grounds to go to till I leave this world. Peter R. Miles’ The Itinerant Football Watcher blog, and Kerry Miller’s ‘The Non League Grounds of England and Wales’ book waxes lyrical over the stand and its use for cricket as well as football.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

    Like

  15. I caught The Loreley train once in 1988. I seem to remember catching it at Sheffield for Derby. At the time I regularly travelled from Worksop to Ambergate. I lived on a bus route for Nottingham and would have used that. It was a lot cheaper and gave me no incentive to walk a mile to the train station, travel to Sheffield and change there. This was long before the Robin Hood Line opened.

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  16. Great memories as a child of taking the European. It was great for us wanting to get from Cambridge to barrow in Furness. Previously we had to change at Peterborough, Leeds and carnforth or Nuneaton and Lancaster. It was quite a sight watching the train arrive into Ely across the fens on line reserved usually for small local trains. I was very excited as a kid.

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  17. As this article rightly points out, during the last year of its life (May 87 to May 88) The European was routed via the North London Line. What I didn’t realise before checking was that the AC electric wires on the NLL were not officially switched on until 1988. So presumably, for some or perhaps all of that year, The European would have had to change engines at Willesden for diesel haulage over the NLL. Surely the diesel then stayed on after Stratford all the way up to Harwich?

    Like

    1. Hi Hemmelig,

      My source material regarding the last year of its life was Today’s Railways Review of the Year Volume 2 (Platform 5, 1988).

      In the said book it shows a picture of the 1330 Harwich Parkeston Quay – Birmingham New Street via Homerton (15 May 1988). We see a rake of Mark 2Fs hauled by a Class 47 under the wires. Perhaps the wires weren’t energised till the then new 16 May timetable took effect.

      I am sure that by the late 1980s (1987 perhaps?) loco changes was less of an everyday occurrence, thus seeing more diesel locos running ‘under the wires’.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  18. Wonderful memories of taking The European to go to university from the Isle of Man to Cambridge via Lime Street and changing at March. The sight of this long train coming round the long curve into March in frozen December at the end of my first term is etched on the mind.

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  19. I was a school boy in the 1950s and regularly watched the Liverpool-Parkestone Quay pass through Urmston Station on its way to Manchester Central. Here they changed the engine and the carriage sign boards to Manchester(Cen) – Parkestone Quay!! It left Central about 3.00pm and went via Chorlton cum Hardy, Wilbraham Road, Guide Bridge on its way out east. Happy memories

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  20. What always brought a smile to my face was the station announcement at Manchester vic.
    They would announce the stations the train would stop at on the way to Harwich then “change at Harwich for the ferry to Hook of Holland and onward connections to …Amsterdam,Berlin,Paris,Rome ,Moscow….” etc, all the glorious continental names.
    Next would come….”change at sheffield for ….Scunthorpe”!

    Liked by 1 person

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