Clan Line’s First Railtour in Preservation

This film, part of John Harvey’s collection, shows Clan Line’s first railtour in preservation.

27th April 1974

35028’s first main line tour was supported by a working party drawn from the active membership of the society. One member of that first working party was Andy Davies, our former Chief Mechanical Engineer. His abiding memory of that weekend excursion can be neatly encapsulated in just one word – exhaustion! Here are his recollections of the day:-

“Today’s rail tour working parties don’t know how smoothly their main line outings take place, compared to those early runs. All those years ago, the MNLPS had no historical experience to fall back on. It was a good example of “ignorance is bliss”. That we came through it all is testament, I suppose, that some things were done right. As with most things in life, as experience builds so improvements are made, resulting eventually in today’s smooth rail tour operation.

The Preparation

“The loco preparation took place on the day before the tour and, in most instances, was similar to our present procedure. We had on hand professional enginemen to look after the lubrication. During the morning, on removing the axlebox oil trays on the tender, it was found that the oil pads, which lubricate the wheel bosses, were noticeable by their absence. Suitable oil pads were cobbled together to see us through, and I was detailed to find a local supplier of machine screws with which to fix them to the axle box trays.

“Later in the day, the portable coaling crane was tried out. This crane had been specially built for the purpose and was stowed flat on the back of the tender. However, we discovered that the intended dustbin, when filled with coal, was too heavy to be hoisted high enough to tip its contents into the bunker. The alternative was to only half fill the dustbin. That evening, we had a trip to the seaside at Dungeness to load shingle from the beach. It was to be put on the fire bars to prevent the formation of clinker. This was bagged and accompanied us on our rail tour along with gas welding equipment, five large ammunition boxes filled with heavy tools, and the more usual small items such as hand tools, corks and packings. Far too much in fact, for it all had to be loaded along with some two tons of coal and portable cooking gear, on to our President’s 3-ton lorry, loaned to us for the occasion.

The Light Engine Move

“Clan Line left the depot at Ashford at around midnight on its hundred-miles cross-country run to Basingstoke. As soon as it had left, a convoy consisting of the lorry and three cars containing the working party set off for Redhill to meet the engine and see that all was well. The convoy arrived first, at around 2am. Whilst waiting in the forecourt, a cup of tea was brewed on the portable gas stove only to be watched suspiciously by a passing police panda car. I wonder what he would have made of a group of burly men with a lorry and heavy tools including hammers and pinch bars at 2am, had he stopped and interviewed us. Perhaps we looked to be too desperate a bunch as no more was seen of him.

“The loco duly arrived and with a change of crew, reversed and set off towards Guildford and a potential problem of platform subsidence at Betchworth. Failure to get past this would have meant Clan Line returning to Redhill and up the main Brighton line to London and from there to Basingstoke. With speed reduced to a walking pace, 35028 eased past the obstruction and was away. The working party made their way to Basingstoke, by which route I can’t recall, whilst Clan Line made its way via Guildford to Woking where it reversed before heading down the main line to Basingstoke.

“On arrival, the engine was stabled next to the goods shed at the country end of the station. Coaling, watering and oiling took place here and once the servicing was completed, we were able to cook breakfast alfresco style, which was devoured with relish. The time now was around 7am and a sizeable crowd was beginning to assemble on the platform. The Basingstoke crew booked on and before long, 35028 moved on to a head shunt to await the train’s arrival from London. Having unloaded the impressive array of tools and equipment from the lorry, at was now necessary to move it all across to the platform for loading on to the train. The working party had to make do with the end vestibule and corridor of the leading coach and sit on the tools! In those pioneering days, support coaches had yet to be invented.

The Moment Of Truth…

“The train arrived on time and Clan Line hooked on. This was the moment of truth. After all the years of effort, would it all go to plan? I can remember wondering whether our locomotive would actually move what, to me, seemed to ba a very heavy train. After all, since withdrawal from regular use, our engine had only been allowed to shuffle up and down a few hundred yards of track at walking pace.

