You couldn’t make it up!

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Yesterday, the DfT issued a press notice asking for suggestions/volunteers to make use of redundant, soon to be removed Pacers from rail services in the north. According to the DfT’s proposals, they are launching a competition for community groups to provide ideas and plans to take one of these vehicles – no they don’t actually say if they mean a single vehicle or a 2-car set – into a new “public space”.

In their lives to date, those Pacers have indeed created public spaces, but I wonder how this “initiative” will pan out.

Any takers out there for a garden shed?

The Rail Minister (Andrew Jones) actually said this:

“The Pacers have been the workhorses of the north’s rail network, connecting communities for more than 30 years, but it is clear that they have outstayed their welcome.”

Really?!  He might have added that they have been a source of misery, complaints, discontent and overcrowding for about the same length of time.  An opinion piece in the Guardian put it rather more interestingly:

Turning Pacer trains into village halls?

The Managing Director (David Brown) of Arriva Rail North made this interesting comment too:

“Northern is introducing 101 new trains worth £500 million, the first of these new trains will be carrying customers this summer, and at the same time we will start to retire the Pacer trains. Using a Pacer as a valued community space is a very fitting way to commemorate the service they have provided since they entered service a generation ago.”

Ironically, just a short while before the Metro Mayors of Greater Manchester and Merseyside both called for Northern to have its franchise terminated immediately.  According to a report in the Guardian today (29th May), both Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham believe:

” ….has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements …”” ….has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements …”

It is perhaps ironic too, that the first of the “Pacers” were out to work 34 years ago in May 1985, in the Greater Manchester area, although as is common knowledge, a number of prototypes were built before a major order was placed. Officially, they were described as lightweight diesel multiple units, developed for use on lightly loaded and suburban services.

The first days went reasonably well – apart from the ‘blacking’ by the rail unions of a later design – but quite soon after their introduction they ran into some operational challenges.  They were also used after privatisation on longer distance workings, including one between Middlesborough and Carlisle – a distance of over 100 miles, and well out of their intended working.  When these twin-units were sent to the south west, they were nicknamed “Skippers”, and reportedly ran into difficulties keeping to time on the South Devon banks.

RPBRLY-12 copyWhilst the entire fleet had their Leyland engines replaced by a Cummins design in the 1990s, some ‘refurbishment’ was carried out on each of the classes, from Class 142 to Class 144.  The original prototype was initially preserved, and BREL did try to sell this idea to various countries around the world, from the USA to Malaysia – but there were no takers.

Perhas fitting that some should be turned into garden sheds or community facilities, where people can reminisce about the good old days of travelling by “Pacer”.

Here’s a link to a piece I wrote earlier:

Pacers Cover

Lee Worthington Facebook - off to Lime Street

Class 142 at Manchester Oxford Road in Northern Rail livery, en route to Liverpool Lime Street. (Photo © Lee Worthington)

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Paxman – Probably the Finest Diesel Engines on Rails

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The firm of Davey Paxman, then Ruston Paxman, and in its final guise of GEC Diesels Ltd was established in 1865, in Colchester, Essex.  Their original product line included agricultural machinery, steam boilers, portable steam engines, and stationary engines, with a wide range of applications in mind.

It was not until just before the First World War that they took an interest in the possibility of ‘oil engines’, with some of the early designs arranged horizontally, just like the company’s steam designs.  From around 1925 they began designing and building engines in the more conventional, vertical layout.

Paxman engined LMS No.1831 copy

What was to prove revolutionary in diesel traction’s use of quick-running engines, allied to innovative mechanical and ovcerall design. This view shows the very first diesel locomotive on British railways, built by the LMS, with its Paxman engine, on what was essentially a steam engine chassis.      Photo; Lens of Sutton

Only 5 years later, in 1930, as the LMS railway began its experiments with diesel rail traction, and the first diesel engine was installed in LMS prototype shunter No. 1831.  The engine was a 6-cylinder machine, developing 412hp at 750rpm, and designated type 6XVS.   The railway company constructed the mechanical portion of the locomotive, based around the frames of a steam engine, and other details, whilst the Paxman engine was the first rail traction diesel engine, installed in the first diesel locomotive on the standard gauge, for a major British railway company.

However, Paxman’s global reputation was based around quick-running ‘vee’ form diesel engines, and it began to make inroads in this area from around 1932, and with that step they were wholly successful, be it marine, stationary or rail traction.  Davey Paxman’s fortunes were assured.

The Second World War provided a pivotal platform for the technology,  and the Paxman 12TP engine – originally designed for a special assignment – was used in the British Landing Craft, and of course played a key part in the D-Day landings.  From that event 75 years ago, more than 4,000 Paxman 12TP engines were used in every assault operation carried out by Allied Forces in Europe.  This same engine design was refined for wider commercial use in the 1950s, including rail traction, and re-designated type RPH.

12RPH

The early 1950s saw the introduction of the YH range, direct fuel injection, and 4-valve cylinder heads.  The refinements of these designs, with ease of maintenance, provided an ideal platform for railway locomotives, with many examples used in branch line, shuntin, and in later develoipments for main line operations.  The quick-running 4-stroke diesel had certainly come of age.  By the end of the decade, a further development of these engines appeared in the shape of the “Ventura” range.

Paxman images 8 copyThe latest design was developed to meet the requirements set by British Railways, building on the design and construction of the RPL and YH engines, incorporating advanced engineering features, and competing with the best European builders were offering.  In fact, these engines were built under licence by Breda for Italian State Railways’ Class 343 locomotives, whilst further east in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), “Ventura” engines were fitted to a fleet of diesel hydraulic locomotives for shunter/trip and main line duties.

Paxman images 3 copyOn British Railways, the first of these new engines were fitted and trialled in one of the Western Region’s Swindon built “Warship” Class diesel-hydraulic locos – No. D830 ‘Majestic.  The “Ventura” engines were also retro-fitted to 20 of the North British Bo-Bo diesel-electrics, developing 1,350-hp at 1,500 rev/min engines, following the disappointing service experience with the locomotives’ original power units.  

D6123 from Paxman booklet

One of the NBL built Type 2 engines after refitting with Paxman engines proved much more successful.

Another order from British Railways, was for power unist for the last diesel-hydraulic type used on the Western Region – the Class 14 0-6-0 – together with 6-cylinder versions for the Southern Region’s “Electro-Diesels”.

Class 14 – The last Main Line Diesel Hydraulics

The experience with the “Ventura” design also provided background for the next step in the development of the Paxman range.  Paxmans’ working with British Railways and the MOD (Royal Navy), a new range of high-speed diesels, in the shape of the “Valenta” series were created.  These new engines were the same size and shape as the “Ventura”, but although of the same bore and stroke, gave 40% – 50% more horsepower.  

