Western Pathfinder

Marking the 50th anniversary of a non-stop ‘Western’ run from Paddington to Penzance, John Heaton FCILT travels on a Class 52 railtour that commemorates
that 1966 achievement.

Peering from the window of my local train as it approached Paddington station early one spring Saturday, I found ‘Western’ C-C Class 52 No. D1058 Western Nobleman picture-perfectly framed, protruding from underneath the canopy of platform 1, resplendent in maroon livery that sparkled against the strengthening morning sunshine.

In a classic scene reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, Class 52 No. D1015 masquerades as No. D1010 Western Campaigner heading a Pathfinder Tours charter past Teignmouth on May 7. FRASER PITHIE
In a classic scene reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, Class 52 No. D1015 masquerades as No. D1010 Western Campaigner heading a Pathfinder Tours charter past Teignmouth on May 7. FRASER PITHIE

But this was not 1976, the last full year before its withdrawal; it was 2016.

Even die-hard enthusiasts could be forgiven for having to take a reality check. Walking down platform 1, the left-hand side of the locomotive carried the identity of D1010 Western Campaigner, but it was actually a disguised D1015 Western Champion. It was standing at the head of the ‘Western Challenger’ railtour (D1019?!) organised by Pathfinder
(a coincidental name-share with ‘Western’ D1001!).

I must admit to being ambivalent towards the modern trend of locomotives running under assumed characters, but it does, somewhat inexplicably, freshen the scene. It is worrying that future generations might be unable to disentangle the resultant confusion – but when one hears that the preservationist-owning Diesel Traction Group makes a substantial profit from the process my misgivings are overcome. In an imaginative fund-raising idea, individual sponsors can choose which Class 52 they would like to commemorate in this fashion and then keep the replica number and nameplate after the event.

However, for the sake of our potentially perplexed descendants, I will use D1015 Western Champion from this point in the present-day narrative.

Read more in October’s edition of The RM

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