For every train, there's a spotter. Ever since Richard Trevithick's great 'Puffing Devil" rolled down the tracks in 1801, there's been a passion for UK trains amongst the spotters found on steam railways and central railways throughout railway UK.These great rail men love heritage railways and preserved railways, but grand central trains are becoming a firm favourite on their time-table.
New kids on the block
Compared with steam trains in the UK, the Grand Central Railway Company is relatively new when it comes to London railways and railway travel. The first service began on 18 December 2007 and connected London with Sunderland and Bradford via a direct train.
Grand Central operates four daily return trips between Sunderland and London, along the ECML and the Durham Coast Line, and three return trips between Bradford and London on the ECM.
Unlike other UK services who operate franchises owned by the Department of Transport, Grand Central operate on a fully commercial, non-subsidised basis by using the "open access" process, which allows them to use national train in the UK Train services derailed Grand Central's original intention to run very fast trains between Newcastle upon Tyne and Manchester across the Calder Valley was met with rejection by the Rail Regulator in 2004. The company was approved by the Office of Rail Regulation to operate three passenger services per day between London and Sunderland. The news was met with high-pitched cheers by hysterical train enthusiasts everywhere.
Here come the trains
Grand Central originally planned to use a fleet of five of Bombardier Transportation's five-coach Class 222 Diesel-electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) 125-mile-per-hour (200 km/h) trains, similar to those already in use with Hull Trains and Midland Mainline, and related to the Class 220/221. Yet problems arose in claiming these units and Grand Central had to look elsewhere. The train company's current fleet Grand Central eventually secured the use of six Class 43 power cars, and 24 Mark 3 trailer vehicles. Its current fleet numbers eight trains. Three are HST sets formed of Class 43 (HST) power cars and Mark 3 coaches, and the other five are Class 180 sets.
The end of the line? No chance!
Grand Central trains are proving rich pickings for those who main-line steam and love to spot. As a mark of recognition and respectful nod towards the anorak-clad, notepad clutching obsessives, Grand Central has called two of its trains The Zephyr and 21st Century Limited. Long, may they roll.