2018 is the 70th Anniversary of the creation of British Railways, and the Locomotive Exchange Trials, it is also the 50th of the ‘End of Steam’ and the 130th of the first ‘Railway Race to the North’, The ‘races’ started on the 2nd of June 1888 when the London North Western Railway made a last minute acceleration to their 10:00 “Scotch Express”, as a tit-for tat response to the East Coast route partners decision to allow 3rd class passengers to travel on the 10:00 ‘Flying Scotsman’ from London to Edinburgh.
What followed was a whole series of reductions in the timings, by both routes, on their London to Edinburgh services. We’re not talking a few minutes here either, the West Coast’s initial cut was 1hour and the subsequent acceraltions were of 30 minutes by the East Coast, and a further 30 by the West Coast in response. And all of this is going on at the height of the Summer service schedule. Journey times, in just a few short weeks, on the West Coast route to Edingburgh fell from 10 hours to 8 and on the East Coast from 9 hours to 8.
When describing these events in his book on the 1895 Races, OS Nock comments, ” … there is no doubt that racing fever had taken complete hold of the West Coast companies. In countering the final East Coast acceleration of August 14th they threw caution to the winds, and without the flicker of an eyelid ran their train as far ahead of time as their engines would take it.” (Wilson, C.D.,Racing Trains, Sutton 1995 p33)
And what has this to do with ‘taking water’, I hear you ask. Well, in 1895, when the East & Wast Coast companies were, once again ‘Racing Trains’ the West Coast route had a not so secret weapon – water troughs, allowing their engines to refill the tender with water without the need to stop. Troughs were first used by the LNWR in 1860, on the North Wales route, to allow the acceleration of the Irish Mails, by cutting out the need for water stops. In 1895 they were still the only one of the competing companies to have troughs.
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: