Tag Archives: Railway Races to the North

Take water

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:

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

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The essential ingredients

cescoal&waterFor several years, during the mid-1990s, I was involved in some research on the Railway Races to the North and Railway Labour using the facilities of the reading room of the National Railway Museum. During my lunch breaks I would go into the museum and sit on an old ‘waiting room’ bench, with a sandwich and a flask of coffee. The bench was opposite a locomotive I had fired, many times, 30 years previously, over the LSWR main lines from Waterloo to Bournemouth or Salisbury and back. The engine concerned is the ‘sectioned’ display No. 35029 Ellerman Lines, and a fine machine she was too.

What struck me most, apart from the very odd conversations that folk had about the engine and what did what, was that despite being cut in half, and the motion slowly turning, so that the actions of valves and pistons were clearly visible, there was a glaring omission. In the attempt to show how the locomotive worked, and what its constituent parts were, there was not one word about the essential ingredients, no not the coal and water – it was the footplate crew who were missing. There was no explanation of how it was the skill, effort, and team work of the footplatemen that really made the steam engine steam and create the power to turn the wheels and haul the train. Nor, for that matter, was there any explanation of the countless others, fitters, boilersmiths, steam risers, etc. etc. who worked, behind the scenes, to keep the engine available for traffic. Just as there was only ‘half’ an engine to see there was, sadly, only ‘half’ a tale being told.

The photograph is at Andrews House Station on the Tanfield Railway.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

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A trip back in time

007cupar

Edinburgh – Aberdeen, a classic A4 turn of duty, and we see, here, Ex-LNER Class A4 4-6-2 No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley powering her way through Cupar, in Fife, with an Edinburgh – Aberdeen – Edinburgh trip during one of the series of Great Britain rail tours. A case of right engine, right line – and, on the day, right time too.

In 1964, in the company of a couple of pals, I made a pilgrimage to Scotland, in a vain attempt to visit every shed and travel every route. We didn’t quite make it, missing out on the Inverness Kyle of Loch Alsh route and the Inverness Wick / Thurso line, on the plus side we did get to the sheds at Yoker and Kipps.

In 1964, the A4s were being used on the Aberdeen – Glasgow 2 hour trains and we did ride behind one over that route. Sadly, the old Caledonian Railway line from Kinnaber Junction, through Forfar, to Perth is closed now and all trains go via Dundee on the old North British Railway route. Many of the lines in Scotland were decimated by Beeching’s axe and not even the famous history behind the line from Perth to Kinnaber Junction saved it from closure.

2015 is the 120th anniversary of the Railway Races to the North and, despite all the huffing and puffing of the East coast route fans, the fastest time was set by the  crews on the London North Western / Caledonian route, taking just over 8.5 hours from London to Aberdeen, a record which stood until the advent of the HSTs in the 1970s.

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

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East Coast Evening

60163montrose

One of the most salient features on Scotland’s north east coast is the Montrose basin. This unique natural feature, a tidal basin, is home to many varieties of bird life and has a dedicated RSPB bird-watching centre. However, I wasn’t there for the birds but to see the new-build A1 class 4-6-2 No.60163 Tornado. The original A1 class Pacifics were all cut up following the ending of steam traction by British Railways in the 1960s. No.60163 Tornado was built partly in Britain and partly in the former East-Germany, they built the boiler, the construction was funded by enthusiasts, and the locomotive is maintained and operated by them.

No. 60163 Tornado also starred in the rather notorious BBC television show Top Gear – in a faux re-run of the ‘Railway Races to the North’, of 1895′. In the show, the outspoken presenter Jeremy Clarkson rode on the footplate from London to Edinburgh  and his co-presenters took the road route in a 1949 Jaguar and on a Vincent ‘Black shadow’ motorcycle – the locomotive and Clarkson won, but this was probably a slightly ‘fixed’ result!!

In the photograph No.60163 Tornado is crossing the eastern edge of the Montrose basin, immediately south of Montrose Station. The train is the Aberdeen – Edinburgh leg of one of the Cathedrals Explorer series of rail tours.

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