Locomotive Performance

Review: Kings & Castles

Below is a selection of my runs behind King and Castle class locomotives during the 1950's, and in the more recent Main Line Steam era. I have covered all of the principal routes, in both directions where possible, upon which I travelled with the two classes of locomotives. In the 1950's, I found much poor running, at least until mid 1957. But then something happened and the running suddenly improved. Why? Well my theory is that the resurrection of Chocolate and Cream livery on the coaching stock, together with a more liberal use of Great Western Green paint on the locomotives, restored a pride in the job throughout the region's footplate and operating staff. Certainly so far as I was concerned, the type of running that O.S.Nock and others seemed to enjoy, became a reality at last.
   KING  CLASS 4-6-0:  

6th September 1957: 6022 King Edward III: Newton Abbot to Paddington on the 8.30am Plymouth to Paddington, the Mayflower. Load 14, 12 from Reading. Modest running with a heavy load  [view log of 6022]

24th April 1958: 6016 King Edward V: Bristol to Paddington on the 1.50pm from Temple Meads. Load 8, 1 slipped at Reading. An easy task for the loco  [view log of 6016]

4th June 1958: 6010 King Charles I: Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads on the 4.15pm Paddington to Bristol and Plymouth  [view log of 6010]
5th June 1958: 6006 King George I: Birmingham Snow Hill to Paddington on the 7.25am Wolverhampton to Paddington, 8.00am from Snow Hill  [view log of 6006]
5th June 1958: 6023 King Edward II: Paddington to Taunton on the 11.30am Paddington to Penzance. Easy with only an 8 coach load  [view log of 6023]
5th June 1958: 6006 King George I: Paddington to Birmingham on the 6.10pm Paddington to Birkenhead, delayed 41 minutes by a point failure at Paddington. But the crew "went for it", with 88 mph at Haddenham and good uphill work.   [view log of 6006]
9th June 1958: 6004 King George III: Paddington to Plymouth on the 10.30am Paddington to Penzance, the Cornish Riviera Express. 224 minutes net to Plymouth!  [view log of 6004]
8th August 1959: 6022 King Edward III: Birmingham to Paddington on the 7.30am Shrewsbury to Paddington, 9.00am from Snow Hill [view log of 6022]
4th October 1980: 6000 King George V: Shrewsbury  to Chester and return on the Deeside Venturer Railtour. Good work on  Gresford bank, and brisk running after  [view log of 6000]
12th June 1983: 6000 King George V: Newport to Hereford on the Brunel Pullman Railtour. Splendid work up to Pontypool Road and to Llanvihangel summit  [view log of 6000]
24th September 1983: 6000 King George V: Hereford to Shrewsbury & return on the Bristolian Railtour. Superb climbs to Church Stretton in each direction [view log of 6000]
26th March 1999: 6024 King Edward I: Carlisle to Preston on Pathfinder Tours Mountain King Railtour. A superb climb from Carlisle to Shap summit  [view log of 6024]
   CASTLE  CLASS 4-6-0:  

22nd December 1954: 5014 Goodrich Castle: Leamington Spa to Birmingham Snow Hill on the late running 11.10am Paddington to Birkenhead  [view log of 5014]

6th August 1957: 5035 Coity Castle: Birmingham Snow Hill  to Shrewsbury on the 10.10am Paddington to Aberystwyth, the Cambrian Coast Express. With load increased to 11 coaches, and an additional stop at Dunstall Park for Wolverhampton Races, 5035 ran superbly. 82 mph beyond Cosford and 49 mph at Hollinswood summit  [view log of 5035]

