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Author Topic: 1970 excursions - Percy Danks and the Merrymaker program  (Read 14248 times)
grahame
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« on: March 10, 2008, 07:15:34 pm »

You never (as I always say) read about the good journeys!

You do sometimes read about the good journeys, Jim - but not as often as you and I would like.

Let me tell you about a marvellous chap who goes (or alas, more likely went as he will be 100 by now if he's still around) by the name of Percy Danks. Percy worked for the old British Rail and my memories are of a long time ago - post steam, though, so it must have been in the 1970s when there was still stock around that was utilised in morning peaks only - or on Summer Saturdays.  Percy made use of that stock during offseason weekends, arranging special trips on the London Midland region from Euston, St Pancras and Marylebone to - well - all sorts of places. 

My memory of detail has faded a little - but I can come up with so many destinations we visited.  To Llandudno and Llandrindod Wells, to York and Carlisle, to Grange-over-Sands and Christmas shopping to Birmingham.  Trips to places off the railway too, with coach connections; via Ruabon to Llangollen, via Northanpton to Stoke Bruerne, and even via Mallaig to Portree. And Mystery excursions too where we never knew quite where we would end up.  St Pancras to Southport, to Newport and to Margate. Marylebone to Morcambe, and others since forgotten.

Merrymakers were comprised for the most part of 10 cars or so, mostly side corridor Mark 1s ... and they set out from the London termini sometime between 07:30 and 08:30, picking up at a variety of suburban stations on their way out. And that early start meant that the loyal customer base from south of the river had to be up really early. It was nothing unusuakl to get on the 06:03 from Petts Wood to Victoria - a 4 car, slam-door EPB, predawn.

There was always Percy - or another host as he was running 3 and 4 trains some weekends - waiting to greet his customers in London; rarely the newest of stock but always well cleaned and usually warm - sure, we had our "events" - our delays caused by vandals near Shrewsbury or failed train heating somewhere in November - but usually tre trains reached their destinations at around lunchtime.  Of course a lot of the pleasure was in the journey - seeing the countryside through wide, nontinted windows that were pitched the same as the seats.  Rattling over the track that made the diddly-dumb noises that told you that you were moving. And on Euston trips seeing the loco change at Wolverhampton, or Crewe ...

Arrival at destination - around lunchtime - but the seasoned Merrymakers had already eaten on the train and were off to explore the Orme, the city walls, or find the best Haggis stall in England in the market. Six to eight hours was just right to see a city or a resort that you had never seen before, see a museum in a far flung town, or enjoy a river trip.  Memories are of always-sunny days but there were, I think some sodden trips with macs dripping all over the train floor when we dragged to the station, got back in and headed home.  And my pictures are black and white print film - home processed it was so long ago.

The journey home and the train was more like a party that a regular run; everybody talking to everyone - seeing presents bought, learning life stories until we dragged back into London at around 10:30.  Often not quite on time - occasionally very early, rarely very late.  Indeed - the last trains back to Petts Wood were from Blackfriars at 00:20, 00:23 and 01:00 and I NEVER found myself on the 01:00.

I googled for Percy Danks and for Merrymaker before I wrote this and I drew a sad blank - perhaps in time this post will come up for people and they can add on to this thread, write more memories.  I know we always look back through rosy tintend spectacles at these trips but there were good - they must have been - otherwise we wouldn't have gone on 10 or 12 every year, and waited excited for the new schedule each winter to plan our year ahead.
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chiefsub68
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« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2011, 09:55:35 pm »

Hi - I met Percy Danks once. He used to run tours to join the cruises to Norway and Morocco aboard TS Avalon, the Harwich-Hook ferry. Avalon was used for cruises once she became the spare ship. She was an oil-guzzler and was, unfortunately, out of date when she was launched. British Rail (later Sealink) ran several cruises with sailings from Harwich. Percy and my father, who was captain of the Avalon, became good friends.
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Worcester_Passenger
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2011, 02:35:31 am »

I remember something similar operating in the North East in the early 1970s. A 12-car set made up of full brake, 2xSO, full kitchen, 4xSO, full kitchen, 2xSO and full brake. Class 40 on the front, with the brakes there to improve the ride quality. I think that adds up to 512 seats.

I was at Newcastle University at the time, and someone in our department had spotted this offering a midweek excursion to Bangor, with coach tours from there to Caernarvon Castle and Portmeirion. Picking up at Durham, Dalrlington and York, then via Wakefield Kirkgate and Manchester Victoria to Chester and the North Wales line. Aimed at the WI market. A fabulous price that included lunch on the way out and dinner on the way back. Our man organised a minibus to collect our small party, go to Portmadoc and do a return trip on the Festiniog.

