By Don Benn

THE LOCOMOTIVES of the month are surely the Bulleid rebuilt Merchant Navy Pacifics, No. 35018 British India Line and No. 35028 Clan Line, which is very appropriate as this issue of Heritage Railway will reach the bookstands a few days before the 51st anniversary of the end of Southern steam.

Who would have believed all those years ago that performances seen in 2018 would equal those in the last days of steam, and indeed Clan Line would produce a power output rivalling the best seen in the 1960s?

I wasn’t on any of the latest trips, so I am indebted to my correspondents David Bradbury, Alan Rawlings and Sean Emmett for details of the runs which follow.

With Pen-y-ghent in the background, SR Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35018 British India Line passes Selside with the Railway Touring Company’s ‘Great Britain X!’ on April 20. DAVE RODGERS

Table One shows details of British India Line’s first run on the northbound ‘Cumbrian Mountain Express’ from Carnforth to Carlisle. This train is virtually guaranteed to be pure steam, although it’s a shame that the selected locomotive isn’t advertised beforehand, so by the time I heard that the May 12 trip would be hauled by No. 35018, I couldn’t change my plans and book to go. Shame, as there were plenty of empty seats and the running showed just what a big difference it makes to have a class 8 up front rather than a class 6.

David Bradbury uses mileposts as the primary source of information, so where these coincide with known places I have substituted these. The train was 63 minutes late away from Carnforth due to delays in the Rugby area and with Steve Chipperfield and Chris Holmes in charge on British India Line and the usual 11 coaches grossing less than normal at 425 tons, the running throughout was excellent. 39mph at Yealand, 50½ at Grayrigg and 40 over Shap were all good and these, plus the usual dash down to Carlisle, put the train inside even time by milepost 66¾.

The actual time of 65 minutes, 13 seconds was up with the best, recovering 12 minutes of the late start. I hope that WCR sees the benefits of using class 8 power on this train and that many more opportunities will arise to sample the Bulleid in future. I will cover the southbound run over the S&C in a future issue. On a technicality, there is some doubt about the weight of coach No. 99316 – it being either 39 or 36 tons. I believe it is 36 tons, so this is used to make up the tare weight.

Read more and view more images in Issue 243 of HR – on sale now!

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