Locomotive Performance

Western Steam to the West

  Those who followed the Locomotive Performance articles in the Railway Magazine in the early and mid 1950's, and who read the many O S Nock and Cecil J Allen books on the same subject, would certainly have formed the opinion that the running on the main lines out of Paddington was of a high order. Well, when Allen and Nock were travelling it may have been, but when I travelled, it certainly wasn't. My first runs in the West of England in 1955 on 5059 and 6019 were dreadful. It seemed to me that it was late in 1957 that things changed. I had a below average run down from Paddington with 5092 on the "Torbay Express" in September 1957 and an equally uninspiring run back to Paddington on 6022 a week later. But what a difference in 1958. The highlights were a splendid run on 6004 on the down "Cornish Riviera" to Plymouth, and a magnificent performance by 5024 on the up "Torbay Express".  
  12th April 1955: Having had to endure 5059 on the up Devonian from Exeter to Taunton, the return, on the 7.30am Paddington to Paignton, via Bristol, with 6977 Grundisburgh Hall, was like a breath of fresh air. With a 12 coach load of 400 tons full we were over Whiteball at 30 mph, and into Exeter St Davids in 36min 22sec, pulling back 4 minutes of the 12 mins deficit at Taunton. [view log of 6977]
  Next a run down from Exeter to Plymouth on the 9.30am from Paddington. 5092 Tresco Abbey was the loco. With a 9 coach load and a 17 minutes late departure we ambled round the coast at 48 to 51 mph. At Newton Abbot we should have had a pilot but there wasn't one, and an excellent climb over Dainton ensued. At Totnes 5964 Wolselley Hall came on, and we continued to Plymouth in 36min 22sec, arriving 9 late. [view log of 5092]
  9th July 1955: Two adults, one 16 year old lad, two young children, and a load of holiday luggage do not fit into a Morris Minor. So somebody had to travel by train. Me. I got a Black 5 from Birmingham to Bristol, a Hall onwards to Exeter, where I changed on to a service which stopped at Dawlish Warren. This was 1009 County of Carmarthen on the 6.40am Leicester to Paignton. A short run with a light load is remembered to this day. The Counties were very noisy engines, and 1009 was no exception. [view log of 1009]
  2nd September 1957: 5092 Tresco Abbey, load 9: A gentle start from Paddington, a 15 mph signal check at Slough, a dreadfully slow acceleration, 15 miles to reach 61 mph, and we were already 8 down by Reading. What next?. A gentle amble up to Savernake summit, passed at 45 mph, 11 late. Thereafter things were slightly better. An 82 mph at Lavington, but nothing out of the ordinary on to Taunton, only 7 late thanks to recovery time. Then a signal check at Norton Fitzwarren, and nothing better than 34 mph at Whiteball..So it was 11 late into Exeter. At no stage was any attempt made to recover the early time loss. Steaming was not a problem, blowing off occurred regularly. [view log of 5092]
  6th September 1957: Sadly the return journey up to Paddington a few days later was little better. 6022  King Edward III certainly had a heavy load, 14 as far as Reading, but the schedule was modest. But uphill speeds of 37 at Whiteball, 28 at Brewham, and 47 at Patney were just not good enough to offset two p.w slacks and a signal check. So we were 7 late in to Paddington. [view log of 6022]
  4th June 1958: Day 1 of a "Western Region Railrover", and 6981 Marbury Hall  gave me a respectable run from Bristol to Exeter with an 8 coach load on the 7.30am Paddington to Bristol and Paignton. We were 12 late off Bristol and 8 late into Exeter. Max speed 72 mph at Cullompton after 33 mph at Whiteball. [view log of 6981]
  4th June 1958: At Exeter I joined the up "Torbay Express", an 8 coach load in the charge of 5078 Beaufort. A nicely judged performance that brought us in to Paddington 3 mins early despite 3 p.w slacks. Maximum speed was 84 mph below Wellington. [view log of 5078]
