Locomotive Performance

Steam in the Thames Valley

I used the Paddington to Worcester line by way of change from the direct route to Birmingham Snow Hill. The short Kingham to Evesham journey was part of a day touring South Worcestershire branch lines, and the 1964 Paddington to Hereford run was a railtour organized by the Oxford University Railway Society. The two runs on the Bristol line in 1958 were part of a Birmingham, Paddington, Bristol, Paddington, Worcester, day out. And the June 1958 runs were made during my "Western Railrover" week. In 1964, as the end of steam on the Western Region got nearer, I made several Summer Saturday trips to Oxford.
24th April 1958:  On the "Cathedrals Express", 4.45pm from Paddington, Castle class 4-6-0 no 7007 Great Western had a 10 coach load. The running was competent on an easy schedule. We were right time into Worcester after 2 p.w slowings and 3 signal checks. Top speed was 71 mph down Honeybourne bank.  [view log of 7007]

31st March 1959: An Easter day out in London, and the Hereford and  Kidderminster portions of the "Cathedrals Express" were running independently through to Paddington. Modified Hall class 4-6-0 no 7928 Wolf Hall ran throughout from Kidderminster with a 9 coach load, and ran well, although eased at Maidenhead. Top speed was 70 mph at Ascott, and  the climb to Campden tunnel was completed at 31 mph. Arrival was 2 early. [view log of 7928]
31st March 1959: I returned to Worcester on the down "Cathedrals", 4.45pm from Paddington, on 4088 Dartmouth Castle. The load was 12, reduced to 11 at Oxford. Again, respectable running was the order of the day. Three signal checks in the early stages, including a long stand at Didcot East, made us 5 late into Oxford, which was reduced to 2 late by Worcester. Top speed was 75 mph at Honeybourne. [view log of 4088]
11th April 1959: Having arrived at Kingham from Cheltenham, via the Andoversford branch, and intending to travel from Evesham back to Birmingham via the Alcester and Redditch line, I made the connection between Kingham and Evesham by catching the 11.45am Paddington to Hereford service. A pristine 5042 Winchester Castle was up front, and with load 9, took me down Honeybourne bank at 82 mph. [view log of 5042]
16th May 1964: Having come up from Worcester to Paddington on a "Hymek", I joined the O.U.R.S railtour, with Castle no 5054 Earl of Ducie on a 7 coach train. The itinerary was Paddington to Worcester and Hereford, then south via the Maindee curve to Swindon, Reading, and Paddington. A "100" was hoped for down the bank from Badminton. The log covers the Paddington to Hereford section. Arrival was 2 minutes early, despite a 10 minute stand awaiting a platform at Oxford.  [view outward log of 5054]  The return journey to Reading, where I alighted, was via Pontypool Road, Maindee East Junction, the Severn tunnel, and Swindon. The schedule allowed p;enty of time, and initially the running was unhurried. But once through the Severn tunnel, we went well up to Badminton summit, and on the downgrade beyond, reached 92 mph (my original claim was 94 mph, based on railjoints, but this was not supported by the station to station average speeds, and has been restated). We were checked at Wootton Bassett, but then had a brisk run down the Thames Valley, arriving at Reading 7 minutes early. [view return log of 5054] 
I have not included in the above a 19th May 1959 run on 5029 Nunney Castle on the up "Cathedrals", which struggled up to Campden Tunnel at 19 mph, and ended up 20 late into Paddington. It was my worst Castle run ever. It was part of a day out that included Charing Cross to Folkestone, 34027 Taw Valley, which produced the worst Rebuilt West Country run I have ever had. That was followed by my worst Schools run, on 30932 Blundells back from Folkestone on an 8 coach relief which ran via Maidstone. In the evening I  returned from Paddington to Birmingham on the 8.00pm service on 5047 Earl of Dartmouth, which could do no better than 41 mph at Ardley summit, and took over the title of Worst Castle run that 5029 had held  for 11 hours. Indeed a day of records. 
24th April 1958: The two runs in each direction that I had on the Paddington to Bristol route in 1958 were all very satisfactory. On the down "Merchant Venturer, 11.15am from Paddington, Castle class 4-6-0 no 7017 G J Churchward, had load 9 and kept the "even time" schedule to Bath, notwithstanding 2 p.w. slowings and a signal check. Top speed was 80 mph down Dauntsey bank. [view log of 7017]
24th April 1958: I caught the 1.50pm from Bristol to return to Paddington, easy work for King class 4-6-0 no 6016 King Edward V, with an 8 coach load, stops at Bath Spa, Chippenham, and  a slowing through the platform road at Reading to detach the slip coach. Top speed was 77 mph at Steventon and we were 1 early into Paddington. [view log of 6016]
4th June 1958: During my Western Railrover week, 6010 King Charles was in charge of the 10 coach 4.15pm Paddington to Plymouth service, which ran via Bristol, where I alighted to continue my journey home to Birmingham via Gloucester and the Lickey. On a very easy 2 hour 35 min  schedule, that included stops at Reading, Swindon, Chippenham, and Bath Spa, 6010 ran steadily, and arrived Bristol 2 minutes early. Maximum speed was 76 mph at Dauntsey. [view log of 6010]
5th June 1958: The next day I did a circuit that included Birmingham to Paddington, then Paddington to Taunton, Taunton to Bristol, Bristol to Paddington, and finally Paddington back home to Birmingham. The Bristol to Paddington part of the itinerary was on the "Bristolian". A gleaming 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe was up front, on the usual Monday to Thursday 7 coach load. A run I shall never forget. An unusually vigorous start from Bristol, a splendid climb to Badminton, 98 mph down through Little Somerford, then 88 to 90 mph all the way from Shrivenham to Moreton. We had a p.w. slowing at Cholsey, and a signal check approaching Paddington, but arrived 4 minutes early. 95 minutes net! 5043 was recently out of works, and nicely run in, but as far as I am aware, was not a regular "Bristolian" engine. Unless anyone knows otherwise. [view log of 5043]
15th July 1961: Basingstoke to Birmingham Moor St on 6930 Aldersey Hall: I am not including a log of this dreadful run, which was part of a return journey from a holiday on the south coast. 6930 took over from a Southern loco (30770 which had run splendidly) at Basingstoke, and ran the whole way from Reading to Oxford without exceeding 45 mph. The running continued to be poor all the way to Birmingham. The loco was in superb external condition. Perhaps she was ex works and not properly run in.  
8th August 1964: A summer Saturday trip from Birmingham to Oxford on the 10.25am Manchester to Bournemouth. Castle class 4-6-0 no 4093 Dunster Castle had a 12 coach load and ran the 66 miles to Oxford non stop in 79 min 02 sec, including a p.w slack at Southam Road, and a signal stop outside Oxford, which caused a 2 minute late arrival. Top speed was a modest 69 mph. [view log of 4093]
8th August 1964: The return journey to Birmingham was on the 11.05am Weymouth to Wolverhampton, a train notorious for late running. This Saturday was no exception, we were 54 minutes late away. A smart Hall class 4-6-0 was up front, 6937 Conyngham Hall, with load 10. There were several minor slowings before Leamington, between which 6937 had shown signs of vigour, But up Hatton bank, the crew really went for it. 8 minutes 12 secs through Hatton, 46 mph minimum up the bank. Unheard of. And the good work continued, with 60 mph at top of the rise to Knowle. And that was it. [view log of 6937]

