By Don Benn
This time I am devoting the whole article to the engine of the moment, LMS Jubilee 5XP 4-6-0 No. 45699 Galatea. In the days just after its return to the main line it was an indifferent performer but for the last year it has been transformed into a top class locomotive, capable of taking unassisted loads unheard of in the days of steam, over the Fells at speeds which verge on the incredible.
Not only has Carnforth fine-tuned it to perfection but the West Coast loco crews have learnt how to get the very best out of Galatea in order to beat the Fells without getting short of steam. This generally means having the regulator open just into the main valve and driving on the cuts-off, which for the heaviest climbs means using 40 or even 45% cut off. The result is a series of quite remarkable performances of which I have been privileged to witness one, on RTC’s ‘Cumbrian Mountain Express’ on Saturday, February 17.
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The repeat itinerary of the ‘CME’ is one which attracts a lot of attention and not just from the enthusiast fraternity, as the stunning scenery in the Fells is something enjoyed by all and even though the cost of these trips has increased in recent years, they are still good value especially as they offer guaranteed pure steam running over a total of 175 miles, plus haulage by heritage electric traction to and from the steam sections.
For us Southerners, though, they involve a very long day and so I joined the first Cross Country train north, changing at Birmingham to arrive in Crewe with time to spare before boarding the ‘CME’ behind No. 86259 Les Ross with 10 coaches for the stretch to Carnforth. Here in the Down goods loop, No. 45699 backed on to the front with its support coach, bringing the tare weight up to 405 tons, or around 435 tons full as the train was full.
In the days of steam, this would have been a 12-coach train and a Class 5XP Jubilee would never have been allowed to take this load over Shap without stopping for a banker at Tebay. In LMS/BR days the limit for a class 6 locomotive was 10 coaches or 365 tons and the current NR recommended limit is only nine coaches or 324 tons (tare). So we were well over both limits but, as we shall see, it caused no problems to Galatea on my run or on previous occasions. However, the engine crews have to work the engine very hard continuously, right from leaving Carnforth and for the next 32 miles to Shap. Raw steam on the limit indeed.
Our driver was Mick Rawling and the hard-working fireman was Chris Holmes and it was obvious from the start that they meant business. Table One shows the detail of this great run. Yealand summit was topped at 35½mph and then with the characteristic Jubilee roar, speed was worked up to 64½ at Milnthorpe where we started the 13 mile long climb to Grayrigg. Oxenholme on the 1-in-178 was passed at 51½mph and then we were on the long 1-in-131/106 drag to the top.
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