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2019 'West Somerset Steam Express'

Discussion in 'What's Going On' started by free2grice, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. RalphW

    RalphW Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Friend

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    I've not the faintest idea what the load and summit speeds were and I'm not really bothered, it's more about the peception. I was behind 6233 on a southbound ascent of Shap a few years back when she passed the summit, I believe in the low 50s, but the whole run from Carlisle was perceived as memorable to those on board regardless of the actual times, load and speeds.
     
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  2. Big Al

    Big Al Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    Ah but that was in 2012 and 2016. I think that @LMarsh1987 and others are talking about 2019. That said, it is the owner's prerogative to recommend how the loco should run and provided that time is kept, what's the problem?
     
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  3. LMarsh1987

    LMarsh1987 Well-Known Member

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    No problem on my side, I'm still prepared to to drive all over the country to see it, just personal observations.
     
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  4. 1020 Shireman

    1020 Shireman Well-Known Member Friend

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    No problems with that. Its about performance not just noise for me and many others. Each to their own; but just that. The PRCLT don't hide the fact that they don't like the locomotive being worked hard. That's their prerogative and when we travel behind her we accept that and I don't post anything that isn't factual.
     
  5. free2grice

    free2grice Well-Known Member

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    So you opted to travel on a railtour that would be hauled by a locomotive that you were aware would not be worked hard.

    Perhaps the Torbay Express the next day would have been more suitable as it has a more challenging route. <BJ>
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
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  6. 1020 Shireman

    1020 Shireman Well-Known Member Friend

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    We had more than one reason for doing the train.
     
  7. D1059

    D1059 Member

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    The view from Bridge 99 near Crofton

    Horrible lighting with full dull foreground and bright sky means some Photshoppery is in use here


    [​IMG]Berks and Hants Duchess by Stephen Dance, on Flickr
     
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  8. 1020 Shireman

    1020 Shireman Well-Known Member Friend

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    Nicely framed picture. Any chance of posting the raw image?
     
  9. Steamage

    Steamage Member

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    Better put it on drop-box or similar rather than posting here. RAW files are much too big for that ;-)
     
  10. 1020 Shireman

    1020 Shireman Well-Known Member Friend

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    Put this together about a day out with the Duchess.

    West Somerset Express 17th August 2019

    As we'd never done a WSSE and with the threat of steam getting more and more difficult to run from the magnificent Paddington Station, we decided we'd do this one. When we booked it was intended to be No9, a locomotive possibly in its last year ever of mainline running. As it happened, 6233, the Duchess was the allocated locomotive. No worries there as she is a magnificent locomotive and there are some banks to make her work over.

    First thing about the WSSE is that the path on the GWML is awful. 0800 off Paddington on the relief, following the 0756 Didcot all Stations. At least from Slough we'd be 8 or 9 minutes behind it so the Duchess should be able to run closer to her maximum speed of 75 mph. After we leave the GWML at Reading there's a water stop 5 1/2 miles away in Theale Loop, then a further stop in Newbury 10 1/2 miles from Theale so there's no opportunity for any kind of performance until we leave Newbury.

    Bit of a drag for us as to get to Paddington at a reasonable cost and with a chance of finding a parking spot we can only use the 0530 from Bristol Temple Meads and then we only have the 2330 train to get back on. And both journeys on the uncomfortable, rough riding and noisy Hitachi IETs. So up at 0300 and back home at 0230 on Sunday!!

    At least it was a lovely morning and the train was early into Paddington. We had decent bacon rolls and coffees from the Pasty Stall and watched the stock come in. The diesel was detached in quick time and the tail light hung on the rear carriage. We were in the 3rd carriage on the outward which for enthusiasts like us is the wrong way, as the only decent performance we were likely to get would be the run from Taunton to Westbury on the return. Apparently the diners were expected to be on the front but the train was turned at Greenford on its way from Southall. If it hadn't been we'd have had seats on the milepost side. The train was full so no empty seats on the right side for a timer. No matter in the age of the GPS as I know where easy sighting mileposts are to sync the GPS. This is a shortish report written around each leg of the journey.

