Let the trials begin

On the 22nd of April 1948 Stanier Pacific, No.46236 City of Bradford, left Euston, hauling the Royal Scot to Carlisle. This was the first run in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials; her return journey the following day was the second. Four days later, on the 27th of April, Bulleid Pacific No.35019 French Line CGT made her test appearance, heading for Plymouth with the GWR dynamometer car in the train. Like No. 46236 City of Bradford, she too made the return trip the following day.

On the 29th & 30th of April it was the turn of the ECML to act as host; and  Rebuilt Scot, No.46162 Queen’s Westminster Rifleman did her turn on a Kings Cross – Leeds working,  hauling the NER dynamometer car in both directions.

The earliest run on the former Southern Railway didn’t take place until the beginning of June, when No.35018 British India Line left Waterloo, heading for Exeter, hauling the Atlantic Coast Express, and with the GWR dynamometer car coupled behind the tender. Repeating the pattern set earlier, she worked the ‘up’ train the following day. The first GWR engine to enter the trial was King Class No.6018 King Henry VI, on 20th May, with a Kings Cross Leeds run, and again, making the return working the day after.

The first A4 to take part in the trials was No.60034 Lord Faringdon, hauling the Royal Scot and the LMS dynamometer car from Euston to Carlisle on May 27th. Two weeks earlier Bulleid Pacific No.35017 Belgian Marine did her turn on the Royal Scot, working north on the 13th, returning south the following day. The trials continued throughout May and on into June, in the ‘Express Locomotive’ category, with the final run being made, appropriately, after having opened the contest, by No.46236 City of Bradford, taking the ACE out of Exeter and heading to Waterloo.

Trials of the mixed traffic engines,  B1 4-6-0s,  Black 5 4-6-0s,  GWR Modified Halls and  SR West Country 4-6-2s, began on June 1st with Black 5 No.45253, on home territory, working a St. Pancras – Manchester service, returning to St. Pancras 3 days later.

Next up was WC Pacific No.34006 Bude working from London Marylebone to Manchester and back, over the GCR main line, on the 8th & 9th. CJ Allen notes that only this engine, of those  in this trial, on the test train over the GCR  route, kept to time, The fireman on No.34006 Bude was Bert Hooker, and I met and fired for him during my time at Nine Elms in the 60s, when he was a driver there.

One of the Modified Halls was the preserved, No.6990 Witherslack Hall, pictured below departing from Loughborough, and she had her turn on the Marylebone – Manchester run on on the 24th and 25th of June with the NER dynamometer car for company. The first B1 to enter the action was No.61251 Oliver Bury working over the Midland from St. Pancras to Manchester and back on 15th and 18th of June. The third member of the Southern trio was in this group, WC No.34005 Barnstaple, and she made her runs on the 22nd and 23rd of June, over the St.Pancras – Manchester route.

On the 7th of July B1 No.61251 made an ‘up’ run on the South Devon Main Line between Plymouth and Bristol a run duplicated by 45253 on the 14th and 34006 Bude on the 21st. From South Devon banks, we move next to the Highland Main Line between Perth and Inverness starting with WC No.34004 Yeovil working north on 13th July and back on the 14th. Also on the 14th Black 5, No.44799, was ‘trialled’ on the 11.55 Ex-Perth, in the ‘down’ direction only. B1 No.61292 made her runs from Perth to Inverness and back on the 20th / 21st. The runs on the 21st July brought to a close the mixed traffic locomotive trials, next up were the freight engines.

The freight types on trial were WD 2-10-0 and 2-8-0, Stanier 8F, LNER Classes 01 and 07 and GWR 2884 class. The four chosen routes were Bristol – Eastleigh, Southern, Ferme Park – New England, LNER, Brent – Toton, LMS, and Acton – Severn Tunnel Junction, GWR. Amazingly, one of the engines actually used in the freight trials, 2884 Class No. 3803, survived and is pictured below on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.

The other engines in the freight trial O1 No. 63773, 8F No.48189, LNER O7 No.63169, WD 2-10-0 No.73774 (90750) and 2-8-0 No.77000 (90101) did not survive. The first runs were made by the 8F No.48189 on a familiar route, Brent – Toton. The last trials, on the 8th and 10th of September, were undertaken by the LNER O7 and again on the Brent – Toton run.

The trials were conducted without sufficient rigour to be really described as ‘scientific’, they were, perhaps, more of PR stunt and a means to help mend the bruised egos, created by  Nationalisation and the resultant reshaping of railway management and engineering workshops. A means, maybe, of smoothing relations between rivals, regions, and egos, the tests were also meant to help create new ‘standard’ designs using best practice.

With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that creating yet more designs, with the consquent need for depots to stock yet more spares etc. was probably not the right thing to do. Building more  locos, to existing designs, would have prevented some of the inevitable waste. Having a more ordered, carefully thought out and planned transition from steam, to diesel and electric traction, would also have paid dividends.

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: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

The photographs, in sequence, are No.46229 Duchess of Hamilton on the East Lancs Railway, No.35005 Canadian Pacific on the GCR, No.46115 Scots Guardsman at Ais Gill, on the S&C route, No.6023 King Edward II on the GCR, No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley on the East Lancs Railway, Nos.45231 & 45407 at Usan near Montrose, No.34092 City of Wells on the East Lancs Railway, No.6990 Witherslack Hall on the GCR, No.61264 on the NYMR, No.3803 on the GWSR, No.90711, (90733) on the K&WVR, No.48151 at Ais Gill on the S&C, and Nos. 73129 & 71000 Duke of Gloucester on the East Lancs Railway.

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