snow on British Rail, railway snow pictures
Snowy days in the 1980's

The north of England at least had a good covering of snow as the New Year opened, with some parts enjoying both sun & snow.

A small snow flurry at Liverpool Street station on November 29th 1980 adds a little interest to the regular operations there, seen in the flurries are 37011 & 47156.

Severe gales in the Irish Sea on July 20th caused diversion of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's Llandudno - Douglas excursion steamer to Liverpool. A twelve coach special hauled by 47013 returned the passengers to Llandudno!

Icing on December 8th in eastern Kent caused problems to several early morning passenger services, 33042 & 73109 assisted at least two services which had from suffered severe arcing.

The New Year got of to a stormy start with heavy rain and snow affecting the west of Scotland, with much flooding in Ayrshire and landslips on the West Highland closing the line between Taynuilt and Dalmally from January 2nd to 4th.

The third week of January found the Pennines well covered with snow.

There is a couple of inches of snow on the ground at Deepcar as 76006 & 76024 head west with a merry-go-round train on February 25th 1981. This was the last winter in service for the remaining Class 76's working over the electrified Woodhead route, by the summer of 1981 all the Class 76's would be withdrawn.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

The Midlands also received a covering of snow in the third (?) week of February.

Gale force winds on March 21st led to a tree being blown across the tracks at Teignmouth causing considerable delays. Elsewhere heavy rain in the Swindon area led to problems with an embankment becoming unstable west of the city.

On April 22/23rd heavy snow fell on the Midlands northwards. Heavy snows (including a blizzard) created operating difficulties in the south and west on April 24-26th, most of the affected areas had at least eight inches of snow, parts of Gloucestershire had at least two feet! Services operating into Paddington were particularly affected.

A railtour from Paddington to Carmarthen was not expected to provide too much interest to yours truly until heavy snow falls in the Gloucestershire & Cotswold area gave the operating authorities an additional challenge for the day. London & Carmarthen were bitterly cold, but with no snow, an organised visit to Cardiff Canton depot was not helped by a bitterly cold wind, but no snow. 37189 at Swindon & 31256 at Gloucester.

Blizzards on the night of April 25th/26th north of London caused interruptions to the National Grid power supply which affected operations on the WCML. By midnight blizzard conditions were reported as far south as Bedford and Aylesbury and as far north as Rugby. The 22.35 Euston - Rugby with AM10 No.056 became stopped at Wolverton, trapping several services, remaining stuck for at least two hours until an empty service sent down from Northampton got things moving. The fluctuating power supply broght electric powered trains to a halt at several locations, then ice and snow problems affected the pantographs when power was restored. Compounding the issues was an engineering occupation that had seen the removal of several track panels between Hanslope & Rugby prior to the onset of the blizzard.

After midnight with conditions deteriorating a Class 25 was called upon to assist a failed St Helens - Euston charter, south of Bletchley. Further diesels would be required as the night wore on. Two northbound services trying to assist each other at Brinklow became stranded, 47200 sent down from Nuneaton dragged the cavalcade northwards shortly after 4.00am. The storms would also cause power to be lost between Rugby & Coventry. Southbound services were also deeply affected, doubling up of at least two services kept them moving until diesel assistance became available. Sagging overhead line equipment at Watford Lodge stopped the 19.30 Inverness - Euston at 08.20am, this finally went forward two and a half hours later after assistance from a Class 08 shunter. The overnight Stirling - Kensington motorail ran into trouble at Brinkley, with sagging wires damaging the pantograph of 85026 and some of the cars. 40009 dragged the unfortunate train back to Rugby, going forward to Kensington via Coventry & Leamington. Selected services were also diverted into St Pancras via Nuneaton & Wigston, whilst others went via Birmingham, Ardley, High Wycombe, Greenford and terminating at Ealing Broadway or Paddington. The Aynho Junction - Banbury line had been closed due to storm damage.

During the afternoon of 26th wiring trains attended the affected lines, allowing the resumption of a restricted service until a fallen tree was noted near Blisworth. This stopped the 15.00 Wolverhampton - Euston with 86214, pantograph troubles saw a light engine sent out but this also suffered pantograph damage. It would not be until 19.45 when all this would be cleared. Full operation of the lines was achived by the evening of the 28th.

Snow showers continued on into early May.

December 1981 proved to be a very snowy month with the weather providing a major challenge to railway operations, regrettably leading to tragedy. Although mild at the beginning and end it would prove to be the coldest December to date in the 20th Century. Shawbury (Salop) had minimums of -23C and -25C over the nights December 11th - 13th, whilst temperatures down to -20C were widespread. The appalling weather was made worse in the south west by very high winds. The first major snowfall occurred on December 8th followed by even heavier falls on the 11th. On the latter day Euston was closed for most of the morning, further north services were cut in half with many terminating at Crewe with the consequent dislocation of stock. In the Birmingham area many dmuís deputised for services under the wires, the extreme cold affecting the pantographs and to a lesser extent the diesel fuel. Earlier that morning five lives were lost in a rear end collision of two dmuís at Seer Green, the accident being a direct result of the appalling weather encountered in the Chilterns.

