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Query Corner

Q11.32. Luton Bute Street to Dunstable branch

A member has a London Midland Region Special Traffic Notice (No. 9) for 28th May to 3rd June 1988 which shows details of a special shuttle passenger train service between Luton Bute Street and Dunstable on Monday 30th May 1988 (spring bank holiday) which he believes was sponsored by an organisation attempting to gain interest for a resumption of regular services between these points.

Was this the last occasion on which passenger services operated on this line?

(PH:7589)

Answer

The last passenger train to reach Dunstable was the Southern Electric Group's "Thame Dunstabelle" tour on 12th November 1988 (see http://www.sixbellsjunction.co.uk/80s/881112se.htm) (AR)

During the 80s there were several passenger trains. On 17th. January 1987 a DMU railtour visited the branch (to the terminus at the cement works). This tour was repeated about 2 months later. A pressure group called ADAPT was formed in the 1980s to promote the re-opening of the branch. They organised a special train on Sunday 3rd. May 1987 (Bank Holiday Sunday). This ran to Brighton (complex reversal at Luton necessary) and consisted of a four coach “push and pull” unit with a class 33. A temporary station was built (sponsored by a local builder) with a very short platform so that access to the train was at one point only, the wide doors in the guard’s compartment. The success of this was such that it was repeated a year later, on Sunday 8th May 1988. This ran to Portsmouth and Southsea. The bank holiday special referred to ran on Bank Holiday Monday 30th May 1988. It was composed of a first generation 2 car Cravens DMU in a “heritage” livery of dark green. This made 7 return trips from Luton to Dunstable. I think a temporary station was erected at Luton to avoid the reversals. A third train was proposed the following year, this time to Matlock (or possibly Matlock Bath). This was proposed to run on Sunday 30th April, but at the last minute permission to use the branch was withdrawn so that the train actually started at Luton. The train was a 101 DMU from Reading. So this should have been the last passenger train. So this leaves the last passenger train as the one on May 30th 1988, but this was not quite the end. Over ten years later a pressure group acquired some rolling stock (including a diesel shunter and a coach) which was kept on the siding into the old Bedford truck factory midway between the two former stations at Dunstable. To prove their point the group drove out onto the branch and a few hundred yards in the Luton direction one Sunday in January 2001. This might be considered the last passenger service although the number of passengers is unknown. The railway authorities were not happy with this and removed the points and lengths of track to ensure that it could never be repeated. (PF:10896)

In the November RO, query Q11.32 caught my eye. I believe that the special trains running between Luton and Dunstable on the Bank Holiday in question were specifically run in connection with the carnivals taking place in both towns. The train used was the "celebrity" green-liveried class 105. The train crew (or at least, the guard) entered into the spirit of the occasion by wearing brightly coloured clown wigs. At Luton, a temporary "platform 6" was built with scaffolding beside the Midland station on the Great Northern route, the opposite side of Station Road. I believe that there was a Cl.33-hauled special on the line after then, but it is possible that the special I remember ran before the carnival shuttles. (PD:20844)

  
   Carnival special at Dunstable on 30th May 1988.   Lee Brimmer
  
   Dunstable station sign on 30th May 1988.   Lee Brimmer

  
   The carnival shuttle approaching Skimpot Road Bridge on 30th May 1988.   Lee Brimmer
  
   The carnival shuttle after crossing Skimpot Road Bridge on 30th May 1988.   Lee Brimmer

  
   The carnival shuttle leaving Luton on 30th May 1988.   Lee Brimmer

last updated: 24/10/12