'Topper Chopper'



visits Horrocksford

31 May 2014




Gallery 12



A rare event took place on Saturday 31st May 2014


when a railtour, christened 'The Topper Chopper',

ventured into the Horrocksford Exchange Sidings,

normally reserved for Castle Cement block workings.


The railtour, which began and ended at Crewe,

consisted of nine coaches

resplendent in ex-GW chocolate and cream livery,


with class 37, number 37419, at one end,

and a brace of class 20s, numbers 20308 & 20305,

nose-to-nose, at the other.


All locos sported the DRS 'compass' livery.

The tour departed Crewe at 10:03,

and travelled to Clitheroe via a circuitous route,


taking in the

Middlewich Branch, Stockport, Denton,

Ashton Moss Jct., Brewery Jct, and Rochdale,


before becoming the first public passenger service

to traverse the brand-new Todmorden Curve,

passed for traffic just two days earlier,


then travelling onwards to Blackburn via Copy Pit,


following which a reversal took the train

onto Ribble Valley metals.



To view a Route Map

(drawn to scale)

click below

or scroll down








The first image shows 'The Topper Chopper'

arriving at Horrocksford Jct Signal Box on time at 13:40,

the consist being headed by 37419.


A welcome party awaits, and the signalman can be seen

giving the driver his movement instructions.


As there is no direct access into the Exchange Sidings from the Blackburn direction,

the train has to draw forward beyond the junction,

then set back over the crossover,


and then finally head straight over the points into the sidings.














The train has now drawn forwards beyond the junction,

giving a closer view of the brace of 20s, 20305/08, bringing up the rear.


The train now awaits the right-away to reverse over the crossover,

which will be provided by the ground signal


visible just to the left of the yellow 'T' sign beyond the locos.














As the reversal movement involves a passanger train,


rules dictate that the points have to be clipped

(i.e. manually secured) in place,


and the regular EWS shunter performs this task.














The points are clipped, the dolly is off,


and with a cloud of exhaust to entertain the onlookers,


the two 20s commence to pull the train forward over the crossover.















The Chopper Topper picks its way gingerly over the crossover,

propelled gently by 37419,


watched by an admiring crowd.














At 14:05, on Saturday 31st May 2014,


history is made as class 37, number 37419,

eases 'The Chopper Topper' on to the Horrocksford Branch.


Does anyone know

when a passenger train (Royal Train excepted)

last passed this way?














Class 37, number 37419,


picks her way gingerly through the Horrocksford Jungle.


Plenty for those hanging and filming out of windows

to think about here!














37409 makes further progress along the Horrocksford Branch.


After the occupation bridge, from which these photos were taken,

the jungle opens up, and the left-hand track is recently ballasted.


It is this track, which takes all the block cement trains,

whilst the right-hand track is used for the arriving loco to run round,


and then propel its train across the road crossing

and into the Cement Works.














It is rare enough to see a pair of class 20s on the RV Line these days

- possibly this is the first pair this century?


But to witness this pair propelling their passenger train

into the Horrocksford Exchange Sidings was a real privilege.


The lines, however, are shiny silver and well-used.

Indeed the Avonmouth to Horrocksford Saturday morning block cement

had only arrived just over an hour (at 12:56) before 'The Chopper Topper'














The limit of the Tour's operation was the works access crossing

just prior to the West Bradford Road crossing,

which marks the entrance into the Castle Cement yard.


Class 37 is at rest tantalisingly close to Castle Cement,

but it wasn't possible for The Topper Chopper to venture further,


as the single line within the Castle Cement yard

was occupied by the block cement train

which had arrived from Avonmouth an hour earlier.














A further photo of 37419 taken from the works access crossing.


The end of the run-round loop

is visible to the left of the train.


Railway personnel appear to be discussing the next move.














The 'Topper Chopper' was scheduled to remain

in the Horrocksford Exchange sidings

for just seven minutes, from 14:07 to 14:14,

and the excursion did in fact arrive and leave on time.


I planned to photograph the return journey over RV metals

at Ramsgreave & Wilpshire station,

so after taking the previous photos

I hastened to R&W as quickly (but as legally!) as possible.


The schedule allowed for a generous thirty minutes for the journey to R&W,

with a straight run out of the Exchange Sidings,

so I knew it would be touch and go.


Fortunately it was 'touch', and shortly after I arrived on the platform,

the 'Topper Chopper' hove into view - at 14:37,

a full seven minutes ahead of schedule.


This time, the brace of 20s are in the lead, working hard up the 1 in 84 bank.


As they power into the station, note the profusion of station signs.


The white-painted buildings of the former Wilpshire for Ribchester Station,

closed in 1962 and now a private house,

can be seen behind the train.














A final photo taken from the down platform of Ramsgreave & Wilpshire Station.

The 'Topper Chopper' has roared through the station

and breasted the top of the four-mile climb from Whalley Arches.


With three locos providing power, the climb provided no obstacle.


The train is over the hump and on the descent to Blackburn and pastures new.


More specifically to Bolton via Darwen,

then to Wigan Wallgate, Rainford and Kirkby,


then back to Wigan, and on to the WCML at Wigan Station Junction,

where the lines from Wigan North Western and Wallgate criss-cross,


and on to Crewe via the DBS Royal Mail Sidings at Warrington.


The whole journey was completed on schedule,

with a four-minute early arrival at Crewe at 18:59.


Thanks to Realtime Trains for the day's schedule.



More detailed maps may be viewed by clicking here



To read on the RVR website

an informative and illustrated article

on the


click here




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