A couple of newspaper cuttings reveal the tragedy of this snowy day, with the severe weather playing a part in the collision of two trains at Seer Green.

An undated journey during this period between Amersham & Marylebone was immediately impacted due to suspension of the London Transport service to Amersham because of ice on the rails causing third rail pick-up problems and slipping on the grade north of Rickmansworth. The alternative service was operating on the WCML from Berkhaamstead, but congestion in the Euston area, particularly affecting the long distance services caused the journey to take almost 150 minutes.

In the Liverpool area severe icing brought the abandonment of the Ormskirk & Southport electric services on the afternoon of the 12th, blizzards the next day keeping the lines closed until 15th. Further east at Huddersfield heavy snow on 13th/14th saw most traffic stopped until the afternoon of 14th. At Leeds the snow was so heavy on 13th that as quickly as points were cleared they became blocked again! Further south the condemned locomotives in the yards at Swindon Works looked better with a heavy covering of snow (13th). No heat 25140 handled a Crewe - Cardiff working on 15th.

Sunny weather over parts of the country on December 12th produced picture postcard winter scenes with much snow about. The West Country was hit by blizzards on December 13th, a rapid thaw led to flooding in the usual places whilst the seawall near Dawlish was breached twice on 14th. Dislocation of stock was considerable with scratch sets filling in for HSTís. South and west Wales escaped much of the harsh weather but the dislocation of services further east and north saw some unusual workings laid on to try and maintain some sort of service.

The snow and ice significantly affected workings on the Southern Region, on 8th passengers abandoned many trains in the Clapham/Vauxhall area causing the power to be shut off for four hours. This created much stock dislocation, not helped by the REP fleet suffering many failures due to the extremely cold weather. A number of lines were blocked due to the heavy snowfall bringing down trees onto the lines. In the south-east on December 12th sunny weather combined with frost and snow on the ground presented Christmas card type views across much of the region. On all regions the extreme cold prevented use of the carriage washing equipment leading to some very dirty trains running, especially the HSTís.

The blizzard on 14th in the Yorkshire area wiped out local services and disrupted coal traffic for several days following. The Pennines also received much snow. More snow fell in the north on 15th leading to disorganisation of the rolling stock north of Birmingham. On December 16th the WCML was again closed when a derailment of a freightliner at Willesden Yard brought down the wires for all the lines, Paddington and St Pancras becoming the usual diversionary termini for the displaced expresses. December 18th was a gloriously sunny day over the Pennines revealing a very snowy landscape.

More wintry weather arrived on December 21st with snow and freezing conditions causing considerable difficulties in the Euston area. The renewal of the overhead line equipment at Brent did not help matters. Again the rolling stock diagrams were seriously affected with many unusual combinations being made up, and with this being Christmas week serious overcrowding occurred. Snow in the Waterloo area during the morning rush hour blocked points leading to many services terminating at Clapham Jct & Wimbledon.

A cold, bleak overcast day greets the photographer at Winwick on December 21st 1981. Much of the country is in the grip of wintry weather with a good snowfall in many places. Seen here is 25251 hauling a Scottish Region allocated three car Metro-Cammell multiple unit.
Photograph courtesy Barrie Watkins / collection of webmaster

Another view from December 21st 1981 as 25215 is noted at Warrington Arpley yard. 25215 will have one more winter in service (1982/83) before retirement in June 1983.
Photograph courtesy Barrie Watkins / collection of webmaster

Class 55 No.55009 in charge of a Trans-Pennine working passes Diggle on what is believed to be Christmas Eve, 1981. The Deltic is in 'York railtour livery' - silver radiator covers and fuel tanks, white handrails etc, having gained this livery on October 9th 1981.
Photograph collection of webmaster.
The last week of December was a snowy one, which allowed the Deltic enthusiasts to capture many views of their favourite class in the snow during their last week of regular service. As well as the view shown above, York proved to be an interesting place on the evening of Sunday December 27th with 55007 working a late evening service to London, being noted departing York in quite a blizzard.

On December 28th the 06.00 Glasgow Queen St - Mallaig ran into a major snow drift near Bridge of Orchy, derailing the locomotive and three coaches. An engineers trolley was used to ferry passengers back to Bridge of Orchy station, going forward from there by bus. The line was not cleared until December 30th.

After a period of three weeks of snow on the ground in many places a thaw set in on December 30th leading to flooding in a number of familiar places. The WR main line north of Exeter being particularly badly hit.

On an unknown date an HST powered service roars through Wood Green on a snowy day, the end of the train is lost in a mix of swirling snow and bright sunlight.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

The mild spell over the New Year was short-lived, whilst trouble for the railways arrived as industrial action by ASLEF commenced. Heavy rain swept south on January 3rd, followed by much colder temperatures. The first industrial action of the year saw strikes on January 4th/5th. Heavy snow fell in the Far North on the 7th spreading south over the next two days. Many of the local Euston services were particularly affected due to a shortage of Class 310 emu's. Typical of many journeys on this day was the 17.15 Birmingham N.S. - Leicester, departure was an hour late, with Nuneaton reached after three hours, the Derby suburban unit lacked toilet facilities. 25042 worked a service over the Crewe - Cardiff route on January 5th.