    Paddington to Slough

    Our crew were the excellent driver Bill Monteith and fireman Nigel Barber. A gentle start with the stopper so close in front of us. We got to 50 mph at West Drayton, 5 miles out. Eased through Hayes and Harlington as we'd closed the gap to the stopper. Checked at West Drayton as the stopper had a dwell time of 4 minutes at Hayes. We trundled on to Slough RT in 33 minutes for the 18.28 miles.

    Slough to Reading

    The stopper was 8 1/2 minutes up the road so a chance for a bit of speed. Not to be. Only 48.5 through Taplow and a max of 52.8 as we passed mp27. 28 minutes for the 17.5 miles. A bacon roll was the highlight so far. 61 minutes running time on the relief from Paddington to Reading.

    Incidentally, on 29th May 2017 we did a proper express run from Paddington to Reading on the main line with 60163 and load 11. It only took 35m 55s to cover the 37m 78c.

    Reading to Newbury

    Off the GWML on to the Berks and Hants. We had a water stop at Theale so a brief 51.5 just before mp39; then a 2 minute stop for a path across the running lines into the loop that is on the up side. Decent restart and 52 as we rattled through Midgham. We got to a max of just over 56.4 at Thatcham, 7 miles+ from Theale. Nice bit of noise from 6233. As we trundled through Newbury Racecourse we did wonder why we hadn't watered there as 6233 has a 5000+ gallon water capacity and Theale Loop was only 40 miles from our start at Paddington.

    Newbury to Frome

    Once we got the road, the Duchess had an opportunity to show what she's all about; big loco; light load for her; and a 17 mile climb to Savernake Summit. Newbury is close to mp53, the summit just past mp70. Nothing in front and a good enough start, 50 by mp55 3/4. The gradients really are gentle with only short sections greater than 1in200 before Bedwyn, 12 miles out. 5 miles+ out we ran through Kintbury at 59.4, looking good for the expected Class 8 summit speed of between 55-63 mph, both achieved by 35028, 60009 and 60163 in the last couple of years with load 11 and 12. Our speed held just below 60 through Hungerford and maxed at 61.1 at mp64 1/2. We roared through Bedwyn ay 60 and hit the final 3 1/2m+ to the summit. Up the 1in175 speed surprisingly fell back to 56 past mp68. Hmmm. Onwards and upwards... Past mp69 on the short 1in159 at only 51.9 and then very surprisingly after a mile+ of only 1in145/106, dipped below 50 to 48.3 at the summit. Not what's expected from the biggest Class 8 loco on the network with only 11 on.

    All downgrade to Westbury and normally some 75 mph running after the 30 mph platform slack for steam locomotives through the delightful Pewsey Station. We got close with a maximum of 74.5, but only 70+ for just over a mile of the descent. Bit odd but we don't get to see the driver's notices so don't know if there are restrictions on the route solely for steam. After a 7 minute stop at Westbury we set off for the 5 mile run to Frome where we would take on more water. There is a climb to mp100, the last mile and a half of which is at 1in151. No great pickup on the downgrade to Fairwood Jn, 36.4; then despite green signals speed slowly fell to 33.6 before 6233 was shut off and we coasted down to Clink Road Jn and into Frome Loop. Reason may well have been a tsr as speed fell to 20. We trundled into the beautiful old Brunel Train Shed at Frome RT.

    The Bells and Two Tones Water Carrier had got there from Theale before us and proceeded to top up the tender with enough water to get us to Bishops Lydeard.

