Locomotive Performance

Waterloo to the West

  In the previous edition of Locomotive Performance, I dealt with the running on the Waterloo to Bournemouth line in 1956. I was critical of both the lax timings on the route, particularly between Waterloo and Southampton, and also several mediocre performances that I had encountered with the Bulleid Pacifics.

So how would the work of the Bulleids on the West of England line from Waterloo to Exeter, compare?. The route has a long tradition of exciting running. Beyond Salisbury, the gradient profile helped. A series of summits, between which the downhill stretches were taken at high speed.   

Apart from a railtour with a Lord Nelson, and a westbound run on the English Electric diesel no 10000, all my runs on the line were with Bulleids:  Merchant Navy and West Country/Battle of Britain classes, both in their original and rebuilt forms. A favourite day out when  holidaying in  Devon, was the  "Atlantic Coast Express", 12.30pm from Exeter to Salisbury, returning on the 1.00pm Waterloo to West of England, which left Salisbury at 2.43pm.
  11th April 1955: 35023 Holland Afrika Line, Exeter Central to Salisbury on the up "Atlantic Coast Express", and the first run I timed on a Bulleid pacific. What an exciting run it was. 83 mph below Seaton Junction, 89 mph  at Crewkerne, and 83 mph at Yeovil Junction. In the later stages the loco was eased to avoid running ahead of time, but nevertheless we were checked before Salisbury. With load 12, we were right time in.   [view log of 35023]
  11th April 1955: 10000 Salisbury to Exeter: The return, on the 1.00pm from Waterloo, was on the English Electric diesel no 10000. I was so disappointed that I put away my stop watch, and just noted the station passing times. So the log relies mainly on average speeds from station to station, supplemented by a few "number of rail joints in 41 seconds" readings. The load was 10 from Salisbury, and 8 from Templecombe, and we ran punctually. Minimum speed at Honiton tunnel was 35 mph.  [view log of 10000]
  24th July 1955: Later in the summer, I was travelling to Axminster to do the Lyme Regis branch, and caught the Sunday 12.00pm from Exeter, and once again got 35023 Holland Afrika Line. With a 14 coach, 463/500 ton load, we ran the 26.86 miles in 32 min 11 secs, with a top speed of 81 mph below Seaton Junction. [view log of 35023]
  25th July 1955: The following day, my holiday ended, I returned home from Devon to the Midlands via London, and caught the 10.15am from Exeter up to Waterloo. West Country class 4-6-2 no 34033 Chard had a 12 coach load. The running throughout was respectable but unspectacular. We were 2 mins late leaving Exeter, suffered signal checks before Yeovil Junction and again at Basingstoke, a p.w slack at Gillingham, and were 2 late into Waterloo, on an easy schedule. [view log of 34033]
  4th September 1957: Another "ACE" run from Exeter to Salisbury. The loco was 35007 Aberdeen Commonwealth, and the load 11 coaches. 3 mins late away, 85 mph below Seaton Junction, 81 mph at Crewkerne, and 82 mph below Templecombe, and with a 15 mph p.w slowing at Yeovil Junction, we were 1 late into Salisbury. [view log of 35007]
  4th September 1957: One of the problems with returning to Exeter on the 1.00pm from Waterloo, was that the train tended to run punctually into Salisbury, and was easily timed on to Exeter. 35012 United States Lines was in Rebuilt form. My first run on a rebuilt Merchant Navy. With a heavy 13 coach load, we ran excellently out to Templecombe. Here the load was reduced to 10, and the driver elected to take things easily. Too easily in fact. After a modest 31 mph at Honiton tunnel, he shut off completely, and we drifted the whole way down to Exeter without steam, dropping over a minute on the easy schedule. But the loco had certainly proved itself out to Templecombe. [view log of 35012]
  2nd September 1962: The SCTS "South Western" railtour, with 30861 Lord Anson, was effectively a "Nelson farewell". Disappointingly, the load was only 7 coaches, but we had been given fast schedules. 84 minutes from Waterloo to Salisbury, and another 84 minutes on to Sidmouth Junction. Oh dear!. We were no further than Walton on Thames before the loco had to be eased through loss of that vital commodity, steam. The whole journey was a struggle, although we did manage an 80 mph at Sherborne.We were 16 late into Sidmouth Junction, where the loco came off, and we went for a most pleasant tour of the East Devon branches. I hoped that the return journey to Salisbury would be better. [view log of 30861]
  2nd September 1962: 30861 Exeter to Salisbury. Well the return journey to Salisbury was better. A revelation in fact. 50mph minimum at Honiton summit, an 81 mph maximum at Abbey Ford, and we were into Salisbury in 94 min 20 secs, notwithstanding a 15 mph p.w slowing before Seaton Junction, a severe signal check at Milborne Port, and signals into Salisbury. Net time was 88 minutes. What an improvement.  [view log of 30861]
  24th June 1964: The "ACE" once again. Exeter to Salisbury on Rebuilt Battle of Britain class no 34085 501 Squadron, with load 12. So how would a Rebuilt Light Pacific deal with the ACE? The answer was "not very well". We left Exeter on time and dropped over 4 minutes on schedule, without any delays at all. The problem was poor uphill work, with signs of steaming problems as the run progressed. [view log of 34085]
