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Sir Nigel Gresley at Work - Around the Regions

by John Wickham

Part Four ~ Scottish Region

This is the second of my articles to describe Sir Nigel at work before preservation, working for BR, and rostered for just another day's work. Its footplate would have been manned by just a driver and fireman and, in some cases a loco inspector may have been present. While the 3-hour expresses between Glasgow and Aberdeen were acquiring a fine reputation amongst enthusiasts, the former Caledonian Railway main line of the mid-sixties possessed the added attraction of a rich variety of motive power. For instance on the day of the run with Sir Nigel, I was hauled by 7 different "Black Fives", two A4s, a Britannia and a B1 (Just 18 months previously, "Duchess", "Clan" and A3 classes could be added). Most of the trains were still steam-hauled, the ones to avoid (mostly) being the Anglo-Scottish expresses, and trains to the North of Scotland. In fact the Scottish Region Summer 1963 public timetable (Table 32) headed some of the train columns with a capital "D" denoting "Diesel Service" - or, in my case, one to avoid.

60007 at Stirling
60007 at Stirling, August 1965.                  (Photo: Paul Aston)

Having described the Scottish "scene" for the mid-sixties, I will continue with a brief résumé of the "Three Hour" expresses. The Summer 1962 timetable saw their introduction, immediately prior to which much speculation came from enthusiasts as to the choice of motive power. The steam age was coming to an end, so the obvious forecast was that some sort of diesel would be used for trains of such calibre.

60007 at Perth
60007 at Perth, August 1965.                  (Photo: Paul Aston)

It came with much surprise when the ex-LNER "A3" and "A4" pacifics were allocated to the services, presenting little problem at Aberdeen where Ferryhill's crews were used to them being in regular traffic on the main line to Edinburgh, but 150 miles away at Glasgow's St.Rollox shed it was a very different picture. Their crews had, up to then, only class 5 4-6-0s (Stanier and Standard) so one can imagine the scene at this true Caledonian (LMS) depot the day two A3s and two A4s arrived - of enginemen gathered around the strangers, hands in pockets, making remarks like "Nothing good ever came from the LNER". It was of great credit to the St. Rollox crews (including fitting staff) that, after a shaky start, they quickly became accustomed to them, (as with LMS men at Crewe, see part 3 of this series) easily keeping to the schedules of the new expresses, and the most ardent "Caley" man had to admit to their qualities. A St.Rollox pacific went down with the 8:25am. from Glasgow, returning with the 5:15pm from Aberdeen, while one from Ferryhill shed worked up to Glasgow with the 7:10 am, and down with the 5:30pm from there. Thus the two duties became known as the "DOWN" 3-hour turn, or the "UP" 3-hour turn. The trains became known as "flyers", and treated with good old-fashioned prestige. A pacific was, at a later date, diagrammed to work the 1:30pm from Aberdeen semi-fast, Glasgow in 4 hours, returning with the 11pm to Aberdeen.

The Scottish Region adopted a sensible policy of storing pacifics made redundant by dieselisation of the East Coast main line, and they were subsequently brought into use when locos already in traffic needed costly repair or overhaul. Sir Nigel and such names as Empire of India suddenly became stablemates after many years 400 miles apart! Sir Nigel left the Eastern Region in October 1963 for St.Margaret's Shed in Edinburgh where after storage (at Dalry Road shed) it arrived at Ferryhill in July 1964.

The "flyers" were strictly limited to a maximum of 7 coaches, and it was superb to find the A4s in semi-retirement working lightly-loaded high-speed trains, the very task they were built for. On the 12th December 1964 I travelled from Perth to Forfar on the 7:15am stopper with Stanier Black Five Nº44724, which gave an ideal connection to return with the 7:10am from Aberdeen. The up "Flyer" arrived behind Nº60007, and a winter load of 6 coaches. We left 3 min late, and as can be seen from the accompanying log (column 3), after a temporary speed restriction at Alyth Junction, we still ran from Forfar to Perth in 30¾ mins, or a net time of 28 mins for the 32.5 miles. In spite of the very tight timing, and the restriction, Nº7 still managed to gain a minute on schedule! Sir Nigel was watered, taken over by a fresh driver and left Perth just over 3 minutes late, it topped the long climb to Gleneagles with safety valves blowing at 53mph and a minute early. After a maximum of 79mph downhill through Greenloaning, was eased considerably through Bridge of Allan to arrive at Stirling 1½ "BT".

