Locomotive Performance

West Coast Electrics: 1980 to 2002

In an earlier edition of Locomotive Performance, we dealt with the years immediately following the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, up to and including 1967. So logically, we should now pick up the position in 1968. From that year until 1973, I was travelling once, sometimes twice weekly from Birmingham to Euston. I built up a massive collection of logs, which sadly went missing (along with many other logs) whilst home extension work was being carried out in 1981. So I have a gap from from 1968 to 1978. During that period, I had one run from Euston down to Coventry in less than 60 minutes, (1973..59 min 51 secs), and many others of slightly over 60 minutes. There was a definite effort made to achieve "1 hour to Coventry". A fast exit from Euston was needed, and to stand a chance, Bletchley had to be passed in 30 minutes, and Rugby in under 51. Then a fast entry into Coventry. Strangely, the times in the up direction were rarely less than 65 minutes. Probably the drivers knew that they would suffer signal checks.   

So I have made a selection of my logs from 1980 onwards. Although I never reached Coventry in the hour again, I do have one run with a net time of less than 60 minutes, and another, that would probably have made it, had there not been a booked stop at Rugby. I have also included one run with a class 81, one with a class 83, and several with class 85's. My logs come to an end in 1999 with splendid class 86 cross country runs each way between Wolverhampton and Carlise.
26th April 1980: 83014 Nuneaton to Carnforth & return: I joined the SLOA "Leander Limited" charter at Nuneaton for the run to Carnforth, returning in the evening. 83014 had a load of 12 for 435/465 tons. I was only logging station etc passing times, and from the calculated average speeds it is clear that we attained at least 100 mph northbound at Garstang, and 103 mph at Barton coming south. [view log of 83014]
5th May 1980: 81006 Coventry to Carnforth & return: Another SLOA charter, this time picking up at Coventry, and running via Aston and Bescot. The load was 10, 361/385 tons. Speeds were not as high as on the previous run, and on the southbound return trip, we sufferred many checks. But class 81 logs are rare, so I have included it.  [view log of 81006]
22nd May 1980: 86209 Coventry to Euston: A class 86 run up to Euston in a net time of 63.0 minutes (my fastest, I think). With a 12 coach load we reached 109 mph beyond Welton, and 108 mph at Harrow. Unfortunately 3 signal checks and 1 p.w slowing made the actual time over 78 minutes and we were 8 late arriving.  [view log of 86209]
22nd May 1980: 86103 Euston to Coventry: Later the same day, I was heading home on the 3.40pm ex Euston, an 11 coach train. We passed Tring in 21 min 28 secs, my fastest ever. But then we had three p.w. slowings. Nevertheless we were into Coventry in 64 min 45 secs, after 109 mph at Kings Langley, 112 mph beyond Bletchley, 108 mph after Blisworth, 109 mph at Welton, and 110 mph at Brandon. I calculate the net time 59.5 mins, but that presupposes that the driver would have travelled at the same rate, had there been no p.w. slacks in operation. [view log of 86103]
29th November 1980: 85022 Warrington to Carstairs: This was the Severn Valley Railway Association "Forth and Tay Express", which left the Midlands behind 82005 but failed and was replaced at Warrington by 85022. And the class 85 ran well through to Carstairs with the heavy 13 coach, 465/500 ton load. [view log of 85022]
17th April 1981: 86248 Birmingham to Carstairs: Off to Edinburgh on a "Golden Rail" break (to travel behind "Union of South Africa" and "Morayshire"). With a 12 coach load, there were no special features. We suffered several checks between Weaver Junction and Brock, then had a clear road through to Carstairs. [view log of 86248]
20th April 1981: 87023 Carstairs to Birmingham: Returning south three days later, we got 87023 at Carstairs, on a 13 coach, 465/500 ton load. We ran virtually to time throughout, with very few delays.  [view log of 87023]
9th May 1981: 85029 Carlisle to Mossend. Another SLOA charter, but this time with the newly acquired "SLOA Pullmans". We were 25 mins late away from Carlisle, and 20 mins adrift at Mossend.   [view log of 85029]
10th May 1981: 85034 Motherwell to Crewe: The following day we returned south on the dreaded Pullmans with another class 85 up front, this time 85034. The main feature of the run was that we ran from Carlisle to Crewe without a single check. Never done that before, nor since. [view log of 85034]
23rd April 1985: 86221 Preston to Carlisle: Another SLOA charter, with an electrifying start from Preston that produced 114 mph at Brock. With a 422/445 ton load, the running was good throughout, with 61 min net time to Carlisle. [view log of 86221]
2nd November 1985: 86418 Euston to Birmingham International: Returning from Euston on a Saturday evening, 86418 was on the 8.30pm Wolverhampton. With a 10 coach, 336/355 ton load, we ran to Coventry unchecked in 62 min 34 secs. [view log of 86418]
7th June 1986: 85034 Euston to Birmingham International: By 1986, the use of class 85's on top class workings was diminishing. So it was a pleasant surprise to find 85034 on the 8.30pm Euston to Wolverhampton. With 11 coaches, the running was excellent (max approx 105 mph beyond Wolverton), but we came to a stand for signals at Hanslope, then crossed over to the slow line, and went via Northampton. But we were still in to Coventry in 74 mins 19 secs. Excellent work. [view log of 85034]
30th May 1988: 86224 Coventry to Euston: The 7.18am from New Street, with load 12, was 10 minutes late from Coventry, but 108 mph past Brandon was a good sign. We called at Rugby, then more fast running, and by Willesden, we were set for an on time arrival at Euston. But then we were stopped at Camden, and lost the whole of our gain, and arrived 9 mins late. Presumably we were awaiting a platform. [view log of 86224]
16th July 1988: 87003 Coventry to Euston: Another run up to Euston from Coventry on the 7.18am from New Street. With load 10, and 2 mins late away, we ran respectably, and with only a slight check approaching Euston, we arrived 2 mins early.  [view log of 87003]
9th May 1989: 90025 Euston-Birmingham International: This was my first run on a class 90, and we ran, unchecked, to Rugby in the good time of 52 min 43 secs, and were on time into International. Our load was 11 for 370/395 tons.   [view log of 90025]
17th June 1989: 86208 Crewe to Birmingham: The 3.15pm Glasgow to Birmingham had a modest load of 6 Mk 1's, 218/225 tons. We shot out of Crewe, and were through Stafford in 17 mins 07 secs. Could we make Wolverhamton in 30 minutes?. I had got near it before. Well we did, in 29 mins 42 secs. [view log of 86208]
13th & 14th April 1990: And now for something completely different. Proof House Diversion Weekend: Due to renewal of an underbridge close to Grand Junction, there was no access to Birmingham New Street from the eastern end for the whole of the Easter weekend. I spent the Saturday and Sunday travelling on the diverted trains on their varying routes around Birmingham. Here are some of the results.

