Locomotive Performance

The Lickey Route

My old Trainspotting books tell me that my first rail journey on the Birmingham to Bristol line was in April 1953, when Jubilee 4-6-0 no 45609 "Gilbert and Ellis Islands" hauled me from Bredon to Gloucester Eastgate. But it was not until the following year that I had my first journey over the "Lickey". In late December 1954 I was taken by to Cheltenham by an aunt. Out from Birmingham on 45660 "Rooke", and back on 45561 "Saskatchewan". No stopwatch yet, but detailed milepost readings to the nearest second meant that the resultant logs can be considered reasonably accurate. Since then I have travelled up and down the line many times. In 1958 I had a Western Region "Railrover", and Bristol to Birmingham was included in it's territory. So over the years I have built up quite a collection of logs. Here is a selection of some of the steam ones.

On 31st December 1954, Jubilee 4-6-0 no 45660 "Rooke" took me from Birmingham New Street to Cheltenham Spa Lansdown on the 7.30am Bradford to Bristol service. [view log of 45660]

I returned from Cheltenham to Birmingham in blizzard conditions on the 2.15pm Bristol to York on another Jubilee, no 45561 "Saskatchewan" [view log of 45561]

On 7th September 1955, 45685 "Barfleur" took me from Birmingham to Gloucester Eastgate, again on the 7.30am Bradford to Bristol, with some fast running down through Eckington. [view log of 45685]

Wednesdays were half days, and on 6th December 1955, I took the train from Stourbridge Junction to Worcester Shrub Hill, then, after a short spell of "spotting", joined the 1.50pm ex Gloucester Eastgate, and continued to Birmingham New Street with 4P Compound 4-4-0 no 40932, which ran vigorously and pulled back 6 minutes of it's 9 minute late departure. [view log of 40932]

In the Summer of 1956, on Mondays and Fridays, the Sheffield portion of the "Pines Express" ran independently of the Manchester/Liverpool train, and left Birmingham at 12.30pm. Bound for a holiday in Hampshire, I chose the "Somerset and Dorset" way of getting me there. 45056 was the loco, with 10 coaches, reduced to 8 at Gloucester, a move I suspect, to make the load within the "single loco" limits on the S & D. We were 1 minute late into Bath Green Park, after 3 dead stands for signals. Maximum speed was 71 mph at Defford. And on the Somerset and Dorset, the "West Country" 4-6-2 still took a Midland 2P 4-4-0 as pilot. [view log of 45056] 

On 26th April 1958, I took my then girlfriend's younger brother (Hi Colin) to Bristol Temple Meads for a few hours of trainspotting. We chose the 9.23am from New Street, the 7.43am Nottingham to Bristol, an interesting service which called at Kings Norton, then went via Worcester, called as usual at Cheltenham and Gloucester, but then had scheduled stops at Stonehouse and Berkeley Road, in addition to Mangotsfield. Black Five no 44815 (17A Derby) was the loco, and the load 8. The running was modest to Gloucester, but I suspect we had a crew change, for onwards to Bristol we ran hard, particularly up to Wickwar Tunnel. Most enjoyable. [view log of 44815] 

The return journey on 26th April 1958 was on the 4.45pm Bristol to York, and the loco 44815 once more. The running was again very good, with excellent climbs up to Fishponds and up the Lickey. We were 1 min early back in to New Street. Maximum speed was 72 mph, below Charfield. [view log of 44815] 

Western Region "Railrover" week, and to get to the Western Region proper it was either Snow Hill to Paddington, or New Street to Bristol. Ditto coming home. So during the week I travelled twice on the evening Bristol to Newcastle Mail. On 4th June 1958, Holbeck's  44662 gave me an exhilarating start from Temple Meads, but then fell to 16 mph on Fishponds bank. After the Mangotsfield stop, we had a fast run down from Wickwar Tunnel, with an 83 mph below Charfield. Thereafter the running was more restrained, indeed the loco was eased after Abbotswood to avoid getting ahead of time. We were 1 min early in to New Street. [view log of 44662]

Four days later, on 8th June 1958, I was on the "Mail" again, but meanwhile the summer timetable had come into effect, with some changes. The 7.20pm from Bristol had become the 7.25pm, with the 5 minutes deducted from the Cheltenham to Birmingham schedule. 44819 made a fine ascent of Fishponds bank, and ran well throughout, with a splendid 24 mph climb of the Lickey (with the usual 2 bankers). A most enjoyable run. [view log of 44819] 

On Saturday, 4th April 1960, I spent a day with my brother on the Birmingham to Bristol line, the idea being that we would travel to Bristol, then do a trip, or two, back to Gloucester, before returning to Birmingham in the evening. What I was after was some B1 haulage. We started on the 7.55am from New Street, the 6.10am Derby to Bristol. 73135, a "Caprotti Standard 5", had 10 coaches, and drizzle to contend with out of New Street. It was hard work and we were slipping all the way past Five Ways. So we dropped 2 minutes to Kings Norton. Thereafter the running was very good. But we two p.w slowings to contend with, and signal checks into Bristol, and ended up 10 minutes late. Rough justice!. [view log of 73135]  

We then returned to Gloucester on 73156, then back to Bristol on the "Cornishman" with 5031 "Totnes Castle", then back to Gloucester on 45570 "New Zealand". The final run back to Bristol was on the late running Devonian, with 45685 "Barfleur". With 11 coaches, the running was respectable, but a severe p.w slack at Yate, and the inevitable checks in to Temple Meads, we were 32 mins late arriving. [view log of 45685]

Our final run of the day was in the 5.00pm Bristol to York. The loco was 45649 "Hawkins", and the load 10 plus a van. It was a struggle up to Fishponds, we were down to 13 mph, and the running back to Birmingham was bedeviled by 3 pw slacks, at Yate, Standish, and Cleeve. In between these the running was quite good, but we 7 mins late into Birmingham. [view log of 45649]

Looking back, it was a day of missed opportunities. We saw two B1's, nos 61327 and 61181, but chose the wrong trains to travel behind either of them. And why, oh why, at Gloucester Eastgate at 12.20pm, when we had a choice of travelling back to Bristol behind 5031 "Totnes Castle" on the Cornishman, or 45509 "The Derbyshire Yeomanry" on the 7.43am Nottingham to Bristol, which were standing on adjoining platforms, did we choose the former.  What were we thinking about?

In 1964 I had another "Western Region Railrover". I reckoned that that the best option for the Saturday was the Birmingham to Bristol line, where there were still quite a few steam workings. But Birmingham was no longer included in it's availability. So on Saturday 27th June 1964, I drove to Worcester Shrub Hill and did two round trips to Bristol. Both Southbound trips were diesel hauled. But both Northbound were steam. The first was on the 12.45pm Bristol to Sheffield, 45280 with load 8. It ran well with a decent climb to Fishponds and 77 mph below Charfield. We were completely unchecked between Bristol and Worcester...on a summer Saturday. [view log of 45280]. 

The second northbound run was on a Western Region service via the Stratford line. So I travelled behind 7024  "Powis Castle" only to Gloucester Eastgate. There after an hours wait, I caught the 8.07pm Gloucester to Worcester "stopper". And guess what. I finally got my B1. No 61394 (41D) with 8 bogies. I did it at last, on what turned out to be my last steam hauled run on the Lickey Route. [view log of 61394]