Galatea and Leander continue to put in solid performances on testing North West routes. But it isn’t all about Shap and the S&C…
Two ‘Jubilees’ compared over the Cumbrian Coast route
Ihave featured a number of runs on the Railway Touring Company’s ‘Cumbrian Mountain Express’ in recent issues, showcasing the series of excellent performances by ‘Jubilee’ No. 45699 Galatea northbound over Shap. On March 24, it was the turn of sister engine No. 45690 Leander to tackle the Northern Fells, this time on RTC’s alternative itinerary, the ‘Cumbrian Coast Express’ which returns from Carlisle to Carnforth the ‘long way round’ via Whitehaven and Barrow-in-Furness. It is a coincidence that both the Carnforthbased ‘Jubilees’ were long-term stablemates at Bristol Barrow Road along with another seven ‘5XPs’. Their normal sphere of operation was on cross-country Bristol Newcastle services which they worked as far as York, but the pair look quite at home in the North West scenery. Preserved electric No. 86259 whisked the ‘Cumbrian Coast Express’ Down from London, but owing to signal checks, arrived 13 minutes late at Carnforth Up & Down Goods Loop where the usual traction change from electric to steam takes place. Fortunately, the schedule allows an ample 32 minutes for this procedure, up to the train’s pathing slot, so the fact it came in late did not ultimately cause any delay. However, the 1000 Manchester Airport to Edinburgh Waverley multiple unit was running 4 mins late, delaying Leander’s departure by 5 mins. With the support coach now added, No. 45690 had 11 coaches weighing 405 tons tare behind the drawbar. The train was encouragingly full so I estimate the gross load at 440 tons. West Coast Railways’ crew of David Blair and Chris Holmes was assisted by Traction Inspector Roly Parker. My colleague Sandy Smeaton is a regular traveller over Shap on these trains and confirmed that No. 45690’s time from the start to the top of the 1-in-134 rise which
terminates at Milepost 9½ is the fastest he has recorded by a ‘Jubilee’, producing 980 estimated drawbar horsepower (edbhp). A good effort for an engine starting ‘cold’.
I have set out Leander’s run in the right-hand column of Table 1, comparing it with one of Galatea’s best efforts on March 4 last year with a similar load, timed by Peter Gregory. Chris Holmes was the fireman on both. While Leander reached 38mph at the foot of the climb, speed fell off to 33½mph at Milepost 9½, whereas No. 45699, with a more modest start, was still accelerating at the top, attaining 38mph at this point. Nevertheless, Leander was almost half a minute ahead. David Blair is no slouch, but from here on Leander began to fall behind Galatea and by Milnthorpe, No. 45699 had drawn level, making allowance for the timer’s relative positions in the trains: tenth coach for Peter Gregory and seventh coach for me. While No. 45690 kept the sharp 19-minute booking to pass Oxenholme from the start, Galatea was already a minute ahead. Driver Blair pressed No. 45690 a little harder at Hay Fell, accelerating on the 1-in-131 up-grade from 38 to 40mph, exerting around 1,300edbhp, and fell only to 35mph on the ensuing 1-in-106 to Grayrigg, compared with No. 45699’s 37mph. Both breached the 70mph mark in the Lune Gorge, attacking the foot of the final climb to Shap with considerable élan to the accompaniment of a stirring three-cylinder roar. Leander was producing around 1,430edbhp at this point but a brief shower, combined with the effect of the flange lubricator at Scout Green, caused the locomotive to slip twice, quickly controlled by Driver Blair. Thus, speed fell to 23½mph at the summit.
DAVID BLAIR IS NO SLOUCH, BUT FROM HERE ON LEANDER BEGAN TO FALL BEHIND GALATEA
Galatea’s speed at the summit was 26½mph, an excellent effort which put it 2¾ minutes ahead of Leander. The descents from Shap summit towards Carlisle were similarly paced and with a slightly faster finish in from Upperby, Galatea achieved a gain of 3¼ minutes overall on Leander’s time. While No. 45699 knocked 6½ minutes off the schedule, No. 45690’s more modest performance meant the schedule was beaten by 3¼ minutes, with an arrival only 1¾ minutes late at the Border City.
