In which I continue work as a Management Trainee on British Railways.
Tuesday 1 June
I have probably had my last trip on a steam engine. As this is the last steam train working out of Paddington (1615 paddington to Banbury) there was quite a crowd to watch, both from the station platform and from the offices (including Mr. Parker AGM Staff). The last steam train out of Paddington will be next Friday week. The empty coaches were late arriving, behind a Western class diesel hydraulic, and we left a couple of minutes late. With a short blast of the whistle we left smoothly without slipping - waving to the crews on diesel locomotives in Paddington and at Ranelagh Bridge, also the carriage servicing staff in Paddington Yard. We had a good boiler of water and the steam was around 220 lbs/sq. in. - just under the maximum of 225 lbs. The engine, No. 7029, "Clun Castle" was in quite good condition externally and mechanically. The number was painted on the front buffer beam in true GWR style. Clun is one of the last four Castles in service and certainly is one in the best condition. On the footplate was a Banbury crew, Driver Cott and Fireman Heath. the weather was dull but it brightened up as we approached Banbury. The fireman had built up a good fire, well up at the back - characteristic of GW locos, well burnt through but with a thin crust of unburned coal over the top of the back. The coal in the tender was dusty but there were some good sized lumps and we didn't expect any difficulty with the light 160 ton train. We went from Main to Relief lines at Subway Junction and then she was opened out a bit before shutting off for the junction at Old Oak Common.
All of the familiar sounds of the footplate were present - the curious way the GW whistle seems to be muted from the footplate, the muffled "churning" from the chimney - muffled because most of the sound comes through the tubes and firebox, the friendly ring of the GWR AWS bell and above all this, the incessant din and clatter of the locomotive as she lurched over points etc. Clun Castle rode quite well considering that she is getting old but, of course, she isn't as sready as a diesel - this was particularly noticeable going over pointwork where she tended to roll a bit.
We got the green and junction indication from the approach controlled signal at Old Oak Common and were right away down the Joint Line. Firing was easy and the water level was comfortably maintained by using the right hand injector which had been adjusted to give a slower feed. Although we left Paddington late, we were on time at Gerrards Cross, our first stopping place. The smell of the brake blocks was quite strong although it can't be smelt at all from diesels. There weren't many people at Gerrards Cross and we were quickly away to Beaconsfield. One noticeable feature of the whole trip was the number of people of all ages who turned out to watch us go past and take photos both in still and cine. We soon reached Beaconsfield, again noticeable by the lack of passengers. I took over the firing here and continued all the way to Bicester. This was no real task because of the light load and also because of the lengthy station allowances (5 minutes at High Wycombe, 17½ at Princes Risborough and 22 at Bicester) we had ample time to make up for any mistakes (fortunately there weren't any). The GWR shjovel is very big and will take a lot of coal. This means that a big swing is necessary if the front of the fire is to be fed adequately even though a certain amount will shake down from the back. I was shown how to make the back up first and bounce the shovel off the coal to get the impetus to go right down to the front. This is similar to the way we used to bounce the shovel off the firehole ring on the LTS - but less noisy. Of course, the back has to be well made up and this can be quite a job with a deep fire and a big shovel. Care has to be taken not to build up a "heap" in the middle half-way in - this will prevent coal getting to the front and will tend to cause further shovelsful to accumulate - thus making the situation worse.
At Princes Risborough we waited in the platform road for the Birmingham Pullman to pass and were then on again to Bicester. We drew forward into the siding at Bicester to allow the 1710 Paddington to stop in the platform and then drew back to continue on the last part to Banbury. We were told by an enthusiast that a friend was waiting just outside the station with a camera and would the driver please give her the lot. I don't know if the driver was in a hurry, he was due to book off at Banbury, but he certainly made the sparks fly! We slipped a bit, but Clun soon found her feet and we must have presented quite a good action subject for the photographer.
There is a climb at 1 in 200 through Ardley and this was the only time when we were not too well off for steam. The reason for this was that Clun had become "cold" in the long stand at Bicester. The fire was alright and the bar soon helped to put things right. As it turned out this caused the part through the tunnel before Aynho to be unusual. The firehole doors were almost closed and there was only a narrow shaft of light thrown back on to the tender. Everything else was pitch black, the tunnel is curved and shows no light. It was a bit uncanny not being able to see anything at all. There was no light and dark and no smoke following the contours of the locomotive and wallowing over the tender.
After a brief pause at Kings Sutton, now unstaffed, a short 15 mph pw slowing and a slight signal check, we approached Banbury in evening sunshine. We stopped on the relief platform and as they were in a hurry to sign off we had soon unhooked and drawn forward to the starter. We went forward and after two class 9 2-10-0s had passed down, coupled together on their way to take up iron ore trains, we were given the road right through the down main to the shed where "Clun" was berthed on the coal stage. I thanked the crew for a very pleasant and friendly trip, climbed down, took one final look at a fine locomotive and made my way to the station to catch the 1925 diesel multiple unit back to Reading.
Thursday 3 June
Today I travelled on a special train from Paddington to Plymouth and back. It was reported in the paper as follows:
Record by 100 mph Test Train
A new rail speed record was set up yesterday by a test train which covered the 226 miles from Paddington to Plymouth in 3hr 15min 30 sec, more than 34 minutes quicker than the fastest schedules service. On several stretches the train reached 100 mph.
The test was made to assess the potential ofdiesel traction of higher horsepower than is at present available. On the return journey another record of 87 minutes was set up for the Bristol-London run. A top speed of 104 mph was recorded.
The train was 5 of the prototype XP64 stock together with two van seconds, a restaurant car and an open first. Track testing car No. 139 was on the rear in both directions. Two diesel electric 1750 hp locomotives D6881and D6882 were run in multiple, (specially geared for the higher speeds)
I reorded the times in detail
Paddington dep. 0828 (booked 0828)
Plymouth arr. 1144 (booked 1150)
Plymouth dep. 1300 (booked 1300)
Bristol Temple Meads arr. 1500 (booked 1508)
Bristol Temople Meads dep. 1508 (booked 1508)
Paddington arr. 1634½ (booked 1641)