    Frome to Taunton

    This is normally a good section for enthusiasts with the climb to Brewham and the short climb to Somerton. It's also a very scenic section for everyone on the train. Bill made a brisk restart and we rejoined the main line at Blatchbridge Jn at 34.1. The next 4 miles to the site of the old Woodlands Box has a mix of gradients with short sections at 1in90; 1in78 and 1in106 to the 'old box'. Speed rose steadily to 51 but fell back a bit to 48.2. Along the mile of level at 52; on gentle 1in409/level to Witham, 53; then 6233 was a bit noisier up the 2 miles of mixed 1in112/lev/114/216 to reach 53.6 before falling back to 50.3 after the 1/2 mile of 1in107 to Brewham Summit. Bit below expectation.

    Over the summit and down the 1in81/98/93 we sped through Bruton at 74 and on to a max of 79 down the further 1in98 below the station. We flew through Castle Cary at 76 and met the gentle 2 miles climb at 1in330. Bit surprised at the fall off in speed by Keinton Mandeville, 68, half way in, and to 65.2 at the top. Almost a momentum climb. Down almost 2 miles at 1in264, left at 73, onto just over a mile of 1in265ish saw a fall to 66.6. We left Somerton Tunnel down the 1in264 at 69.3 and reached a max of 75.4 just below Langport on the 1in330 down. Mostly on the level we crossed Cogload Jn, 66 then ran into Taunton right time.

    Taunton to Minehead

    The GWR Class 150 shuttle was in the bay alongside Platform 2. We were taking its path and the passengers were offered seats on our train to get them to Bishops Lydeard or Minehead and back in the evening.

    Interesting that we had to cross almost into Fairwater Yard to swing right across the running lines to access the West Somerset Railway. We were held just outside Bishops Lydeard and embarrassingly slipped to a stand twice before getting underway and running into the station. We were about 15 down. The Duchess and Support Coach were detached and once it had manoeuvred back alongside us, 53808, the S&D 7F, backed onto our train to take the 10 coaches over the banks and down to Minehead. This was the highlight of the outward journey as it was a heavy train for the WSR.

    There are 2 climbs on the outward journey over the WSR:

    Bishops Lydeard to Crowcombe and Heathfield

    Speeds are those we left each the sections of the climb.

    First is a 3 mile climb with short sharp bits: 1/4m of 1in156, 8.9; a mile+ of 1in101, 16; 1/2m of 1in354, 21.6; the steeper mile of 1in80; 18; 1/4m 1in99, 18.6; then final mile of 1in81, where the little loco sounded superb. Our speed fell back slowly to just over 15 as the driver shut off power to coast through C&H station. Excellent stuff.

    Watchet to Halscombe Bridge

    This is a 2 part climb up Castle Hill. From Watchet, 12, up 1/2m of 1in76, 11.4. Then a respite on the level/1in419d, 21; then up 3/4m of 1in123, 19.6; 1/2m+ of 1in74, 18.9; the 7F well into her stride; short a bit of 1in92 to Washford, 17. Then the driver shut off power. Excellent climbing and plenty of noise from the7F. Very entertaining. Slow trundle into Minehead where we only had an hour and a half to get fed and watered.

    What to do for a short time in Minehead

    We decided to find the Duke of Wellington, the Minehead Wetherspoons. We did, but it took 15 mins to get there ... and a seaside Wetherspoons had run out of Cod on a Saturday. Doh. So we had scampi and chips when we managed to get served. I managed to quaff a couple of pints of Cotleigh Barn Owl which was in fine condition. A slow stroll back to the station via the promenade to see the sea - just as it was out. Then back to the train.

    More than a few comments from fellow passengers on the platform about the slow running on the mainline; but we ran to time so it didn't matter other than from an enjoyment level. I often get asked what speeds at the summits and highest speeds were as I've done rather a lot of UK Steam Tours over the years and passengers know I'm a timer. Couldn't tell them much in a positive way. Shame it wasn't a good first impression of what a mighty Duchess is capable of for passengers who hadn't travelled behind one before. The 7F was on the front ready to leave. Again two climbs.

