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A day at the Office - 50 Years ago

Discussion in 'Bullhead Memories' started by Big Al, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

    May 30, 2009
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    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Well, that's how I viewed it as the 'office' for me at the time was the SWML and whatever I could do with the little money and time I had to capture loco performance on a typical day on the Southern. And it was special because I had also decided to pay the extra for pullman luxury and include the Bournemouth Belle in my itinerary. So on June 21st 1966, as the suburban electric rolled into Waterloo, my head was out of the window for an early sighting of the Merchant Navy that Nine Elms had turned out for this prestige train.

    I saw the badge before I could read the number and I then knew that it was not a MN. 34071 '601 Squadron' was simmering away gently, looking the part but not what I had hoped for. Nevertheless, this was a good 'un and the depot always tried to turn out the best they had for this turn. But we were talking about a Class 7 with 10 pullmans plus a bogie van, so the order of 430 tons to handle would be no easy task.

    We were underway on time and with a straight exit out of platform 10 onto the main line the BB was soon into its stride. Hampton Court Junction was passed in regulation 17 min in the low seventies and as we hit the rising grades through Woking and up to Milepost 31, I could see that the crew was not going to push things. The extended schedule allowed us a little over 90 minutes to Southampton and with only two tsrs en route, there was no need to throw all the fire out of the chimney and we drifted over the top at 46. However the pace picked up again after the tsr at Winchfield and we pushed on through Basingstoke in the low sixties with this speed maintained on the gentle rise to Roundwood. Another tsr in the middle of the downhill racing stretch at Winchester Junction curtailed our descent but we were (unusually) given a clear road through Eastleigh in the mid seventies and into Southampton, arriving a few minutes early so a leisurely water stop could be taken. A well timed run, competently handled by loco and crew.

    I had decided to fill in time before my return on the 2051 arrival with a few local services down to Brockenhurst but also a visit to Southampton Terminus before it closed a couple of months later. You could pick up quite a mix of motive power. I had the full range of classes available that day - 73169, 75078, 76009 and 80065. And if you were in the Southampton area around tea time, a must was to synchronise with the 0830 Newcastle- Poole just in case something interesting turned up. This was the season of the Stanier 5s and 44780 gave me a lively run to Brockenhurst. Don't ask me what it was doing so far south from its base. Even in 1966 they were already the 'go anywhere' loco of the network, much as they are now in preservation.

    The day ended with what turned out to be my last run with 35029 before her early departure from the main line that September. An 11 coach load, away from Southampton five minutes late but still with a little over ninety minutes to get to Waterloo. Having managed it coming down, I was hopeful that we would be ok going back subject to other services, of course.

    It was one of those rare trips when we were not checked approaching Eastleigh and so speed built up progressively towards Roundwood. Micheldever was passed at 67, we eased over the top at 61 and then sped down to the severe tsr before Worting. We accelerated rapidly through Basingstoke and were bowling along happily at 75 before we were brought to a dead stand at Farnborough for signals. One of those unexplained stops of which there were plenty in the last year of steam. The crew had clearly been timing the run and this threw all their planning out of the window. So, after a spirited restart and blast over Milepost 31, Ellerman Lines was given its head. We stormed through Woking at 80 and hit 87 just before the rise up to Oatlands Box beyond Weybridge. The tsr at Hersham checked our progress but No. 29 was wound up again. We maintained the mid sixties through the suburbs and despite a slowish entry from Vauxhall we drew up at platform 14 two minutes early in 92 minutes or 81 net.

    Two Southampton runs that both crews probably saw as just another 'day at the office' but in different ways they were also good examples of the professionals at work in the unpredictable climate of electrification.

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