In his latest column, Don Benn compares the performance of Great Western and Southern steam locomotives on the South Devon banks hauling charter trains.

The South Devon banks have always held a fascination for me, even though I didn’t venture there in the real days of steam.

I did however, time a number of trains between Exeter and Plymouth in the diesel-hauled era.

I got caught out on one occasion when Class 47 No. 47661 failed at
Tigley on the 12.36pm Sheffield to Plymouth, resulting in missing my last train back to London and ending up spending the night sitting up on the sleeper train as no berths were spare.

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In recent years there have been some very good efforts with steam, many of which have exceeded performances in the days of steam.

New records have been set and then broken, but one which I think still stands for a single engine is appropriately held by a GWR locomotive, none other than No. 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe.

No. 35028 Clan Line is seen with the stock of ‘The Cornishman’ at Bristol Temple Meads on June 17, 2018. ALAN RAWLINGS

Table One sets out details of two of the finest runs in the recent steam era, the first by the aforementioned Castle class 4-6-0 No. 5043 and the second by the locomotive of the moment, the superb rebuilt Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35028 Clan Line.

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On Saturday, April 28, 2012, I joined the 6.45am Tyseley to Plymouth at Bristol Temple Meads in time for its 10.49am departure on a damp, cold and drizzly day. The crew was Bill Warriner and Alastair Meanley.

Bill has now retired, but Alastair is part of the new Vintage Trains TOC. Our load was nine coaches for 340 tons full and we got away on time for the usual long spell of running with speed at or around the 75mph limit to pass Taunton 44.74 miles in 40 minutes 47 seconds, having averaged 75.7mph over the 33.34 miles from Nailsea to Creech St Michael. The full log of this section is shown in HR 245.

Read more and view more images in Issue 248 of HR – on sale now!

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