Locomotive Performance

Main Line Steam: Wales and the West

Here we deal with the steam running on the Cambrian Coast lines in 1987, some runs in South Devon in 2000 and 2002, on the Dawlish Donkey and over the South Devon banks. There is also the inaugural run of City of Truro on the main line in 1985, and a hard working 75069 on a Worcester to Taunton working in 1994, when the loco was en route for a spell on the West Somerset Railway.
20th October 1985: The inaugural Main Line steam run of no 3440 City of Truro ran from Gloucester to Newport and return on this date. On the outward journey, there was a short stop at Lydney, and on the return, one at Chepstow. With a 294/310 ton, 8 coach train, there were no heroics. But the running was respectable, with a maximum speed of 59 mph at Oakle Street on the return journey. [view log of 3440]

In the summer of 1987, BR ran a series of excursions on the ex Cambrian lines from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth and Barmouth  on the one hand, and to Barmouth and Pwllheli on the other On 26th July 1987 and 9th August 1987, I travelled with 7819 Hinton Manor from Machynlleth to Pwllheli and back, with 10 coach trains. The loco work was efficient, the second run being the faster. The highlight was the tender first start from Fairbourne on the return. 1 in 76, almost immediately changing to 1 in 55. A hard task, but no problem whatsoever. Excellent enginemanship. [view logs of 7819]
On Sundays 2nd August 1987 and 16th August, I sampled the Aberystwyth excursions. From a performance point of view, they had more to offer, with sharp 1 in 75 climbs in each direction, either side of Bow Street. The itinerary was Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Dovey Junction , Barmouth , Dovey Junction , Aberystwyth, then back to Machynlleth. On the first date, Hinton Manor had a 7 coach load, and on the second date, 8 coaches. In fact the running with the heavier train was excellent throughout the day. We reached  60 mph on several occasions, with fine sounds from the loco. [view logs of 7819]
26th August 1987: Shortly afterwards, I sampled the weekday Machynlleth to Barmouth excursions, both the morning and afternoon trips. They were made up to 6 coaches, a nice load for the Ivatt 2MT 2-6-0 no 46443. The highlight of the day was when the driver of the afternoon trip decided to see what the loco was made of, and went roaring up beside the Dovey estuary towards Machynlleth. A fine conclusion to the day. Rumour has it that a certain Mr Alun Rees was on the regulator. [view logs of 46443]
27th April 1994:  In earlier years, Standard 4MT 4-6-0 no 75069 had been limited to 8 coaches on BR main lines. But that nonsense was in the past, though perhaps a 11 coach, 393/420 ton load, from Worcester to Taunton, was asking a lot. The engine was heading  away from it's home line, the Severn Valley, for a holiday on the West Somerset line. The loco dealt excellently with it's load, running up to 71 mph at Nailsea. But the BR class 4 standards were all good engines. [view log of 75069]
30th April 2000 and 1st May 2000: And to prove the point (that BR class 4's were good engines) the running of the Standard 4 tank, no 80098, on the "Dawlish Donkey" in the spring of 2000, was a revelation. In that year, the train made three return trips daily from Exeter to Newton Abbot. It was on the return journeys from Newton Abbot  that I recorded some superb running on the final section to Exeter, the first from a start at Dawlish, the second from Dawlish Warren. On the first run on 30th April, we were doing 70 mph by Powderham (5.4 miles) with a maximum of 75 mph beyond Exminster. On the 1st May run, we were up to 69 mph by Exminster (5.75 miles), reaching 72 mph shortly afterwards. Both these epics were with 7 coach trains. [view logs of 80098]
30th April 2000: On the evening of 30th April 2000, after it's "Dawlish Donkey" exertions, 80098 ran an evening trip over the South Devon banks from Exeter to Plymouth and back. A mouth watering proposition with an engine so clearly in top form. But it was disappointing that the load had been reduced to 5 coaches. On the outward trip, we ran respectably to Newton Abbot, max 66mph at Dawlish Warren. Then we made a good climb to Dainton, topped at 29 mph, and an even better one to Rattery, 32 mph. Then the engine was eased, to get some water back into the boiler. Our time from Newton Abbot to Plymouth was 44 min 46 secs. On the return journey, it was clear from the outset that the crew were going for a fast run. In pitch darkness, it was impossible to see mileposts, so I timed bridges and other landmarks (pinpointing their exact mileages with HST trips to and from Plymouth the following day). With vigorous climbs up to Hemerdon, Wrangaton, and Dainton, we were into Newton Abbot in 38 mins 16 sec, which I believe was a record for Main Line Steam at that time. We subsequently arrived back in Exeter St Davids at 11.29pm, 25 minutes early. An excellent performance. [view log of 80098]

7th August 2002: In the summer of 2002, I had another run on the Dawlish Donkey, which now ran from Exeter St Davids to Paignton. BR 4MT 2-6-0 no 76079 was the loco, which was subject to a maximum speed of 60 mph, and 45 mph whilst running tender first ( the outward journey). So there was no repetition of the exciting running of two years earlier. And sadly, despite the attractions of Torquay and Paignton, loadings were poor, so this was the last year that the train ran. [view log of 76079]
The highlights are the above runs were 1) The running of 80098 on the Dawlish Donkey and to and from Plymouth in the spring of 2000, 2) The splendid work done by 7819 Hinton Manor on the "twice to Aberystwyth" Cambrian tour on 16th August 1987, and the excellent running of 75069 on 27th April 1994, when it ran a 420 ton train from Worcester to Taunton.