ROUND THE COAST
The Cumbrian Coast line has not figured previously in these columns, with the possible exception of Lindal Bank, the most testing section of the line in either direction. Compared with 63 miles direct via the Shap route, the distance from Carlisle to Carnforth via the Coast is 114½ miles, almost twice as far. That is only ten miles shorter than from Newcastle to Edinburgh! The line has three single-track sections totalling 16 miles. There is a passing loop at St Bees on the longest of these; the 11 miles between Whitehaven and Sellafield. The line carries an overall speed limit of 60mph, with a number of sections at 50mph and many severe restrictions on top of that, mainly for curvature. Given these constraints, fitting a steam charter into the normal Saturday timetable and allowing a water stop at Sellafield is a challenging task. Network Rail deserves credit for producing an eminently workable path, though it entails maintaining a 14.06 departure from Carlisle, which gives only 85 minutes to turn, service and water the steam locomotive after the booked arrival of the outward leg at 12.41. This in turn means that co-operation of the signallers to facilitate the necessary engine and support coach movements is essential if the allotted time is not to be exceeded. Leander was back on the train promptly, but departure was still 1¾ mins late. The West Coast Railway crew on this leg of the journey were Driver Steve Chipperfield and Fireman Rob Russell. The first section is over the metals of the original Maryport & Carlisle Railway. From Currock Junction, where the goods lines avoiding Carlisle station trail in on the right, the line rises at 1-in-309 for nearly three miles, by which time No. 45690 had attained 43½mph. The log of the run appears in Table 2 and I have set alongside it the run of No. 46115 Scots Guardsman on the equivalent train a year previously. On that occasion, the ‘Scot’ had an additional vehicle, making a 12-coach train of 480 tons gross in the hands of Driver Mick Rawling and Fireman Chris Holmes. After a slightly quicker start, the ‘Scot’ was slower up the 1-in-309 than Leander by a small margin, reaching 41mph. Once through Dalston, both locomotives attained 60mph on the gentle downgrade towards Wigton. We were now in Melvyn Bragg country, with a fine view of the mountains of the Lake District to our left, and Skiddaw prominent. The line rises at 1-in-241 from Wigton for a couple of miles, continuing at 1-in-389 up towards Leagate. The minima recorded were 50½ for Leander and 51mph for the ‘Scot’. Speed is limited to 20mph through the short Aspatria Tunnel because of its very tight clearance and 30mph through Aspatria itself. In fact, the clearances on the Maryport to Carlisle section as a whole are very restricted, and in the early days of ‘Cumbrian Coast Expresses’ in the preservation era, steam was not permitted north of Maryport. Leander was the quicker to recover from the Aspatria slack and almost touched 60mph on the 1-in-279/294 descent towards Bullgill, where the speed restriction was closely observed. The descent continues at 1-in-294 through Dearham Bridge which allowed speed to rise into the 50s on both trains. The Galloway Hills make a pleasant backdrop to the north across the Solway Firth at this point. By Maryport, where there is another permanent severe restriction, the times of the two trains were within ¾ minute of one another, not quite achieving the 39-minute booking. From Maryport to Whitehaven, we passed onto London & North Western Railway territory on the sole remnant of a former complex network of lines serving the West Cumbrian coalfield and ironstone deposits.
Both locomotives recovered well from the Maryport slack and were soon into the 50s, the ‘Jubilee’ almost reaching 60mph before braking for the slack at Derwent Junction, approaching Workington. The next section is a slow one, with a severe restriction through Harrington and the curious short single line section between Parton North and South Junctions, both of which have 15mph restrictions. The line hugs the coast along this scenic stretch.
IN THE EARLY DAYS OF ‘CUMBRIAN COAST EXPRESSES’, STEAM WAS NOT PERMITTED NORTH OF MARYPORT
Leander passed Parton on time, having made up the 1¾ minute lateness from Carlisle and arrived at the token stop at Bransty Box for the single line ahead having gained 2 mins on schedule. Scots Guardsman, with its extra coach, did not do quite as well and reached the Bransty stop 4¾mins late. The one minute allowed at Bransty was not sufficient and the two trains left respectively 2¼ (Leander) and 6¾ (Scots Guardsman) minutes behind schedule. After passing through Whitehaven station, the line plunges immediately into Whitehaven Tunnel (1,283 yards) to emerge at Corkickle. Whitehaven Tunnel was too narrow and curved to accommodate sleeping cars in the days when there was an overnight through train to Workington from Euston, so they were detached at Corkickle. From Whitehaven through to Carnforth, the line was pure Furness Railway. The short section to the passing loop and token stop at St Bees was run inside the 11-minute schedule by both trains with the little dip beyond Milepost 72 enabling both locomotives to exceed 50 mph. Leaving the small settlement of St Bees, the majestic St Bees Head is prominent on the right hand side, while across the sea the Isle of Man is clearly visible on a good day. The single line again hugs the coast and gradients are gentle which enabled both locomotives to reach speeds in the mid50s. A very cautious approach was made to the watering point just south of Sellafield station which caused both trains to lose a few seconds on schedule. Twenty minutes were allowed for the water stop, but the ‘Scot’ exceeded this and left 9½mins late, compared with Leander’s 1¼ minute late departure. A gentle start was made by both locomotives and the same
Blue skies and yellow gorse greet Leander at St Bees, Cumbrian Coast, on March 24.
Perfect conditions at Nethertown as No. 45690 skirts the Irish Sea on March 24.