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The Last Christmas of Southern Steam

Discussion in 'Bullhead Memories' started by Big Al, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. Big Al

    Big Al Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator Friend

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    That was, of course, in December 1966. By chance, it happened to coincide with fairly modest levels of engineering and signal work on the SWML, so I thought it worth sharing what was going on around that time and that will give others the opportunity of adding a few of their own stories.

    As I said, the line to Southampton was almost tsr free so for any crew looking to hurry things along, there was scope for early running. especially back into London. For example, 80 minutes to Winchester for 66 miles was fairly generous so on the 1530 ex Waterloo we were on track for a six minutes early arrival including a tsr at Brookwood with 34090 before we were held back at Winchester Junction. But the signalling was not perfect and there were occasional failures. For example, returning to Waterloo on the 2051 arrival with 35008, we were right time away from Southampton and with 96 minutes to while away there was scope for a quick time. However, after sweeping up to Worting in only 33 minutes we then sat at a failed signal outside of Basingstoke for approaching 20 minutes while they tried to sort things out. Even so, running time from Basingstoke to Waterloo was only 51 minutes including a tsr and a severe signal check..... outside of Woking - where else, of course!

    But it was actually the semi-fast services that provided the most entertainment. For example, Gordon Porter on the 2025 arrival took 34104 and 11 bogies from Basingstoke to Woking, start to stop, in 20½ min with speeds between 80 and 89 from Winchfield till the handle was dropped for Woking. The onward rush from Woking to Waterloo was tempered somewhat by signals from Wimbledon and at Vauxhall. Nevertheless, we were inside even time by Hampton Court Junction (11 miles) and we were still ten early at the buffer stops.

    However, Christmas 1966 was when everyone seemed to be having a go at the Woking to Waterloo record and the legendary Jim Evans was one of the key players. The target train was the 1835 ex Salisbury due in at 2036. It was a light load, typically around 200/230 tons, I wasn't on it every day in the week before Christmas but my tally for the 24¼ miles was:
    34032 - 27 min 57 sec - George Enticknap (a typical run)
    34057 - 24 min 28 sec - Jim Evans
    34100 - 24 min dead - Jim Evans.

    The secret to a quick time was getting the train away from Woking. So we were inside even time by Walton - that's a little over seven miles! It was then just a case of keeping (more or less) to the speed restrictions in the suburbs and, of course around Clapham that was taken at textbook pace. However, you would be hard pushed to get in from Clapham behind a Desiro in the 5.52 that we did it in including 60ish across Nine Elms Junction.

    Others may know otherwise but I think that remains the Woking to Waterloo record with steam.
     
  2. Johnb

    Johnb Part of the furniture

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    It was about that time I discovered the legendary 18.35 Weymouth- Waterloo. It was all Stations to Basingstoke then Woking and Waterloo and with a load of only seven coaches some of the well known Nine Elms drivers were having a bit of fun on the racing stretch after Basingstoke.

    It was a Light Pacific working but sometimes a MN was turned out and with the right driver some rather interesting runs could be had. I worked in the City at the time and quite often instead of going home after work, I would go down to Basingstoke on the first available steam hauled train and come back on the 18.35. It became a bit of an unofficial enthusiasts special with us regular travellers getting to know each other. I was privileged to be on board right at the end of steam when Fred Burridge achieved 106mph near Hook with 35003, my only authenticated three figure speed with steam.

    Years later I met another well known ex Nine Elms driver, Bert Hooker who told me that the 75mph line speed limit East of Basingstoke was there for a reason and if they'd caught a double yellow at that speed with vacuum brakes there would have been no hope of pulling up by the red. Having said that they were professional railwaymen and knew there was nothing ahead of them on the fast line.

    On the subject of Overrunning was anyone else on the last 02.45 Down Bournemouth Mail when Gordon Porter seriously overshot Christchurch in an attempt to get a last"ton" down Christchurch Bank? In those days it was a quick reverse back and a quiet word with the local signalman and nothing more was said.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  3. KentYeti

    KentYeti Guest

    I'll add fully to this later John and Al. But the line speed limit East of Basingstoke was 85 mph. I think to around Surbiton. But it may have been as far as New Malden where the 60 mph limit started back then. With 4 tracks all the way and long straight sections I guess visibility was very good for the crews going over 85 mph, which had happened almost since time began. Most on up fasts knew to have a hand on the brake anywhere near Woking. "Stop all Junction" as Salisbury ACE and ace driver Fred Hoare used to say.

    I'll re post my footplate log of that run with 35003 sometime. The night Fred Burridge eased her up to 106mph. Very light load, and if I had shut my eyes standing behind him we could have been drifting along at 50mph, the ride was so smooth and the complete lack of any fuss on the footplate from either crew. Fireman Simon sat down most of the way, just coming over to have a long hard stare at the speedo needle which was way off the clock after Winchfield.

    Back to Christmas 1966. On the 23rd December I did an overnight on the 21.15 extra to Southampton, thence the 21.20 ex Waterloo from Soton to Brock for the up mail. Some interesting running with John Gaffney on very light loads to Woking and back, (80 mph through New Malden on the up behind 34100 on just 3 cars), and then my Christmas present, a very short run behind 80140 on the ecs stock for the down 10.30. It stopped part way up the platform at Waterloo with the ecs and a couple of us quick thinking mileage and loco bashers jumped on and got what my notes say is 0.05 miles of haulage when the standard tank restarted to do the last bit up to the buffers.
     
  4. Johnb

    Johnb Part of the furniture

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    It seems that in addition to being at the same school our paths may have crossed on the LSWR mainline in 66/7, you were certainly lucky to have been footplating on 26th June, definitely a night to remember. Sorry about the errors in my post but memory plays tricks after all these years, Bert probably did say 85mph and I have now corrected the driver's name, of course it was Fred not Jim Burridge, I must have been thinking of Jim Evans. I think he is still alive and probably the last surviving former driver from those days at the Elms.

    I never got a footplate ride on the SW main line, I was promised one by a passed fireman I knew as Graham, never knew his surname but it didn't happen.
     

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