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 variable, but 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 no 5051 went down through Abergavenny in April 1983 at no less than 80mph. 

In edition 3, we dealt with the ex Great Western and  Southern locomotives. So now it is the  turn of the ex LMS engines, the BR standards, and a solitary run on an ex LNER loco. And if last time you were puzzled by references to locos from the Severn Valley Railway, which were "flying" and "had no tender", then you will find below details of some magnificent running on the double headed combination of Ivatt class 4 2-6-0 no 43106 (The Flying Pig), and the BR class 4 tank (no tender) no 80079. 


 Part 2:  Midland, Eastern, and BR Standard Engines


19th April 1980: The "Black Countryman" was arranged to move Black 5 no 5000 and BR Std 2-6-4T no 80079 to Rainhill for the "150 Event". With a 13 coach load, they worked right through from Hereford to Chester, and then on to Manchester Victoria via Northwich, Altrincham, and Stockport Tiviot Dale, but not without water problems for 80079. Maximum speed was 66 mph at Dorrington. [view log of 5000 and 80079]  

11th October 1980: "The Welsh Dragon". Black 5 no 5000 again acted as pilot, this time to Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0 no 43106. With load 13, the itinerary was Shrewsbury to Newport, and then back to Hereford.  After a poor climb up to Church Stretton, running was steady, rarely reaching 60 mph, though we did reach 64 mph at Pempergwm southbound. Unrealistic schedules did not help timekeeping.  [view log of 5000 and 43106]  

7th March 1981 and 5th March 1983: On the 1981 run 5000 was on the Welsh Marches "bottom leg" from Hereford to Newport and return. With the usual 11 coach load, the work was competent throughout, maximum speed was 69 mph at Pempergwn northbound. On the 1983 run from Hereford to Chester, 5000 had a 12 coach load of 480 tons. Running was steady to Craven Arms, but a good climb followed to Church Stretton. 33 mph for a Black 5 on 480 tons was good going. We then came down through Dorrington at 75 mph. Onwards to Chester, with a water stop at Baschurch, the running was steady, with a maximum of 68 mph at Balderton.  [view log of 5000]  

7th March 1981 and 25th April 1981: 6201 "Lizzie" was a popular engine on the "Welsh Marches". On 7th March 1981 she was on the Shrewsbury to Hereford leg. A respectable climb to Church Stretton was followed by brisk running on to Hereford, with 70 mph at Bromfield. On 25th April it was the Newport leg. Here 6201 was severely handicapped by the Bridge Slacks, many of which were taken at 10 mph. She climbed Llanvihangel southbound at 27 mph and northbound at 28 mph. Maximum speed was 63 mph at Abergavenny Junction. [view log of 6201] 

13th March 1982: Being a Jubilee fan, it saddens me that the work of 5690 "Leander" on the Welsh Marches route was generally poor. My single run on 5593 "Kolhapur" was the same. But on 13th March 1982, 5690 performed well from Shrewsbury to Hereford, climbing to Church Stretton in 23 min 30 secs, 30 mph minimum, and then ran respectably on to Hereford, 65 mph max at Leominster.   [view log of 5690]  

17th April 1982: I had three runs on the Welsh Marches with 92220 "Evening Star". Two were dreadful, but this one excellent. With a heavy 450/475 ton load, we followed a "Footex" from Shrewsbury and were  immediately checked. Then followed a p.w.slack at Bayston Hill, after which "Evening Star" was well and truly opened up. 55 mph at Dorrington, and 41 mph at Church Stretton summit. Thereafter some brisk running, 68 mph max, on to Hereford. [view log of 92220]  

23rd and 31st October, 6th November 1982: 46229 came south on 23rd October 1982, and worked Chester to Shrewsbury with some panache. With a 525 ton load, nothing lower than 42 mph on Gresford bank was excellent. Then  a 76 mph at Baschurch, and we knew the "Duchess" had arrived. On the 31st, she worked north from Newport, with good climbs up to Pontypool Road (38 mph at Panteg), and to Llanvihangel (41 mph). She returned north on 6th November, working Hereford to Shrewsbury and  Chester. Up to Church Stretton she was worked easily, 31 mph at the summit, and it was after the Baschurch water stop that the best running occurred, with 73 mph at Whitehurst, and 71 mph at Pulford. [view log of 46229]

