Locomotive Performance

Steam to the Cambrian Coast

In 1949, my family took their annual summer holiday in a cottage overlooking the Cambrian Coast lane close to Talybont Halt. We were able to see the trains clearly, and I recall that Duke class 4-4-0 no 9054 "Cornubia" was a regular. In 1954, we holidayed just up the road at Dyffryn Ardudwy. I timed my first run, a North Wales Land Cruise to Rhyl. A "Lads" holiday at Butlins Holiday camp at Pwllheli in 1957, provided more timing opportunities. The following year, 1958, I made several Summer Saturday timing trips from Birmingham to Machynlleth, but subsequent outings in 1959 were between Birmingham and Welshpool only. Apart from a 1966 "Cambrian Steam farewell" railtour, I did no more Steam timing on the Cambrian until 1987, when steam returned to the coast and I had several runs behind 7819 and 46443.

Thursday 29th July 1954: My first attempt at Train Timing. A North Wales Land Cruise from Barmouth to Rhyl, outwards via Corwen, and back via Bangor. Collett 0-6-0 no 3202 had a 4 coach load and ran hard up from Dolgelly to Garneddwyn summit, averaging 25.6mph up the 10 miles of mainly 1/50 to 1/65 gradients. There was some brisk running onwards to Rhyl. On the return journey, we ran well  along the coast and on the single line sections down into Afonwen. [view log of 3202]

We now move on to 1957. On Saturday 24th August it was off to Butlins. 7818 Granville Manor was on the 7.55am Birmingham-Aberystwyth. The load was 10 coaches and we were banked from Moat Lane to Talerddig by 46523. [view log of 7818]

At Dovey Junction we changed trains. 2295 was waiting on the 12.00pm Dovey Junction to Barmouth, loading to 6 (very packed) coaches. [view log of 2295]

At Barmouth we changed trains again, on to the late running 11.00am Ruabon-Pwllheli. This was 30 late away behind a pair of Collett 0-6-0's, 2286 and 2264. The load was 8 very packed coaches, and despite extremely vigorous running, station overtime, and crossing delays meant we were 55 late into Penychain. 2286 was detached at Criccieth. [view log of 2286 and 2264] 

A day trip to the Talyllyn Railway on 29th August meant a trip down the coast to Towyn, and what better way to travel than on the "Cambrian Coast Express". Dukedog 4-4-0 no 9021 was the loco, with load 5. [view log of 9021] 

We returned from Towyn on the 5.40pm ex Machynlleth with 2-6-0 no 4377 on another packed train, of 8 coaches. The running throughout was vigorous. [view log of 4377]

The journey home to the Midlands on the following Saturday, the 31st August, on the 7.20am Pwllheli-Paddington was unforgetable, as far as Ruabon anyway. A double headed combination of Dukedog 4-4-0 no 9004 and Collett 0-6-0 no 2296, with load 10. Things went reasonably well down the coast, and on through Dolgelley, but once past Bontnewydd, on the fierce 1 in 50 up to Garneddwen summit, both locos were short of that vital commodity, steam, and we were down to below 10mph. Thereafter, we held our own and were only 10 late into Ruabon. The motive power from Ruabon was 6841 "Marlas Grange" (with 6357 pilot to Shrewsbury), then 5032 "Usk Castle" onwards to Birmingham. [view log of 9004 and 2296] 

In 1958 I made two Summer Saturday trips from Birmingham to Machynlleth, using the 7.55am and 8.05am Aberystwyth services from Snow Hill. On 2nd August a pair of 2-6-0's on the 7.55am gave me a nondescript run to Welshpool, so I had no qualms about switching to the second train. This came in 14 late behind a tidy looking 5369 from Tyseley shed. The load was 10, and the running was ordinary to Moat Lane, where we stopped for a banker. But there wasn't one, and after crossing an up train at Caersws, we made an excellent and noisy climb up to Talerddig. Then a whirlwind descent down the other side, 68mph before braking for Llanbrynmair loop. But we ended up 28 late into Machynlleth. [view log of 5369] 

On the return journey I got 75005 on the 11.00am Aberystwyth-Manchester, with 4599 pilot to Talerddig. The load was 12 and the running excellent, with crossing loops taken "quickly" [view log of 75005]. At Welshpool I changed over to the 11 coach 9.25am Pwllheli-Paddington, but 7341 found the load too much, and lost time.

