I doubt whether folk today have the faintest idea what ‘nutty slack’ is, in case you’re wondering – it’s not some form of confection containing nuts – it’s poor grade coal, together with lumps of black stuff which aren’t coal at all. No.6990 Witherslack Hall on the other hand is a rather special engine – she was put on trial in 1948 along with a whole selection of other ‘mixed traffic’ engines, Stanier’s Black 5s and Thomson’s B1s, to name just two of them.
The trials, or ‘Locomotive Exchanges’ as they were known, seem to have been a mixture of PR stunt, an attempt to get all sections of the newly nationalised railways pulling together to form some kind of unity – and, undoubtedly, all the top turkeys fighting like ferrets in a sack for who got top jobs, most clout, and or fattest pay cheque. These trials were also taken, by the crews involved, as a chance to show what ‘their’ engines could do – they were also meant to be ‘scientific’ to find the best practices, to compare coal and water consumption, ease of maintenance, reliability, servicing times, etc. the consensus seems to be that there was little science involved.
It was also a ‘boys and their toys event’ which the railway enthusiasts were able to enjoy at the time and for decades since. I think we should demand a retrial, to be held in 2018, using the S&C and every main line certified engine and their crews. In my dreams!!
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