Locomotive Performance

The Somerset & Dorset

In 1956, my parents decided that the family summer holiday would be in the New Forest area of Hampshire, and chose New Milton. The family car at the time was a Morris Minor, and with three children, then aged 17,10, and 8, it was clear that something would have to give. I volunteered straight to travel by train. I had worked out that I could travel via the Somerset & Dorset. And so, on Monday 2nd July 1956, I headed south from Birmingham New Street. On Mondays the Sheffield portion of the "Pines Express" ran as an independent train, ahead of the main service, and so I chose this train to travel on through to Poole. I would then catch a local service to Christchurch where my family, who had travelled south by car two days earlier, would meet me. 

2nd July 1956: At Bath Green Park, Black 5 no 45056 came off. With an 8 coach load, I did not expect a pilot engine. But a pair of locos backed down. 2P 4-4-0 no 40568 and West Country 4-6-2 no 34040 Crewkerne. We were 5 minutes late away, and modest running was  good enough for timekeeping, The pilot came off at Evercreech Junction. When the main train arrived at Poole 2 mins early with a Standard 5 on 12 coaches, I kicked myself.  [view log of 34040]  
22nd September 1962: Six years elapsed before my next S & D journey. On an Ian Allan railtour, 7F 2-9-0 no 53808 came on at Weymouth, for the run to Broadstone, then up to Evercreech and Bath. She ran briskly at up to 58 mph on the southern section, but after Evercreech, the loco found the 9 coach load a tough task on the 1 in 50 gradients, and we were down to 10 mph at Shepton Mallett, and 12 mph at Masbury summit. But it was hugeley enjoyable, as were the other sections of the tour, Paddington to Weymouth with 34050, Bath to Cheltenham Spa with a Hall, and finally a GW 2-6-0 from Cheltenham to Kingham and Oxford, helped up the bank to Notgrove by a 2-6-2T. [view log of 53808]
29th March 1965: The splendid S.C.T.S Southern Wanderer tour included in it's itinerary, a trip up the Somerset & Dorset to Templecombe with Standard 5 no 73022, and a further run as far as Highbridge on the branch from Evercreech with a class 4F 0-6-0. The running up from Poole was vigorous. 73022 was not fitted with token exchange equipment, so it had to be carried out by hand, which meant slowing to 15 to 20 mph when we might have been doing 45 mph or more. In between the slacks, the loco was worked hard, and  proved once again that the Standard Fives were excellent engines. [view log of 73022]
29th March 1965: On a cloudless spring afternoon, 44560 was a fine site on a 7 coach train on the S & D branch to Highbridge. A most pleasant run across the Somerset "levels", although with frequent slacks, there was not a lot of "performance" involved. Looking back nearly forty years later, I still recall the Southern Wanderer as one of the best, in fact probably the best, railtour I have ever travelled on. [view log of 44560]
4th April 1965: Seven days later, I was on the S & D again. This time the L.C.G.B Wessex Downsman tour. Class 8F no 48309 came on at Bath for a trip down the whole of the line to Bournemouth West. The loco was in trouble for steam from the start, and the 21.87 miles to Shepton Mallet took no less than 70 minutes. It was 10 mph out of Bath and again up to Masbury summit, But once the "cords" had been pulled, things improved, with some respectable running on to Bournemouth. [view log of 48309]
12th June 1965: After a couple of poor southbound runs, I had great hopes of the class 9F 2-10-0 which at Bath Green Park backed down on to the Warwickshire Railway Society Railtour. But it was not to be. A broken cylinder cover meant a stop to raise steam at Binegar and a 20 minute loss to Evercreech Junction. Things did subsequently improve, but we ended 44 mins late into Bournemouth. An unexpected let down.  [view log of 92238]
So my Somerset & Dorset exploits, 73022 apart, were a string of disappointments. Perhaps it might have been different if I had caught the main portion of the "Pines Express" on 2nd July 1956. I suspect I would have been well satisfied with the running of 73050 on a 12 coach train. But some you win and some you lose.