    Minehead to Crowcombe and Heathfield

    The first is a short climb that starts 1/4m after Blue Anchor, up a gentle bit of 1in195/218/138, 20.5; then it steepens to 1/4m of 1in73, 17.4; close to a mile of 1in65, 18 until the driver shut off on the rising 1in129 before we drifted down into Washford.

    Williton to Crowcombe

    The second climb is longer, 5 1/2m from Williton Bridge, east of the station when we were doing 10mph; up the 3/4m of 1in99, 20; short 1in84/123/91, 20; 3/4m of 1in100, 20; almost a mile of 1in92, 20; short respite of 1in176 Stogumber, 25; then a bit of 1in68 and 2 1/4m of 1in100; where speed hardly fell below the line maximum of 25. An excellent climb.

    At Bishops Lydeard we said farewell to the mighty 7F and the Duchess backed on to our train. Not sure where he took over, but Spike Hodges was our driver for the return. Spike is well known for getting good performances out of the locos in his charge. The return is more interesting for enthusiasts as we normally get a fast run over the 35 miles from Taunton, up the climb to Somerton; then from Castle Cary up through Bruton to Brewham Summit.

    Back on the mainline

    Taunton to Westbury

    We didn't leave Taunton that quickly. In recent years it's been the norm to pass Cogload Jn at 70+; but today it was 61. This was followed by a more solid than rapid run to Athelney, 71. We ran close to 70 across the level onto the first mile up 1in264. Bit surprised that our speed fell back to 63.1; then to 62 up a short 1in330. Then we were on the 2 1/2m of 1in264 through Somerton Tunnel to the summit. Speed fell to 61.8 into the tunnel and 60.5 out at the summit. We've got used to 35028 and 60163 charging into the tunnel and to the summit at 70+. A disappointment.

    Down almost 2 miles averaging 1in275, of the 1in264, 70.5; up the 2 miles of 1in264 to Charlton Mackrell, 64.8; across the mile+ on the level, 66; down the 2 miles of 1in330 through Keinton Mandeville, 72; across close to 2 miles on the level, 69; then 1 1/2m up 1in264, 62.3; 3/4m of 1in330 to a mini summit at Castle Cary Jn, 63.1. Down through Castle Cary, 63.9, then onto the first part of the climb to Brewham, to Bruton Station. Gentle first mile and 3/4, average 1in300ish, 63.8; then the almost mile of 1in98, 56.3. then on the level, Bruton Station, 57 (3 early); onto the start of the climb proper to Brewham, 58.9. Now it's almost 3 miles to the summit. Not solid climbing. 1/2m 1in93, 53.7; bit of 1in140, 53.8; level 1/4m, 58.9; 3/4m+ of 1in98, 53.8; short level bit, 54.3; then 1/2m+ of 1in81, slowest speed of 44.6/45. Not what we expected from the mighty Duchess as 35028 Clan Line has a summit speed best of 62 and another around 60; and 60163 Tornado also has a summit speed of around 60, both with load 12.

    It's all downgrade to Blatchbridge Jn, and no diversion into Frome. We barely got into the 70s, but didn't need to as we were early. We dropped down to Fairwood Jn, 20, and drifted into Westbury 8 minutes early. Unfortunately the return path, like the outward, doesn't require any kind of performance from the big Midlander.

    Westbury to Reading

    We were given green signals 5 early. Eastbound there is a longer gentler climb to Savernake Summit, but as we were running into Woodborough Loop to water the Duchess it's negated, though the final 5 miles can be fun on a good day. The run out of Westbury is over 1 3/4m of level track, 30.6; up 1 1/4m of 1in500, 48; 5 miles of level track, 66.8. then the lower slopes of Savernake: 1m up 1in222/264 to Lavington, 62.8; a further 3 3/4 miles of 1in222, 52.9; 2 miles of lev/438/lev, 49.7, with the Duchess being eased for our run into the loop. Then we had a very hard brake application and a look forward saw why - no feathers for the loop!! The Signaller hadn't set the points for us to enter the loop. We were almost 10 early and fortunately there was nothing closer than 20 minutes behind us so after the signaller set signals behind us at red we set back a few carriage lengths then ran into the loop where the tanker was waiting for us only 3 minutes late. We actually left the loop with the replenished Duchess right time.

