With Blackford box and crossing in the background No.70013 Oliver Cromwell makes a fine sight at the head of the ‘down’ Great Britain III, back in April 2010. This year the Great Britain XI will be hauled from York to Carlisle, over the S & C, by the freshly restored Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2 No.35018 British India Line, an engine I worked on myself, as a fireman, back in the 1960s. I also worked a rail tour, in February 1965, with sister locomotive No.35022 Holland Amerika Line.
The LCGB organised East Devon Rail Tour was run on 28th February 1965 and was booked to run non-stop between Waterloo and Yeovil, a very rare event as there are no troughs on the Southern and 122 miles, without taking water, is a long way. Careful boiler management was the order of the day, no excess blowing off, making sure the injectors weren’t ‘wasting’ water and I had to have ‘water in the tap’, i.e. around 1/2 a tenderful, at Worting Junction or we would have to stop for water at Salisbury – I had, we didn’t.
There were no ‘fireworks’ in the running, though we didn’t hang about and our overall net time for the 122 miles was 118 minutes, five minutes under the scheduled 123. There were several spells, around Andover and Sherbourne were we were in the 90s, we topped Grately at just short of 70 and reached 86 passing Porton. The return working was marred by checks and a dead stand at Salisbury. However, we did average a shade over 77mph from Grately to Fleet. And the net time from the Salisbury check to Waterloo was around 76 minutes for the 83 miles.
One commentator noted ‘it was a long day out for the crew’ – the Waterloo – Exeter round trip is 343 miles, throw in the light engine movements from Nine Elms to Waterloo and Exeter – Sidmouth Jct. and it was a 350 plus miles long day out – and we never did get to see the sea!!
If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it: