Locomotive Performance

Steam to Snow Hill

  In an earlier edition of Locomotive Performance, we looked at running of the Euston to Birmingham New Street services, particularly the "2 hour trains" worked mainly by the Jubilee class 4-6-0's from Bushbury (3B) shed. Just up the road from Bushbury, Wolverhampton, was the ex Great Western Stafford Road shed (84A) whose Kings and Castles worked the majority of the Paddington to Wolverhampton services. So we shall be able to compare the work done by the locomotives and the men from both sheds. 

My journeys up from Snow Hill to Paddington were usually on the 8.00am or 9.00 am services, both booked for a 84A King but often worked by a Castle. Usual loadings were 11 to 13 coaches. Returning from Paddington, I would catch any one of the 2.10pm, 4.10pm, 5.10pm, or 6.10pm services. All were easily timed, particularly the heavy 4.10pm and 6.10pm, and all were 84A return workings, booked for a King.
  In December 1954, before  acquiring a stop watch, I made a number of return journeys between Birmingham Snow Hill and Leamington Spa. Below are logs of four of the northbound runs, which include the 4 miles of Hatton bank, followed by the gradual rise up to Knowle & Dorridge. 22nd December 1954:  6009 King Charles II, with load 9, on the 9.10am from Paddington  [view log of 6009], and 5014 Goodrich Castle on the 11.10am from Paddington, also load 9 [view log of 5014]. On the 29th December, 70020 Mercury on the 9.10am from Paddington, load 9, [view log of 70020], and 6910 Gossington Hall on the 9.45am from Paddington, via Oxford, again load 9 [view log of 6910].  
  In April 1955, I had an afternoon trip from Birmingham Snow Hill to Stratford on Avon, the purpose being to have a run on a Llandore (87A) Castle that worked the 3.45pm Snow Hill to Swansea. The loco was 4078 Pembroke Castle, and though we ran well, we just failed to keep the tight 30 minute schedule [view log of 4078]
  A few months later, in July and August 1955, I had several more runs to and from Leamington with a stop watch. 27th July 1955, 6001 King Edward VII  on the 11.10am from Paddington with load 9 [view log of 6001]. On 15th August 1955, a southbound run with 7001 Sir James Milne, load 8, on the Cambrian Coast Express, which had a 23 minute schedule for the 23.3 miles. [view log of 7001]. I returned to Birmingham with 5047 Earl of Dartmouth, on the 4.10pm from Paddington, load 12+van [view log of 5047]
  In August 1955, I returned from another trip to Stratford on Avon, on the 9.35am Swansea to Birmingham Snow Hill. This time the Llandore engine was a Hall, no 6903 Belmont Hall. With an intermediate stop at Henley in Arden, 6903 nicely kept inside schedule with the 7 coach load [view log of 6903]
  Early in 1956, a problem arose with the front bogies of the Kings, and the whole class of 30 locomotives were withdrawn for examination and rectification where necessary. This left the Western Region short of motive power for it's principal express services. So it borrowed a number of Stanier pacifics from the London Midland Region. One of the turns that the visitors worked was the 9.10am Paddington to Wolverhampton, and the 2.35pm return. So on 28th January 1956, I went down to Leamington Spa on the 3.00pm from Snow Hill, with 46254 City of Stoke on Trent [view log of 46254]. Unfortunately I never got a northbound run on 46254, or the other "City" on loan, no 46257.
  But on the 8th February 1956, I did get 46210 Lady Patricia on the 3.00pm service from Snow Hill [view log of 46210], and on the return journey, on the 2.10pm from Paddington, a double headed combination of 5097 Sarum Castle and 6934 Beachamwell Hall, which ran up to Snow Hill in 25 min 55 secs with load 10, pulling back all but 2 minutes of a 9 minute late departure. [view log of 5097 & 6934]. Then on the 18th February, I got 46210 Lady Patricia from Leamington to Snow Hill on the 9.10am from Paddington, though the running was poor with a 9 coach load. [view log of 46210]
  21st February 1957: Returning from a London business trip, I caught the 4.10pm from Paddington, a heavy 13 coach load. Double chimney King class no 6011 King James II was the loco. On an easy schedule, we ran competently throughout, though we were not able to recover the time lost by a lengthy signal check outside Banbury, and arrived in Snow Hill 2 minutes late. [view log of 6011] Another trip back from London two months later is best forgotten. Some very poor running with 6020 on the 2.10pm Paddington.
