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Sir Nigel Gresley at Work - Around the Regions

by John Wickham

Part Two ~ Western Region


Saturday, 23rd October, 1965 dawned grey and foggy over Manchester, for the A4 Preservation Society's first special train, the "Paddington Streamliner" from Exchange to Paddington. The requested loco was, of course, 60007, Sir Nigel Gresley, I say requested because Nº7 was still in BR service based at Aberdeen's Ferryhill shed. The "Streamliner" was routed via Warrington, Chester, Birmingham Snow Hill and High Wycombe, returning from Paddington via the same route to Shrewsbury, thence Whitchurch, and Crewe to Manchester. Our start was delayed 27 mins due to late arrival of the guard. Sir Nigel Gresley had a featherweight train of only five coaches, and proceeded slowly through the gloom which persisted until we reached Warrington. Only one minute had been gained by the time the special left Chester, more checks followed, but Nº7 achieved a maximum of 79mph in the dip after Baschurch. Departing Shrewsbury 26½ minutes late, we were in more trouble resulting in a failure to take water from Lapworth troughs and a special stop to top-up at Leamington Spa. I have tabulated the run from a 20 second signal stop at Banbury (46½ min late), and it is difficult to explain the erratic running, with speed dropping from over 80 to 68 mph on the downhill grade through Bicester, then increasing slightly on level track at Blackthorn. The max of 77mph on the descent to Denham was a little disappointing. Personally, I would have thought this to be a missed opportunity for Sir Nigel with just 5 bogies. A glance at the schedule will reveal that it was improved by 9mins to High Wycombe; however, the station stop was exceeded by 8½ min ,sadly swallowing most of the gain to that point (perhaps this WR station was reluctant to despatch an MR train headed by an ER loco?). We did pick up a further 10 minutes to Paddington, where arrival was a shade over 36 minutes late. The schedule was very easy for a train of this calibre as, from Chester, we suffered no fewer that 14 checks, including stopping twice for signals, an additional stop for water and diversion to the slow line (this may have been booked), only to lose another 20 mins to Banbury. As can be imagined, many of the enthusiast passengers were LNER fans so the banter was rife, with the blame for the late running being put "fairly and squarely" with the GWR. However, Nº7 was running late, and I assume the driver was an experienced man. Was he aware of a preceding train, perhaps he was a dedicated GWR man, or had he just lost enthusiasm?


60007 under the great roof of London Paddington
60007 under the great roof of London Paddington.                  (Photo: G.M.S. Carter / Derek Hasted / A4LS)


Suffice to say, we ran from Banbury to High Wycombe in 42 mins for the 41 miles, and from High Wycombe to Paddington in 30 min for the 26½ miles. Nº7's trek North was a sad affair, leaving Paddington over 20 mins late, we took over 6 hours for the 194 miles to Crewe where I bade farewell just before midnight. It was to be the last time I was hauled by Nº7 in BR ownership. Did it return to Scotland for three months before withdrawal? It certainly didn't appear there during my visit the following week.


My grateful thanks go to Mr. D. Hasted (Member Nº1), for coming to the rescue as I compiled this article, when my own archive failed.


Saturday 23rd October, 1965
Locomotive: 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley
Load: 5/154/165
Train: 08 50 Manchester Exchange - Paddington.
"Paddington Streamliner" A4 Preservation Society railtour
Dist   Scheduled
mins
Actual
m  s
MPH
0.00 BANBURY 0(pass) 00.00 -
3.55 Kings Sutton   05.07 63/58
5.10 Aynho Junction 7 06.43 60
10.30 Ardley   11.34 70/75
14.10 Bicester North   17.09 74
17.05 Blackthorn   17.09 74
20.05 Brill   19.37 69
23.45 Ashendon Junction   23.01 *50/54
27.40 Haddenham   26.29 79
32.80 Princes Risborough 40 31.13 br50/53
35.95 Saunderton   34.34 61
38.70 West Wycombe   37.21 70/*41
40.95 HIGH WYCOMBE 51 42.04 -
         
0.00 HIGH WYCOMBE 0 00.00 -
4.85 Beaconsfield   06.01 60
46.40 Seer Green   07.29 68
9.10 Gerrards Cross   09.39 79/76
10.90 Denham Golf Club   11.04 69/71
11.75 Denham   11.50 77max
14.45 West Ruislip   14.06 63/61
16.30 South Ruislip   15.49 67
18.75 Greenford 28 17.53 81max
21.75 Park Royal Box   20.19 br56
23.30 Old Oak Common West 32 22.24 *41
25.30 Westbourne Park 35 25.44 -
26.55 PADDINGTON 40 29.58 -
* - Permanent speed restriction
br - brakes applied

Researched and written by John Wickham.
First published in Chime 140, Summer 2006
Continue to Part Three
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