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Cycling holidays with Active on Holiday

Leisure Cycling Blog

Cycling between the National Railway Museums

My love of trains...combined with a love of cycling!

As long as I can remember, I have always been interested in trains and train travel. In fact, it is an interest that I have always had since Infant School despite growing up in Gosport; a town on the South Coast without a train station to call its own!

I used to go off on day trips on my own when I was a teenager from Portsmouth Harbour to London, Bournemouth or Southampton and had an excellent knowledge of the London Underground when others didn't venture out of the town! I have travelled throughout Europe by train and my post-university InterRail tour of Germany, Austria and Denmark set me up with an interest in pan-European train travel that I try and continue today. Last year, I caught the train back from the German/Austrian border to Manchester and will always try to seek out bargain rail tickets for future trips.

From Shildon, County Durham to York... One such promotion came up recently with First TransPennineExpress with a half-price offer on already reduced Advance tickets, so I thought of a ride I could do in the North East and decided to ride the 70-mile distance between the National Rail Museums in Shildon, County Durham to the main museum in York. The area is rich in railway history and was the location of the world's first railway from Stockton to Darlington.

The Advanced Passenger Train E (APT-E)...

My main reason for heading up to Shildon was to see one of the most revolutionary British engineering feats of the 1970s, yet one that left British Rail in the sidings. The Advanced Passenger Train project was an experimental high-speed train that was conceived to speed up journey times between London and Glasgow using tilt technology to maintain speed. The West Coast Main Line from London to Scotland via Preston is a train line that has sharp curves that limit the speed of traditional trains. Replacing the line and building a French-style TGV route would have cost too much, however, a faster train using existing track was possible. By tilting the train, speed can be maintained in the same way that a motorcyclist can take a bend at high speed by leaning.

The APT-E was unique as it was powered by gas turbine technology and hit record speeds of 152 mph along certain stretches of the rail network. For a while, it seemed that the future of rail had arrived and the sleek, modern lines of the APT-E would define rail travel into the 1980s.

The train set in Shildon was a museum piece after testing and has remained preserved ever since. The electric version of the APT-E was the second generation train of its type and now rests in a heritage centre near Crewe station. This ATP-P train took the tilting technology of the prototype and was put into commercial service in 1981 and had a bad start.

The tilt technology was making people feel sick and suffered from negative coverage by the media. The APT project was dropped in the late 1980s and is now a preservation piece in the National Rail Museum.

Interestingly, if you board a train between London and head to Birmingham, Preston, Glasgow on a tilting Virgin Pendolino much of the technology came from these trains but was instead refined by Swiss and Italian engineering companies.

Seeing the Tour de Yorkshire Preparations... I left Shildon in the morning and headed down the A and B roads towards Catterick trying to avoid ending up on the A1(M). The roads were quiet and I had a great time riding south into the sun with a cold northerly wind pushing me along.

As I reached Northallerton, there was lots of bunting, yellow bikes and signs up for the forthcoming Tour de Yorkshire. The Tour de France legacy event that is putting the county firmly on the cycling map. Due to the route I took, I cycled pretty much parallel to the East Coast Main Line for much of the day and saw numerous trains running up and down the line towards Scotland or London including the East Coast IC225 trains that were built out of the research put into the Advanced Passenger Train project. I reached Thirsk, rode past the Racecourse and headed down towards the fine city of York.

Arriving in York and the Flying Scotsman... I reached the wonderful Cathedral and continued onto the National Railway Museum close to York train station. I quickly stopped off to take a photo of another more famous train inside the museum, the Flying Scotsman that I saw recently on the East Lancs Railway in Bury undergoing testing after rebuilt and restoration.

The ride was approximately 70 miles and took in some excellent riding roads around County Durham, Darlington and North Yorkshire. It was a great day of combining two of my main passions.

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