Paxman Valenta cutaway for HST

The heart of high-speed, the Paxman Valenta engine. Powerful and efficient too – a good combination for rail traction use.

It was these engines that were fitted to the HST, IC125, high speed trains that provided the mainstay for British Rail’s express passenger services for more than 45 years.  Some are of course still in service today.

HST in Sonning Cutting

On the Western Region, the HST sets – or IC125s were the mainstay of high-speed services. This is a typical view of 253003 running through Sonning Cutting between Reading and London Paddington. Photo; British Rail

The prototype HST was fitted with a 12 -cyl. Valenta 12 RP200L, charge-air cooled engine developing 2,250 bhp (UIC) at 1,500 rev/min.  Announced in 1970, the production sets would consist of a pair of power cars equipped with these powerful diesels at eaither end of a 7-car formation of Mark III coaches, which included two catering vehicles.  British Rail’s plan was to order 150 of these trains over a 5-year period, which it was suggested could be extended to 10 years up to 1985, starting in 1975.  They were set to work on both the London to Cardiff and London to Newcastle routes.

Paxman Prototype HST

This diagram shows the compact layout of the prototype HST power car. The buffers were of course not used on the production series.

In their HST guise, Paxman’s “Valenta” engines were definitely at the top of the tree.  They achieved no less than three world speed records.  The first was on 12th June 1973, when the prototype reached a speed of 143.2 mph between Northallerton and Thirsk on the East Coast main line.  The second, 22 years later, when on 27th September 1985 the Tyne-Tees Pullman, with Paxman power ran from Newcastle to London King’s Cross (268 miles) in under 2 hours 20 minutes, achieving a start to stop average speed of 115.4 mph.  Finally, just two years later in 1987, with power cars 43102 and 43104, the world speed record for diesel traction was broken again.  Over a measured mile between York and Northallerton, a speed of 148 mph was recorded, with peaks at just under 150 mph.

HST set leaving Edinburgh - January 1994 - RPB

Still on active service in the 1990s, 43113 is seen here running through the approaches to Edinburgh Waverley, but westbound through Prines Street Gardens.   (c) RPBradley

The longevity of their success suggests that Paxman high-speed diesels were probably the finest diesel power plant designed and operated on rail.

Further reading:

 

http://www.paxmanhistory.org.uk/paxeng34.htm

 

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Ocean Mails at 100 mph

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The magic three figures of 100 mph have held, and in some cases still do hold respect in so far as speed is concerned. Around the turn of the century, perhaps this was nowhere more apparent than on the railways. Competition for traffic between the railways had always been keen, none more so perhaps than
the intense rivalry initiated between the East. and West Coast routes to Scotland. In this, the principal combatants, the London & North Western and Great Northern Railways vied with each other to claim the honours in the days of the railways’ “Race To The North” in the l890’s. Yet despite some formidable feats of haulage and speed; none more so than that of the diminutive Locomotive, “Hardwicke”, not once was the three-figure barrier broken.

The LNWR had already had the experience of its rivalry with the East Coast companies under its belt, when later, a similar “event” took place in the South of England between the London & South Western and Great Western railway
 companies. This time, the competition was for the much-coveted carriage of the West of England traffic, and the Transatlantic Mails.The Great Western was in this case the underdog, having much leeway to make up on other railway companies following its enforced abandonment of the broad gauge in 1892, it being a relative newcomer to the design and operation of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock at speed.

At the turn of the century, competition between the LSWR and the GWR was rapidly growing in intensity and although the GWR had the longer of the two routes between Paddington and Exeter (The LSWR route between Waterloo and Exeter was some 23miles shorter), the LSWR competition was hampered between that city and Plymouth, by having to use through running powers over the GWR branch line to that place.

The competition for this traffic had its effect on the locomotive department and brought about the development of new designs for express passenger engines. On the LSWR, William Bridges Adams passenger Loco, designs must rank amongst the most graceful of all typical British 4-4-0 types. William Dean at Swindon would not see the GWRleft with second best however, despite his advancing years and the doubts being cast on his abilities and the rising stature of Churchward. Dean’s latest passenger designs were excellent machines themselves, a very attractive 7ft Sins single driver type.  
In the late 1890’s however, Dugald Drummond as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LSWR, in succession to Adams, introduced the T9 class 4-4-0, and by 1900 had assisted that company in gaining the upper hand in the competition for the West of England traffic; the improved timings of the LSWR services obviously
 increased their patronage. The GWR however were not to be outdone, and the reduction in mileage of the Western’s route to Exeter by construction of the cut-off lines, improved the balance in that company’s favour. Following which, with the introduction of 4-4-0 designs of the “Atbara” and ever famous ”City’ class, the seal was about to be set on the GWR’s prestigious West of England services.


3293 was the 2nd of the class and named after the GWR’s Chairman at the time.  Built in 1897, and used in common with Atbara and Duke class locos on the Ocean Mails runs.   (c) Historical MRS

The greatest degree of competition occurred on the working of the Ocean Liner Specials between Plymouth and London, and despite its initial handicap of 23 extra miles on the Paddington route, the GWR was not prepared to concede to the position of runner up. The competition between the two companies actually arose from the extremely fast Atlantic crossings made by the German owned Holland-Amerika line vessels. Crossing between New York and Plymouth, the Holland-Amerika line ships took away the Blue Riband from the British Cunard White Star line, whose crossings were made from and to Liverpool, whence the Transatlantic traffic was traditionally carried via the London & North Western Railway to London. Not unnaturally the potential traffic of the Holland-Amerika Line was attractive to both the GWR and LSWR, consequently both companies were anxious to improve their facilities at the Plymouth terminus in order to 
obtain this highly prized Transatlantic traffic. The GWR gave its Millbay Station a ‘facelift’, whilst the South Western built a special station for the ocean traffic at Stonehouse Pool. That the competition between the two companies was fierce, would possibly be something of an understatement, and in 1900 began to reach its climax. In that year, two rival Holland-Amerika ships raced each other across the Atlantic, the passengers and mails from the winner, the SS “Deutschland”, were conveyed from Plymouth to Paddington, a distance of 246.7 miles, in 4hrs 40mins, with two intermediate stops. An average speed of just over 52mph start to stop, may not seem particularly fast today, but over that distance at that time the fastest journey time was booked as 5hrs 5mins, an average speed of 48 mph, hence that particular run was a noteworthy 
achievement.

