Clan Line record cracker on trip across the Tamar

By Cedric Johns

Having opened the ‘Torbay Express’ season for Riviera Trains on Sunday, June 3, Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 No. 35028 Clan Line became the first-ever Bulleid heavyweight to cross the Tamar and enter Cornwall.

Originally planned to work the first two ‘Torbays’, the plans were changed, with the ‘Torbay Express’ booked for June 17 giving way to a newly-created one-off – ‘The Cornishman’, which was route extended via Exeter, Newton Abbot, the south Devon banks and Plymouth, the destination being Par.

Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35028 Clan Line working ‘The Cornishman’ from Bristol Temple Meads to Par through Dawlish on a rainy June 17. THOMAS MILLS

According to reports received, including details from Paul Blowfield, the communications and marketing officer of the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society, Clan Line provided a cracking performance, which included a claim that its running time between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth North Road – 62min 21sec – was a “record for any steam locomotive with any load, never mind 10 on.”

He added: “We ran the return journey in what may be the second fastest in 60min 45sec.”

The day did not begin exactly as planned, as a signal failure outside Temple Meads resulted in ‘The Cornishman’ departing almost half an hour late.

However, after Weston-super-Mare, the Merchant, heading 10 for 385 tonnes, picked up its heels by covering the 22 miles to Cogload Junction in 21min 40 sec, its speed being held steady around the 75/77mph mark.

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