The Tour

“By this time, an enormous crowd of well wishers had assembled to witness our departure. Whistles were blown and Clan Line took the strain. Slowly, very slowly, we moved out of the station and on our way not only to Westbury, but also on to a brilliant second career on the main line.

“A large crowd saw us round the curve under the bridge at Worting Junction and at other vantage points, groups of people turned out to watch our passing. Speed built up nicely as we headed westwards, although I remember being somewhat alarmed on looking out of the coach window and seeing the motion of the tender. For someone with virtually no experience in such matters, I thought the excessive, side swaying was alarming to say the least, although apparently safe. Ten years later this matter would be dealt with to our satisfaction.

“Salisbury was reached without incident and here the sight which greeted our arrival was incredible. Over two thousand souvenir platform tickets had been sold! Clan Line hooked off and set back into the bay platform to take water, thus taking advantage of watering facilities, which even in those days were few and far between. A fresh crew, this time from Salisbury, took us on to Warminster where a photographic stop and run past took place, and then on to Westbury. Here passenger had a choice of visiting our President’s newly opened steam centre at Cranmore or the Longleat Safari Park.

Servicing at Westbury

“No such entertainment for the working party however. This is where we had to earn our keep. Coaling was fairly straight forward using the portable crane and a dustbin. The problem, however, was that we originally reported for duty some thirty hours earlier and, having had no sleep, we were perhaps past our best. Taking water was a tour de force. Apparently there were no water hydrants on the station but water could be had from a stream at the far end of the up sidings! A petrol driven pump had been hired from a company in Bristol. It had to be manhandled to the site some half a mile away from the nearest road. We used a sack barrow brought especially for the purpose. The stream, however, was some ten feet below track level with steep banks and it took some time to position the pump and prime it before it could deliver water to the tender.

The Return Journey

“Clan Line coupled on to its train and brought it into the station about fifteen minutes prior to the departure time. At this stage, a distinguished guest was introduced to the crew, Mr Robin Riddles, under whose authority the Merchant Navy’s had been rebuilt. In between heavy showers, a silver band, booked for the occasion, entertained passengers and sightseers.

“Doubts had been raised by the Western Region about 35028’s ability to make the climb out of Westbury unaided on a wet rail. Indeed rumours circulated about a diesel banker. However the crew was adamant that they could make it and Clan Line was left to her own devices. The climb proved no problem for our locomotive and at Warminster a further photographic stop was made. An enormous crowd again greeted the arrival at Salisbury. After a further crew change we were soon away and romping up Porton Bank in fine style. Soon it was all over with an on-time arrival at Basingstoke.

Disposal of Man and Machine

“Although the tour was over, for those on working party duty, events had some way to go. The tools and equipment had to be unloaded and put on the lorry, but not for a return to base at Ashford. After the tour train left for London, Clan Line headed for Eastleigh and an Open Day a week later. Clan Line was to be disposed and stabled there for the week. The working party members set off in convoy bound for Eastleigh and with the fire dropped in the engine and other disposal duties completed, the various tools were unloaded and stored for the following week.

“By now it was nearly midnight and all we had to do was find our way home. We all split up and went our various ways. For my two companions and myself we got no further than the Alton by-pass before fatigue finally overtook us and for a few hours succumbed to sleep. After dropping off my travelling companions, I finally fell through the door at home some 50 hours after leaving on that momentous first rail tour. I’m glad to say that rail tours aren’t quite so exhausting these days.”

The Locomotive Crews

The first main line tour in 1974 used three crews. The outward journey from Basingstoke to Salisbury was in the hands of Driver Coleman and Fireman Jennings from Basingstoke shed. For the run from Salisbury to Westbury and return, Driver Ron Pearce and Fireman Keith Noble took control whilst the final stretch from Salisbury back to Basingstoke was in the hands of Driver A Smith and Fireman L Symes. After leaving the tour train at Basingstoke, this crew ran Clan Line light engine to Eastleigh in preparation for the following weekend’s open day there. The traction inspectors on the day were Cyril Stevens (from Eastleigh) and Peter Kersey (from the CM&EE Department at Croydon).

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