Did Cromwell run short of coal?

By Cedric Johns

All sorts of rumours flew around linesides when BR 4-6-2 No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell ‘failed’ when working a Valentine’s Day evening trip to Windsor & Eton Riverside and back to Victoria on February 14.

It had been a long day, the 7P leaving Southall at 6.45am on the morning of Valentine’s Day to head a luncheon special around Kent before working a romantic Brief Encounter film evening special to and at Eton’s great hall.

BR Standard Britannia Pacific No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell passes Chartham with Steam Dreams’ ‘Cathedrals Express’ from Victoria to Dover on February 14. JAMIE SQUIBBS

The luncheon train departed London Victoria on the Wednesday morning at a civilised 9am, taking the old Southern exit via Bromley South.

Reaching Ashford by way of Maidstone East the train travelled on south east through Canterbury, turning for London at Minster then skirting the coast passing Sandwich, Deal and Walmer, the 4-6-2 tackling the stiff climb up Martin Mill bank then dropping down Guston Tunnel into Dover.

After a water stop at Folkestone West, Cromwell’s crew had beaten the most challenging sections apart from the climb up through Hildenborough Tunnel yet to come. As it was, the train reached Victoria more or less on time but the contents of the engine’s tender must have been reduced by a few tons and gallons respectively.

So came the evening and the short trip to Windsor & Eton Riverside due to depart Victoria at 5.15pm, arriving at 6.35pm.

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