A dispute between the two companies over this traffic resulted
 ultimately in an agreement that from each transatlantic crossing, the LSWR would carry the passengers and the GWR the mails. In so far as the GWR was concerned, it had little, if any, of non-stop running and on the Plymouth route, rather surprisingly; its first attempt was made whilst conveying H.M. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra! The ‘Atbara’ class engine used on the train put up an average speed of over 55mph between Paddington and Exeter, and without the usual requirement of a pilot engine running 15mins in advance of the Royal Train! The GWR’s experiment with non-stop running at ‘high speed’ was
 consolidated in 1903, with a second and even more spectacular performance, once again with the Royal Train!

Though not precisely the Royal Train, it was the advance portion of the up “Cornishman”, carrying the Prince and Princess of Wales (Later, H.M. King George V and Queen Mary). The engine was one of the new taper boiler ”City’ class 4-4-0’s; No.3433, “City of Bath”.  The train was booked non-stop from Paddington to Plymouth and covered the distance of 246 miles in 3hrs 53 ½ mins, giving the very high average start to stop speed of 63 ½ mph.

During the course of the journey, some remarkably high intermediate average speeds were recorded, such as the 73.4mph between Nailsea and Taunton on 
slightly unfavourable gradients. Actually, the average speed from Paddington to passing Exeter was just under 70mph (67.3,to be precise). The sustained high speed running to pass Exeter in 2hrs 52imins necessary with a 4-4-0 type, was indeed remarkable, and indicated the potential for free running and high speeds developed by the “City” class 4-4-0’s.

The final development of William Dean’s 4-4-0s for the high-speed West of England service was the “City” class, and this engine “City of Truro” was (depending on your railway loyalty perhaps) the first steam type to exceed 100mph.
 
By Hugh Llewelyn – 3717Uploaded by Oxyman, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24390196

This level of high speed running by the GWR evidenced by these two runs, obviously led to even more intense competition with the South Western company. Some extremely fast runs were made with increasing regularity on both routes, and culminated in the first authenticated run made at 100mph. It should however be pointed out that despite the more or less general acceptance of that achievement, doubts as to both the reliability of the witnesses and feasibility of the locomotives of the day to achieve such a maximum have continued to be expressed, almost since the details were first published. Some of this doubt possibly resulted from the almost daily reports of incredible speeds achieved in the USA with 4-4-0 types, many of which claimed speeds of 120 and 130mph and more! Of course such speeds were impossible with the machinery of that time, but the unreliability of such reports probably influenced the partisan feelings of those who doubted the achievement of the GWR on May 9th 1904.

The record run of this particular Ocean Mails special from Plymouth to Paddington was carried out with two engines, that section from Plymouth, Millbay Crossing to Pylle Hill Junction, Bristol by the ”City” class 4-4-0 No. 3440,”City of Truro”, and from there a “Dean”, 7ft 8ins ‘Single’, No.3065,
 “Duke of Connaught”, hauled the train the remaining 118.7 miles to Paddington
in 1hr 39 3/4 mins. Though it was the performance of “City of Truro” over the adverse section to Bristol which received the honours, the performance of the Dean ‘Single’ was unquestionably spectacular. Perhaps even more so in view of Chunchward’s far sighted locomotive design policy was bearing fruit in the shape of some extremely powerful 4-cylinder 4-6-0 types, not to mention the solitary pacific, “The Great Bear”.  “City of Truro” took the special from Millbay
 Crossing to Exeter, almost all of this route against the grade, a distance of
 52.9 miles in 58mins, a very creditable performance.

There then followed the
 most remarkable section of the run, from Exeter to Pylle Hill Junction, where the 74.9 miles were covered in a time of 64 ¼ mins. On this section of the run a claim was made by a well-known train performance recorder of the day, C. J. Rous-Marten, for a maximum speed of 102.3mph, reached on the descent of the Wellington Bank.  Rous-Marten, who took details of the run, it has always been insisted, was required by the authoriti.es not to disclose details for fear of alarming the public. His records were however subsequently made public, but it appears that full details had already been disclosed of the run, the day following, in the Western Daily Mercury, and replete with a further claim for a speed of 100mph achieved between Whiteball Summit and Taunton.

Whatever the reasons for publishing or not publishing such details, it is now generally accepted that the three figure barrier was broken with this train, on the run referred to.
  The mails special was also followed on that occasion by a passenger special, in competition with a South Western special from Plymouth, Stonehouse Pool to Waterloo.  The GWR train made the run from Plymouth to Paddington in 264 mins, just 32mins slower than its record-breaking predecessor, and with a decidedly heavier train.


Not carrying the “Ocean Mails” anymore, but the legacy of the competition between the GWR and LSWR for this prestigious traffic lasted into British Railways days in the 1950s and 60s.  Here, the down ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ is entering Exeter St David’s behind typical motive power – a “King” class 4-6-0.
 
By Ben Brooksbank, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15556548

As a result of these spectacular high-speed runs, emanating from the competition for traffic with the LSWR, the Great Western instituted regular non- stop services between Paddington and Plymouth on July 1st 1904.  This entirely new express service was booked to cover the distance, via the Bristol avoiding lines, in 4hrs 25mins; ultimately it became known as the “Cornish Riviera Express” – Which of course it has been known as ever since.

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Timetables are Hard to Find

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Just today I vcame across an old story from the Department for Transport from 2014, when the Government announced – Plans for £38 billion investment in railways unveiled. This was 5 years ago, and clearly much has changed since, but just picking up on the heavy investment in rail infrastructure in, around, through and under London, I wondered how much of what was planned has been achieved.

These are just a few of the points made in that announcement:

  • the Northern Hub: transforming rail across the north of England with capacity for hundreds more trains and 44 million more passengers, with the potential to boosting the regional economy with thousands more jobs
  • the Thameslink programme: increasing to 24 trains per hour at peak times each way through the centre of London, freeing up capacity on the capital’s transport network
  • Over 850 miles of railway electrification: including the Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line and across the north and north west of England, bringing greener, more frequent and more reliable journeys for millions of passengers
  • A new, electrified railway linking the Great Western, West Coast and Midland main lines, connecting Oxford with Bedford and Milton Keynes as part of the East-West Rail project
  • Transformed stations at Birmingham New Street, Manchester Victoria, Bristol Temple Meads and London Bridge

The second point seemed to be the easiest to prove had taken place – so off I went, looking for the Thameslink timetables for 2018 (not even this year’s), to see if progress had been made. It is suprisingly difficult to finmd details of the times of day that are a) defined as ‘peak’, and b) whether a journey from say Bedfor to St Pancras counts as one of those 24 per hour. That statement would suggest that there would be 24 trains arriving at St Pancras betwween 09:00 and 10:00, and another 24 leaving to head for Bedford.

To me, that sounds odd. However …

Looking at a PDF copy of the GTR timetable 9 December 2018 to 18 May 2019, here’s what I found: just 11 trains arrived at London St Pancras International – and that seems to be 13 short of what was planned. In the opposite direction, between 09:00 and 10:00 only 10 departed from St Pancras heading for Luton and Bedford.

