The grate and the goods

In the ‘Mixed Traffic’ section of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange trials the Southern Railway entered 3 locomotives, the West Country Class Pacifics Nos. 34004 Yeovil, 34005 Barnstaple and 34006 Bude; all engines I worked on in the 60s. According to C.J.Allen, these three engines put on some of the finest ‘performances’ of the trials and he singles out a run by 34006 Bude from Leicester to St. Pancras. I have a log from a run I did with Driver Gordon Porter, on No.34006Bude, in 1965, working the 22.35 Ex- Waterloo. The log covers the Basingstoke to Winchester section and we passed Micheldever at 82mph, Wallers Ash at 91mph, and reached 95 at Winchester Jct., before throwing the anchor out to stop at Winchester.

Allen also gives ‘honourable mention’ to the work put in by No.34004 Yeovil on the Highland Main Line. Including this little gem; “the diverting part of this run was that after the banker – Pickersgill 4-4-0 No.14501 – had come on the rear of the 380 ton train to assist up to Dalnaspidal, Swain started with such vigour as to ‘wind’  his supposed helper, and the stop at Struan had to be prolonged while the latter recovered its breath.” (CJ Allen,  British Pacific Locomotives)

It has to be said that the ‘mixed traffic’ status of the WC Class was opportunistic rather than actual; opportunistic, because that designation was used to get them built, at a time of ‘austerity’, rather than any real intention to have them hauling goods wagons. That is not to say they didn’t haul goods trains, they did. I have worked van trains, like that pictured above, from Southampton Docks to Nine Elms goods with WC class engines, though it was much more common to find a Standard Class 5 or an S15 on these turns.

In as built status these engines had what was termed a ‘dropgrate’, that is the middle section of the firegrate could be opened when cleaning the fire and the ash and clinker then raked through the opening – it made fire cleaning a lot quicker and easier than shoveling it out through the firehole, the same way it went in. The rebuilds were all fitted with conventional rocking grates. The operating mechanism, for both types, was a bar which fitted over or into levers set into the footplate – commonly known as a ‘rocker bar’.

The rocker bar, dropgrate, and I have ‘history’ but that’s a story for another day.

The photo shows fresh from overhaul No.34081 92 Squadron, with a train of newly painted box vans, approaching Kinchley Lane, on the Great Central Railway, during a recent gala visit.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link:

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:

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