Same train was probably offering different destinations and different start points during the season - but I don't have any details of those.
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signalandtelegraph
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« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 07:07:31 am »

Went on a couple fom Taunton in the late 70's.  Isle of Wight for ^3 and a mystery trip that ended up in Clacton on Sea. 
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2011, 02:20:23 pm »

Welcome to the Coffee Shop forum, chiefsub68 - and thanks for adding your personal recollections to update this interesting topic. Those were the days, eh?  Smiley Cheesy Grin
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pjpjw
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2011, 02:41:45 pm »

The late 1970s trips from Newcastle included Cambridge, Oban and Aberdeen. These were just a few pounds and gave you a couple of hours at the destination. I recall most seats were taken outward and a few spaces on return.
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Phil
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2011, 03:33:54 pm »

Some friends of mine who lived in Bath took a fortnight's holiday holiday in Norfolk one wet summer in the late 1970s and, starting to run out of things to do in the seemingly endless torrential rain, excitedly boarded a Merrymaker mystery trip on the second Sunday of their holiday, thinking that at least they'd be in the dry for most of the day.

The mystery tour took them to see the sights of.... Bath.

So, they went home, had a cup of tea, watched a bit of telly, and boarded the train back to Norwich at the appointed time.
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2011, 04:28:52 pm »

Ah ... I'm so happy to see this thread spluttering to life.  Those were some fantastic trips.   Mystex (Train on which passengers don't know where they are going) from St Pancras ... to Newport, or Margate, Morcambe or Southport. And - yes - my folks did come from Southport, but the pleasure was as much in the journey as the getting there.  And planned destinations from Llandudno to Durham, and from Stoke Bruerne (with bus transfer) and Llandrindod Wells to Weymouth and Carlisle.
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Andrew1939 from West Oxon
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2011, 05:14:59 pm »

If any of the nostalgic members of this forum and who live in the vicinity of the Cotswold Line would like to experience this atmosphere again, the Cotswold Line Promotion Group is organising a charter train from Hereford to Portsmouth Harbour on 10 September. The atmosphere on recent excursions has been very much as the old Merrymaker trains with everyone going out for a pleasure day and no workers with lapstops and mobiles on the go! Even the FGW (First Great Western) staff look forward to these excursions with no shortage of volunteers to staff the train. Details on clpg.co.uk but booking until 1st July is CLPG» (Cotswold Line Promotion Group - about) member only (but you could join before then!). Fares are also around the current price equivalent of Merrymaker fares in the 50/60s ' ^30/^32 per standard class seat!
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2011, 11:15:19 pm »

In the circumstances, I suppose we're happy to support that shameless plug for the Cotswold Line Promotion Group excursion ...  Wink Cheesy Grin
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William Huskisson MP (Member of Parliament) was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2011, 11:20:47 am »

I've got some good memories of Merry Makers,

They were great for odd motive power and going over freight only lines.

Remember a Day trip from Wellingborough & other East Midland Stations on a Summer Saturday, going Grosmont & Whitby, sailed straight through Grosmont, (no instruction to call) so within Minutes of arriving in Whitby a 3 car unit made a trip to Grosmont for the NYMR (North Yorkshire Moors Railway) passengers.
Week Later a Mystery Excusion Ran, from same stations ran to Whitby  Grin

On another Mystery Excursion that Started from Wellingborough, called Stations to Derby, connections from Nottingham, then Class 47 ran round and we set off south to Portsmouth & Southsea.

Of course if the Mystery Ex turned up behind a pair of Class 25's destination was Aberystwyth.  Grin
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grahame
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2018, 08:08:54 pm »

I've got some good memories of Merry Makers ...

Ah ... I'm so happy to see this thread spluttering to life.  Those were some fantastic trips ...

I've spent much of today filling a skip with the detrius of ages and rescuing memories as we downsize.  A bit dirty having been in the garage for 20 years, but I came across a coin collector's album I had used for rail tickets and here is a Merrymaker page - ah, fond memories.   A rail commuter into London in those days, I then scarcely even used a train through the 1980s and 1990s, though drove up to 30,000 miles a year.

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PhilWakely
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2018, 04:33:53 pm »

Of course if the Mystery Ex turned up behind a pair of Class 25's destination was Aberystwyth.  Grin

I remember participating in several from Exeter - one to Aberystwyth, which was 'Western' hauled as far as Shrewsbury (via Hereford), with a pair of 24s taking over through mid-Wales. We were held somewhere west of Newtown for 30 minutes whilst a heifer calved right beside the railway.

The others were to Clacton-on-sea, Canterbury and Lincoln.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2018, 05:01:54 pm »

Danks for the memories.
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bradshaw
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2018, 07:53:10 pm »

Then, in the 1980s, there were the ‘Network Days’ and the Persil voucher scheme, exchanging them for rail tickets,
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