Now, I appreciate that this is only one route – so I assume that the missing 13 or 14 services per hour will be found on other Thameslink routes. From the Thameslink Programme site, they provide some interesting information about what is going to happen, and how progress is being made. The same is true of Network Rail and their Thameslink Programme web page – although it does state that this is a 10-year programme, and will cost £7 billion. Clearly some costs from the £38 billion mentioned by the Government in 2014 will come from Network Rail in CP5, and other costs from CP6 allocations. The National Audit Office (NAO) have been keeping us all updated on this programme, from a review (Progress in delivering the Thameslink programme) before the £38 billion announcement to an update (Update on the Thameslink Programme) back at the end of 2017.

So maybe if we look at the route from Bedford through London to Brighton we would find additional trains? Well, yes, we now have 14 services going through St Pancras – the extra 3 coming from where – well it appears they originate at St Albans.

Still a few short of the Department’s statement of 24 trains in each direction.

Well, that went well.

Before anyone comments – yes I am being selective in my choice of data, but if someone tells me there will be 24 trains per hour in each direction at peak times, then I will look at the timetable peak times, and count trains. I did pick a major London station, at the heart of the Thameslink Programme too.

Thameslink can be considered a success, but the descriptions used by its proponents ought perhaps to be reconsidered. One classic statement made by Danny Alexander, at te time Chief Secretary to the Treasury is fascinating:

“This £38 billion programme starting this week will involve the largest modernisation of the railways since Victorian times, funding projects across the whole of the UK and building on the work that is already underway to give us the modern efficient transport infrastructure that we need to compete.”

Yet another one of those “largest investments since Victorian times” – which patently is absurd.

However, unless you choose to use one of those online ticketing apps/services, or the “National Rail Enquiries” website, and do a lot of digging, finding a timetable can be difficult. On top of which GTR/Thameslink has produced timetables in a route by route format, so you will need to download, or move to a cloud platform that PDF copy for reference. I don’t advocate printing a copy off, but maybe the train operating companies could come up with a version of their timetables for all of the routes they operate in one document.

Next stop – trying to find out where the £38 billion has been spent over the past 5 years – Network Rail’s elements seem fairly easy to uncover, but how do we apportion the TOC’s and ROSCO’s spends.

PS: I’ve not added up the mileage of electrification yet – 850 seems a lot – I’m speculating that that was track miles and not route miles!

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From Preston to Montreal

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The first efforts to electrify the railway in and around the harbour at Montreal in Canada came after 1915, and in part were driven by the British Government’s desire to increase its trade within the empire, and expand and develop resources.  They even set up a Royal Commission to look into how that could be achieved just before the start of the First World War.  One of the commissioners appointed was Sir William Lorimer, Chairman of the North British Locomotive Co., and yet it would be one of his company’s newer competitors who won an order for locomotive power for the Montreal Harbour Commissioners’ impressive project.

In 1915, the Harbour Commissioners had had a report prepared on the benefits of electrifying the railways around Montreal Harbour.  The following year, 1916, in the company’s annual report, they made this statement:

“It was ascertained that, in addition to the primary object of overcoming the smoke nuisance, the application of electricity would prove to be economical and flexible and especially advantageous for the elimination of the corrosion of steel and galvanized iron by acid gases.   Although preparations were made to urge forward the completion of this important work, the Commissioners decided that under existing conditions it would be advisable to postpone the expenditure for this undertaking until after the War.”

The “corrosion of steel and galvanised iron by gases” might well have been an early reference to acid rain.

Prior to the electrification of Montreal Harbour’s lines, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) had constructed a new line from the town of Mount Royal, to downtown Montreal, and had also introduced the first main line electrification to Canada.  Mount Royal is a town to the North West of central Montreal, and lies on the north west of the mountain from which it takes its name. In 1910 the CNR first proposed constructing a 5-km-long tunnel under Mount Royal, and developed the town as a “Model City”, originally laid out after the style of Washington, DC.  The line then made a connection with Montreal’s harbour lines, and a new central station was built, with a freight station located near the Lachine Canal and what is now described as Montreal’s old Harbour.  The newly electrified track to downtown Montreal used Bo-Bo electric locos built by General Electric at Schenectady, New York, whilst the Canadian GEC supplied the overhead equipment and power systems.    The point of this first scheme was to handle both suburban and main line trains from the new passenger station in Montreal to the suburban territory beyond Mount Royal, wherethe mainline traffic wastransferred to steam haulage.  

The electrification of the Mount Royal Tunnel section was electrified at 2,400V d.c., completed in September 1918, with the first train running through on 21stOctober that same year.

This period – marked both by enormous growth in freight traffic, and by the collapse of the Canadian Northern Railway (amongst others) – was a very difficult time.  The Federal Government nationalized the railway, and later took on board the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), alongside others, and by 1923, Canadian National Railways became the major Railway in Canada. 

This photograph originally appeared on the cover of English Electric booklet No. 55 of its ‘Railway Electrification’ series, and published in 1931, shows some indication of the harsh conditions faced by electric traction in Canada.

It is speculation to suggest that this work and the GE built locomotives – which were completed between 1914 and 1918 – encouraged the Montreal Harbour Commissioners to press ahead with their plans to electrify the harbour lines.  It was 7 years later that the Harbour Commissioners were able to complete the electrification of the harbour lines, in 1925, and in order to conform to the standards adopted by CNR for the Mount Royal Tunnel, again, 2400V d.c. was adopted throughout.

However, and perhaps due to British Government influence, the Harbour Commissioners looked to the UK and English Electric for their project.  The Preston based company not only provided the nine, 100 ton locomotives, but also the motor generator sets for the substations that provided the traction power supply.   For the infrastructure work, three 1000kW motor generator sets were supplied to the initial installation, with the last two being manufactured at English Electric’s Stafford Works.  Subsequently, the Harbour Commissioners ordered two more machines from English Electric, each of which consisted of a 2,300kW, 63 cycles, synchronous motor, coupled to a pair of 1200V d.c. generators, connected in series.

The locomotives

No. 103 in original condition, and newly arrived from Preston, prior to embarking on its 70+ years of work in and around Montreal Harbour, and the Mount Royal line.

The new locomotives were a Bo-Bo design of 1720hp, and were supplied against two orders, and at the time, considered to be the most powerful units of their type, anywhere in the world.  The orders were placed in 1923, with the first four locomotives entering service in February 1925, and the second batch of five in operation from August the following year.  The locomotives were built at the Preston Works, and shipped across the Atlantic to Montreal.  In design, the units were a simple box cab layout, with a driving cab at each end, although one of these was provided with projecting lookouts so that the driver could have unobstructed vision during some shunting operations.  The cab with the projecting lookouts had duplicate controls, a further advantage for shunting service, whilst the cab at the opposite end, with only a single set of controls, and no lookouts, would be used predominantly for long haul operations.

