By Don Benn

This time I am going to cover the work of two Pacifics recently returned to the main line – No. 35028 Clan Line and No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell.

SR Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35028 Clan Line heads the ‘Torbay Express’ past Cogload Junction on August 20. STEPHEN GINN

Before I get to the work of Clan Line on the ‘Torbay Express’ I must lay a ghost which has arisen again among the large amount that has been written recently about the exploits of the Bulleid Pacifics in the last few years of steam.

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In the July issue of our sister journal The Railway Magazine, Keith Farr refers to an alleged 110mph run with Clan Line on December 14, 1966, two days after the 103mph exploit with the same engine, which I was on. The respected journal of the Railway Performance Society also covers the 110mph run in some detail. Unfortunately it was a complete fabrication as on that day the train concerned, the 5.30pm from Weymouth, was hauled by No. 35008 (I was on it) and was an ordinary run with a different driver to the one on the alleged high-speed exploit.

Clan Line departs from Bristol Temple Meads with the ‘Torbay Express’ on September 3. NEVILLE WELLINGS

The source is said to be an Inspector H Andrews, though having talked to enginemen and others around at that time it appears that no such person existed and in any case no inspector would have tolerated such excess speeding while on the footplate. So this run can be consigned to folklore as simply untrue. I would be pleased to publish a retraction if anyone can prove me wrong.

So, to the ‘Torbay Express’ on Sunday, September 3. After a week of fine weather the forecast for that day was not very good and sure enough on our drive down to Bristol the rain started and it was to persist all day, sometimes being torrential, with an inevitable effect on locomotive performance, especially on the Down run.

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The stock of our 9.10am to Kingswear did not arrive until just after departure time so a late start was inevitable. As usual the train engine had to shunt its own stock and maybe this contributed to the delay.

The train of 11 coaches plus support coach, 12 in all, totalled 424 tons tare or around 460 tons gross, as it was completely full, picking up a few exiles from the ‘Royal Duchy’ to Par, which ran diesel-hauled throughout due to a paperwork problem with the booked engine No. 46100 Royal Scot.

Tony Clare, founder member of the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society, with fireman Matt Hunt on Clan Line at Bristol Temple Meads. DON BENN

Our crew was Wayne Thompson, ably assisted by Tim Stedman, and with TI Tom Rees keeping an eye on matters. I didn’t envy them on this cool, wet and windy day.

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We got away just over six minutes late to our first stop at Yatton, newly introduced this year.

After a steady start we topped the minor summit before Flax Bourton tunnel at 52mph and then ran up to 71.5mph before the first stop, having taken 17 minutes 40 seconds, a loss of nearly three minutes on the very optimistic 15-minute booking.

So just over nine minutes late away for the short hop to Weston-Super-Mare to pick up more passengers.

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