Belmond British Pullman Golden Age Of Travel – 8th April 2022

After Clan Line has been out on the mainline, the preparations for the next trip usually start before it has cooled (it is well lagged, and it does take several days to cool down completely). The first jobs are usually cleaning out the grate and the smokebox. They are dirty jobs, but both are important. It is only once they have been cleaned that we can examine the boiler for any signs of leaks, or other damage. This was all done about two weeks before this trip. At this point, we also start examining he engine, looking for any little maintenance jobs that need attending to – there are usually some. Once the dust has settled after cleaning the grate and smokebox, we can also make a start on the cleaning and polishing.

The fire was lit on Wednesday afternoon – two days before the trip. We warm the boiler up slowly to avoid putting it under too much stress.

Thursday was the main preparation day, and we usually have extra several society members come along to give a hand. There are quite a few tasks to be completed on a “prep” day. There is the fitness to run examination (FTR), which includes testing the safety valves, braking system, all the electronics, and a lot more. There is the lubrication to see to. We have to make sure that the tender is full of treated water, and loaded with several tons of coal. And, of course, there is always a lot of cleaning and polishing to do.

The day of the trip was dry and sunny, which always helps. This encouraged several of our passengers to come to the front of the train to see the engine before we left Victoria. The generator car was unavailable, so we kept the Class 67 diesel on the back of the train all day to provide power for the train heating. It was not used for traction after the usual initial push out of Victoria.

Our route took us by way of Kensington Olympia to Willesden South West Sidings. After waiting for a while here, and at Old Kew Junction, we made our way via Hounslow to Chertsey. There was a late-running Waterloo to Weybridge train in front of us, so we didn’t get to Chertsey until twelve minutes later than planned.

At Chertsey, we were met by a water tanker, and quite a few visitors. We pulled as much coal forward as we could in the time. Because we arrived late, and we risked delaying the following train, we left as soon as we had taken all the water. This still made us seven minutes late. We had a steady run to Woking Junction, but we were able to claw back some time with some good running through Worplesdon. We were only one and a half minutes adrift by the time that we reached Guildford, and were slightly early at Shalford. After a brief stop, we attacked the climb of Gomshall. The timing is tight on this section, and we usually lose some time. We were seven minutes late at Gomshall, but we managed to get some time back with a fast run through Dorking. A temporary speed restriction (TSR) on the approach to Betchworth slowed us, and we were also delayed on the approach to Reigate by signals. We were about ten minutes down at Redhill, where we stopped briefly to pick up a driver for the diesel.

Clan Line approaching Shalford – taken by Raymond Slack
Clan Line at Betchworth – taken by Julian Clark

At Stoats Nest Junction, we were put across to the fast line, and stayed there all the way to Clapham Junction. Despite some good, fast, running, we were unable to make up any time, and we stayed about ten minutes behind schedule.

Clan Line at Tooting Common – taken by David Element

There are several minutes of pathing allowance at Longhedge and Stewarts Lane Junctions, so we finally got back to Victoria within a minute or so of our scheduled time. We had more happy passengers come to see the engine, and they expressed their appreciation.

After being towed back to Stewarts Lane by the Class 67, we turned the loco on the triangle, so that it will be the right way round for the next trip. After blowing-down the boiler, we put the engine to bed. This involved topping up the boiler with water, and raking through the fire to loosen any clinker, amongst many other things.

After Easter, we can start all over again in preparation for our next trip.

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