15th August 1964: On the following Saturday, I did the Oxford trip again, this time travelling south on a Birkenhead to Poole service which was hauled by Grange class 4-6-0 no 6857 Tudor Grange. With  a 10 coach load, running was barely average. A good 46 mph climb up Southam Road bank clearly winded the loco, which fell to 40 mph beyond Fenny Compton. Maximum speed was 70 mph at Rowington. [view log of 6857]
15th August 1964: Once again the return from Oxford to Birmingham was on the 11.05am Weymouth to Wolverhampton, this time on Modified Hall class 4-6-0 no 6967 Willesley Hall.29 minutes late away, 30 late into Birmingham, after moderate running and several checks. Not a run to remember. [view log of 6967]
5th September 1964: A third Saturday trip to Oxford, this time with 7023 Penrice Castle on a modest 282/300 ton load. We had a spell of relief line running prior to the Solihull stop, but then ran unchecked to Oxford, with a booked stop at Leamington Spa. 74 mph was reached at Rowington, and we subsequently ran from Leamington Spa to Oxford in 46 min 07 secs, with 46mph up to Southam Road, 55 mph at summit beyond Fenny Compton, and later reached 71 mph at Heyford.  [view log of 7023]
5th September 1964: The final return journey from Oxford was on a Grange, 6855 Saighton Grange. This time there were few delays, but the running was very poor. Hatton bank was topped at 29 mph, and the maximum speed was 67 mph at Olton.  [view log of 6855]
12th June 1965: The final leg of the Warwickshire Railway Society's "Eastleigh, via S & D" railtour. And another run on 6967 Willersley Hall, which this time was in a poor state and had no nameplates. But she could still run, with a vengeance. As usual there were several p.w slowings before Leamington. But we had managed a 75 mph past Fosse Road. Then followed another rousing Hall ascent of Hatton bank. This time we started at 49 mph and topped the bank at 41 mph. Then a good run up the rise to Knowle and Dorridge, 58 mph. So we were 3 minutes early back into Birmingham after an excellent day. [view log of 6967]
Conclusions: As always, there were good runs and bad. It seemed that the most consistent performances were on the Bristol line, though my runs were all on relatively light trains. The Worcester line running was modest by comparison. It badly needed a shake up of the schedules. My experiences between Birmingham and Oxford in 1964 and 1965 were as one would expect so near to the end of Western steam. Variable. It was disappointing that the Grange runs were relatively poor. In fact I have never had a decent Grange run. The Halls, when on form, could be excellent hill climbers.