Two weeks later, on 16th August, I was on the 7.55am from Snow Hill again, this time with a resplendant looking 5369. Load 10, and from Wolverhampton, my fastest time to date past Wellington, 22min 53sec, with a superb 41mph at Hollinswood summit. Good work continued on the single line sections after Sutton Bridge, and we reached Welshpool in 67min 17sec [view log of 5369]. I continued to Machynlleth on 6360, which ran reasonably, but suffered long crossing stops at Moat Lane and Carno.

The return trip from Machynlleth was on the 12.30pm Aberystwyth-Birmingham, with another old friend, 4377. With load 10 we had 0-6-0 no 2233 up front to Talerddig, reached in 24min 25sec, minimum speed up the 1 in 52 was 24mph. Then it was "Hell for leather" all the way to Welshpool, reducing our 7min lateness to just 1 minute.Then it was more of the same up the bank from Buttington, but we were stopped at Briedden to cross the down "Cambrian Coast Express". It turned out that the CCE was running in two portions, so it was no surprise when, after another thrash up to Westbury-on-Severn, we were held again for the second portion. So by the time we approached Shrewsbury, we had lost our path. Then, amazingly, we were held for an "all stations", which was put out in front of us, and that was that. We ended up 52mins late into Wolverhampton. No fault of 4377, which was an excellent engine. [view log of 4377].

In 1959 I did two more return trips, but only as far as Welshpool. On 27th June it was the down "Cambrian Coast Express", 1.46pm ex Wolverhampton, 13 coaches, with 6367 and 7817 "Garsington Manor". 2mins late away, 77mph down Cosford bank, 45min up the other side to Hollinswood, 74mph at Upton Magna, and hard running on past Sutton Bridge, and we were into Welshpool right time in 67min 55sec, inclusive of one signal check (approaching Wellington) and one p.w.slack. [view log of 6367 and 7817]   

On 4th July 1959, I got another excellent run on 5369, back from Welshpool to Wolverhampton on the 9.25am Aberystwyth to Paddington, load 12. We were banked up to Westbury by 7823, which had worked the train in from Aberystwyth, and then suffered a number of checks onwards to Wellington. From then on it was solid thrash up to Hollinswood, 70mph down the other side, then more thrash up to Albrighton summit. What a splendid loco 5369 was in 1958 and 1959. [view log of 5369]
  17th January 1965: The itinerary of this S.L.S tour included Ruabon to Barmouth and return, prior to that lines imminent closure. But shortly before the tour date, storms and floods caused major damage to the line, which was then closed permanently. So S.L.S arranged at alternative itinerary at short notice  that included Shrewsbury to Welshpool, Welshpool to Whitchurch, and the Llanfyllyn branch. And whilst there was an element of  disappointment, the revised tour worked well. 7802 Bradley Manor worked most of the tour [view log of 7802]  with Ivatt 2-6-0 no 46512  [view log of 46512] covering the branch sections.
  16th April 1966: My final (or so I thought) Steam journeys on the Cambrian lines were on this Warwickshire Railway Society Cambrian Railtour. Two BR  class 4 4-6-0's were used, 75014 worked from Shrewsbury through to Aberystwyth, then returned  to Dovey Junction [view log of 75014]  and 75020 worked Dovey Junction to Pwllheli, then from Pwllheli right through to Shrewsbury. The outward run went without incident, but on the return 75020 had a spot of bother climbing to Talerddig,, stopping first for water at Llanbrynmair, then engaging in a bout of slipping, before coming to a stand on the 1 in 52 short of steam. After 6 minutes, we managed to make it to Talerddig, where we stopped for a further 5 minutes while boiler water levels were restored. So we were 19 minutes late into Shrewsbury [view log of 75020]