  5th June 1958: 6023 King Edward II on the 8 coach 11.30am Paddington to Plymouth as far as Taunton. A light load meant that no special effort was required but we ran respectably with a max of 81 mph at Lavington. Two p.w Slacks after the Westbury stop made us 2 late into Taunton. [view log of 6023]
    5th June 1958: At Taunton I joined the up "Cornishman" for a 45 mile spin to Bristol. A massive load of 11 coaches plus 7 vans, 515 tons full. Castle class 4-6-0 no 4037 The South Wales Borderers was the loco. Time to Bristol was 50 min 23 sec, max speed 62 mph past Highbridge. Thanks to some recovery time we pulled back 5 minutes and were only 1 min late in to Bristol. [view log of 4037]
  9th June 1958: The highlight of my "Western Railrover" week. 6004 King George III on the 10.30am Paddington to Plymouth, the "Cornish Riviera Express". Officially the last week of steam on the 10.30am, for the North British Warships were ready and waiting. Load 11 to Heywood Rd Jc, 10 beyond, and the 240 minute schedule to Plymouth. Just one problem, well six actually. P.W Slowings in operation at Maidenhead, Fairwood Jc, Hele, Aller Jc, Dainton summit, and Hemerdon. Some task. Our overall time to Plymouth was 238 min 46 sec, or 224 minutes net. The best running was towards the end, particularly on Rattery bank. This was the type of King performance that I had dreamed about.  [view log of 6004]
9th June 1958: At Plymouth I joined 4091 Dudley Castle, assisted by 5992 Horton Hall to Newton Abbot, on the 12.00pm Penzance Glasgow, as far as Bristol. 5 coaches plus 6 vans, 340 tons full. Rather an anti climax after 6004, but the running was steady. 19 mph up Hemerdon, 25 mph at Dainton, and 38 mph at Whiteball. We were 3 mins late into Bristol. [view log of 4091]
  31st August 1958: A few months later and it was Summer Holiday at Broadsands, next to Goodrington. I travelled from  Totnes to Newton Abbot on 6874 Haughton Grange, the only time I ever had a Grange west of Newton Abbot. A pleasant run, 22 mph at Dainton summit, on the 11.15am(Sun) Plymouth to Exeter stopper.  [view log of 6874]
  2nd September 1958: This was a "Southern" day, with Plymouth to Exeter and back, via Okehampton, and a few East Devon branches thrown in for good measure. So I travelled from Totnes down to Plymouth on the 12.25am Manchester to Plymouth, due off Totnes at 9.54am. With a 14 coach load of 455 tons full we had 5015 Kingswear Castle and 1002 County of Berks, in tandem. They made plenty of noise up Rattery, 19 mph min, 28mph at top, and ran to Plymouth in 37 min 15 secs, arriving Right time, the schedule including 8 mins recovery time. Most enjoyable. [view log of 5015 & 1002]
  5th September 1958: I firmly believed that my run on the Cornish Riviera on 9th June would remain my "ultimate" Western Region run. I was wrong. I chose to end my Devon holiday by travelling up to Paddington on the Torbay Express, then over to Euston in time to catch the 4.30pm Euston to Manchester as far as Rugby. But I needed a reasonably punctual arrival at Paddington to make my connection. I joined 5024 Carew Castle (83A) at Churston, found that my reserved seat was on the non milepost side, and resigned myself to standing in the corridor for the whole journey. By the time we left Torquay it was all seats taken and corridors full. Hundreds more were waiting at Exeter. 2 additional coaches were added, making the load 12 for 401/435 tons. We were 6 late away. The timing for a Castle was based on load 9. So how much time would we lose? The answer soon became very obvious. The crew were going out to recover those 6 minutes. We went over Whiteball at 44mph, then down Wellington bank at 84. The excellent running continued, and continued. 39mph at Brewhan summit, 73 down to Westbury. 56 mph up the bank to Patney, then 59 at Savernake. The minutes were being pulled back.  But at Theale our luck ran out. Signals. Then again at Reading West where we came to a dead stand. Then off again, 71 mph along the level at Burnham, but then more checks and we were 7 late into Paddington. I didn't have time to find out who the crew were. What a difference in Western Region running over 12 months. [view log of 5024]