  24th June 1964: The return journey to Exeter was on another rebuild, 34032 Camelford. By 1964 the 1.00pm had been retimed to depart Salisbury 4 minutes earlier, but had an additional stop inserted at Axminster. With a modest 8 coach load, no particular effort was needed, and none made. We were 1 late off Salisbury, and 2 early into Exeter. Maximum speed was 79 mph at Broad Clyst. [view log of 34032]
  28th February 1965: The LCGB "East Devon" railtour had 35022 Holland America Line from Waterloo to Sidmouth Junction. We were non stop to Yeovil Junction with a 123 minute booking, which would require "ACE" standards of running, though our load was only 10 for 339/365 tons. In fact we suffered a long stop for signals at Woking, further checks at Basigstoke, Salisbury, and approaching Yeovil Junction. There was also a p.w. slowing at Semley. Maximum speed was 90 mph at Sherborne, and we were 13 late into Yeovil Junction, though the net time was a creditable 117 minutes. I have not included in the log details of the onward journey to Sidmouth Junction. All I will say is that the running was dreadful and included a struggle up to Honiton tunnel at 20 mph. [view log of 35022]
  I have again confined the log of 35022's return journey to the Yeovil Junction to Waterloo section. From Exeter we took 56 min 31 sec to Yeovil Junction unchecked, against a 50 minute schedule. We then ran up to Waterloo in 132 min 57 sec, against a schedule of 120 mins, though the net time was 117 minutes. Max speeds were 87 mph near Andover and 86 mph at Fleet. [view log of 35022]
  28th March 1965: This was the last leg of the SCTS "Southern Wanderer" tour, which I regard as my most enjoyable 1960's railtour. From Templecombe back to Victoria we had 35023 Holland-Afrika Line, with a featherweight load of 7 for 241/255 tons. We ran the 104.76 miles from Templecombe to Wimbledon in 95 min 30 sec, with a 30 mph p.w slack at Semley and a signal failure stop at Tisbury. Net time was 89.0 minutes, or 70.6 mph. Highlights were an acceleration up the bank after Salisbury to 67 at Porton and 70 at Amesbury, and then the long spell of high speed running from Grateley to Surbiton. It was a fitting end to a splendid tour. [view log of 35023]
  3rd October 1965: This tour, the SCTS "Exeter Flyer", was billed as the last steam to Exeter. My heart sank when I saw what was up front, 35022 Holland America line. We had a modest load of 8 coaches, 267/290 tons, and we ran to Basingstoke, 47.72 miles in 49 min 36 sec, (44.3 mins net) with local line running from Farnborough. From Basingstoke we were non stop to Exeter. We had a p.w slowing at Enham and a signal failure stop at Grateley. Once through Salisbury, our driver made his intentions known. He was going to take us over each summit at not less than 70 mph. And so it was 71 mph over Semley, 71 beyond Templecombe, 73 Sutton Bingham, and 71 at Hewish. As we went down through Axminster I began to wonder whether he was going to try the impossible. Not 70 over Honiton, no chance. But we were stopped at Seaton Junction and had to attack the bank from a dead stand. We went into Honiton Tunnel at 48 mph. So we arrived at Exeter in 119 mins 10 sec from Basingstoke. The net time was 105.0 minutes (70.6 mph). Top speed was 92 mph at Sherborne, with a 90 mph near Axminster. From Waterloo, the two net times totalled 149.3 minutes. 2 hours 29 minutes!.  [view log of 35022]
  So would we have a similar run on the way back. Well things were against us. We were on a much slower schedule to Salisbury, and running early would surely result in signal checks. Well we had another splendid run, though the climb to Honiton from the west was spoiled by a signal check at Sidmouth Junction. But we still went into the tunnel at 56mph. Thereafter, the minimum speeds up the banks were: 73 mph at Hewish, 74mph at Sutton Bingham, 65mph Milborne Port, and 69 mph at Semley. So we were through Salisbury 20 minutes early. Inevitably there were then  delays. A long signal stop at Laverstock, a signal check at Enham, and after Basingstoke, we were diverted to the local line from Winchfield to Woking. But we still got back into Waterloo 6 minutes early, and the net times back from Exeter totalled 152 minutes. My best  Bulleid Pacific runs. [view log of 35022]
  So what is the verdict on the Bulleid pacifics on the West of England line compared with my 1956 experiences on the Bournemouth line. Well without doubt, the general standard of running was better. But 35022 in 1965 was a reminder of the variable quality of running that could be encountered. But without knowing the precise circumstances as to why the loco put in such a dreadful performance west of Yeovil on 28th February 1965, to draw conclusions would be foolish. The journeys I had on the up "Atlantic Coast Express" were, with the exception of the run on 34085, very good. The down runs were less conclusive since drivers were "killing time". 

But I also found that by the early 1960's, the Bulleid performances on the Bournemouth line, when the schedules had been tightened up, were much improved, though still variable.