In which I continue my third year at Reading University and make a trip to Retford behind an A4 Pacific.
Monday 31 December
(I start in Orpington.) No more snow today but it is still very thick. I set out for Worksop at about 11.30 and reached Kings Cross without any trouble. I was intending to catch the 14.05 to Retford and found a seat right close to the engine. There was a faint possibility of it being hauled by a steam engine but the normal diesel electric backed down, No. D 352. However by 14.10 we hadn't departed and the platform inspector told the signalman that D 352 had been failed and it disappeared into the sub-depot just off the platform ends. We had to wait for another diesel to come down from the Kings Cross depot. I talked to some railwaymen, including our driver and fireman. The trouble with D 352 was a faulty train heating boiler. I was told that No. D 275 was coming down light for another train and we would be used on this train. Sure enough, D 275 appeared at about 14.30 and was coupled up. We didn't go right away and so I suspected something was wrong with D 275. Meanwhile, I was cheered by the sight of A4 Pacific No. 60026, "Miles Beevor", which backed down on to the train in the next platform. It was in pretty good nick and the valves were lifting gently. I was even more pleased when the platform inspector told them to put 60026 on our train as D 275 was failed with a faulty train heating boiler. This time there was no time wasted. The Pacific backed down, was coupled on and we were off at 14.56 with no more time wasted. We were alright through the first tunnel with just a little slipping on starting away. We experienced great difficulty with slipping in between the two tunnels and on the other side almost all the way to Finsbury Park. The slipping was not severe except once when it must have torn the fire a bit, but was very prolonged. One could feel the jolt every time the regulator was closed as the train ran into the engine. However, from Finsbury Park the engine began to get into her stride and we were soon doing 60 m.p.h. although it wasn't very long before we were slowed to a walking pace by a signal check at Harringay. We soon started up again but with a little slipping. The rest of the journey was accomplished without much ado and a good average speed was maintained. It was obvious that the engine was steaming well because the valves lifted at the stops at Peterborough, Grantham and Newark and also the slowing through Harringay. All through the journey it was very good to hear the business-like sound of the crisp beats from the chimney. The beat wasn't quite even but this didn't seem to have much effect upon the running.
We arrived at Retford at 18.10 and I had a quick talk to the driver, but not for long because the crew would be busy. All though the journey the drivers' side of my carriage was obscured by steam and I wondered if the driver had any trouble sighting signals. "Miles Beevor" made a fine sight as she left Retford. There was about an inch of snow and the night was quite crisp. The steam condensed quickly and this added to the effect as the engine started away, care being taken not to slip by pumping the regulator at first. The brightness of the fire contrasted with the whiteness of the snow. As they went past, the crew waved to me, even the fireman paused to wave while bringing the coal forward in the tender.
I didn't have long to wait for the Worksop train. I watched a B1 4-6-0 shunting engines around Retford loco. I could hear the unmistakeable hissing or air through the cylinders of a dead engine being moved. I caught the two coach diesel to Worksop where I was met by Pat and her father. We went back to their home where we saw in the New Year.