Up until the completion of electrification works around the harbour, and arrival of these new locomotives, the Harbour Commissioners had been renting two electric units Canadian National Railways. It was a temporary measure, and to some degree an experiment in the use of electric traction, and the rented locos were from the six boxcab units built at GE’s Schenectady Works.

CNR blueprint diagram of the EE locos for Montreal Harbour. This diagram – also showing the position of the illuminated number board fitted in later years, was originally published in the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Society in January 1962.

Power equipment layout consisted of four; 430hp force ventilated traction motors, each being axle hung, and driving the wheels through single reduction spur gearing.   Given the harsh winter conditions in Canada, the traction motors received some interesting design attention.  To avoid condensation in the traction motors in cold weather, after the locomotive had completed its roster, all the field coils were connected in series, and heated through a connection to an external 220V power source.  Not without some irony perhaps, but the UK’s own problems with electric traction some 60 years later surfaced with a newspaper headline about service failures due to the ‘wrong kind of snow’ falling in Britain!  Most European rail networks – especially in Scandinavia – paid far more attention, like Canada, to the effects of freezing weather on traction systems than British Rail.

The locomotives were capable of exerting a tractive effort of 70,000 lbs at the wheel treads, and soon after their introduction, one of their number demonstrated these abilities, by hauling a train of some 5,240 tons, the heaviest then recorded.  Within the body of the locomotive, the remaining equipment was installed in cubicles along either side of a central gangway. This hardware consisted of a motor generator set, air compressors and banks of resistances, with standard English Electric camshaft control.  

With the English Electric version of this form of control, the operating current was not switched at the camshaft itself, but on line breakers, connected in series with the camshaft controller.  Special provision was made for the high-tension equipment, which was housed in a separate compartment, included access through substantial, interlocked, sliding doors, and which could not be opened unless the main switch was closed, isolating the equipment.

In view of the harshness of the Montreal climate in winter, important amongst the numerous design considerations, was the provision of adequate ventilation and heating. Provisions were made to guard against condensation in the traction motor field windings, which could be connected in series to a 220V shore supply, and the driving cabs were double glazed, and heavily insulated against the cold.

Leading Dimensions, Numbering & Withdrawal

For their time and size these were very powerful machines, and the maximum tractive effort they were able to exert was actually a little more than one of English Electric’s most famous diesel locomotive from the 1950s – the 3,300hp “Deltic” prototype.

CN No. 186 with commuter train in Montreal with the running number applied in 1949, and renumbered 6722 after 1969.
Photo © A.J.Schill/Joseph Testagrose Collection

The locomotives were numbered 9180 to 9188 when they were taken into CN service, as Class Z-4-a and renumbered as 180 to 188 in 1949, before a final renumbering in 1969, with numbers 6716 to 6724.  They were finally withdrawn from service in 1995, when carrying this number series.

In the same year, 1923, English Electric also received an order for a pair of 760hp Bo-Bo electric locomotives, for operation on the Niagra-St Catherines-Toronto route, which was electrified at 600V d.c., and used a ‘trolley pole’ form of overhead contact.  The 1920s were perhaps the last decade when electric tramway, inter-urban or other light rail networks used this form of electrification.

The petrol-electric crane/servicing locomotive built and delivered by English Electric in 1929.  Seen here in Preston shortly after completion, and before shipping to Montreal.

The Petrol-Electric Locomotive

Even these were not the only motive power designed and supplied by English Electric for Canada’s early electrification projects. In 1929 the Montreal Harbour Commissioners ordered what was described as a general service locomotive for repair and construction work – this was a 54ton petrol-electric locomotive, fitted with a 100hp 6-cylinder engine.  Attached to this petrol engine was a 52kW, 500 volt main generator and a 120 volt auxiliary generator, powering the traction motors through a 12-notch controller that provided fine control over the loco’s speed, up to a maximum of 12 mph.   Its unique feature – clearly because of its intended use – included a roof mounted jib crane, and a swinging/collapsible gantry, for maintenance and service personnel to reach whatever equipment was in need of attention on the overhead system.

 English Electric received yet another order from Canada – the company’s last, in 1952 – but this time for the Toronto Transit Commission, and perhaps sadly from Preston’s view, the order was only for motorcoach control equipment. That said, the 1952 order consisted of no less than 140 sets of that control equipment, with the mechanical parts and assembly from Canadian Car and Foundry (CC&F), from its factory in Montreal.  Today, CC&F is part of the Bombardier Transportation business, as its railcar facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The original nine locos for Montreal Harbour had a very long service life, and were only withdrawn fully in 1995 – more than 70 years after their delivery and initial operation.  In later years the class ceased working around Montreal Harbour after 1940/41.This extract from a discussion on these locomotives appeared in the January 1962 edition of the newsletter of the Canadian Railroad Historical Society:

“The Montreal Harbour electrification, however, did not prove to be too successful. Technically it was fine but the financial burden was too great and at the close of the 1940 navigation season, electric operations were brought to a halt. During the following months, the National Harbours Board wire crews took down the expensive overhead and dismantled the electrification works. The electric locomotives, however, fitted admirably with the CNR’s need for additional motive power for the National System’s expanding Montreal Terminals electrification. The locomotives, therefore, were transferred to the Canadian National Railways in 1942 in exchange for nine steam-powered 0-6-0 switchers numbered 7512 to 7518 inclusive.”

In its final guise for CN, No. 6716 and a sister locomotive head a commuter service near Mount Royal in July 1983.  Although the headlight is still in the original position, the loco now has an illuminated number board just above the central cab window.
Photo © Clayton Langstaff

The electrification work, and the provision of these new boxcab locomotives was an important milestone for English Electric, and whilst the mechanical parts were sub-contracted to Beyer-Peacock in Manchester, this marked a major success for the company. These first orders for substation power equipment and locomotives were received only 4 years after the company came into existence, brining together the years of experience, and expertise already shown by the Dick, Kerr Co., pushing forward with electric traction. 2019 marks the centenary of what was for half a century perhaps the most famous electrical engineering company in the UK, and it was only just over a year ago that the doors on the factory in Preston, Lancashire were closed for the final time.

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Useful Links:

Pandora and Her Sisters – EM2 Class Co-Co

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If there was ever a reason to refer to diesel and electric locos. as tin boxes on wheels, then surely this class was the ideal example. Mind you, the EM2s were only a development of’ their smaller, EM1 (Bo-Bo) brethren of 1950, which in turn were designed by the LNER even before nationalisation. This company had plans to electrify the former Great Central Railway route over the Pennines from Manchester to Sheffield, through the Woodhead Tunnel. But, delayed by WWII, amongst other things, the project was not completed untilthe1950s, under British Railways guidance.

