‘A3’ versus ‘A4’ on the ECML
Sir Nigel Gresley would be thrilled – ‘Number Nine’ and ‘Scotsman’ – running a month apart, and on the ECML. MIKE HEDDERLY compares their performances.
When Flying Scotsman made its non-stop run from King’s Cross to Edinburgh on May 1 1968, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the inaugural non-stop service, who would have thought that another 50 years later it would be possible to experience two King’s Cross departures just four weeks apart, and with two different Gresley ‘Pacifics’? How very fortunate we are in this day and age!
The first of these departures was the A1 Locomotive Trust’s ‘Talisman’ from King’s Cross to Newcastle on September 15. ‘A4’ No. 60009 replaced Tornado, which was still unavailable following its failure near Sandy on the inaugural 90mph run in April (SR486). If John Cameron’s stated intention to withdraw his locomotive next year is fulfilled, this was one of the last chances to enjoy ‘Number Nine’ on the southern end of the GN main line. The load was 11 coaches of mainly Commonwealth bogie stock, making exactly 400 tons tare and a gross load rising to 435 tons on departure from Peterborough, the train being fully booked. The DB Cargo train crew as far as Peterborough comprised Driver Paul Major, Fireman Wayne Thompson and Traction Inspector Bob Hart.
With a pick-up stop at Potters Bar and Slow line running beyond, there was nothing of performance interest until Stevenage, whence departure was 4¾ mins late. Once into her stride, No. 60009 performed beautifully. The log of this section of the run appears in Table 1 (top half, left-hand column). ‘Even time’ was achieved by Sandy, passed in 16 mins 12 secs for the 16.55 miles. The flying average over the 15.60 miles from Hitchin to Tempsford was 75.5mph. Approaching St Neots there was a signal check to 32mph which spoiled the rest of the run to the Holme water stop. After passing Huntingdon at 58½mph, speed fell to 55½ up the 1-in-200 to Stukeley summit, but Holme was reached only 1¼ mins late. Only 10 mins were allowed for the 7.45 miles to the final pick-up stop at Peterborough, a tall order with a slow exit from the water stop onto the main line and, despite reaching 55mph at Fletton Junction, 1½ mins were dropped.
There was a crew change at Peterborough, in which Steve Hanczar took over the firing, while Paul Major remained at the regulator and Jim Smith relieved Bob Hart as traction inspector. Departure was 1½ mins late, taking the Down Stamford Line (which serves as the Down Slow as far as Helpston), where a 25mph restriction applies over the turnout onto the Down Slow proper. By Tallington, speed had recovered to 60mph and to 63 beyond Essendine. After a minimum of 56mph up the 1-in-200 to Milepost 95, the short level stretch leading
to Corby Glen enabled a recovery to 60½, before the ensuing 1-in-178 brought speed down to 58½mph at Milepost 98½. Here, steam was shut off for signals approaching Stoke Junction. Speed was now reduced to walking pace to allow an express to overtake. This called at Grantham and checked the ‘Talisman’ once again on the descent from Stoke.
Despite this, No. 60009 passed Grantham half a minute early at 57mph and accelerated into the 70s on the favourable gradients beyond, averaging 72.5mph from Claypole through Newark Northgate to Bathley Lane Box (7.60 miles), before Driver Major began to apply the brakes for the next pathing stop at Carlton Loop. With approach control in operation, the last 3.30 miles took 6 mins 17 secs. There was a further crew permutation at Carlton, with Paul Major swapping roles with Steve Hanczar, who now took over the driving as far as Newcastle, while Paul Major fired as far as York, where he was relieved by Tony Jones. Jim Smith continued as traction inspector right through to Newcastle.
The most enterprising schedule of the day was between Carlton Loop and York, an unusual ‘even time’ booking for steam over the 62.25 miles, and allocated 61 mins. The 14-min schedule to pass Retford (12.35 miles) proved quite unrealistic in view of the necessarily slow exit from Carlton Loop, followed by rising gradients to Tuxford, and was exceeded by 2¾ mins. However, as the lower half of Table 1 shows (left hand column), resolute running meant
that the 36.35 miles between Retford and Hambleton North Junction was covered in 29 mins 49 secs at a flying average of 73.1mph, including a minimum of 61mph at Pipers Wood summit after almost 3 miles at 1‑in‑198. This sprightly performance realised a gain of 6¾ mins on the sectional timings.
We had left Carlton 3¾ mins late but had eased ahead of schedule by Hambleton North. We were in line for an actual time of 59 mins to York when signal checks were encountered at the north end of Ryther Viaduct.
The overall time to York was a minute over the 61‑min booking, but still just within ‘even time’ from the Carlton start. A slow water supply at York delayed departure by 10 mins. The remainder of the run to Newcastle was unexceptional, with Slow line running north of York and an easy schedule, which resulted in an arrival at Newcastle 1¼ mins ahead of time.
Despite the ‘Bon Accord’ headboard, ‘A4’ No. 60009 Union of South Africa is actually preparing to take the ‘Talisman’ away from King’s Cross on September 15.