Locomotive Performance

West Coast Steam to Crewe

In my "Trainspotting only" days, prior to 1954, my only journeys on the West Coast Main Line were north from Birmingham New Street. They were mainly to Crewe, but a couple were to Manchester. I have a note of a northbound journey on 45515 Caernarvon. No doubt it would have been on the 9.15am from Birmingham, which was a combined Liverpool and Manchester service that then loaded to at least 11 coaches to Crewe.

But then shortly after I had started timing trains, though only from a wrist watch, I discovered that in the winter 1954/55 timetable, the down "Royal Scot" stopped at Rugby. So I had two runs on it to Crewe. But I never did Crewe to Rugby in the southbound direction. I made several journeys between Rugby and Euston, and return, on non Birmingham line services. And of course plenty of runs from Birmingham to Crewe and return. The West Coast Main line schedules from 1953 onwards were some of the hardest in the country, and had no recovery times included. 
21st February 1955: 46236 City of Bradford: Rugby to Crewe:  The winter "Royal Scot" carried a Perth portion, making the load about 490 tons tare. Stanier 4-6-2's were expected to run to XL schedules with this load. "City of Bradford" was 4 late from Rugby and ran to Crewe in 74 mins 35 secs, including a signal check at Basford Wood. Say 73.5 mins net, nicely inside the 77 mins in the working timetable. Based on the station to station average speeds, we reached at least 75 mph at Nuneaton and again at Poleshill. The climb to Whitmore was completed at approx 60 mph, and we probably reached 77/78 mph at Betley Road.  [view log of 46236]
21st February 1955: 46106 Gordon Highlander: Crewe to Birmingham:  I returned from Crewe to Birmingham on the 10.05am Glasgow to Birmingham. There were two disadvantages with using this train. Firstly it was easily timed, being allowed, including stops , 98 minutes for the 52 miles. Secondly, a fresh loco came on at Crewe, which meant a "cold start" up Madeley bank.  With a 10 coach load, we were 3 late away, and 46106 fell to 34 mph at Madeley. We reached 65 mph at Badnall Wharf, before running into signal checks from the preceding Bangor to Euston service. But by saving on excessive station allowances, we were 1 early into New Street.  [view log of 46106]
8th November 1955: 46237 City of Bristol: Rugby to Crewe:  My second "Royal Scot" run was almost identical to the first. 14 coaches, 490/525 tons, but 7 minutes late from Rugby. A probable 78 mph at Nuneaton, but the climb to Whimore was affected by a p.w. slowing near Norton Bridge. So 55 mph at the summit, and about 75 mph at Betley Road. So we took 75 min 13 secs to Crewe, arriving 5 late, though on time by the public timetable, which included an extra 5 minutes.  [view log of 46237]
8th November 1955: 45567 South Australia: Crewe to Stafford: This time I caught the first available train from Crewe to Birmingham, the 11.40am from Liverpool. The train also had a Rugby portion to be detached at Stafford. With a load of 11 plus 1 van, we were 1 min  late away from Crewe, and 5 late into Stafford, after a modest climb past Madeley at 35 mph, 67 mph at Standon Bridge, and a p.w slowing at Great Bridgeford.  [view log of 45567]
8th November 1955: 45670 Howard of Effingham: Stafford to Birmingham:  At Stafford, 45567 left with the Rugby coaches, and 45670 took over the 6 Birmingham coaches. We left 4 mins late and were 1 late in to  Birmingham.  [view log of 45670]
15th March 1958: 46159 The Royal Air Force: Dudley Port to Crewe:  On the 9.15am Birmingham to Liverpool, the load was 11 for 371/395 tons and we were 1 late from Dudley Port. We ran excellently from Stafford to Crewe, arriving 2 mins early, with 63 mph over Whitmore summit, and 83 mph down Betley Road bank.  [view log of 46159]
15th March 1958: 46136 The Border Regiment: With a fresh loco, and load 12, we were away on time. With an unhurried climb past Madeley at 31 mph, and a top speed of 61 mph at Badnall Wharf, we dropped time to Wolverhampton. But with plenty of recovery time allowed thereafter, we were 6 early into New Street. I decided that after two dreadful runs on this service, that I would not use it again.  [view log of 46136]
5th April 1958: 46122 Royal Ulster Rifleman:  Rugby to Euston: A trip from Rugby up to Euston on the 8.20am from Manchester. The train ran to "Special Limit" timings with a load limit of 475 tons tare. The load was 15 for 476/505 tons. Technically overloaded by 1 ton. But these were hard timings. 7 late away, and with ordinary running, we were dropping time before we ran into a p.w slowing at Cheddington. So with nothing higher than 72 mph at Brent, we were 13 late into Euston. Net time was 86.0 minutes, a loss of 2 minutes on schedule. Disappointing. [view log of 46122]
5th April 1958: 46206 Princess Marie Louise: Euston to Rugby: I returned north from Euston on the 1.30pm Mid-day Scot. A train which ran on XL schedules with an 80 minute timing, and a reputation for producing high quality performances. I was surprised to find a Princess Royal class up front, and also a relatively modest 12 coach, 406/430 ton load. All the logs I had previously seen had featured Coronation Pacifics and 450 to 500 ton loads. So how did 46206 perform?. Well, out to Watford Junction, dreadfully. We dropped 3 minutes. Thereafter the loco held its own, and ran to Rugby in 81 min 26 secs.  [view log of 46206]
5th September 1958: 46115 Scots Guardsman:  Euston to Rugby: Returning from the West Country, I crossed over from Paddington to Euston to continue my journey home. I caught the 4.30pm Euston to Manchester. The train ran to "Special Limit timings", which meant 87 minutes to Rugby and a limit of 475 tons for a Rebuilt Scot. We had a tare load of 450 tons, gross 485 tons. Apart from a check approaching Rugby we had a clear run. 86 min 27 sec to Rugby, 86.0 mins net. And on time. A competent performance.  [view log of 46115]
22nd May 1961: 44831 Birmingham to Crewe:  Another run on the 9.15am Birmingham to Liverpool. We dropped a little time in the early stages, and failed to pull it back. We went over over Whitmore summit at 55 mph, and reached 71 mph at Betley Road. Rather disappointing.   [view log of 44831]