Northbound Diversions: (1) 90016 International to Wolverhampton via Aston and Bescot.  (2) 86210 International to Birmingham New Street via Aston and Soho. (3) 86247 International to Wolverhampton via Aston and Soho. [view log of 3 northbound diversions]

Southbound Diversions: (1) 86247 Wolverhampton to International via Bescot and Aston. (2) 90027 Birmingham New Street to Wolverhampton, via Soho and Aston.  (3) 86248 Wolverhampton to International via Soho and Aston. [view log of 3 southbound services].

23rd February 1999: 86251 Wolverhampton to Carlisle: In early 1999, Virgin trains and Tesco did a joint promotion. 15 return on any Cross Country service for Tesco "Clubcard" holders. (Well, I was named on the wife's card). The first trip I made was  Wolverhampton to Carlisle and back. 86251 was on the 10.31am Birmingham International to Edinburgh, and we were 6 mins late away. I was surprised at the vigour of the running, albeit with the usual Cross Country load of only 7 coaches. With 8 intermediate stops, but no checks of any description, we arrived at Carlisle 4 mins early. 105 mph was the maximum speed reached, at Burton & Holme.  [view log of 86251]
23rd February 1999: 86242 Carlisle to Wolverhampton: The return journey was on the 2.40pm Edinburgh to Birmingham New Street, due off Carlisle at 4.07pm and on time. And the running was just as vigorous southbound as it had been going north, although this time we had several signal checks south of Preston. We were exactly on time arriving at Wolverhampton. Maximum speed was 108 mph at Tebay. [view log of 86242]
Although I did the Carlisle trip twice more (once was through to Edinburgh), by that time the rail network was in disarray following the Hatfield "Gauge corner cracking" accident, and so the running was disrupted.