‘Mer­chant Navy’ No. 35028 Clan Line gave a spir­ited per­for­mance on its south­ern jaunt from Padding­ton to Vic­to­ria.

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On Satur­day Novem­ber 24, UK Rail­tours ran its ‘Chilterns and Downs’ tour be­hind stal­wart ‘Mer­chant Navy’ No. 35028

Clan Line over a 160-mile cir­cuit from Padding­ton to Vic­to­ria via Princes Ris­bor­ough, Ox­ford, Guild­ford and Red­hill. This was to be the last lo­co­mo­tive-hauled train over the Old Oak Com­mon West Junc­tion to Green­ford sec­tion of the former GW main line to the West Mid­lands, long since sin­gled fol­low­ing elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the ri­val West Coast Main Line route in 1966, and due for im­mi­nent clo­sure be­cause of High Speed 2 works in the Old Oak area. Fur­ther in­ter­est­ing fea­tures of the tour were travers­ing the Bices­ter chord used by the new Maryle­bone-Ox­ford Chiltern Trains ser­vices, and com­ing up the LBSCR line from Red­hill di­verted via Tulse Hill, rather than the di­rect route through Clapham Junc­tion.

Clan Line was tasked with haul­ing a sold-out 13-coach train, weigh­ing 477 tons tare and 515 tons gross. DB Cargo was the op­er­a­tor and de­tail of the foot­plate crew on the dif­fer­ent sections is shown in Ta­ble 2.

In dull and damp con­di­tions, with much drift­ing steam, de­par­ture from Padding­ton was 1½ mins late. As can be judged from the log, the line out through Park Royal is riddled with speed re­stric­tions, a shadow of its former self. With a 12-min lump of pathing/re­cov­ery time be­tween Green­ford West Junc­tion and South Ruis­lip, it was not sur­pris­ing that the train was held at sig­nals at South Ruis­lip, the rear coaches still be­ing at the plat­form while two Down Chiltern Trains units passed in suc­ces­sion. No. 35028 made a spir­ited get­away from South Ruis­lip with much three-cylin­der noise and had reached 55½mph at Den­ham at the foot of the climb to Bea­cons­field when ad­verse sig­nals were sighted from a stopping train ahead, which caused fur­ther de­lay ap­proach­ing Seer Green.


Whereas in steam days the limit through High Wy­combe was 35mph (if mem­ory serves) re-align­ment has raised the per­mit­ted speed and we were able to pass at 52mph. The climb to the sum­mit of the Chilterns beyond Saun­der­ton was im­pres­sive, with over 500 tons be­hind the ten­der, the min­i­mum be­ing 53½mph. This com­pares closely with a run I made in June 2017 be­hind Fly­ing Scots­man with a 420-ton train, as­sisted by a Class 37 diesel (as de­scribed in SR471, Ta­ble 2) where the min­i­mum was 53mph at the same point, but this was re­cov­er­ing from a 30mph clear­ance slack at West Wy­combe. I will as­cer­tain from Driver Gra­ham Ward how he worked Clan Line on this climb and re­port back next time.

We left the pathing stop at Princes Ris­bor­ough 1¼ mins early and Clan Line reached the 70mph mark on ei­ther side of Brill Tun­nel, where the min­i­mum up the short stretch of 1-in-200 was 63½mph. The new chord from Bices­ter South Junc­tion down to Gavray Junc­tion, in­clined at 1-in-33, was ne­go­ti­ated gin­gerly and, af­ter a max­i­mum of 67½mph on the level, the ar­rival at Ox­ford Park­way, where wa­ter and coal were taken on, was 6½ mins early.

Mov­ing on to Ox­ford, de­par­ture from there was 2 mins late. Dave Proc­tor was at the reg­u­la­tor here and ac­cel­er­ated No. 35028 to good ef­fect, achiev­ing 76½mph on the level at Ap­ple­ford. Af­ter slack­ing for the Did­cot avoider, the ‘Pa­cific’ again reached the mid-70s be­fore en­coun­ter­ing a series of sig­nal checks from Gor­ing on­wards. From Read­ing, where de­par­ture was 1½ mins late, Wayne Thomp­son drove as No. 35028 took the re-opened un­der­pass to­wards Read­ing Spur Junc­tion. The short rise to Mile­post 66½ was cleared at 33½mph, and there was fur­ther good work re­cov­er­ing from the slack through Wok­ing­ham to fall only from 43 to 41mph on the 1-in-154 climb to Crowthorne.

Prin­ci­pal per­for­mance in­ter­est lay in the scenic sec­tion from the Shal­ford wa­ter stop through the North Downs to Red­hill, which in­cludes the 1-in-100/96 climb to Gomshall sum­mit. DB Cargo crews are, of course, fa­mil­iar with work­ing No. 35028 over this route as it’s the reg­u­lar en­gine for the Bel­mond Bri­tish Pull­man, which reg­u­larly loads to 615 tons gross, in­clud­ing the Class 67 diesel which is only brought into ac­tion in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances. The 9-min tim­ing from Shal­ford to pass Gomshall is im­pos­si­ble with trail­ing loads of this mag­ni­tude, so crews like to leave Shal­ford ahead of time, which was the case here by 2 mins. The ini­tial climb to Mile­post 36¼ was com­pleted at 31¼mph, then No. 35028 reached 51¼mph in the dip be­fore Gomshall sta­tion and fell to 38¼mph at the sec­ond sum­mit at Mile­post 33¾. Wayne Thomp­son re­ported that he used 50% cut-off with 180-185lbs in the steam chest to achieve this re­sult.


Be­cause of the damp rail con­di­tions he opted not to use full reg­u­la­tor. In con­trast, on two runs by No. 35028 on the Bel­mond Pull­man with an ad­di­tional 100 tons be­hind the ten­der, the cor­re­spond­ing speeds were 20½, 45, 33½mph and 22, 46, 32½ (see SR438, Ta­ble 1), while on a rare oc­ca­sion when Clan Line was not avail­able and Tor­nado sub­sti­tuted, the speeds were 29, 46½ and 37mph (see SR450, Ta­ble 1). The min­i­mum speed on the sub­se­quent climb to Betch­worth was 52¾mph, the same as Tor­nado achieved with 100 tons more, whereas on the two Clan Line Pull­man trips the min­ima at Betch­worth were 52½ and 54½mph. From Red­hill on­wards (de­parted ¼ min early), there were


a num­ber of checks and the train routed on the Slow line af­ter Stoat’s Nest Junc­tion.

As we ap­proached the turn-off at Streatham Com­mon onto the Tulse Hill line, the sig­nal was at red. Not only is there a se­vere curve here, but the gra­di­ent on the spur up to Streatham is 1-in-75/94/79. Once the sig­nal cleared, No. 35028 inched for­ward at first, then grad­u­ally gath­ered pace with­out a slip. It was a bril­liant piece of con­trol by Wayne Thomp­son, a fit­ting end to a de­light­ful trip which meant an ar­rival pre­cisely on time at Vic­to­ria.


I am in­debted to the fol­low­ing cor­re­spon­dents who have com­mented or con­tacted me about re­cent trips – Bill Long, David Paw­son and Sandy Smeaton. I am al­ways pleased to re­ceive such de­tails so they can be con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion in fu­ture ‘Top Link’ col­umns. They can be emailed to me di­rect at mthed­derly @ bt­in­ter­


Adorned with a poppy wreath to mark the cen­te­nary of the Ar­mistice, Clan Line forges through Wandsworth Town sta­tion with the Bel­mond ‘Sur­rey Hills Pull­man’ on Novem­ber 9.

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