Sleep­ing beauty

The de­pots that serve the ‘Ca­ley Sleeper’ are a mod­eller’s dream, says Paul A. Lunn.

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents - Art­work: Paul A. Lunn Photography: Richard Foster

Ran­noch Moor: is there any finer view to wake up to, with end­less miles of rugged heather, beau­ti­ful lochs and the vista of dis­tant moun­tains? The two shiny rails of the West High­land Rail­way, float­ing across the peat bog on a bed of rushes and turf, are the only signs of civil­i­sa­tion. It’s a breath­tak­ing place at the best of times, but to see it at day­break is some­thing else. That glo­ri­ous vista starts just the other side of your ho­tel win­dow, close enough that you feel that you could just reach out and touch it. What’s even bet­ter is that the view from your ho­tel win­dow is con­stantly chang­ing – and that your ho­tel is be­ing pow­ered by two clas­sic South­ern Re­gion elec­tro-diesels! The Cale­do­nian Sleeper is unique for many rea­sons. Firstly, un­less you fancy camp­ing, it’s the only way you can see Ran­noch Moor at such a mag­i­cal time in the morn­ing. Sec­ondly, it’s Bri­tain’s only ded­i­cated sleeper fran­chise (the An­glo-scot­tish sleeper ser­vice was split from pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tor Sco­trail in 2015). And lastly, the four sleeper ser­vices that ply the West Coast Main Line ev­ery night are Bri­tain’s long­est pas­sen­ger trains, com­pris­ing 16 bo­gie coaches. The sleeper ser­vices brought some wel­come vari­a­tion to a pre­dom­i­nantly mul­ti­ple unit-worked rail­way when un­der Sco­trail. But new op­er­a­tor Serco and its trac­tion provider GBRF have com­bined to make the Cale­do­nian Sleeper ar­guably the most in­ter­est­ing oper­a­tion on to­day’s rail­way. It’s the jux­ta­po­si­tion of old and new that makes study­ing or mod­el­ling the ‘Ca­ley Sleeper’ such a mouth-wa­ter­ing propo­si­tion. It uses Bri­tain’s new­est elec­tric lo­co­mo­tives (Class 92s) and Bri­tain’s new­est hauled coach­ing stock (the Mk 5s, which are so new that they’re still be­ing tested). But GBRF has also brought clas­sic diesel and elec­tric trac­tion back into front­line pas­sen­ger ser­vice. Class 86s and 87s work empty stock in and out of Eus­ton, and a Class 47 hauls empty stock from Glas­gow Cen­tral to Pol­madie de­pot. And, to top it all off, Class 73s – com­pletely re-en­gi­neered, by the way – are in ev­ery­day use in Scot­land, hun­dreds of miles away from their former South­ern Re­gion haunts. The prob­lem for mod­ellers is that you need a lot of space to do Scot­tish scenery jus­tice, even if you model in ‘N’. But the sleeper’s jour­ney starts in the West Lon­don sub­urbs, about as far re­moved from the tran­quil­lity of the Scot­tish High­lands as it’s pos­si­ble to be. Al­stom’s Wem­b­ley Train care fa­cil­ity is the nerve cen­tre for the English end of the Cale­do­nian Sleeper. It’s here, in the shadow of Wem­b­ley sta­dium and sur­rounded by Vir­gin’s ‘Pen­dolinos’ and Lon­don Un­der­ground trains, that the sleeper’s Mk 2 and Mk 3 coaches are ser­viced. The ur­ban back­ground lends it­self to build­ing a small lay­out, but with­out com­pro­mis­ing on the Cale­do­nian Sleeper’s fas­ci­nat­ing oper­a­tion.

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