Space does not permit me to review loco performance as a whole on this wonderful main line, so I have added to Nº7's log some Forfar - Perth trips. I've included Nº60161's run as the A1s were extremely rare on the "Flyers" I suspect it was a substitute for an A4. Poor North British was withdrawn just two months after my run, but its performance was perfectly acceptable, gaining a minute to Perth. Nº60010, Dominion of Canada, started just ½ minute late, and after a rapid acceleration, passed Eassie (7.85 miles) in 7min 44sec but was eased considerably after Stanley Jn, and still clipped 3 minutes from the schedule to arrive at Perth 2½ minutes early. The accolade must go to Nº60024, Kingfisher, which after a 4¾ minute late start, and with a winter load of 6 coaches, shot away accelerating at such a rate as to beat Dominion of Canada's time to Eassie by 9 seconds. I could hardly believe the dials of my Junghams stop-watch as Kingfisher sped us past the tiny Eassie signal-box at 88mph. The 90mph mark was reached just before Alyth Junction, and we then tore along at around "90" all the way to Cargill, where steam was finally shut off. At this point I was beginning to wonder what Kingfisher's speed would have been at the foot of the "dip" over the River Tay which lay dead ahead had its driver not eased where he did. We must have looked like a modern "Silver Jubilee" as we dashed through Coupar Angus at over 90mph. Nº60034, Lord Faringdon, exhibited a fine example of timekeeping, starting ½ minute late, achieved a maximum of 80mph, but managed to improve on Kingfisher's time from Stanley junction to Perth by ¼ minute, arriving there over 2 minutes early. By the time of 60019, Bittern's run, the A4s had just four months left hauling regular expresses, in fact it hauled the last "Three Hour", a special organised by the Scottish Region. On the run I've tabulated, it left Forfar 3¾ minutes late, and without exceeding 79mph arrived at Perth just over one minute late.

7:10am Aberdeen-Glasgow (Buchanan Street) - "The Bon Accord" ¶ - 5:15pm Aberdeen - Glasgow (Buchanan Sreet)

Run Nº: 1 2 3 4 5 6 ¶
  Loco:   60161 60010 60007 60024 60034 60019
  Load:   7/256/275 7/259/280 6/216/230 6/204/220 6/206/220 6/216/230
  Date:   17th Aug 1963 15th May 1964 12th Dec 1964 25th Sep 1965 13th Nov 1965 31st May 1966
Dist   Schd Actual MPH Actual MPH Actual MPH Actual MPH Actual MPH Actual MPH
00.00 FORFAR 0 00.00 - 00.00 - 00.00 - 00.00 - 00.00 - 00.00 -
2.85 Kirriemuir Jn   04:28 - -   04:19 76 03:52 69 04:17 66 04:05 67
5.65 Glamis   06:46 75 06:08 77 06:29 83 06:05 81/85 06:41 71 06:25 75
7.85 Eassie   08:35 78/76 07:44 84/82 08:02 82/83 07:35 88 08:21 78/80 08.04 79
11.90 Alyth Jn 12 11:52 75 10:50 79 12:47 c16 10:25 91/88 11:30 78/76 11:13 77
14.20 Ardler   13:42 76 12:34 82/81 15:13 72 11:56 92 13:13 77 12:56 78
16.65 Coupar Angus 16 15:31 77 14:20 77 17:08 78 13:32 91/92 15:07 76/80 14:51 72
18.85 Burrelton   17:15 78/76 16:10 75 18:43 83/80 15:00 89 16:46 78 16:42 70
21.20 Cargill   19:02 82 17:54 78 20:28 84 16:35 88/90 18:41 74/78 18:41 68/75
23.05 Ballathle   20:30 75 19:25 77/73 21:51 80/82 18:54 85 20:08 72 20:14 77½/74
25.30 Stanley Jn 23 22:15 77 21:13 75 23:31 80/83 19:32 79 21:58 71/72 22:02 72
27.35 Strathord   23:53 76 22:54 54 25:03 83 21:11 77 23:41 75/80 23:43 74½
  Lincarty   24:40 75 23:41 41 26:21 81/82 - 76/77 - br63 24:31 70
32.50 PERTH 32 30:59 Sigs/- 28:58 - 30:46 - 27:32 - 29:41 - 29:25 -
For continuation - see Table B      c = Temporary speed restriction     br = Brakes applied
Loco. Names
60161 - North British.
60010 - Dominion of Canada
60007 - Sir Nigel Gresley
60024 - Kingfisher
60034 - Lord Faringdon
60019 - Bittern

Saturday 12th December 1964. Locomotive: 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley.
Load: 6/216/230. Train: 7:10am Aberdeen - Glasgow (Buchanan Street)

Continued from TABLE A - column 3

Dist   Schd Actual MPH
    mins m s  
0.00 PERTH 0 00:00 -
2.10 Hilton Jn 4 04:08 *
4.00 Fpgandenny   6:14 63
6.90 Forteviot   08:38 72
9.65 Dunning   10:58 74/73
13.80 Auchterarder   12:54 58
15.85 Gleneagles 19 14:59 53
18.05 Blackford   17:17 71
22.30 Greenloaning   20:32 79/77
25.45 Kinbuck   23:18 65/71
28.15 Dunblane 31 25:41 br67
30.20 Bridge of Allen   27:32 br
33.05 STIRLING 36 31:12 -
* = Permanent speed restriction      br = Brakes applied

While looking at Sir Nigel and Kingfisher's runs, it must be remembered that the maximum permitted speed throughout the Scottish Region at the time was 75mph! Its also good to see that three of the pacifics featured are still with us today. Sadly, the "Strathmore" route to Aberdeen via Forfar now sees no through trains at all. Perhaps if I were to return to the site of Eassie Signal Box I may see the ghost of an A4 hurtling towards me at well over 80mph... ... ...

Researched and written by John Wickham.
First published in Chime 143, Spring 2007
Continue to Part Five
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