Locomotive Performance

Steam on the Welsh Marches

Following the success of the "Cumbrian Mountain Express" repeat itinerary railtours in 1980, SLOA introduced a second train, The "Welsh Marches Express", which ran along the "North and West Route", initially between Shrewsbury and Newport. Locomotives used in the early stages were either Hereford based, 6000 King George V and 6201 Princess Elizabeth, or Severn Valley based 4930 Hagley Hall and Black 5 no 5000.
Subsequently extra locomotives were introduced in to the "pool", and additional variety  into the itineraries by the inclusion of Chester, together with variations in the start and finish points. As long as the "pathing" did not conflict with the Cardiff to Crewe passenger services, just about anything was possible. "Run-pasts" became the norm at Craven Arms (southbound) and Abergavenny (both directions). The standard of locomotive performance was usually good, though the ex GW locomotives were handicapped by a series of OHBS (Overhead Bridge Slacks) because of tight clearances. Many of the Performance Logs that follow were originally published in "Souvenirs of Steam", a booklet produced in 1984 by Jeff Cogan and Ken Bull, on SLOA's behalf. Bearing in mind the BR steam "60 mph limit" many of the speeds had to be omitted for obvious reasons. Twenty years have now passed, so now it can be revealed that 70 to 75 mph speeds were frequent, and that Castle class 4-6-0 no 5051 went down through Abergavenny in April 1983 at no less than 80 mph. 

Because there were so many interesting runs on the "Welsh Marches", to include them all in this edition of "Locomotive Performance" would not be practical, so here we are dealing with the ex GW and Southern locomotives, and in a future edition, it will be the turn of the ex LMS engines, the BR standards, and a solitary run on an ex LNER loco. So look forward to a fabulous double headed run, featuring 2 locos from the Severn Valley Railway. Which locomotives?. Well you will have to wait and see. But a couple of clues. One engine was really flying, and the other had no tender.


 Part 1:  Great Western and Southern Engines


29th September 1979: This was the inaugural main line run of both 4930 "Hagley Hall" and Black 5  4-6-0 no 5000. The "Inter City" railtour ran from Hereford to Chester and back to Hereford. 4930 was subject to the usual "Overhead Bridge Slacks" and overall times were therefore not spectacular. With a 13 coach load of 490 tons full,  we topped Church Stretton bank northbound at 45 mph, and subsequently reached 69 mph at Balderton. On the return journey Gresford bank was taken at 29 mph, and a maximum of  66 mph was reached at Onibury. [view log of 4930 and 5000]  

21st June 1980: After some  very poor runs on 35028 "Clan Line" in 1978 and 1979, this one was a revelation. "The Clan Line Farewell" tour was the last before the locomotive was withdrawn for major overhall. The tour started at Edge Hill, and ran to Chester via Manchester Victoria, Guide Bridge and Northwich. We had a  12 coach load of 440 tons full. From Chester we made a reasonable 30 mph ascent of the 1 in 82 of Gresford Bank, and then ran briskly at up to 79 mph to Shrewsbury. Onwards to Hereford the running time of 57 min 12 sec remains my fastest ever steam timing between those points. We topped Church Stretton bank at 40 mph and reached 75 mph at Moreton-on-Lugg. A splendid day. [view log of 35028]  

4th October 1980:  The "Deeside Venturer"  was organised by the 6000 Locomotive Association with "KG5" running Hereford to Chester and back, and 4930 "Hagley Hall" on the bottom leg, Newport to Hereford in the morning, and Hereford to Newport in the evening.On the morning run with 4930 all the Bridge Slacks were treated with great respect, but less so in the evening. Northbound we climbed Llanvihangel bank without falling below 28 mph, and the evening highlight  was 73 mph at Avergavenny. With 274 miles of Steam Haulage during the day, together with excellent weather, this was a Railtour to remember.  [view log of 4930]  