19th and 26th February 1983: On the 19th February  this potent Severn Valley loco pairing  was on the "Top leg" from Shrewsbury to Hereford. A good climb to Church Stretton, 37 mph, was the best feature. Thereafter  running  was restrained on an inflated  schedule, though we did reach 69 mph at Dinmore. It was on the 26th February, on the Hereford to Newport  leg, and the return, that the fireworks began. Superb hill climbing, Llanvihangel taken southbound at 43 mph, and northbound at 38mph, was matched by some "brisk" running elsewhere. The Pempergwm curve was taken at 73/74 mph southbound, and 76 mph northbound. After some vigorous run pasts at Abergavenny, we were 18 mins early back into Hereford. A serious contender for the "Most exciting run of the 1980s". [view log of 80079 and 43106] 


2nd March 1985: I believe that this was 75069's inaugural main line run. And what a fine job she made of it. Brisk running from Newport up the Severn Estuary, then a good climb up to Sapperton Tunnel, at least until she slipped. Then a 69 mph running back in to Gloucester. A certain "BR Official" was not keen on class 4's on the main line. "Couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding", he was heard to say. He soon learned otherwise. The loco proved an excellent performer, as did sister 75014.  [view log of 75069]

27th July 1985: With a class 4 plus 9 combination on a 9 coach train, no hard work was required. The interest lay in the loco combination. Had there previously been a pairing of a 75 and  92, and has it happened since. I suspect the answer is "no" to both questions. An added interest was that we were permitted to travel with steam from Gloucester to Abbotswood Junction and Worcester. There were two 69 mph's on the Newport to Gloucester section, and later, a 71 mph below Cleeve. [view log of 75069 and 92220] 

31st May 1986: Two of my favourite locomotives on the return leg of the Swindon to Hereford then back to Gloucester "double heading" extravaganza, which also involved 5051 and 6998 from Didcot. 75069 and 5690 (the latter being subject to Bridge Slacks) ran well uphill out of Hereford and again up to Llanvihangel (42 mph). 71 mph was reached at Abergavenny Junction. More brisk running followed on the Newport to Gloucester section.  [view log of 75069 and 5690] 

29th May 2000:  All was not well with 60532 on this tour. We started from Chester well enough, 36 mph up Gresford bank. After the water stop at Chirk, poor track quality dictated slow running to Shrewsbury. Then a disappointing climb to Church Stretton, 31 mph, was followed by brisk running down through Onibury. Then a severe easing, 44 mph over the Woofferton "hump", when we should have been doing 60 or so. Presumably steaming problems. After the Hereford stop things improved, with a good climb to Llanvihangel. But overall, a disappointing day. [view log of 60532] 

So what were the best runs ?, and how do the Great Western, Southern, and London Midland locomotives compare?. As always results are variable. If we conveniently ignore the poor performances, and only consider the best ones, then the performances that stand out are (in no particular order)  a) 6000 King George V on the "Brunel Pullman in June 1983, the banks to Pontypool, and to Llanvihangel. b) 6000 again in September 1983 northbound to Church Stretton, followed by the southbound effort a short while later. Then c) "Lord Nelson's climb from Ludlow to Church Stretton in June 1981. And c) 46229's climb of Gresford bank in 1982. And e) For sheer excitement, the 1983  double headed combination of 80079 and 43106 from Hereford to Newport and back, wins hands down.  But that is only part of the story. Certainly 6000 and 850 have also produced some terrible performances, and 46229, Gresford apart, disappointed on her "Welsh Marches" holiday. I have my own view of which would be my number 1, but I am biased. Let us just say that all of the runs described above were magnificent.

I have heard of a 1990's run on 45596 "Bahamas" that included a huge output on Church Stretton bank, northbound. But I have not seen a log. (Any offers?).