On 3rd and 4th September PTG tours, know for their foreign rail holidays, ran their first UK trip.
For me the itinerary was simply irresistible- A pair of class 50's on day 1 from London to North Wales, followed by a trip on both the Welsh Highland Railway. Day 2 saw a trip on the Ffestiniog before re-joining the class 50's at Bleanau for the run back to London.
The trip, naturally did not all go exactly to plan. When first announced it was 50026 which should have been the highlight of the trip, but it soon became apparent that this loco was never going to be ready in time. As time progressed it was looking less and less likely that ANY 50's would be ready to haul the train. Eventually just 50044 'Exeter' was available as despite a heroic effort, paperwork was not complete on 50049 in time. Routing was not so simple either- the
intention to use Mk3 stock prevented the train reaching Bleanau Ffestiniog- the train instead began from North Llanwrst with a bus transfer from Bleanau.
Despite these setbacks all was set. We had a superb looking 'Fifty' restored to original condition BR Blue and a comfortable train in the Virgin Pretendolino.
Arrival in North Wales was greeted by quite horrible weather, during which some of the party boarded a service train on the Welsh Highland hauled by Bayer-Garrat loco 87.
At Dinas we disembarked and awaited the next train, the special chartered by PTG hauled by double fairlie No. 12 'David Lloyd George' 'Fairlie's Patent' and 'Blanche'. Despite only being able to see 'where Snowdon is' rather than the actual mountain the Welsh Highland was spectacular. Arrival in a wet Porthmadog late afternoon left us plenty of time to find an evening meal and a pub!
Sunday morning dawned somewhat brighter, and after a leisurely breakfast the party made their way back to Porthmadog station to board our special hauled by 'Blanche' to Bleanau. In the sunshine the Ffestiniog was no less spectacular than the Welsh Highland, and it was with some regret that we bid farewell to 'Blanche' and entered coaches at Blaenau Ffestiniog for the journey to North Llanwerst.
Good time allowed us to arrive before the train, which after reversal was lead by 57304 'Gordon Tracey' to Llandudno Junction.
Following a reversal we headed back along the North Wales Coast to Chester, where the train was again reversed to leave the 'Exeter' to take us home via Wrexham, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton.
Overall a valiant first effort from PTG in the UK and a very enjoyable weekend. PTG are planning more trips in the UK with both diesel and steam traction- certainly something for the 50 followers to watch out for...