  23rd February 1957 and 13th April 1957: Some short trips  from Snow Hill, this time to Banbury. Both outward trips on 5047, and on 5036  were uninteresting, but on the return, 1017 County of Hereford was on the down "Cambrian Coast Express", and ran well, 3 minutes picked up and 1 min early into Snow Hill with an 8 coach load, though on an extended schedule. [view log of 1017]. Later in the day I caught 5061 Earl of Birkenhead  on the 9.18am Margate to Birkenhead. A steady run with a 9 coach load. [view log of 5061] Then on 13th April 1957, I went up to Banbury on 6020, a loco which was always a disaster as far as I was concerned, and back to Birmingham on 1022 County of Northampton on the 9.20am Bournemouth to Birkenhead, with load 10. Leaving Banbury 5 late, 1022 ran well to Leamington, reasonably up Hatton bank, but after a p.w slack at Lapworth, made a poor recovery, and was 3 late into Snow Hill. [view log of 1022]. County runs were always noisy affairs, and these were no exception.
  2nd September 1957: On the 9.00am up from Snow Hill, on a 130 min schedule,  I had 5075 Wellington on a 12 coach train. With 3 signal checks and 2 p.w slacks we were 14 late into Paddington. But even without the checks we would have barely kept time, since the uphill running was lethargic. But we did reach 82 mph below Bicester. [view log of 5075]
  24th April 1958: My next trip up to Paddington was on the 8.00am from Snow Hill, on 5059 Earl St Aldwyn, and load 11. With 1 signal check and 1 p.w slack, and very poor uphill work, we were 6 late into Paddington, on a 130 min schedule. Maximum speed was 81 mph below Denham. [view log of 5059]
  5th June 1958: This was day 2 of my Western Region Railrover week: And I started with 6006 King George I from Birmingham to Paddington. The running was good, with 85 mph at Denham. But with a p.w slack at Banbury plus 2 signal checks, we were 2 minutes late into Paddington.  [view log of 6006]  In the evening, having been to Taunton (6023), Bristol (4037), and back to Paddington on the Bristolian (5043), I caught the 6.10pm Paddington to Birmingham. Once again 6006, with a 12 coach load. Due to a points failure, we left 41 mins late, and then went for it. The running was superb, with an 88 mph at Haddenham. But running out of course meant signal checks, and we were still 28 late into Birmingham. But the net gain to the loco was 27 minutes. Well done Driver Thomas and Fireman Pierce, of Stafford Road shed.  [view log of 6006]
  7th June 1958: 2 days later, I went up to Paddington again, but chose the 3.00pm from Snow Hill, an Old Oak (81A) working. A thoroughly scruffy 7033 Hartlebury Castle turned up, with a mere 10 coach load. The running was poor on a very easy schedule, and arrived 2 mins late. [view log of 7033]  I was hoping for Driver Thomas again on the 6.10pm from Paddington, but I was out of luck. I got 5045 Earl of Dudley, load 12. On an easy schedule, I got a perfect example of running a train to time with minimum effort. There was not a single pw slack or signal check (only time ever) and we were 1 early into Birmingham. An excellent example of enginemanship but hardly exciting. [view log of 5045]
  9th June 1958: This was day 6 of my Railrover, and Cornish Riviera Express day. And to get to Paddington in time for the 10.30am departure, I needed a reasonable run on the 8.00am from Snow Hill, which was worked by 6011 King James I, with load 11. We ran well as far as  Leamington, but then slowed past Leamington South box, where a note was thrown out to the signalman. More good running to Banbury North, where we pulled up alongside a grubby looking Hall in the yards. Injector problems. Off came 6011, and on came 4987 Brockley Hall. The crews changed over and we were off, my Cornish Riviera day in tatters. But it wasn't. For our crew coaxed that engine into a performance that got better and better, culminating in an 81 mph at Denham. We were only 7 late into Paddington, and I made the Cornish Riviera with ease.  [view log of 6011 then 4987]
