5th January 2004
(Steam Lunch From London)
|Loco Used||4472 "Flying Scotsman" & 47734|
|Stock Used||13 coaches|
Route: 1Y82 throughout
|4472 (1)||London Victoria - Stewarts Lane Jn - Longhedge Jn - Clapham Junction - Barnes - Hounslow - Feltham - Staines - Virginia Water - Byfleet & New Haw - Woking - Guildford - Shalford - Gomshall - Reigate - Redhill - Purley - East Croydon - Selhurst - Balham - Clapham Junction - Longhedge Jn - Stewarts Lane Jn - London Victoria|
(1) 47734 on rear.
Sources : various including John Clifford
(by Chris Morley)
A trip on the VSOE (British Pullman) – it’s an expensive day out, but one that every enthusiast should sample at least once. What finally prompted me to go for it was the additional promise of haulage by Flying Scotsman, no less (probably the world’s most famous locomotive and certainly the most travelled). Knowing that this historic loco’s owner had recently gone bankrupt (and that a light overhaul would soon be needed) gave me the incentive to book up, aided by a one-off 10% price reduction only on the 5th January. I’m sure 4472’s future is secure and I very much doubt it will go abroad, but there’s no guarantee it will remain on the main line or even be kept in running order.
I kept a close eye on the pre-Christmas lunch specials to make sure 4472 didn’t suffer a repeat of the annoying failure at York last July and then I booked up for my wife & myself. We were advised to be at Victoria at 11.45 and we took no chances with the blunderground. Platform 2 was unfortunately infested with plastic junk when we arrived, but the process of picking up the tickets took no more than 30 seconds (Branson please note). No sooner had we walked away from the reception lounge than RES liveried 47734 appeared with the stock. The walk to the front of the thirteen-coach train took several minutes. Even with the BR deflectors and Apple Green mismatch, it must be said that Scotsman looked superb, carrying an authentic looking BR headboard for ‘The Flying Scotsman’. It was by no means spotless – her boiler casing was specked with soot, evidence that the loco had recently worked hard. A surprisingly large percentage of the train’s well-heeled passengers had braved the cold and drizzle to admire Gresley’s masterpiece. After 10 minutes or so we slowly walked back, admiring the ten individual Pullman cars. Unfortunately I found myself near the rear in parlour car ‘Zena’. Having said that, the first two coaches were support vehicles so front coach action wasn’t on offer anyway. Zena was built in 1928 and served on the pre-war Bournemouth Belle, Queen of Scots, The Golden Arrow and finally the Tees Tyne Pullman from 1961 to 1965. Imagine all the locos it’s been pulled by (including DP2 no doubt)!
Champagne was served as soon as I sat down. At 12.28 we gently pulled away, with the 47 giving some assistance in the rear for the climb out of Victoria. It wasn’t exactly trying hard and we soon halted on Grovesnor Bridge. The 12.30 Gatwick Express passed (real, not plastic) as we dropped down past Stewarts Lane, sadly empty of rolling stock. For a moment I reflected on my first visit to the shed in 1977 where I had viewed 5 or 6 withdrawn class 71s. This run down area of London seemed a strange place to be sitting in luxury being served with ‘ Terrine of salmon & halibut, with a cauliflower and Avruga caviar puree’ – it was very nice however. 66031 was spotted above on the Waterloo line. Passing Longhedge Jcn at 10mph, our train climbed up to the LSWR Windsor lines, passing EWS 37114 ‘City of Worcester’ positioned with two ‘Kirow’ railcranes. One of these had apparently fallen over the previous night, and the other had come behind 37114 from Temple Mills to rescue it. This farce had badly affected the morning rushour. Once the 47 was clear of the pointwork, it began banking the train up the steep climb towards Putney. At Barnes we took the Hounslow loop, passing over the Thames and causing a great deal of excitement among the Chiswick school children watching the train from their playground. At this point Roasted pumpkin soup with cinnamon cream was being served.
Rejoining the direct line at Feltham junction, 47734 gave another shove until speed reached about 40mph. However Scotsman continued accelerating and Feltham passed in a blur (no bad thing!). Soon we were slowing for the sharp curve at Staines and re-crossing the Thames. Another quick spurt of speed before Virginia Water, where we turned towards Chertsey. For the 4th (and last) time the 47 gave a shove – you could probably count the assisting loco for about 1.5 miles. Luckily I don’t need any 47s currently on the mainline. Soon the main course (Scottish Venison) was served as we slowly passed under the South Western mainline. Workers at the old Brooklands site took a break to view the passing of our train as we climbed to Byfleet Jcn – despite no help from the 47 there wasn’t the slightest hint of wheelslip. Progress through Woking was slow, but there was a quick dash through Worplesdon before halting at Guildford for some time to allow a Thames Turbo to take the Dorking line ahead of us.
At Shalford we paused for 20 minutes while 4472 took on water. As we slowly pulled away I caught a brief glimpse of the MHR’s red fire tender. The VSOE’s 13 coaches and the ‘dead’ 47 added up to an incredible 630 tons (the equivalent of 19 Mk2s!). Despite the load Scotsman now got into her stride, clipping along at nearly 70mph on this scenic stretch before slowing slightly at Dorking. By now we were on the cheese and biscuits. All too soon I was able to view the engine as we rounded the curve into Redhill where the VSOE halted in the platform to allow a pair of 4-Cigs to pass. The re-start was taken gently, yet we passed over the M25 at more than 50mph. At Purley we were routed at 25mph onto the up fast and made another spurt up to 60mph before slowing at South Croydon. Having polished off the dessert (Banoffee and Coffee Parfait) and feeling stuffed, I decided to sample the thrash and get my head out of the small sliding windows. After passing East Croydon at 30mph, Scotsman notched up a gear and blasted up the rise to Selhurst at nearly 50mph with steam rising high in the sky. I would guess the effort involved must have significantly exceeded 2000 hp and there’s no doubt 4472 fully deserves it’s 8P classification. Incredibly 4472’s speed past Norbury and Balham was no slower than a 73 on the Gatwick Express, despite hauling such a massive train. Signals finally slowed our progress at Clapham Jcn and we dropped down to Stewarts Lane Jcn before again halting briefly on Grovesnor Bridge. Here we had a nice view of 73208 departing on a Gatwick Express.
Arrival back at Victoria was more or less on time and we spent a few minutes photographing the inside of ‘Zena’. Walking up to the sharp end I spotted Alan Pegler, the man who famously saved Scotsman from the scrapyard. I overheard Alan complementing the crew for their " marvellous run into London". Indeed it had been a superb effort. I thanked Alan for securing Flying Scotsman, but he said he greatly regretted not being able to save more of the A3s from the scrapyard. I think we can all agree with that sentiment. What a shame this loco isn’t allowed to run on normal priced trains. I am sure they would sell out, especially on the ECML with a Deltic on the return leg!
Timings (Booked & Actual)
|Grosvenor Bridge Jn||12/32||?|
|Stewarts Lane Jn||12/36||?|
|Barnes||12.50a ~ 12.57d||12.54 ~ 12.55|
|Feltham Jn||13.11a ~ 13.20d||?|
|Byfleet & New Haw||13/51||?|
|Guildford||14.09a ~ 14.24d||14.08 ~ 14.24|
|Shalford||14.29a ~ 14.50d||14.30 ~ 14.49|
|Stoats Nest Jn||15/30||15/33|
|Windmill Bridge Jn||15/39||?|
|Stewarts Lane Jn||15/54||?|
|Grosvenor Bridge Jn||16/03||?|
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