13th June 1981:  The "Cathedrals Pullman", and 850 "Lord Nelson" was standing in for "Duchess of Hamilton, and produced a performance that few would have thought possible. South from Chester to Hereford there was some excellent hill climbing up Gresford and Church Stretton banks, but it was the northbound ascent, from Ludlow right to Church Stretton summit, that astounded everybody. 54 mph over the top with a 400 ton load.. Did any ex GW or LMS loco ever do that with 400 tons?  [view log of 850] 

17th and 24th April 1982:  What an excellent "Welsh Marches" locomotive pairing this was, 7812 "Erlestoke Manor" and 4930 "Hagley Hall". They worked the  Top  and Bottom legs on successive Saturdays. Locomotive work was vigorous on both dates, too much so for some sheep that had strayed on to the line at Llanvihangel. And we had a 70 mph at Bromfield and a 69 mph at Pandy. [view log of 7812 and 4930] 

9th and 16th April 1983: Lets face it, in 1983, 5051 did not have the best of reputations, performance wise. But it's work on both legs of the "Welsh Marches" was good, and very noisy. And what about the 80 mph through Abergavenny.  [view log of 5051]  

9th and 16th April 1983: With knowledge of this locomotives capabilities  "up north", I could not help being a little disappointed with it's Welsh Marches efforts. The best  was on the "bottom leg" where there was good work up from Newport to Pontypool Road, and again up to Llanvihangel. Southbound we had to stop to "pull the cords" at Redhill Junction, probably the result of taking over from a GW locomotive at Hereford.  [view log of 777]  

12th June 1983: The "Brunel Pullman" ran from Bristol to Newport and Hereford with 6000 "King George V", then continued to Worcester with Black 5 no 5000. The run from Bristol to Newport took 51 mins 42 sec, inclusive of p.w. slowings at Filton and Magor. But from Newport to Hereford, with Driver Trevor Bethel and Fireman Bob Morgan in charge, the running was brilliant. 48 mph minimum up to Pontypool Road, and 43 mph at Llanvihangel from the Abergavenny start. Tremendous!. [view log of 6000]

24th September 1983: The "Bristolian" tour, with steam haulage from Newport to Shrewsbury and back with 6000 "King George V", was an interesting contrast in driving styles. The running on the Newport-Hereford-Newport section was gentle, but with a max speed of 75 mph at Abergavenny returning south. The fireworks were on the Hereford to Shrewsbury section, in both directions. From a dead stand just north of Craven Arms, we reached 57 mph at Marsh Brook, and were doing 54 mph at the point of shutting off for the Church Stretton slack. Southbound it was 61 mph max at Dorrington falling to 47 mph at All Stretton. Both of these efforts involved EDHP's of around 1800. Well done Driver Gerald Turner and Fireman Bob Morgan [view log of 6000]

6th July 1985: This was an interesting variation on the "Welsh Marches" theme. Starting at Kidderminster, we travelled to Worcester, then via Malvern to Hereford, then onwards south  but instead of to Newport, we carried on to Cardiff. Then back to Hereford. The running was mainly modest, the best being southbound to Llanvihangel, and northbound from Newport to Pontypool Road.  [view log of 4930 and 7029]

24th May 1986: The "Welsh Marches" on this date featured  the interesting combination of 6000 "King George V" with 3440 "City of Truro" pilot, on the Hereford to Shrewsbury, and return, sections. Southbound was the most interesting. Shrewsbury to Hereford start to stop in 63 min 21 sec, inclusive of six OHBS, 46 mph minimum before Church Stretton and a 71 mph "doing a Leominster". [view log of 3440 and 6000] 

31st May 1986 By1986 many of the regular SLOA travellers were asking for a change from the diet of "repeat itinerary" tours. So SLOA obliged with a Swindon to Gloucester, Newport and Hereford tour, double headed by 6998 and 5051 outwards, then 75069 and 5690 back. On the return the steam came off at Gloucester. In fact  the train was only half full and SLOA lost over 6,000 on it. With a modestly loaded 10 coaches, the running with 6998 and 5051 was adequate to Gloucester and Newport. Then followed a good  climb to Llanvihangel. [view log of 6998 and 5051]