A short spell of living in Bruce Grove required commuting into Liverpool Street using the Enfield line services. In January 1982 a couple of really snowy days are captured at Bruce Grove. Despite the bad weather the local services were running without significant interruption.

On arrival at Liverpool Street sometime during January 1982 47577 was noted on the fuelling point as a heavy snow shower took place.

Also during January 1982 one last trip was made to Buxton & Peak Forest before emigrating to the USA! The weather produced some fine sunshine which enhanced the recent snowfall. One locomotive noted was 45074, firstly at Buxton and the running light at Peak Forest.

In the midst of all this coldness, on January 5th 27041 set fire to the fuelling point at Eastfield. Apparently none the worse for wear 27041 later set fire to itself at Huntly, this time working January 22nd's 21.04 Aberdeen - Inverness service. The Class 27 was removed from the train and later towed back to Aberdeen. This unlucky machine would reach the end of the year in store at Glasgow Works with collision damage! Also in Scotland, on January 7th, a shortage of locomotives found 20117 diagrammed for the 07.00 Mallaig - Glasgow Queen Street, working the journey throughout, no doubt a chilly ride with no heating available.

The 8th also claimed a Barmouth - Aberystwyth dmu trapped in a snowdrift near Tonfanau, the few passengers spending a chilly night with the dmu until rescued by the RAF the next morning. A rescue train from the south became stuck south of Tywyn, whilst a snowplough sent from Crewe faired little better between Tonfanau & Llwyngwril, all obstructions were cleared by 10th. Further north at Talybont the leading vehicle of a two car dmu derailed, passengers were able to return in the trailing vehicle to Porthmadog, heavy lifting gear being required to re-rail the front car. Near the Welsh border at Newport (Salop) the nighttime temperature on 10th fell to -26C, an English record, further north at Braemar the thermometer fell to -27.2C, equaling the British record. The Midlands & Wales suffered a further blizzard on 9th.

A serious snowstorm struck the Cardiff area on January 8th. 08193 has acquired a good covering of snow whilst the icicles that formed on 45145 indicate there was a strong wind blowing.
Photographs courtesy Dave Hilling

A late afternoon Manchester - Newcastle relief ran behind 25051 & 25152 on January 10th, one hopes the boiler in 25051 was operating. In Scotland an emergency timetable was instituted including the withdrawal of all sleeping cars and a reduction in the number of overnight services. The cold overnight temperatures on 11th crippled the push-pull sets with only two being serviceable, dmu's having to fill in where possible. The emergency timetable halved the Class 26 hauled Edinburgh - Dundee services, whilst the Glasgow - Dundee runs were cancelled except in the rush hours. The shortage of locomotives led to incoming foreign power being borrowed with a number of the named WR Class 47's being particularly well used north of the border. The harsh weather stopped use of the BSC terminal at Hunterston, sufficient to divert the traffic to road hauliers, a matter which was not quickly rectified, causing an outcry from the local authorities between there and Ravenscraig.

In the West Country the long distance services on the 9th were reduced to a shambles. Torquay reported over a foot of snow whilst Weymouth was virtually cut off. At Exeter the 06.35 Bristol - Plymouth behind 45132 was 280 minutes late, the HST powered 07.20 Paddington - Bristol - Paignton service was over 400 minutes late whilst 47535 on the 00.05 Paddington - Penzance was over 700 minutes late. The Carmarthen - Milford Haven line succumbed to drifting snow on 9th, remaining closed for two days. The Central Wales line was hit by blizzards on the 8th, the line remaining closed for ten days. A number of lines in the Welsh valleys suffered similar closures, most freight traffic having been stopped since the 8th, priority being given to the passenger services and just simply keeping the lines open. On 9th the first Paddington - Swansea (diverted via Bristol) took about twelve hours to complete its journey, the 08.42 Swansea - Paddington reached the capital early in the evening! Freezing conditions late on the 10th severely curtailed the few working local services.

On the Southern Region heavy snow crippled services between Eastleigh & Bournemouth, after clearing the casualties it was necessary to institute a diesel hauled service due to the severe icing conditions, these continued until 10th. Inter regional services into this area also suffered badly, not helped by the rolling stock dislocations. The Central Division's woes began on January 4th, with an ASLEF ban on overtime & rest day working, the cold weather took over on 6th, followed by the prolonged blizzard on 8th, with the local services bearing the brunt of the disruptions. The South Eastern division despite the severe weather and isolated equipment failures ran a near normal service until the evening of 11th when a series of failures led to passengers abandoning the trains near Herne Hill. Traction current had to be switched off, with the consequent delays affecting services for the rest of the evening.

