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Winter Steam Trains Take To The Tracks

By Bob McShee

There was been plenty of stream train activity in the local area over the past weekend.

UK Railtours arranged a steam train trip on Saturday, February 10 using Merchant Navy Class, No. 35028, “Clan Line”, as the engine on a circular tour from London Victoria via Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Petersfield, Haslemere and Guildford, then back to London Victoria.

Mercahnt Navy Class, No,35028, ‘Clan Line’ at Haslemere. Click to enlarge pictures, all taken by Bob McShee.

‘Clan Line’ is usually employed pulling excursions for Belmond Pullman, so it was a treat to enjoy a trip behind this powerful locomotive which reached speeds of 75mph for parts of the journey.

With the high speed running the engine consumed plenty of water and coal, so we had watering stops at Hedge End and Haslemere, where we also took on coal.

Taking on coal at Haslemere.

From Haslemere we had a fast run to Woking and as we raced through Guildford, whistle blowing, the train surprised many passengers waiting on the platforms.

The engine has just returned to main line use after a two-year major overhaul, hence we were able to have a high-speed run.

‘Clan Line’ was the most powerful engine designed for the Southern Railway by its chief engineer O. V. Bulleid.

It had hauled one of the ‘farewell to steam’ specials in July 1967 and was purchased by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society on its withdrawal by British Railways.

The train was called The King Alfred, because we passed through Winchester, which was founded by King Alfred the Great.

During the weekend of Friday to Saturday, February 9 to 11, the Watercress Line in Hampshire held its Pre-Spring Steam Gala to mark 50 years since the end of steam on British Railways.

To commemorate this historic occasion, when a pair of ‘Black 5’ engines headed the last steam train from Carlisle to Manchester in August 1968, the Watercress Line had a guest ‘Black 5’ engine paired with its own ‘Black 5’ engine to recreate the original train which had a reporting number of 1T57.

The two ‘Black 5’ locomotives pictured at Ropley on the Watercress Line.

The special train, which was double headed by 45231 and 45379, ran from Arlesford to Alton along with other trains running between these two stations. These engines are two of the only 18 surviving members of a class of 842 locomotives.

The original 1968 train had run on a warm August day, whereas with this February train it was 0 degrees centigrade and snowing! Still, all credit to the Watercress Line for arranging this gala weekend so early in the year.

There will be many other steam events taking place later this year to commemorate the end of steam 50 years ago on British Railways.

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2 Responses to Winter Steam Trains Take To The Tracks

  1. David Wragg Reply

    February 14, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    ‘Only 18 left…’ That must make the Black Five the most common preserved steam locomotive, but it is a distinction that is well deserved. Although LMS locomotives, they employed many GWR features as Stanier trained at Swindon.

  2. Robert Hills Reply

    February 14, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    I was also at the MHR Steam Gala on Friday 9 February in “Wintry” weather conditions to video the double-headed Stanier Class 5’s on the commemorative “1T57” special, 50 years on from 1968, along with all the other locos./services included in the special Gala event.

    Weather on Saturday 10 February was probably worse with rain during the late morning/afternoon period but I was able to video 35028 “Clan Line” on “The King Alfred” special at both Farnborough and Farncombe.

    A good “railway” weekend despite the poor weather conditions.

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