Locomotive Performance

Steam from Tonbridge...1956

It was becoming the norm that my father took me away for the Easter break, and I usually got to choose where. I had read for some time in the Railway Magazine and in Trains Illustrated of the prowess of the Southern "Schools" class, and I wanted to see for myself. So where better than at Tonbridge, where the Charing Cross to Hastings and Folkestone lines diverged.

 And so on Saturday 31st March 1956 we drove south, calling at Weybridge, where we saw 30782, 35005, 30823, and 34007. We then drove on to Tonbridge and found a hotel close to the Railway station, where we stayed 3 nights. We managed three return trips on the Hastings line, together with a return trip to Ashford. We tended to start our day at Sevenoaks. And there was some some evening "train spotting" thrown in.

1st April 1956, Sunday: We joined the 11.25am Charing Cross to Hastings at Sevenoaks. The loco was 30927 "Clifton", and the load 9. We ran competently to Hastings, arriving on time. Maximum speed was 76 mph below Stonegate. I have one particular memory of the journey; the train was full, mainly with "Teddy Boys" off for a day out, or something. But they were well behaved, they just looked threatening. [view log of 30927]

1st April 1956: We returned from Hastings on the 4.50pm Charing Cross service, another well loaded train. 30939 "Leatherhead" was the loco, and the load 8. The engine sounded excellent on the climb up to Wadhurst tunnel, where the minimum speed was 38 mph.  Maximum speed was 64 mph before the Robertsbridge stop. This train did not call at Sevenoaks, where our car was, so we alighted at Tonbridge, and caught a connecting service to Sevenoaks. [view log of 30939]

1st April 1956: So our day finished on the 6.11pm Tonbridge to Sevenoaks, 2 coaches and a van, hauled by H class 0-4-4T no 31193. I recall that the coach we travelled in was an old saloon, with longtitudinal seats. We climbed Hildenborough bank at a steady 30 mph. Time to Sevenoaks was 15 min 08 sec, just outside schedule. [view log of 31193]

2nd April 1956, Monday: The Hastings line again, and the 9.25am from Charing Cross, leaving Sevenoaks at 10.05am. 30900 "Eton" had 8 coaches, was 2 mins late away, but arrived right time at Crowhurst, where we alighted. Maximum speed was 77mph at Etchingham, but more notable was the 9 min 38 sec climb from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells. [view log of 30900]

2nd April 1956:  Over the footbridge at Crowhurst and we were soon on 30904 "Lancing" on the 11.10am Hastings to Charing Cross, a 9 coach train. This service was non stop to Tunbridge Wells, reached 2 minutes early after some good running. Then next stop Sevenoaks. We climbed Hildenborough bank competently at 35 mph and were on time arriving.[view log of 30904]

 2nd April 1956:  Then it was the second trip of the day down the Hastings line. 30931 "Kings Wimbledon" had a 10 coach load on the 11.45am Charing Cross to Hastings relief. We stopped at Hildenborough and Tonbridge, then climbed up to Tunbridge Wells in 12 min 04 sec, then, with a maximum speed of 77 mph at Stonegate, it was non stop to Crowhurst, arrival being 5 minutes ahead of time.We were 1 minute late in to Hastings after a lengthy stop at West St Leonards. [view log of 30931]

2nd April 1956: We then returned from Hastings on the 3.20pm Hastings to Charing Cross with 30900"Eton", but since the load to Tonbridge was only 5 coaches, no particular effort was required so the log has not been included. Our traveling for the day concluded with a final trip from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge with 30904 "Lancing".

3rd April, Tuesday: Our final day, and a round trip to Ashford. And of course it had to be on the 9.15am Charing Cross to Ramsgate, booked for a Bricklayers Arms (73B) Schools. 30934 "St Lawrence" had the usual 11 coach load, but delays in the London area meant we were 11 mins late from Tonbridge. We ran the 26.6 miles to Ashford in exactly 28 minutes, with a maximum speed of 71 mph at Staplehurst, and an excellent minimum of 64 mph up the rise to Chart siding. I was well pleased. [view log of 30934]

 3rd April 1956: Six minutes later, and we were on our way back, on the 10.42am Ashford to Tonbridge "stopper", which was 6 minutes late away with L class 4-4-0 no 31776 on 3 coaches. A "rip roaring" run  followed, with the loco clearly being thrashed away from each stop. Despite a slight check approaching Tonbridge, we were slightly early arriving. Maximum speed was 68 mph.  [view log of 31776]
So our "Easter in the South East" was over, and we returned home to the Midlands, making a couple of stops on the way, at Gomshall, where 30540 (Q class 0-6-0) was shunting, then at Wokingham, where we saw 33005 (Q1 class 0-6-0) on a freight, and at Pangbourne, where we saw 30863 "Lord Rodney" on the Birkenhead to Bournemouth. And that really was the end of a fabulous Easter.