Part Six ~ Eastern Region
By April 1963, steam working from Kings Cross had been reduced to
a handful of regular workings, mainly on Leeds trains. The diesels had gained a
substantial foothold, in fact Kings Cross 'Top Shed' closed to steam
working just two months later. I bade farewell to my all-time favourite main
line on the 6.12pm from Kings Cross on Friday 14th June with A1 Pommern.
The terrible run-down of steam, witnessed in later years, was not seen at Kings
Cross, and just weeks prior to closure, 'Pacifics' were being turned
out and performing immaculately. The last steam-hauled named train from
'The Cross' was the 9.20am to Leeds Central and Bradford "The
White Rose". The Pacific returning on the 3.26pm from Leeds, which carried
the same name, but was a semi-fast on a Saturday. As an aside, on the 20th
April, I returned South on this train which, after suffering several delays,
saw No. 7 leave Grantham and run the 29.10 miles to Peterborough start to stop
in 28mins and 3sec with a minimum speed of 50mph at Stoke Summit, and a max of
93 on the world-famous descent.
The starting time of the down train was ideal for me as I lived
in South London at the time, an added attraction was its non-stop run to
Doncaster. I travelled on it on two consecutive Saturdays, the 20th and 27th
April, the loco being, of course, Sir Nigel Gresley. Regular readers of
the nostalgic monthly magazine 'Steam World' can experience the scene
as, coincidentally, there is a super colour picture of Sir Nigel getting
under way from Kings Cross with the 27th April train. It's in the October
2005 edition on pages 4 and 5. No. 60007 in fine condition and against a
background of diesels, proudly heads "The White Rose".
So, here we have No.7, again with just the driver and fireman on
the footplate on two non-stop runs to Doncaster, only one week apart. The load,
formed of 'BR Standard' stock (as it was known then, 'Mark 2s'
had yet to appear) was virtually identical in both cases. Assuming Sir
Nigel was in just about the same mechanical condition for both runs,
it's very interesting to compare them. Also of interest is that it escaped
that sad last weekend of steam at Top Shed, as it was being pampered in
Doncaster Works receiving a 'casual light' repair. It entered the works
on 28th May, just one month after my trips on "The White
Rose". Emerging on the 21st June, No.7 went to its new home at New England
(Peterborough) as effectively steam was banned south thereof from the 17th
June. Hopefully, it didn't acquire the usual grotty external condition
associated with New England's locos. As we've seen, four months later
found it stored in Scotland. There was no evidence of it being due for works
attention in its performance, as we shall see.
On both occasions "The White Rose" left punctually,
entered smoky Gasworks Tunnel, and climbed slowly past the boxes at Belle Isle
and Copenhagen Jn, (no sign of Sir Alec Guinness and his hilarious bunch of
scoundrels!) before entering Copenhagen Tunnel (is there any other start
quite like that?). Sir Nigel was now getting into its stride, and both
trains passed Finsbury Park virtually neck and neck. From there onwards things
quickly changed. The first train went ahead in the Wood Green 'dip',
achieving a maximum of 65mph there, topped the climb to Potter's Bar at
60mph and was 1¾ minutes early. The driver of the second train was quite
content with a much slower climb, and given a minute 'recovery' time
passed Potter's Bar on schedule (52mph). The descent to Hatfield produced
virtually the same maximum speed, but again the second was slightly slower, in
fact the first train accelerated to 80mph before disaster struck, or was it?
The brakes came on, and we came to a 22 sec stop at Stevenage, a temporary
restriction lay ahead, and we'd probably overhauled the preceding train as
it cleared. The driver of the second train, with his slower descent, managed to
avoid being stopped at the signals. So now we have both drivers, with
the same load, and arguably the finest Pacific loco in traffic on BR, facing a
long and almost continuous descent for the next 20 miles. Both passed Hitchin
late, so do they go as fast as they can downhill while they can, or just fast
enough to regain the lost time? They should both have known about the temporary
speed restriction in advance. I will leave readers to form their own opinion as
to the most sensible driving method. Suffice to say, after a maximum of 91mph
at the foot of the descent, the first "White Rose" was still over a
minute late passing Huntingdon, the 'Hump' at Milepost 62 was topped
with a minimum of 69, and a swift dash to 90mph at Connington South Box, meant
it passed through Peterborough North just over 4 minutes early, but the
schedule gave 4 minutes recovery at that point. Run No.2 was about 10mph slower
at Tempsford, topped Milepost 62 at 65mph with a surprising maximum of 92 mph
at Connington South, passed under Perterborough North's overall roof
1¾ min early, again bearing in mind the 4 mins extra allowed here.
There was now no need for energetic ascents to Stoke, the first
achieved a maximum of 79mph with 53 at the summit, the second just short of
70mph dropping to 62mph at the top. A further 2 mins extra again here, with the
trains passing 8½ and 5¼ mins early, with No.7 and her crew
clearly in command. The long descent to Carlton was marred by another temporary
restriction at Hougham, and I'm sure both drivers accounted for this in
their ascents to Stoke. Sir Nigel accelerating into the 70s before yet
another temporary check at Crow Park. Both achieved the same maximum (72mph)
before easing for Retford, where 3 more recovery minutes were granted, to find
the first "White Rose" pass 7¼ mins early, the second just
1½ mins 'BT'. After the now virtually 'permanent'
temporary slowing over the mining subsidence at Bawtry they came to a stand at
Doncaster 8¾ mins, and 3¾ mins early respectively. I have
calculated net times to Peterborough (76.35 miles, and passing at the 1963
reduced speed) of 71 mins (No.1) and 75¼ (No.2) and Doncaster (155.95
miles) 147 mins and 154 mins. Personally, I'm of the opinion that BOTH
loco-crews and Sir Nigel did a first-class job, and delivered their
passengers before the advertised time, bearing in mind the imminent closure of
'Top Shed', the speed restrictions etc.
This is the final part of my series, and I've described
Sir Nigel at work on all the former BR Regions, some of the runs were
indifferent, some excellent, but they certainly outline its work before
today's regime. While my firm favourites will always be the A3s, I can
honestly say that no other loco has given me more 'entertainment' than
Sir Nigel Gresley, and long may it continue to do so. I was delighted
when The Trust decided to take it to Grosmont and the NYMR, which is my
favourite heritage railway. As I type these notes, thanks to the hard work by
the Grosmont team, it's about to emerge for another stint on the NYMR, so
if you haven't experienced it climbing their 1 in 49 either from the train,
or the lineside, then I thoroughly recommend you do so.
(Actually you can look forward to a final instalment from
John's articles in the Summer of 2008 - Ed.)
|Run Nº1 - Saturday 20th April, 1963
Run Nº2 - Saturday 27th April, 1963
60007 Sir Nigel Gresley
Run Nº1 - 11/394/410
Run Nº2 - 11/393/409
9:20am Kings Cross - Leeds and Bradford, "The White Rose"
||Welwyn Garden City
||Barkston South Jn
||Back Carr Jn
|* = Permanent speed restriction.
c = Temporary speed restriction.
br =Brakes applied.
Researched and written by John Wickham.
First published in Chime 147, Winter 2007
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