Since returning to the mainline in 2004, 71000 Trust explored the possibility of running a rail tour from Penzance to Wick. Although logistical and financial difficulties prevented the Trust from taking on this marathon event, Railway Touring Company and West Coast Railways took on the challenge to produce what became one of the most successful and interesting rail tours seenin the UK.
The following account of 71000 Duke of Gloucester's part in this tour is presented by support crew member and principal responsible officer Ken Wilcock. It offers an insider's view of the trials and tribulations associated with mainline running. The pictures that follow are in rough chronological sequence in relation to the Duke's part of the tour on Day 1 (London Paddington - Bristol) and Day 3 (Bristol - Preston).
Great Britain 1 6th and 8th April 2007
The loco and support coach were stabled at Old Oak Common following the run from York to St Albans on the 24th March. Starting out from home on Tuesday night 2nd April after work, I met with Adrian at Manchester Piccadilly to catch the 19:35 train to Crewe where we caught up with Dave Briggs for the run to London. Actually, to get the cheap tickets, we had to change at Watford and catch a local train to Williseden Junction. As fate would have it, the Virgin service was delayed and we made our connection at Watford with only 3 minutes to spare. The train to Willesden only reached two stations down the line before the guard told us that there was a signalling/line fault and we would be held for a while. Instead of arriving art Willesden at 23:05 we arrived close to midnight. Not the best time to walk the streets of North London!
On arrival at Old Oak, the on site security has been abandoned and you now have to telephone EWS Doncaster control to gain access to the site. With this done, we made our way to the Factory where we had left the engine with the support coach outside on road five.
Groping around in the dark is not the best plan, but we had no choice if we were to connect up a shore line to provide lighting and heat for the coach. We eventually found an extension cable from Tangmere's shed to their support coach, which we tapped into. Having signed everyone in the EWS register we settled down for a very cold night.
The alarm awoke me at 06:30 and a very long day commenced. Firstly we had to dispose of the remnants of the fire from our last run and clean out the grate, ashpan and smokebox. We dropped the ash into the pit on road five and then had to shovel this out onto the shed floor before we shovelled it again into a wheel barrow (with flat tyre) before transferring (carrying) it into mini skips provided by EWS. The exercise was repeated with the smokebox char and by mid afternoon we had washed out the ashpan and boxed the engine up ready for lighting up.
Cleaning of the engine is always our top priority because you can never rely on the weather so we wanted to make best use of our time in the shed building. We start the process with buckets of warm water and Halfords 'Extreme Shampoo' this is brushed onto the boiler barrel, tender and smoke deflectors. After about three hours we have the engine and tender shampooed and rinsed.
The oil and soot smuts are soon overcome and with a little perseverance the engine is ready for polishing. By this time Tony (Wheelhouse) has arrived and starts the oiling up process while we commence polishing. While this is going on we run out hose, about 40 metre in length top fill the tender and top up the boiler before lighting up.
To fill the boiler we have a fitting that clips onto the injector overflow and we connect the fire hose to this. But before we can fill the boiler we must move the flap valve in the injector and to do this we hang a heavy lead weight (fishing weight) to the bottom of the flap valve arrangement. First attempt with the water is useless and we turn off and try again. Once the water pressure is behind the valve, even a lead weight cannot overcome the force needed to move the valve. So we pull down on the valve and weight while one of us turns on the water (40 metre away). With a glass of water Adrian prepares the fire by adding coal to the grate followed by wood and rags soaked in diesel or Paraffin.
By now it is 8pm, the fire has been lit and we retire for the night into a nice warm support coach, albeit that Adrian will check the loco at least twice during the night. By 7am we have 20 psi of steam on the gauge and continue to bring the boiler pressure up slowly ready for the fitness to run examination which will be done by Graham (for West Coast Railways). Graham arrives around 2pm and the testing and checking begins. By 4pm all is well and the loco pronounced fit to run. The checks also include our support coach which by now is coupled to the engine. On this occasion we need about 9 ton of coal as we only had enough left after the last run to light up with. The bad news is that our beloved leaders have made arrangements for the 71000 support crew not only to coal the Duke, but also coal Tangmere as this will share the cost of the hired in JCB.
The JCB is ordered for 12 noon and arrives at 07:30! so we send the driver to the Chinese cafe for a full English breakfast. Even this does not offset the long wait he had before he could start the coaling process.
