Locomotive Performance

Classes 45 & 46: BR/Sulzer Type 4

In the early 1960's the Sulzer type 4's began to appear on the North East to South West route. Initially there were problems, particularly with the steam heat boilers, and many trains reverted to steam haulage in the winter months. But once they had settled down, they became reliable performers, and graced the route for the next 25 years.

It was 1964 before I had a run on one. In June of that year I had a weekly Western Region Railrover, and made several journeys behind the Sulzers between Birmingham and Bristol, en route to the west. At that time, until 1971 in fact, the line carried a 75 mph limit, so it was only on the uphill sections that they improved on the steam timings. But once the line speed was raised to 90 mph, it was a different matter altogether, they really did run.
23rd June 1964: D39 Birmingham to Bristol: On the 10.01am from New Street, with an 11 coach load, the loco ran well with a top speed of 82 mph at Spetchley. Arrival at Bristol was 4 early:  [view log of D39]
23rd June 1964: D42 Bristol to Birmingham: Returning from Bristol in the evening on the 7.30pm from Temple Meads, it was similar. The loco kept time easily with load 11, and we arrived New Street 3 early. We reached 80 mph at Berkeley Road. [view log of D42]
27th June 1964: D39 Worcester to Bristol: D39 again, this time on a Saturday services that ran via Worcester. With 10 coaches, the loco was kept strictly to 75 mph, and arrived Bristol 5 early  [view log of D39]
3rd October 1965: D56 St Pancras to Luton: Following a weekend based in London Two Rail tours to the West Country, (4079 Saturday, 35022 Sunday), I returned late on Sunday evening from St Pancras to Luton, where I had parked my car. I had learned from bitter experience that driving out of London after 12 hours or so on a train, was best avoided. On the 9.40pm from St Pancras, D56 ran to Luton in just under the booked 28 minutes, with the rail-joints giving me a top speed of 90 mph. [view log of D56] 
11th November and 13th December 1965: Birmingham to Tamworth:  In late 1965, I was living close to Tamworth, and commuted to Birmingham daily. The morning trip was on a Craven DMU, but in the evening, providing it was late, I returned home on a Sulzer type 4 hauled express. The log shows the two runs with the fastest start to stop times. A fast time depended on a fast exit from New Street and a fast run into Tamworth station, rather than a high maximum speed in between. On both D18 and D24 runs, the load was 11, and the train was late. Other runs gave speeds of up to 90 mph but with slower overall times. In January 1966, I changed my job, and the commuting ceased. [view logs of D18 and D24]
1st October 1967: D12 Leeds to Peterborough: An A4 Locomotive Society tour from Peterborough to Carlisle. Sir Nigel Gresley ran well on the northbound leg, but on the return, 7029 Clun Castle expired at Leeds with injector problems. So after a lengthy wait, we got D12 as a substitute. The best running was on the Grantham to Peterborough stretch. We were delayed to Doncaster, so the log starts from that point.  [view log of D12]
10th May 1980: 45051 Birmingham to Sheffield: Travelling north to join a steam railtour, I caught the 7.30am Birmingham to Newcastle. 45051 had a modest 8 coach load, but was diverted via Coleshill and Whitacre Junction. We ran vigorously with a top speed of 91 mph near Elford. [view log of 45051]
15th November 1980: 46027 Shrewsbury to Saltley: Another railtour, and an unusual route for a class 46. We ran from Shrewsbury to Woverhampton, Portobello Junction, Walsall, the Sutton Park line, to Saltley, where the class 46 came off. Interestingly we ran the entire 77 minute journey from Shrewsbury without a check of any sort. I didn't time from the mileposts, but the station to station average speeds indicate about 75 mph at Cosford. (From Saltley, 92220 Evening Star  gave us an 81 mph at Rowington.) [view log of 46027]
2nd May 1981: 45075 Derby to Guide Bridge, and Sheffield to Derby: 45075 hauled the diesel sections of the SLOA "Pines Express", a 10 coach train. From Derby we ran to Dore curve, then the Hope Valley to New Mills, then on to Guide Bridge. Later in the day the class 45 ran from York back to Derby, though I have only included Sheffield onwards in the log. Another run free of signal checks. [view log of 45075]
24th March 1984: 45141 was on the last leg of the SLOA "Welsh Marches Express", which ran from Hereford to Birmingham, via Ledbury, Worcester, the Lickey, anf finally the Camp Hill route into New Street. I cannot recall ever seeing a class 45 on the Ledbury route before. The class 45 worked hard on the 12 coach train, but with 445 tons, the ascent of the Lickey was slow and loud. Most enjoyable. [view log of 45141]
2nd March 1985: 45026 Birmingham to Newport: A light 8 coach load on the SLOA "Red Dragon", and 45026 went like a bomb. 100 mph at Defford, and good running down the Severn estuary. An excellent start to the day. [view log of 45026]
27th May 1985: 45136 Birmingham to Bristol: The overnight sleeper from Aberdeen formed an excellent early morning Sunday service to the south west, and I was off for a day on the West Somerset Railway. The class 45 had the usual 16 coach load, and after a slow start, ran respectably to Cheltenham. Then we stopped to change guards at Gloucester South, and immediately suffered a 16 min signal check at Tuffley. Reasonable but not outstanding running, with an 81 mph at Berkeley Road, was followed by a modest climb past Wickwar, 56mph, and with more signal checks, we were 26 late into Bristol. [view log of 45136]
7th July 1985: 45107 Birmingham to Bristol: A few weeks later, I was on the sleeper again. 45107 had the usual 16 coach load. We made a special stop at Kings Norton, then ran via the Worcester loop, so taking almost 65 minutes to Cheltenham. But then we ran to Bristol Parkway in the exceptional time, given the load, of 34 mins 47 secs, with an 87 mph at Coaley, and nothing less than 73 mph up to Yate. This was probably the best running I ever had on a Sulzer type 4. But it was also my last run on the class. [view log of 45107]
In the 1970's, I also had two runs on the class from Sheffield to St Pancras (both a novel way of travelling from Birmingham to London for lunch time business appointments), and two runs from Cardiff to Birmingham which I recall gave Cheltenham to Birmingham times of under 40 minutes. Sadly, as I have reported elsewhere, I no longer have my 1970's logs, which were lost at the time we had house extension work carried out. I also had a run on Sherwood Forrester from Manchester to Matlock and Derby in 1968 shortly before the line closed (an alternative means of returning from Liverpool). Such is life.

The picture above is copyright Steve Jones and is reproduced with his consent.