29th July 1961: 45021 (ex works)  Birmingham to Crewe:  This run arose from my parent's request that I travel to Crewe, to ensure that my sister and her friend, both aged 15, returning from a camping holiday in the Scottish Highlands, successfully changed trains at Crewe. So off I went on the 2.33pm from New Street, the Saturday 9.25am Bournemouth to Liverpool. We travelled non stop via Aston, Bescot, and Bushbury. The running, and sounds were superb. We topped Whitmore, with 420 tons, at 63 mph.  [view log of 45021]
8th September 1961: 45547 Crewe to Dudley Port: Returning home from a family short break at Blackpool, we caught, at Crewe, the 11.40am Liverpool to Birmingham. Patriot 4-6-0 no 45547 (not named) had a modest load of 6 coaches. We were 5 late from Crewe, and after 3 signal checks and 1 p.w slowing, 9 late at Dudley Port. Top speed was 69 mph at Great Bridgeford.  [view log of 45547]
12th July 1964: 46155 Crewe to Birmingham:  My final steam run south of Crewe was on the SLS "Three Summits" railtour. 46155 The Lancer took over at Crewe and made a vigorous start, with 48 mph from Betley Road up past Madeley. We were then up to 73 mph at Badnall Wharf, before checks intervened onwards through Stafford. From Wolverhampton we travelled via Bescot, Perry Barr North Jc, then up the grades to Soho Junction, making a lot of noise in the process.    [view log of 46155]
The principal features of West Coast Main line operation in the 1950's were the heavy loadings and the stiff bookings. Many of the services produced 14, 15, and 16 coach loads. One southbound services often 17. And whilst the Coronation Pacifics and the Rebuilt Scots could produce consistently good work in the right hands, the Jubilee's were variable. When they were good they were very good, but when they were bad, they were.  But Schedules, whether the XL, Special Limit, or Limited Load, had no recovery time included. So if you had a signal check, or a p.w. slowing, you were late. Unless you had a good loco and a keen driver and fireman.