With no services running on January 13th/14th, two days of extremely low temperatures assisted in the formation of massive icicles in Kilsby tunnel, causing rerouting of service via Northampton. Further north frozen coal stocks created difficulties at various East Midlands collieries, with many of the wagon doors freezing solid. In the Huddersfield area large icicles and major ice accumulations in local tunnels had to be cleared prior to the re-starting of services on January 15th. From this date the weather eased although the melting snows left flooding in its wake.

The woes of the SR were not helped on January 16th by a violent rear end collision at East Croydon between a Three Bridges - New Cross engineers train and a Brighton - London Bridge parcels service. The driver of 73115 was rescued after some eight hours trapped in the cab, the second man could not be found in the wreckage, not surprisingly because he'd signed on and gone home, a state of affairs quickly picked up by the national newspapers. Further west the blizzards seriously damaged signaling on the Salisbury - Exeter line. A temporary timetable was instituted until the end of January when repairs were completed.

Snowshowers fell at the beginning of May.

Severe rain storms on June 6th caused heavy flooding in the Kirkham Abbey area, covering the line and trapping the 14.35 Scarborough - Liverpool with 47508. A four car diesel multiple unit covered the roundtrip diagram from York to Liverpool, whilst the local bus company maintained a service between Scarborough & York until the night of June 7th.

The middle of December (14th) saw heavy snow fall in Cheshire.

There was light snow noted on the southern Pennines on December 22nd.

December 22nd 1982 finds damaged 27203 awaiting entry into the Works. It had just arrived from Scotland behind 37188, having been involved in a collision at Dalmuir on Septemer 14th 1981. Derby were reluctant to carry out the repair, the locomotive eventually being condemned during May 1983, its final demise was left to Vic Berry's men at Etches Park in February 1986.
Photograph collection of webmaster (ADH).


The Pennine fells have been graced with a light snowfall as 4472 takes on water at Garsdale on January 30th 1983.
Photograph courtesy Roger Siviter, collection of webmaster.

Snow fell in the middle of February, particularly in the south & east. During February 33207 was noted in the Dover area on snowplough duty with a plough at each end of the locomotive.

Although cold & snowy weather predominated in January the New Year began with a major fire at Ayr depot, destroyed/damaged in the conflagration were seven dmu's and considerable parts of the structure. Apart from this hot-spot much of January was plagued by storms causing dislocation of services, especially on the WCML where the overhead line equipment was particularly vulnerable.

Gales in the north on 2nd affected services south of Carstairs. More gales accompanied by heavy snow returned on 13/14th damaging the overhead equipment near Thankerton and further south at Preston, causing disruption and cancellation of many WCML services. 25048 made a round trip between Wigan & Preston assisting two WCML electrically hauled services through the damaged area. To ease congestion some WCML services worked out of St Pancras on 14th, the 17.40 to Liverpool Lime Street featured 25207 all the way to Nuneaton! A chilly trip was handled by 25284 working the 13th's 08.40 Carlisle - Glasgow Central, it did not return on the balancing working! It is uncertain whether the snow storms contributed to a Glasgow - Largs service colliding forcefully with the stop blocks at Largs, five passengers requiring hospital attention. In the south heavy rain fell, making it the wettest January since 1948, extremely high winds were reported with tornadoes seen in Doncaster (14th) and Teignmouth (26th).

Heavy snows on January 22nd in places to a depth of two feet blocked both the GSW & CR routes into Scotland, with drifts of fifteen feet being reported. Engineering work on the ECML was quickly postponed, although too late to prevent one ECML passenger train being diverted towards Carlisle, then having to retrace its steps after word of the snow blockages spread. The failure of the 23.40 Edinburgh/Glasgow - Bristol near Crawford was not helped by the rescuing locomotive becoming stuck in a sizeable snowdrift. The gale force winds did nothing to help matters, quickly undoing the arduous work of the snowploughs. The down 'Clansman' became stuck at Dalwhinnie, somehow an ex Glasgow service forced its way alongside taking all the passengers to Inverness. It was several days before the stock of the 'Clansman' was freed from the snow. In later snow clearing operations here 26044 suffered serious fire damage, leading to withdrawal. The most affected train was an overnight Inverness - Euston service that was initially diverted via Aberdeen, suffered a partial locomotive failure, reached Motherwell only to find the way south blocked. A circumnavigation of the Hamilton circle found the train headed for Kilmarnock and the GSW route to Carlisle, having taken fifteen hours to cross the border. The 23rd's 10.15 Euston - Glasgow used 25185 & 25212 between Carlisle & Newcastle, as nothing was available at Newcastle to replace the Type 2's the train was terminated here, with the ecs returning to Carlisle. Many services were cancelled, others running many hours late, to ease the problems all freights north of Carlisle were cancelled.

Further north the 21st's 14.15 Fort William - Glasgow Queen Street ran into a snowdrift near Bridge of Orchy, services not resuming until 27th. Passengers from this train spent several days in local hotels. The lines north of Inverness were closed by snowdrifts, with the 17.55 Inverness - Kyle stuck west of Achnasheen and the 18.00 Wick - Inverness trapped at Scotscalder. RAF helicopters quickly located the ex Wick train rescuing all the passengers despite appalling weather conditions. For the Kyle passengers helicopter rescue took place the next morning. Although the storms had predominantly affected Scotland snow fell as far south as the north Midlands.

