CLAN LINE SINGS A SWAN SONG FOR GWR LINE
‘Merchant Navy’ No. 35028 Clan Line gave a spirited performance on its southern jaunt from Paddington to Victoria.
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.
POWER AND CONTROL
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
IT WAS A BRILLIANT PIECE OF CONTROL BY WAYNE THOMPSON
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 @ btinternet.com
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.