Leading Dimensions

EM2 dimensions

EM1 No. 26054

The Bo-Bo predecessors of Pandora were based on a design from the LNER, before nationalisation. Here, 26054 “Pluto” is seen in BR days at Sheffield – complete with the early yellow warning panel. The original loco 26000, was built in 1941, and the remainder – 57 more – were intended for freight service over the electrified Wood Head route through the Pennines.      Photo” RPBradley Collection

The EM2’s were all built at Gorton in 1954, and were then the most powerful locomotives in operation anywhere on B.R. – I am ignoring the two gas turbine prototypes of course, since these were only experimental. The Class’ predecessors, the EM1s were 1868hp, and intended for mixed traffic duties, and although the Co-Co development could be seen on such workings, these seven locos. were primarily passenger types. Their ‘substantial’ construction was undoubtedly responsible for the low power/weight ratio, and this general heaviness in appearance is noticeable in any photograph.

RPB COLLECTION-181

Construction of the mechanical parts was carried out at Gorton, with Metropolitan-Vickers supplying the electrical equipment. The first locomotive, No. 27000, entered service in February 1954, working instructional and test trips between Wath and Wombwell Exchange, and Trafford Park to Wath. The catenary was finally energized over the Woodhead route from Manchester to Sheffield, including the opening of the new Woodhead Tunnel, by mid 1954.

Construction, basically, with these early electric locos., involved a superstructure divided into three compartments, with driving cabs at either end, separated by a control compartment containing resistances and other H.T. equipment, such as motor generators, traction motor blowers etc. A pantograph was mounted in the roof well at each end of the locomotive. Since, of course, only steam heating was provided on the available rolling stock an oil-fired boiler was fitted. The corridor running along one side of the locomotive, not only gave access between the driving cabs but, also to the separate high tension, and resistance compartments, through an interlocking door. The body was not designed as a load bearing structure, and consequently, a hefty underframe was provided, built up with rolled steel sections, and extensively cross braced to support the body and equipment. Buffing and drawgear was mounted on the underframe – not following the trend set by the S.R. diesels, in having these items attached to the bogie.

EM2 BR Weight Diagram_2

BR Weight Diagram of Class EM2

The bogies themselves were also quite heavily built structures, fabricated from steel sections, with a double bolster carried on two cast steel cross stays. The weight of the body was carried through spherical bearers and leaf springs supported by swing links from the bogie cross stays. The equalising beams were fitted inside the bogie frames, on top of the axle boxes, and in addition, of course a 415hp traction motor was hung from each axle, driving the wheels through spur gearing.

Electro-pneumatic control equipment was fitted, and was more or less conventional for d.c. traction, and indeed, similar arrangements are still used on most modern locomotives, including the latest designs. On the EM2, and other d.c. rolling stock, the traction motors are first arranged in series for starting, an intermediate stage of two parallel groups of three motors in series, and finally, three parallel groups of three motors in series for normal running.

Under running conditions, the traction motors were designed to act as generators 
- regenerative braking – through the Westinghouse supplied straight air, and
 air controlled vacuum brake for engine and train. Compressed air for the brakes from the Westinghouse compressor also operated the electro-pneumatic controls, sanding gear, and the “Pneuphonic” horns.

Blerick_(ex-NS)_1501_-_Flickr_-_Rob_Dammers copy

On the weekend of 9 and 10 June 2018 in the Dutch town of Blerick, near Venlo, was a Multi Event where it was shown to the public.                                          Photo: By Rob Dammers – Blerick (ex-NS) 1501, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75589543

In operation, the locomotives were housed in the newly constructed depot at Reddish, and in company with the smaller EM1 Bo-Bo must have presented 
a considerable contrast to steam traction in the early days of the MSW electrification. The problem of declining cross country traffic, 25kV a.c., Beeching, et al, to say nothing of B.R.’s National Traction Plan, led to the sale of this small class to the Netherlands Railways (NS), in 1969.

Here, they remained in everyday use on inter-city services, as NS class ‘1500’. However, only six remained in use in the early 1980s, since 27005 was scrapped in 1969/70 to be used for spares, and due to traffic increases on the Dutch railways, many of the older loco. types, including the EM2’s had their working life extended. Overhauls and repairs put back their planned withdrawal until 1985/6, instead of 1981/ 2.

In BR days they were initially treated to a modified mixed traffic livery, as applied to steam locomotives. The modification in fact being the addition of a thin red line marking out the bodyside panels and cab front, with the lion and wheel emblem in the centre bodysides, and running numbers under each cab side window. Bogies and underframe were, naturally black. Later, steam loco. express passenger green was used, and the panelling was lined out in orange and black, with the 1956 style of lion and wheel crest, and nameplates attached to the bodysides. They were finally, before their sale, classified as ’77’ by the TOPS classification scheme, though of course, they did not last long enough to carry the TOPS running numbers, which first began to appear in 1972/3.

Allocations:

1954 (as new): 27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish
1964: 27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish

Class EM2 Co-Co – Names & Current Status:

EM2 status

Their healthy service life in the Netherlands, which, in the 1970s included passenger trains between Den Haag and Venlo, and freight services from Rotterdam Kijfhoek yard to Roosendaal, the arrival of new ‘1600’ class locos in the early 1980s brought that to a close. The first two of the six in service – ‘Pandora’ and ‘Aurora’ were scrapped in February 1985, and ‘Juno’ in October the following year.

No fewer than three of the class have been preserved as representatives of the early BR plans to electrify main lines on the 1,500V dc system. One of the class – ‘Diana’ – is preserved in the Netherlands, where it is still possible to run rail tours, whilst the other two are essentially static displays at the Midland Railway Centre and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. That said, the EM2 Locomotive Society rescued ‘Electra’ and restored it to working order, and it had a number of successful tours in the Netherlands, before its return to the UK, to its present home in Butterley.

Ariadne - ex 27001 at MOSI copy

“Ariadne” seen in October 2018 at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry, sporting her final colour scheme as used when in service with Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). Photo: Rodger Bradley

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More Named Trains That Got Away

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Another collection of named trains that had long histories, and which have long since disappeared, could be found on British Railway Western Region, running out of Paddington to Penzance, South Wales, and even Birkenhead on Merseyside in the 1950s and 1960s. Leafing through a copy of the 1961 timetable, no less than 18 such services were listed, one of which – “The Pines Express” – was also operated in concert with London Midland Region, whilst others covered the West Midlands, South and North Wales.