The bad weather continued into the first week of February with heavy snow and storms accompanied by high winds. Possibly these conditions led to an afternoon Inverness - Aberdeen service being double headed by 25175 & 47157 on February 1st. Three days later Perth turned out 25236 for the 17.10 to Arbroath, continuing with the 18.35 Arbroath - Dundee.

The beginning of March found snow across much of the Pennines.

Heavy snowstorms and flooding created many difficulties during January, Kent was particularly badly hit on January 5th with Ramsgate & Margate receiving eleven inches. Heavy snow had fallen in the south and west earlier in the month, after a brief warm spell the bad weather returned with a vengeance, the 16th being one of the coldest days this century, especially in the south & accompanied by more snow. In the Highland a blizzard struck on 19th. After the snows came flooding, on January 22nd the Lowestoft line was closed following flood damage to a bridge near Ufford.

47562 has a light load as it crosses Ais Gill viaduct with a Carlisle - Leeds service sometime during January 1985.
Photograph collection of webmaster.
Its January 20th 1985 with snowy conditions at Ribblehead as 25257 heads north with a short engineers train.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

Heavy snowfalls on February 8th & 9th caused many problems on the southern end of the WCML. Freezing temperatures and the heavy snowfall also brought heavy delays to the South Wales area. In the south the morning rain soon turned to snow, falling for most of the day leading to a variety of stock disruptions and service cancellations. Shortages of equipment were exacerbated by the backlog of overdue maintenance and by the end of the miners strike at the beginning of March with the consequent return of 'borrowed' locomotives for the movement of coal again.

08913 and a rake of ICI bogie hoppers approach Northwich station on a snowy, cold but clear February 11th 1985.
Photograph collection of webmaster
25209 and its train of oil tankers kicks up the snow as it passes Yarnton, Oxon at midday on February 12th 1985. The snow may not be deep but it certainly looks chilly.
Photograph collection of webmaster
A Cravens Class 105 diesel multiple unit approaches Saxmundham on February 13th 1985.
Photograph collection of webmaster

Bedford - St Pancras commuters on February 15th endured -15C temperatures, which proved too much for the Class 317 electric multiple units leading to scratch sets of four Mk1 corridor seconds and non-boilered Class 25's filling in. By the time of the evening rush hour the ice on the overhead equipment had gone and problems with the electric multiple units frozen brakes had been cured, releasing the Class 25's from their temporary passenger duties.

The freezing weather returned on the 18th again causing considerable problems on the Southern. Most notable were the icicles in Balcombe tunnel which broke windows in 4-CIG 7437, a few days later falling ice in Haywards Heath tunnel displaced the conductor rail. At Selling tunnel icicles caused considerable damage to new cars being brought up from Dover. Snow was upto the railhead in the Southampton area (18th).

On March 21st more snowfalls in the south caused problems for the first electric trains of the day.

During November there was snow in the south on 18th whilst in Scotland the month ended on a wintry note.

25901 & 25903 pass Marsh Lane, Leeds on December 10th 1985. A light snowfall has added new dimensions to the view. Photograph courtesy Paul Corrie.

In late December there was a spell of snow and cold temperatures, particularly in the east.

Snow fell over parts of the Southern Region on January 2nd/3rd.

Easterly winds brought heavy snow on February 5th causing numerous problems, the cold weather, especially in the east, highlighting the ailing heating systems in many of the aging dmu's. With the snow came heavy icing in all the regular places on the WCML, particularly at Kilsby tunnel.

Freezing conditions at this time brought more ice related problems to the WCML, so severe was the freeze that certain bridges in the Harrow area had to be cleared before traffic could move, again Kilsby & Linslade tunnels were particularly affected. Snowfalls on 5th & 6th were heavy, again the eastern half of the country receiving the most. On 5th a number of services were diverted into Paddington. The extremely cold weather caused major problems for the sand trains operating at Caldon & Oakmoor, with the loads being frozen into the wagons!

Two wintry views from Rylestone on February 14th 1986 showing 31106 & 31222 waiting for departure and a view of part of the loading facility showing two of the ex-BR shunters used here. Photographs courtesy Michael Kaye.

There was about two inches of snow on the ground in the Penzance area on an overcast February 23rd.

Heavy snow fell over the Cairngorms on June 10th.

Much of eastern England, the Midlands & Scotland succumbed to heavy snowfalls beginning the night of Sunday 11th and on into January 12th - 14th. Although the West Highland line was not affected by the weather the 13th's 05.50 to Fort William was delayed 450 minutes awaiting the through coaches from Euston. In the Glasgow area services were suspended on the Hamilton Circle, Cathcart Circle & their branches, and to East Kilbride & Springburn. The Glasgow Central - Edinburgh via Shotts service was still not operational by the 14th whereas most other Glasgow area services were running by this point. The Edinburgh - Glasgow via Falkirk services battled snowfall of a foot on the first day and were additionally delayed by a points failure at Polmont. By the evening of 12th services generally were heavily delayed or not running. More snow fell on the 13th causing delays over the Falkirk route, particularly with the longer distance services. Snow continued to fall on the 14th, an HST was noted arriving at Edinburgh from the north behind a Class 37. Temperatures eased on the 15th allowing for a more normal timetable to operate. The Inverness area escaped much of the severe weather, though trains from the south were as much as five hours late.