    Straight out of the loop, 15.6, up a mile+ of 1:255 with a bit of noise drifting back, 30. Down close to 2 miles at ave. 1in360, 48.5; gentle climb through Pewsey, 50, no restriction eastbound. Up a mile of 1in260, 51; across a mile of level track, 52.5. then an ave. Up 1in200 ish to the summit, 48.2. Back in the day without a stop in the loop, speeds of 65-70 mph had been regularly achieved at the summit; and I think 60163 did it at 60+ from a standing start in the loop on one occasion.

    Now it's pretty much all downgrade to Newbury and the norm is mile after mile of close to 75mph running. All green signals so every chance. But no; only 67 through Bedwyn; Hungerford 67; with a max of 69.2. 6233 was eased by Kintbury, 54.5 and we rolled in to Newbury some 8 minutes down. Nice start away from Newbury and: Racecourse, 33; Thatcham, 70; Midgham, 69; Aldermaston, 67; before we were eased before Theale, 26; and drifted into Reading P11 some 6 minutes down.

    Reading to Slough

    Looking at the departure board there wasn't an IET to Paddington for 10 mins+ but we weren't allowed out on the main. There was a big gap between us and the preceding train on the relief so we did get to 60 by Twyford and 67 by Maidenhead. That was our max and other station speeds were: Taplow, 57; and Burnham, 48, by which time Spike had eased 6233 for our set down at Slough, now 9 minutes down.

    Slough to Paddington

    The run from Slough is notoriously slow on the relief but we did get to 53 at Iver and West Drayton before being slowed to 30 by Southall. Not sure why. Still some noise drifted back as Spike got us back to 50 by Hanwell and we ran in the low 50s to Ealing Broadway. Not long after we were held at a red signal and finally arrived into P11 at 2254, some 7 minutes down.

    Not an exciting day out with the Duchess but the train ran more or less to time and there never seems to be an opportunity to pick up time on the relief from Reading.

    What's in a name?

    West Somerset Steam Express. It went to West Somerset so a tick there; Steam - we were steamed hauled by the majestic 6233, Duchess of Sutherland so another tick there; Express - a big cross there due to pathing of the train both on the outward and return.

    The main reasons we did the train were to run out and back to London Paddington while it's still possible, and to experience the delightful 94 year old S&D 7F take a heavy 10 coach train over the West Somerset Railway. Three boxes ticked.

    6233 did what she was required to; kept to time. Unfortunately the performance wasn't up to what we've come to expect from Class 8s on the route. 6233 was very much driven as service trains were in the old days; not too much of an effort on the climbs and running close to 70 mph on the level and down grade to make up any times lost to the banks. Not a train for the performance enthusiasts, but one for the day tripper. The train was full so there is a demand though there was some disappointment at the lack of express speed running.

    Definitely the least memorable of the 32 tours and 7903 miles we've travelled behind the Duchess since her return to steam on the mainline in 2001.

    Thanks to RTC for running the train; to WCR for the provision of the stock and the crew; to the PRCLT for providing their magnificent locomotive and their professional support crew; though we would love to see her hit the performance levels of 35028 and 60163; to the on train stewards and particularly to Les, our oft harassed Train Manager; and to Network Rail for letting us run on the big railway, including allowing the set back at Woodborough to allow the Duchess to take much needed water.

    Back to Paddington next week for the Cotswold Venturer and another close encounter of the Duchess kind, though sadly not involving an ascent of Sapperton eastbound.
     
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