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No. D600 ‘Active’, the very first ‘Warship’ class Diesel-hydraulic, struggling up Dainton Bank with the ‘Royal Duchy’, near Newton Abbot in South Devon.. The train is the 13.30 Paddington – Penzance. (c) Ben Brooksbank Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

In South Wales, international services operated to Fishguard for Ireland, along with numerous cross-country trains to Chester, Liverpool, and further north to Durham and Newcastle.

As on other regions of British Railways, the naming of principal expresses was reinstated after the Second World War, and some new names were introduced, whilst others were withdrawn, then reinstated and dropped again. In 1961 the Western Region listed these:

WR Titled Trains 1961

BR Western Region Named Trains 1961 2 copyOf these 21 trains, more than half had disappeared by 1970, with no fewer than 7 being stripped of their title in 1965 including the third oldest – “The Torbay Express” – which had been operational since 1923. Three more disappeared in 1967, including the “Birmingham Pullman”, one of the newest prestige trains, and which had been operated using the “Blue Pullman” sets, built by Metro-Cammell only a few years before.

Far and away the oldest surviving named train in 1961 was, of course, the “Cornish Riviera Express”. In 1904, this was the first train booked to run non-stop to Plymouth, and was perhas the most prestigious of GWR trains, a status it carried through to BR days, with some of the most powerful steam locomotives of their day. From “City” class 4-4-0s like “City of Truro”, through to Churchward’s revolutionary designs from the “Star” class 4-6-0s, to “Castle” and “King” class. In BR days the latest, and unique “Warship” also hauled this train, together with “Western” class diesel-hydraulic locos and later still, HST sets. The Hitachi Class 802 Bi-mode trains now ply this same route. A service seemingly at the cutting edge of technology.

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Diesel-hauled Down ‘Torbay Express’ approaches Southall Station. View east, towards London Paddington; ex-GWR Paddington – Reading etc. main line. By 1960 main-line Diesel-Hydraulics were handling many of the principal Western Region expresses. Here No. D823 ‘Hermes’, a Swindon-built 2,200hp Type 4 B-B (introduced 8/58), is heading the 12.30 West of England express from Paddington, having just passed Southall Locomotive Depot, seen in the distance with the branch from Brentford coming up on the right. (c) Ben Brooksbank by CC BY-SA 2.

The schedule from the outset was tight, but after opening the shorter route via the “Westbury Cutoff” in 1906, it was possible to speed up the service to the west, with a start from Paddington at 10:30am, arrival at Plymouth was set for 2:37pm. Looking at the 1961 timings, these timings were still in force more than 50 years later. In the up direction, Paddington was reached from Penzance in 6hrs 40mins, with a 10:00am departure. The arrival at Paddington in 1961 was 4:40pm, which was only 5 minutes quicker than for most of its life.

Two trains that I remember seeing regularly were “The Royal Duchy” and “The Mayflower”, both destined to run from Paddington to the West Country, with the “Royal Duchy” starting life in January 1955, but needing consent from the Queen to carry the name. In the down direction, the train left Paddington for Penzance at 1:30pm, taking 7 ½ hours to reach Penzance, whilst in the up direction, Penzance departure was 11:05am, arriving at Paddington by 7:10pm. In the early evening, the down “Mayflower” left Paddington for Plymouth at 5:00pm, for a 10:20pm arrival, and in the up direction, Plymouth departure was 8:30am, with a 1:25pm arrival in Paddington.

Both of these trains carried headboards with the coats of arms of the Duchy of Cornwall, and the services received their names in te same year that the Western Region began to repaint its rolling stock in chocolate and cream. This individuality shown by the region, with its reference back to the former Great Western Railway lasted just over a decade, before the being consigned to history. The services carried on, but the names assigned to prestige trains like these were dropped in large numbers in the 1960s.

Cornishman BR Western Region Named Train 1961 14The West Country was served in total by 8 of these prestigious expresses, one of which “The Cornishman” originated in Wolverhampton – at least the BR service which was given the name officially in 1952. In fact, this had originally been a London to Penzance train, towards the end of the GWR’s ‘Broad Gauge’ period, starting life in 1890, and prior to the “Cornish Riviera Express” was the fastest GWR service to the far west. Starting from Paddington at 10:15am, Penzance was reached over the last miles of Brunel’s broad gauge tracks by 6:57pm – but this was before the ‘Westbury Cutoff’ and the route was via Bristol. After 1904, this particular service ceased to carry a name.

For the summer timetables of 1952, British Railways re-introduced the name for what was essentially a cross-country express from the West Midlands to the South West, taking in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Cheltenham, Bristol and Penzance. In 1961, the train was still using Wolverhampton Low Level and Birmingham Snow Hill, for the down service, staring at 9:00am, through Cheltenham and Gloucester at 11:02am and 11:20am respectively. From Bristol at 12:15, the “Cornishman” made Plymouth at 3:15pm and finally, Penzance at 5:55pm.

Bristolian BR Western Region Named Train 1961One of the last of the West Country express services that was started before the Second World War was “The Bristolian”, which was initiated by the GWR in 1935, as a tribute to the centenary of the company. The GWR was proposed in the 1830s to link the cities of London and Bristol, and the new service was intended to link the two cities in as short a time as possible. In 1935, this was set at 105 minutes, some 15 minutes less than the previous best for the trip in the down direction. The down and up “Bristolian” used different routes – one via the original GWR main line to the city – 118.3 miles, whilst in the return trip to London, from Temple Meads, the train used the Badminton cut-off, from Filton Junction via Wooton Bassett. The ‘up’ service route was 117.6 miles – just a fraction shorter.

From Paddington, and a start at 10:00am, Bristol arrival was 11:45am, whilst in the up direction, arrival at Paddington at 6:15pm, from a 4:30pm start at Temple Meads, to maintain the schedule.  In the 1950s, the same 105 minute schedule was maintained – with “Castle” Class 4-6-0s, and despite an attempt to introduce a 100 minute timing in 1959, by 1961 the service reverted to its 105 minute schedule. However, with increased loadings, of 10 or even 11 coach trains, and the new 2,000hp diesel-hydraulic locos, the time from Paddington to Temple Meads was actually increased by 14 minutes to 119 minutes.

Sadly, despite the advent of the 2,700hp “Western” class diesels, the train lost its name in 1966, starting from Paddington at 8:45am and an arrival in Bristol at 10:30am, but the service continued until 1973 before its final demise.