In the north-east heavy winds produced severe drifts which completely disrupted the local diesel multiple unit services on Tyneside & Teeside, the freezing conditions affecting the availability of the diesel multiple units and track problems associated with frozen points. Few trains ran until an emergency service was instituted on January 15th. On 16th the 09.45 Newcastle - Edinburgh parcels used snow plough equipped 47644, this machine had in fact been restricted to the Newcastle area for snow clearance, it was replaced at Berwick by 37238, the 47 returning south.

In the Leeds area a similar toll was taken on the local Class 141 diesel multiple units, with only one - 141005 - noted in service on 13th, the older diesel multiple units filling in as best they could. A drastic reduction occurred in the merry-go-round workings out of Knottingley due to the bad weather, leading to higher than normal freight workings over the following weekend.

However it was in the south-east that conditions were most seriously felt for the railways. On 12th no trains ran to or from Southend Victoria, it was not until towards the end of the week that any semblance of a service was instituted out of Liverpool Street to Shenfield & Ipswich. Elsewhere out of Liverpool Street stock formations became very jumbled with allsorts of combinations operating. On the non-electrified lines things were equally as interesting, a Cambridge service on 14th was formed of a parcels DMU attached to a mail working whilst the 16th's 16.05 to Cambridge was a Class 31 and three coaches. On 16th a Reading based Class 117 worked turns on the Sudbury branch, until it failed on 21st! The relaying of information was not helped by the train indicator boards being out of service at Liverpool Street on 12th & 13th due to their relocation. The sidings on the former site of Ipswich MPD soon became a resting place for many failed, frozen up diesels.

Out of Kings Cross the snow of the 12th quickly reduced the long distance HST workings to chaos. a heavily overcrowded 17.03 KX - Peterborough took over two hours to complete its journey, whilst the 12th's 14.00 Aberdeen - KX reached the capital at 4.00am on 13th, the following 16.00 ex Aberdeen was cancelled at Newcastle. No Peterborough - Kings Cross commuter HST services ran on 13th. An hourly Kings Cross - Edinburgh & a two hourly Kings Cross - Leeds timetable was established for 13th & 14th, but as more HST's became available the frequencies were increased from 15th. On 14th Leeds borrowed a NE/SW HST set (253044, power cars 43035 & 43142) for a morning service to Kings Cross, who then used it for an afternoon turn to Edinburgh!

The snow in the Peterborough area saw most services operating about two hours late. By the 14th the large snowploughs were called out to deal with drifts on the line between Peterborough & Grantham. On the cross-country route a number of Tyseley DMU's covered for unavailable loco hauled stock formations, the Peterborough - Hitchin locals were cancelled for several days to allow use of the DMU's on Cambridge area services.

In the West Midlands the heavy snowfalls caused major disruptions on 13/14th, with long periods without any services. It was early on the 14th that heavy snow with driving winds caused further major problems on the southern end of the WCML. Icicles on the tunnels through the Chilterns required special possession for their clearance. Frozen pipes on the rolling stock affected passenger facilities on the trains with reduced toilet & catering facilities. By 15th an hourly service was operating to Euston, by 16th things were much improved but most services were running slightly late. On 16th 45136 was in charge of a rake of Mk1's, some labelled Network SouthEast, on the 11.19 Newcastle - Cardiff, normally a HST turn. Elsewhere on the WR a number of services were seriously disrupted, the 14th's 09.43 Newcastle - Penzance was noted at Newton Abott some eighteen hours late, the 19.00 Paddington - Plymouth HST (43186 & 43126) required assistance from 33034 west of Exeter.

Its January 16th 1987 and 25201 has been diagrammed for the Hartshill turn. Unfortunately the weather has taken a turn for the worse and a heavy snowfall has created a different panorama for the yard. Even worse the weather has caused the ground frame to freeze up trapping the locomotive and its train in the yard. It will finally be towed out of the yard a couple of days later.
Photograph courtesy Ron Kosys.

25201 had earlier worked the Guide Bridge - Hartshill working on January 13th. The TOPS report showed it as out of service at Nuneaton on January 17th with loss of power, could its entrapment at Hartshill have something to do with this? It would be withdrawn at Crewe in the early hours of January 29th 1987.

