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Strange Tales of the Rail - Sandy

by Richard Howe, Sandy, Bedfordshire, England


OK I am about to lose all the credit I ever had but I feel pretty strongly about the following that I need to relate it (again), some have heard it before.

In the late summer of 1983 I was "train spotting" at Sandy, It would have been a Tuesday night as this was our night out. I was with my mate Jefferson and two of the "Bedford" men.

One of the "highlights" at this time was the first of the down sleepers as it passed in daylight. I believe it was the 2012 kgx - Aberdeen ???.

To set the scene, if I may, the evening was still, dry and there was not not a cloud in the sky. the sun was starting to set and it would have been about 20.55 - 21.00.... We always stood on the down slow platform at Sandy and any Northbound (Down) trains are visible in these lighting conditions for a short stretch in the very far distance between Biggleswade and Sandy, this being due to the orange light of the setting sun reflecting off of the stock. this would be followed shortly after by the sound of the train and indeed the clearing of the down fast signal after the station for Everton crossing gates, which otherwise displayed 2 yellows.


Bang on queue the down fast signal cleared to green, with the passing of the deltics some 6 months or more previously the staple power would be a Gateshed 47, the only glimmer of hop would be that we get a "rare" loco from another depot.

Sure enough the stock sailed across Biggleswade common, stock glinting bright orange in the glaring sun.

We were then all completely and utterly stunned into silence.

The undeniable sound of twin Napiers opening up at full bore and that completely unmistakable "DRONE" of a Deltic at full chat apporoaching.

Since the return to the main line I have heard this noise a few times and lumps quell in my throat, indeed I might even admit to my closest friends that I would be hard pressed to speak without a squeak in my voice and I might look like I had somehing in my eye...

However this was 1983 !!!!!!!

All four of us were stunned into complete silence and awaited the 30 seconds or so to pass in which the train would roar into sight.

It did not........

We looked back at the Down fast signal and it was proudly displaying two yellows.

The noise vanished as quickly as it came at the time we would expect the stock to appear in view.

It took some time for the talk to start.

What had we really seen, that signal was definately cleared, wasn't it ?.

If a train did come across at the speed we saw & heard, even an emergency brake application would have allowed it to come into view. Cab secure radio did not exist so even it did stop out of view the signaller would never have known so hastily to "put back". The last note of the engine was also "full chat".

The next train that came Down the fast was an HST about 15 minutes later so there was nothing on the Down fast !!, indeed the passage of the HST was a mirror of the "sleeper", we saw the orange glint, we saw the signal clear, we heard the paxmans and then the train passed....

We never saw the sleeper that night. Had I been in my current job I could have done some phoning and found out where it was and what happened to it the next day !. Now at this time I was working "at the cross" but was on leave so I was never able to find out what happened to it !.

Ok the light we saw could have been something else ??? The noise WAS a Deltic, but none were servicable or on the main line !!. The signal ??????? OK if it was today I would have had the contacts to check that one !..

Basically we were all gobsmacked beyond being gobsmacked. I truthfully did not sleep that night at all. We went back many times and it was talked over many times but we never drew any conclusions.


Editor's note:

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