2nd September 1957: 5075 Wellington: Birmingham Snow Hill to Paddington on the 7.30am Shrewsbury to Paddington. Another poor 84A Castle performance. I never had a good one on the Paddington to Birmingham line  [view log of 5075]
2nd September 1957: 5092 Tresco Abbey: Paddington to Paignton on the Torbay Express, the 12.00pm Paddington to Kingswear. No attempt was made to recover the time lost by delays early in the journey  [view log of 5092]
26th October 1957: 5073 Blenheim: Hereford to Shrewsbury on the 8.00am Plymouth to Liverpool. Steady running with an 11 coach load on an easy schedule  [view log of 5073]
24th April 1958: 7017 G J Churchward: Paddington to Bristol on the 11.15am Paddington to Weston-super-Mare, the Merchant Venturer  [view log of 7017]
24th April 1958: 7007 Great Western:  Paddington to Worcester Shrub Hill on the 4.45pm Paddington to Hereford, the Cathedrals Express  [view log of 7007]
4th June 1958: 5078 Beaufort: Exeter St Davids to Paddington on the 11.25am Kingswear to Paddington, the Torbay Express. 161 minutes net up from Exeter  [view log of 5078]
5th June 1958: 5043 Earl of Mount Edgecumbe: Bristol to Paddington on the 4.30pm Up Bristolian. 95 minutes net and 98 mph at Little Somerford  [view log of 5043]
5th September 1958: 5024 Carew Castle: Torquay to Paddington on the Torbay Express. From Exeter it was load 12 and 6 minutes late away. What ensued was one of my "top three" Castle runs ever. 164 minutes net to Paddington. Superb!  [view log of 5024]
31st March 1959: 4088 Dartmouth Castle: Paddington to Worcester Shrub Hill on the 4.45pm Paddington to Hereford, the Cathedrals Express  [view log of 4088]
11th April 1959: 5045 Earl of Dudley: Birmingham Snow Hill to Cheltenham Malvern Rd on the 9.00am Wolverhampton to Penzance, the Cornishman. Southbound, this train ran via Hatton North Junction. Poor running from Stratford onwards  [view log of 5045]
5th March 1960: 7015 Carn Brea Castle: Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton on the 2.35pm from Birkenhead to Paddington  [view log of 7015]
16th May 1964: 5054 Earl of Ducie: Paddington to Worcester and Hereford [view log of 5054] and Hereford to Reading, via the Severn Tunnel [view log of 5054] This was the Oxford University Railway Society "Farewell to the Castles" Railtour.
14th September 1980: 5051 Earl Bathurst: Didcot to Dorridge on the John Mynors Memorial train, which ran on with diesel power to Kidderminster, then on to the Severn Valley Railway for a run to Bridgnorth  [view log of 5051]
9th April 1983: 5051 Earl Bathurst: Shrewsbury to Hereford, and on 16th April 1983 Hereford to Newport and return (80 mph!) on the SLOA Welsh Marches Express  [view log of 5051]
8th June 1986: 7029 Clun Castle: Stratford on Avon to Tyseley on the final Shakespeare Express of the weekend, the Sunday 8.05pm from Stratford  [view log of 7029]

From the 1950's, two runs stand out. (1) 6006 King George I on the 6.10pm from Paddington to Birmingham on 5th June 1958, following a points failure at Paddington which caused a 41 minute late departure. And (2) 6004 King George III on the down Cornish Riviera Express, arriving 1 minute early at Plymouth after two signal checks and six p.w slowings. The net time was 224 minutes, and the best work was done in the final stages, over the South Devon banks.

In the Main Line Steam era from the 1980's onwards, three runs are head and shoulders above the rest. (1) 6000 King George V on the Brunel Pullman of 12th June 1983, when the climb south of Pontypool Road  from Ponthir to Llantarnam, and the subsequent climb from Abergavenny to Llanvihangel, with 400 tons, were outstanding. (2) A few weeks later 6000 was on the Bristolian Railtour, and went over Church Stretton summit northbound at 54mph, from a dead stand north of Craven Arms, and southbound at 45 mph, with 435 tons. (3) 6024 King Edward I on 26th March 1999 whilst working Pathfinder Tours Mountain King railtour. Southbound from Carlisle, with 480 tons, we passed mp 37, close to Shap Summit, in 40 min 38 secs, sustaining 44 mph up the 1 in 100 past Thrimby Grange. 


From the 1950's, we have (1) 5035 Coity Castle north of Wolverhampton on 6th August 1957, on an 11 coach Cambrian Coast Express. Holinswood summit was topped at 49 mph. (2) 5043 Earl of Mount Edgecombe on the 5th June 1958 Bristolian, A fast exit from Bristol, 98 mph at Little Somerford and a net time of 95 minutes to Paddington (3) 5024 Carew Castle on a 12 coach Torbay Express, Exeter to Paddington on 5th September 1958. Net time 167 minutes with 435 tons. If I had to choose a winner, it would be 5024.

In the Main Line Steam era from the 1980's onwards, the Castles have hardly excelled, and I know of no runs that beqin to match the quality of 5035, 5043, and 5024 above.

RECOMMENDED READING: THE GWR STARS CASTLES & KINGS..Parts 1 & 2 (O.S.Nock-1967 & 1970 David & Charles)