On the Southern Region the heavy snow caused havoc with the third rail electrified system, whilst snow ingested by the EMU's caused many failures to traction motors and other electronic components. Again the snow starting falling on Sunday 11th with more heavy snow during 13/14th. The South Western division probably came off with the least disruptions, but they were still considerable. By 14th little was moving between Waterloo & Woking with many of the outer surburban routes completely blocked by snow or ice covered conductor rails. Included in this category were the lines between Guildford - Portsmouth, Brookwood - Ash Vale, Farnham - Alton, Surbiton - Cobham - Guildford, Guildford - Redhill & Raynes Park - Epsom. 3H DEMU's covered the Waterloo - Exeter service as far as Salisbury on a number of occasions, 205030 so noted on 16th. By the weekend of 17th things were returning to normal despite a number of cancellations due to stock awaiting attention.

The Central Division was hit hard as heavy snow, icing and equipment failures slowly destroyed the timetable on 13th. By the afternoon of 13th East Croydon was pretty much isolated from all directions with northbound services terminating at Gatwick. Early points failures at Selhurst, stock failures at Purley and high winds causing severe drifting did not help as the authorities fought a losing battle with the weather. The 14th's 06.25 Newhaven Marine - Manchester Piccadilly hauled by a Class 33 terminated at Gatwick at 11.00am, it was left in the station as all the sidings were full of frozen up EMU's. Central lines closed included the Tattenham Corner branch, Redhill - Guildford, East Grinstead, Hurst Green - Uckfield, Sutton - Epsom & Epsom Downs, Three Bridges - Horsham, Horsham - Dorking, Lewes - Keymer Jct and Hastings - Ashford. On the Brighton line an hourly service was running on 15th as were many others services starting to re-appear on previously closed lines, most saw some sort of service by the 16th. As expected the stock used was not always that normally diagrammed for the routes. The Uckfield line saw services taking five hours to reach Uckfield on 13th, services were suspended from 14th. Snowdrifts of over ten feet required the use of a Class 33 and snowplough on 15th, one such drift had trapped DEMU 207018 near Hever Road Bridge, Edenbridge, a rescue attempt with another DEMU failed, a second attempt with 205002 only resulted in its derailment. A Class 33 and the Stewarts Lane breakdown crane rerailed the DEMU on 16th, but it was not until the next day that 33033 arrived to tow the two units back to Norwood Jct. Continued drifting snow required the ploughs on 17/18th prior to services restarting on 19th. No inter-regional services ran until 18th.

On the South Eastern Division a similar picture of heavy snow and icing from the 11th onwards quickly led to a meltdown of the services operating, with a request on the evening of 11th to avoid travelling where possible. During 11th big gaps started to appear in the schedules, not helped by the complete failure of 4-CAP's 3205/06 near Sittingbourne. The 22.30 Charing Cross - Dover Priory diverted via Maidstone East is reported passing Ashford at noon on 12th! The 13th's 06.00 Charing Cross - Margate is reported by the BBC as arriving 6.5 hours late at Ramsgate. By 15th services were operating though the Petts Wood - Bickley, Maidstone East - Ashford, Rainham - Sittingbourne, Sittingbourne - Sheerness & Faversham - Dover still remained blocked. Those trains that were operating were usually of two 4 car EMU's hauled by a Class 33, 47, 56 or 73. London bound trains reversed between Cannon Street and Charing Cross to keep the locomotive on the front for the trip back out to the country. Combinations so noted at Dartford included two 4 CEP's with 56001 and corridor stock attached to 56062. A two 4 VEP and two car de-icer combo had 33027 at one end with 73142 at the other. From 12th onwards diesels with eight car EMU combinations provided service out of Charing Cross. Diesels so noted included 33008/13/16/44/48, 33207, 47131/144/235/330/372, 56056, 73002/106/116/140/142. The use of 56056 was later switched to working a shuttle between Tonbridge & Tunbridge Wells. DEMU's returned to the Hastings line, including 1011 and a WR DMU L588. The Paddock Wood - Strood branch reopened on 16th with the assistance of 47450 and a 4CEP. By lunchtime on 18th instructions had been recieved to remove the locomotives from assisting the EMU's. To help with snow clearance the Aberdeen based Beilhack snow blower and support vehicles were noted on the worst affected lines on 17/18th.

Two of the combatants mentioned in the text above - 73106 & 47372 are seen here at Maidstone East on January 19th 1987. There is still plenty of snow on the gound, over a week after the first major snowfalls from this storm had occurred.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

This page got a bit long so more additions will happen sometime.

The tale below appeared on the 'World Diesel Loco' yahoo group a while back, I think it refers back to Christmas 2002 and brings back similar memories of the antics on BR during my commuting days in London during the late 1970's.

I hope nobody minds it being posted here, just nostalgia....


Now then, to stop repetition, I've written this out and am sending it in one go......apologies for being a bit "railwayish" in places to those of you not in the know !

As you may be aware (I've moaned about it enough), I was working the last (23.20) train from Manchester Victoria to Rochdale last Friday 19th December. Now, I was dreading this, as it would be amateurs night, with the office workers overdoing it before finishing over the Christmas hols. However, not even in my worst nightmares did I figure on a Blue (Cheesy pop pap!) concert taking place as well at the MEN Arena (which is right above Victoria station for those of you in the sticks).