Cheltenham BR Western Region Named Train 1961 9The West Midlands and Manchester & Liverpool was served by five express services in 1961, two of which dated from GWR days – “The Cheltenham Spa Express” and “The Pines Express”, which started life in 1923 and 1927 respectively.   Actually, the “The Cheltenham Spa Express” “The Cheltenham Spa Express” began life just after the First World War, with a service from Cheltenham and Gloucester timed to arrive in Paddington at 5:00pm. By the early 1920s, the Cheltenham service had been turned into the “Cheltenham Flyer”, with a view by the GWR to turn this into the fastest express service in the world. The claim was based around a 75-minute schedule from Swindon to Paddington, a distance of 77.3 miles, with a start to stop average of 61.8 mph.  This was essentially how the service remained, and with an accelerated timing to 67 minutes between Swindon and Paddington was the fastest train in the world in 1931, and after the timing was cut again to 65 minutes the following year, the train achieved an average of 71.4 mph. The service was briefly the fastest in the world, but by the start of WW2, that title was lost, as indeed was the name.

In British Railways time, the name “Cheltenham Flyer” never re-appeared, but in the 1950s, in common with many other expresses, BR chose to revive the “Cheltenham Spa Express”. In 1961, the down service left Paddington at 5:00pm, arriving in Gloucester at 7:17pm, and Cheltenham St James at 7:40pm. In the up direct, starting from Cheltenham at 8:00am, Paddington was reached by 10:35am, and was allowed 74 minutes between Swindon and Paddington – almost the same as the 1920s timing.  The “Cheltenham Spa Express” lost its title in 1973, although the service continued well into the 1980s.

Castle 7007 'Great Western'

GW Castle 7007 ‘Great Western’ has arrived with an express from Worcester and is now ready to be turned and serviced before returning westward. Paddington, UK. Negative scan. Taken in June 1962 Photo: © Nigel Kendall

Cathedrals BR Western Region Named Train 1961 12

Another service from Paddington to the West Midlands in 1961 was the “Cathedrals Express”, which was designed to serve Oxford, Worcester and Hereford – the cathedral cities. The train only received its name in BR days, in 1957, but services had been operated by the GWR over this route since around 1904, and was the only named train to carry a bishop’s mitre on its headboard.

Of course, the “Blue Pullman” diesel sets made their appearance in 1960, and both the “Bristol Pullman” and “Birmingham Pullman” made their debut arrival at Paddington at almost the same time, and in adjacent platforms. The Birmingham train took 2 hours 5 minutes in the up direction, departing from Snow Hill at 7:30am, to arrive at Paddington at 9:35am, whilst the Bristol service started from Temple Meads at 7:40am.   The service actually started from Wolverhampton Low Level at 7:00am, but in the down direction, the service only went as far as Birmingham Snow Hill, on a 115 minute timing, and a 25 minute turnaround in Birmingham before heading back to London at 2:30pm. These “Blue Pullman” services in 1961 were expanded, as an existing Pullman service to South Wales was converted to diesel traction.

Wales had no fewer than 6 main line express services in the 1950s and 1960s, although only one of these, the “Cambrian Coast Express” had been introduced before British Railways, which had begun life as a restaurant car service to the Welsh coast in July 1921. The “Cambrian Coast Express” in GWR days started in the summer of 1927, and was operated on Fridays and Saturdays only, leaving Paddington at 10:10am, for Aberystwyth, Barmouth and Pwhelli. In 1961, from a 10:10am start, the train’s route took it to Birmingham Snow Hill, Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury, Machynlleth and Aberystwyth, where it arrived at 4:15pm. To get to Pwhelli of course required a different train to carry you around the coast by way of Barmouth, Harlech, Portmadoc (Porthmadog), and Pwhelli, with a final arrival at 6:10pm. The return trip to Paddington started out at 9:45am from Aberystwyth, arriving, via Birmingham Snow Hill, in Paddington at 4:00pm in the afternoon.

Following the introduction of diesel traction, and the Pullman services in the early 1960s, to say nothing of Beeching, the route to the Welsh coastal resorts through Birmingham disappeared, and in 1967, so did the title of this train. However, not without a little irony – bearing in mind the GWR and LMS competing for traffic to Birkenhead and North Wales in the pre-war era – in 1986, this named train was revived, but started from Euston.

Blue Pullman Marshfield Mon. 4.4.73

This view shows one of the 8-car Pullmans in their final BR livery, in April 1973 passing Marshfield, Monmouth , only a month before their withdrawal. (Photo courtesy: George Woods)

All of the other titled trains running in 1961 were introduced in British Railways days – the “Red Dragon” started the naming of express trains off in 1950, and was quickly followed by the “Pembroke Coast Express” in 1953. A third service – the “South Wales Pullman” – which appeared in 1955, was introduced to take advantage of the increasing business traffic and commercial importance of South Wales. On its introduction it was a standard rake of Pullman cars, hauled by a “Castle Class” locomotive, but which by 1961, had given way to being supplanted by a new ‘Nanking Blue’ diesel Pullman set.

South Wales Pullman poster large_DS130673The “South Wales Pullman” left Paddington at 08:50am, arriving at Cardiff, in just 2hrs 50mins, at 11:40am, and by way of Bridgend, Port Talbot and Neath, arrived in Cardiff at 1:10pm – 4hrs 20mins from London. By 1973, it was no longer a named train, and no longer a Pullman service.

Lens of Sutton Britannia 70028

BR Standard ‘Britannia’ pacific 70028 “Royal Star” on one of its regular workings when the class were assigned to the Western Region. Photo: Lens of Sutton / RP Bradley Collection

The “Red Dragon” and “Pembroke Coast Express” have been described as being at opposite ends of the express train criteria – the “Red Dragon” was much slower, taking some 5hrs 54mins from Paddington to reach its final destination Carmarthen. This down train started at 5:55pm, whilst the up service fared little better, with a 7:30am start from Carmarthen, Paddington was reached at 1:00pm – a mere 5hrs 30mins. As a name, the “Red Dragon” was revived in BR’s ‘InterCity’ sector days – for a brief period – in 1984.

In the high speed category, the “Pembroke Coast Express”, which was introduced in 1953, laid claim to the fastest steam hauled service between London and Newport, and reached Swansea in 3 ¾ hrs from Paddington. Once again, this title disappeared from Western Region timetables in the 1960s, with the major regional and timetable changes – for the “Pembroke Coast Express” this meant that the name was withdrawn in 1963.

GWR Intercity Express Train edited

Hitachi Class 800 on the GWR main line – this is one of the 36, 5-car dual-fuel sets for use on the non-electrified as well as the electrified sections of the route. Photo: GWR – Creative Commons Attribution

Some of the main routes and services remain, but the names have long since gone, and now, finally, the Western Region main line has been electrified – around 60 years after the original proposals, and the familiar green livery. (I know it’s not the same.) The motive power – well fixed formation train sets, now in hybrid form as well – all look similar, so is it maybe time to re-introduce some individuality?

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