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My First Recorded Steam Runs

Discussion in 'Bullhead Memories' started by Big Al, Apr 11, 2021.

  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
    For obvious reasons the past year has given me plenty of time to bring together all my various notebooks and records of sightings of steam and journeys with steam. I'm probably not alone in using the time on something railway related.

    I've no idea what took me from watching steam trains go by to seeking them out on shed and then deciding to ride behind them. The fact that my father took me to a lineside path near to our family home almost certainly sparked an interest. But it was definitely me who took it further and wanted to ride behind steam. I guess I should consider myself lucky that even though I was not yet 15, my parents allowed me to take myself off to Surbiton one Saturday over the school Easter Holidays to wait for the 16:05 from Salisbury that made its final stop there en route to Waterloo. My pocket money just stretched to the fare.

    In rolled 30850 'Lord Nelson'. Little did I know that this would become a memorable journey more than it being my first but because the locomotive has survived long after steam ended. We left on time and I recorded passing times to the nearest quarter of a minute - such was the technology available to me. My notes tell me that we took 13 minutes in from Clapham Junction due to various signal checks. So a normal holiday Saturday then!

    It was all over almost as quickly as it started. But I had the bug. So when I got home I scanned the timetable I had bought for other short trips that I could afford. That is how I ended up the following day on the Sundays only Bournemouth to Waterloo excursion that dropped people off at Surbiton in the evening and also Wimbledon. An even cheaper ticket from Surbiton to Wimbledon with 34093 'Saunton'.

    As it was still school holiday time I decided that perhaps I should try my luck with my remaining savings and go further afield. You can see that there was already a steam 'junkie' developing.

    So a week later found me on the 10:54 to Salisbury with 73041. Fast to Woking and then all stations to Basingstoke. We touched 64 mph at West Byfleet, my notes tell me, but we dropped time and were late into Basingstoke.

    I had planned on spending a day at Basingstoke watching the non stop services speed by as well as going around the MPD that had 16 locos on shed. It was a fascinating day with the usual flurry of Pacifics and Standard 5s interspersed with the occasional Nelsons and Schools. There were also the cross country services with GW locos like the Hall on the York - Bournemouth. It was a place where you were spoilt by the variety with, of course, the benefit of the non stop services flashing by especially in the up direction where there was no speed restriction.

    With hindsight I've no idea why I chose the stopper to go down to Basingstoke but I had already decided that I would return home fast on the evening West of England service part of which originated from Padstow and was due in to London at 20:08. I also knew that it was usually a Merchant Navy and if you have been following the story to here then you will know that this would be my fourth different class of locomotive.

    So with 35015 'Rotterdam Lloyd' up front we set off for Waterloo ten late on the non stop run.

    I had no idea what to expect and I definitely didn't have the route knowledge I now have. Speed in the dark was taken off rail joints. Count the beats in 41 seconds and that's the speed or double what you get in 20.5 seconds. We passed Woking in 24 minutes that was hardly all that speedy and ran unchecked to Waterloo in 53 minutes dropping a minute on schedule.

    Those four journeys set the seal for what happened thereafter. At the time it was all exciting. Viewed now it seems all pretty ordinary. Little did I know that increasingly as Southern steam in particular neared the end of its life, some loco crews would take the performance of the pacifics in particular to new heights.

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