Anyway, I arrive at Victoria from Wigan at 22.40, and decide to get a brew from the mess room before venturing any further. I ambled onto the platforms at about 23.00, and hundreds of people were out there, looking for their trains home. With all the mither from the drunks, it took me about 10 minutes to walk to the train on platform 4. Normally a single 142 will take them all home, but FNW had laid on a 156 and a 142 on the back. At least I'd have a bit of luxury !

Anyway, I squeezed past the passengers, and got in the cab, put the key in and started the engines up. I was just getting comfy in the chair when I noticed a bloke, mid 50's, looking decidedly poorly on the platforms. He was "sat" in a rack where they put the free "Metro" newspapers. I had my head out of the window, just watching what was going on, when a bloke asked me if this was the train for Rochdale. "Yes Sir" I reply, and he turns to Mr Poorly and shouts to him that it's his train. Oh dear. Mr Poorly gets up and staggers to the train.

Now in a 156, the doors are right behind the cab, so he was right behind me, swaying beside the train. I was praying for him not to get on, because he was green. I've never seen anyone that colour before, and knew he was going to be trouble. Nevermind, departure time loomed and a couple of minutes late, the guard closed the doors and the station staff gave me the RA - Go ! Well, the brake came off, and I applied power. The engines revved - but the train wouldn't move. Eh ? Brakes off, engines revving and taking load - what's going on?

I decided to get out, and opened the cab door. Again - for those who don't know - you enter and leave the cab through the passenger gangway (where the doors are).The carriage was full, with about 15 people in the gangway behind the cab alone. I squeezed past them, and went to the back of the train. Hmm. The 142 was sitting there, coupled up to the 156, but with engines off and lights out. Funny I thought. There weren't any engine stop lights on in the 156. Then it struck me. The units had been coupled up in the platform by another driver, who had thoughtfully only done half a job. To couple two units, you drive one on to the other and do a "pull away" test. This means putting the train in reverse and applying full power - just to see it the coupling has locked the two together. If okay, you then press the "couple" button, which opens the electric circuits between the two trains. To test this is okay, you do a brake test in both trains.

Well, it was obvious that the happy fellow who'd coupled them hadn't pressed the couple button, so the 142 was acting like a ball and chain to the 156. Hmm. A quick word with station staff and the signaller, and permission was given to uncouple and recouple. As both trains were packed, I did this very gently, and the job was done ! Only 10 minutes late now, I went back to the front of the train to get in and move off.

But, as soon as I opened the door, a mad woman passenger started howling "how dare you lock me in a train with you not on it. How dare you, you *#~%ing idiot....". Whoa, I'm not standing for this, so I shouted to her "OUT". She started again, poking a finger in my chest. So I said "Right, Out now,. I'm not moving until you leave the train".

At this point, husband pipes up "oh sorry driver. She's claustrophobic. I'll keep her quiet". Seeing as it was Christmas (nearly) and having further assurances from him that order would be kept, I got in the train, entered the cab, and tried to move the train. Oh dear. The brakes won't come off now. Hmm. I look out of the cab window. There is an orange hazard light lit on the carriage that I'm in, which means several things, such as there is a door open, or the passenger alarm (passcom) has been pulled. So, I open the door into the gangway, and notice both passcom handles have been pulled. But the crowd are now getting shirty. Why aren't we moving, what's up now they ask. I point out that someone has pulled the passcoms, putting the brakes on.

I also asked who did it - and fifteen hands point to the claustrophobic lady ! I tell them that they can thank her for the delay, reset the alarms, and get in the cab. Brakes off, power on - WE'RE OFF ! Only 20 minutes late. When you're in the cab, you can hear everything said/done behind you, so was alarmed when I heard a big bleugh and a lot of screaming, Oh dear. Mr Poorly has been sick. Violently so........ I get out at the first stop - Dean Lane. Mr Poorly is slumped by the door, sitting in a pool of his own creation. It's all down his black coat as well, and looks like red cabbage. I get back in the cab sharpish. But, when the guard closes the doors, the one behind me that Mr Poorly is leaning on won't close. I go out, and pull it shut, standing in his "night out". At every stop, I have to do this until we get to Oldham, where Mr Poorly gets off, and the door starts behaving ! The Claustrophobic lady gets off at Shaw, shouting and bawling at me as she does so, and I breathe a sigh of relief as most people have got off the train.

When we get to Milnrow, someone knocks on the door. It's a youngish lad, asking when the train will get to Glossop. GLOSSOP!!!!! Wrong train, wrong station mate. Manchester PICCADILLY for Glossop !! He takes this quite well, explaining to his "hidden" mates that "we're staying in Rochdale tonight lads". Oh dear. We arrive at Rochdale only 35 minutes late, get the stragglers off, and the fly down to Rochdale (no Black box on 156461 yet !). Arrive on the shed and compare notes with the guard. He's looking a bit worried - he's only been on the job for three weeks......unlike a seasoned old lag like me (passed out 19 months!) Merry Christmas !

Snowy days in the 1960's
Snowy days in the 1970's

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