  11th April 1959: A day touring a variety of lines in South Worcestershire and the Cotswolds commenced with a run on the Cornishman from Birmingham Snow Hill to Cheltenham Spa Malvern Road. This train ran to Stratford via the Hatton north curve, though only in the southbound direction. 5045 Earl of Dudley had a 10 coach load, and ran reasonably to Stratford, but poorly on to Cheltenham, arriving 4 minutes late.  [view log of 5045]
  8th August 1959: This excellent run on 6022 King Edward III with a 12 coach load on the 9.00am from Snow Hill, had to contend with 3 signal checks, 2 p.w slowings, and a coach examination, which cost in total 21 minutes. But arrival at Paddington was 12 mins late after some splendid running, max speed 86 mph below Bicester. With total net times of 111 minutes, this was my best southbound run. [view log of 6022]
  22nd August 1959: Another run on the 9.00am up, with 6017 King Edward IV on 13 coaches. Running was respectable, with one signal check and one p.w slowing, but nothing higher than 76 mph. We were 1 min late into Paddington [view log of 6017]
  26th January 1960: 6005 King George II on the 13 coach 8.00am from Snow Hill, suffered delays either side of Leamington, and again at Banbury. But 80 mph below Bicester was more promising. But then we ran in to thick fog and ended 49 mins late into Paddington. [view log of 6005]  The return journey on the 9 coach 3.10pm from Paddington was with 6010 King Charles I. On an easy schedule we ran well enough, and were 6 early at Ardley. Just as well, for at Aynho we ran into severe flooding and had to ease. But we were still 5 early at Leamington. Thereafter a stand for signals at Warwick made us 5 late back into Birmingham  [view log of 6010]
  17th January 1961: 6017 King Edward IV again, this time on the 8.00am up on 13. Delays before Leamington, poor uphill running, nothing higher than 75 mph, and more checks after High Wycombe, and we were 16 late into Paddington. Poor  [view log of 6017]
  8th July 1961: 6845 Paviland Grange was on the 7.05am Saturday Wolverhampton to Hastings service. We had an 11 coach load and were on time from Birmingham Snow Hill. The loco was booked to Kensington Olympia, where we handed over to Southern motive power. On an easy schedule, nothing higher than 67 mph was recorded, and uphill work was modest.  [view log of 6845]
  21st June 1964: This was 46251 City of Nottingham on the final section of the LCGB "North & West" tour. With a load of only 8, some fireworks were expected. It was a Sunday, and we went slow line to Lapworth, then reached 80 down Hatton and 82 at Cropredy. After a special stop at Banbury, it was 92 mph at Blackthorne. We were hoping for another 90 plus down to Ruislip, but had to slow for the platform road at Denham. With an 82 mph at Greenford, we were into Paddington in 68 min 19 secs, by far my fastest time up from Banbury. But delays earlier in the day meant a 27 minute late arrival. [view log of 46251]
  A few other journeys I have excluded, 2 Sunday trips that were beset with permanent way slacks/single line running, and 3 others where the running was so dreadful, that I gave up detailed timing. 6020 was a particular culprit. 
  Conclusions: So how did the 84A Stafford Road Kings and Castles compare with their rivals down the road, the Bushbury Jubilees. I had far more journeys on the Paddington route than I did to and from Euston. Not by choice, but caused by the West Coast Main line electrification works, which commenced in late 1958, and caused a reduction in the services on that route. So I have to make a judgment on the basis of a few Jubilee runs compared with rather more Castle and King runs. And on observations of timekeeping at the two Birmingham stations. On that basis the clear winners were the Bushbury Jubilees. On their 10 and 11 coach trains, their work on the "2 hour" expresses was truly excellent. Whilst I did have several good King runs on the Paddington route, I had far more that fell into the mediocre category. They ran fast, but the uphill work was just not good enough. And the Castle runs were very disappointing. So sorry, all you Great Western fans, on this occasion your locos were second best. (I expect plenty of feedback on this one).

Above: A replica nameplate of "Lady Patricia", and a 1950 postcard of a blue "King"