In this photo of, No.46233 Duchess of Sutherland, she has just topped the climb out of Dunblane and is virtually coasting through Blackford, heading for Perth. Strip out the head board and the beautifully done LMS in the buffers, this could quite easily be the last years of BR steam on the West Coast, before the wires went up. Some of the final duties these engines worked, over this route, were parcels and fish trains, a far cry from the Royal Highlander and further still from the Coronation Scot they were initially constructed to haul, though the Coronation Scot ran to Glasgow, not Perth and Inverness.
Somebody will correct me if I’m wrong but, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere, that back in the days, Perth men worked as far South as Crewe, a duty which would have seen them tackling both Beattock and Shap; a real test of the fireman’s stamina and abilities. Having done a few years on the footplate of Bulleid’s Pacifics, including a run to Exeter and back from Waterloo, I know what it takes to keep one of these beasts of the main line steaming over long distances and at speed. Having said that, I always fancied having a go at firing a “Duchess” on a Crewe to Perth run, or even one of the Euston – Carlisle runs with the pre-war Coronation Scot – a 299 mile non-stop high speed journey. There’s a real sense of achievement in knowing your skills and effort provided the power to make this happen.
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:
Until New Year the eBook edition of Gricing is on offer at just £3:95, that’s a whole book for less than a monthly mag.