Firstly we had to obtain permission to move the loco with and EWS pilot man and once connected to our support coach we start a shunting manoeuvre that takes up a couple of hours. We first have to get rid of our support coach which is blocking us in the shed. This is accomplished by propelling it to the neck of the shed roads and leaving it while we find Tangmere's coach which is also blocking in the engine. With Tangmere's coach suitably shunted out of the way we couple onto Tangmere and draw it out of the shed and then run the whole length of OOC yard to position the engines for coaling.
Now, purportedly we have 28 ton of coal dumped on hard standing next to the sole remaining turntable. After estimating the pile is nearer 18 ton we instruct the JCB driver to start the coaling process only to find that the shovel will not extend to clear the tender side. The driver asks if we can reposition the locos a little further up the yard where access is a bit better. With this done we soon learn that the shovel method is no good and the driver has to re site the coal pile so that it can be reached by his rear 3 ft bucket. At last we start coaling the Duke and after about 90 minutes we are almost there. A quick manoeuvre to get Tangmere into position and we fill the 6 ton tender of the Bullied Pacific in a little under an hour.
Although the JCB is doing the donkey work, the support crew need to guide the JCB buckets to the right spot and constantly trim the coal, otherwise a lot will be lost over the tender side. The weather is warm but there is a strong wind and we all get covered in coal dust before the job is done. With coaling accomplished we reverse the shunting movements, firstly putting Tangmere back in its shed followed by its support coach, followed by collecting our support coach, followed by stabling the engine on road five outside the factory and reconnecting the shore line and refilling the tender with water.
As sods law dictates the Duke is facing Paddington, so we need to turn the loco on the turntable. Quite a site as 165 ton is spun 180 degrees in less than 2 minutes. With the engine now out of the shed we carefully clean the pit and the shed floor with the fire hose and stiff brushes so not to leave any trace of our presence there. Another hour is taken before the three of us are satisfied that the job is done properly. The weather is for once in our favour and we continue to clean the engine frames, wheels and motion into the late evening, and by 10:30pm we retire for the night.
The day of the run starts early and support crew are up and about for 6am, some cheerfully whistling and singing and some a bit grumpy at being woken up. We obtain 12 bags of dried sand and promptly use 10 bags filling the sand boxes of the Duke. Water is left connected to the tender until the very last minute so that we go off shed with a full tender and a full boiler. We also take this opportunity to fill the header water tank on the support coach and the drinking water buts for the journey.
Now mainline running is nothing like a trip on a preserved railway (as good as they are) and the paperwork needs filling in for duty register, support crew details, drugs and alcohol declarations and team briefing information. As duty responsible officer it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone on the support coach has their Personal Track Safety (PTS) cards and that they are in date.
With a couple of hours to go before leaving the shed yard the mainline crew arrive and stow their belongings on the coach before attending to the engine. Adrian always has the engine ready for the crew, everything right, all clean with a good fire simmering nicely. Before we depart we sign off in the depot register and thank our hosts for their hospitality and considerable help over the last three days.
Once the traction inspector has read the paperwork he will sign to accept responsibility for those on board and off we go. We propel out of the shed yard and find the stock on road 46. A class 47 and class 57 diesels are attached to the stock and they draw it out of the siding and we buffer upto the rear. With only 15 minutes or so to go before our due departure time from Paddington, the diesels tow us down to platform 3. Now, the 'Great Britain' Tour is a first, and the logistics of getting several hundred passengers aboard and their luggage stored becomes apparent. The tour operator asks for our assistance and we dispatch three of our support crew to the buffer stops to assist with loading baggage.With only a couple of minutes to spare we board the support coach and depart Paddington dead on time.
Despite the paths for runs being planned and decided at least 12 weeks in advance, we immediately site yellow signals on our run out of the suburbs, so much so that with the huge fire warming through, we commence blowing off for mile after mile. We expect to clear the problem after the Heathrow flyover, but soon start getting adverse signals for the remainder of our journey to our water stop in the loop at Challow.
Water is taken from a tanker on the over bridge but all too soon we see that the 2200 gals is not enough and a decision is made to send the tanker away to fill up again. Since the Duke failed on the Liverpool - York run with high water consumption (broken piston rings) it seems that every expert assumes that it is the same old problem reoccurring. Well, it isn't. When you consider that the tender which holds 5100 gallons was full before departing Old Oak Common coupled with a stop start run out to Challow with excessive blowing off from the safety valves, you soon loose you water and compromise your safety margin.
As responsible officer, you do not risk the engine if the calculated water usage takes you below the pre agreed minimum level which is 1200 gallons. Yes it would have got us to Bristol but the tender would have been virtually dry. You cannot plan for the unexpected, but this is what we do. We took 3200 gallons of water at Challow and arrived with 1800 gallons at Bristol Temple Meads. By the time the engine was stabled on Barton Hill that was down to 1350 gallons. Had we not taken the extra 1000 gallons at Challow we would have been looking at 350 gallons left in the tender if we were lucky!
What you need to remember is a big pacific engine like the Duke will use 50 to 60 gallons of water per mile and on long gradients like Shap or Beattock that can go upto 90 gallons per mile. When the train stops at its destination it can take over an hour to manoeuvre to the shed and then another 30 mins to set up water hoses before the filling process can begin.
We now have all day Saturday and Sunday morning to dispose and prep the engine for the next leg, Bristol to Preston and this begins at 6am Saturday morning with the grate raked and the fire dropped into the ashpan. With no pit available we drop the contents of the ashpan onto the hard standing and rake and shovel this out from under the engine and into mini skips provided by the very helpful depot staff.
Once the fire is cleaned and the ashpan emptied the smokebox is also emptied before we can relight the fire. As black smoke drifts over the shed yard it is not long before the fire brigade arrive with two tenders as someone has reported a fire! Once steam pressure is showing on the gauge, the blower is gently opened which clears the black smoke and building up of the fire begins. While this is happening we start the cleaning process again only to stop when the coal delivery arrives.
Unlike the arrangements at Old Oak Common the delivery of coal is in 600kg sacks which are lifted into the tender space with a hyab. Bags are slit with a Stanley knife and the content spread around the tender until the loading gauge is reached. By now half a day has passed and we have coal duct all over the engine and tender, so we make the decision to shampoo where it is badly affected and dust off where it is not too bad.
With steam pressure now restored, we move the loco into the running shed to gain access to an inspection pit for the purpose of the FTR (fitness to run exam). The exam passes without a hitch and we move back down the yard onto no 1 road where we lay down the empty coal sacks in readiness for cleaning the motion, wheels and frames with diesel. Another couple of hours and we were ready to move back onto road 4 which would allow the King and Castle to come on shed without blocking us in.
Quite late in the afternoon we decided to walk upto the station to watch the King & Castle arrive with the tour from Penzance, but by the time we arrived, the train was already in the station. We chatted to the crews who had had a very good run before chatting to the public. Just at this moment I felt a warm splat on my head and looking up I see a seagull doing a victory roll! Needless to say I had nothing to clean off the mess, so walked slowly back to the shed to wash my head! Either we had won the lottery or we were going to have a good run the following day!
The two engines soon arrived on shed and we settled down for the night, with the loco being checked at least twice during the night to ensure the water level was ok and the fire had not gone out. Next morning we topped up the tender and added the water treatment. Filled the support coach water tank and made some last minute attempts to get the soot off the engine (again).
With brass work now gleaming it was soon time to move off shed to fetch the stock and we bade farewell to our hosts who had made us very welcome indeed. Having collected the stock we pulled into Temple Meads and awaited the right of way. With a brief slip we got underway on time and passed Barton Hill depot where everyone had come out to see us off.
By Severn Tunnel station we were already 10 minutes up on schedule but after that it was a pretty disappointing run as we were constantly checked all the way to Hereford. At Hereford a tanker was arranged to fill the tender, but problems with the pump made us seek out a hydrant and we used both to minimise the time in the station.
We again stopped for water at Chirk where the hydrant is on the road over bridge, so we ended up doing a spot of traffic management as well as talking to the public. We set off from Chirk in the allotted time and made our way north through Chester Helsby, Runcorn and Warrington which we passed some three minutes down on schedule.
By the time we were approaching Preston we were early and were held outside the station awaiting our allotted time. We pulled to a stop within a minute of our due arrival time and quickly uncoupled and moved off to take water before returning via Bolton to the East Lancs Railway. We eventually left the engine in the shed yard and made our way home around midnight.
Quite a satisfying end to our part in the Great Britain Tour.
Photo copyright © Mark O'Dell: 71000 Duke of Gloucester approaching Challow on Day 1 of the Great Britain
Coaling of 71000 and Tangmere at Old Oak Common
71000 on turntable at Old Oak Common
Photo copyright © David Plant: 71000 on turntable at Old Oak Common
Photo copyright © David Plant: 71000 on turntable at Old Oak Common
71000 and crew put Nelson to bed
More photos to be included shortly
71000 Trust wishes to thank the following who helped supply photographs of this memorable event: Mike Butcher, David Creasey, Eric Jones, Glyn Jones, Mark O'Dell, David Plant and Neil Symon.