A Famous Train of the LNER
IT was something of a shock to the well-
Prior to the opening of the “London Extension” in 1899, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire was an important system crossing the country from Cleethorpes and Grimsby in the east, through Sheffield and Barnsley to Manchester in the west, with a share in the large joint railway known as the Cheshire Lines Committee, and important interests in North Wales. Its southernmost tentacle extended to Annesley, near Nottingham. The powers obtained enabled the M.S. and L. Company to prolong this line southward through Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby to a junction with the London Metropolitan Railway, which had advanced northward to a point beyond Aylesbury.
As a result of this vastly important development the provincial railway required a new name, and included in the Parliamentary powers was the authority to change its name from Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire to the imposing title of “Great Central” Railway. In due course the hundred miles of vastly expensive new line were completed. The Great Northern took the opportunity of combining with the Great Central in the building of the magnificent Victoria Station at Nottingham, while another big station had to be erected at Leicester. Regardless of expense, the main line was laid in such a manner as to invite the highest speeds being run over it; and then, at the London end, it was necessary to build independent lines inward from Harrow and a new terminus and a big goods station at Marylebone. This last section involved some engineering problems, not the least of which was the tunnelling under the corner of the famous Lord’s cricket ground, which involved temporarily opening up the ground and, of course, the payment of a heavy sum of money by way of compensation to the Marylebone Cricket Club.
Whether the Great Central Extension to London would ever have been built and opened if the grouping of the railways had been foreseen is very difficult to determine. It has hardly attracted a through passenger traffic between London and the Midlands and the North sufficient to justify the enormous expense of its construction, although valuable suburban traffic has been built up in the outskirts of London, Leicester and Nottingham. But a very important link was opened shortly after-
The failure to attract much traffic to its express trains has not been for want of inducements. As soon as the line had “consolidated” -
When it first ran, the “Sheffield Special” was made up to a total of three coaches. The rear one was a slip coach for Nottingham, the remaining two being vestibuled together and constituting the main portion of the train. It was quite a modest problem of haulage, therefore, that was set to the line 4-
As time went on the “Sheffield Special” grew more popular, and its weight correspondingly increased. The slip coach was altered to serve Leicester as well as Nottingham, being run forward to Loughborough and Nottingham by a following train which proceeded to Grimsby and Cleethorpes. In the years before the war the formation consisted generally of five or six coaches of the latest and heaviest Great Central stock, making a total weight behind the engine tender of 180 to 215 tons, and 35 tons less than this from Leicester onward. Meanwhile the “Atlantics” had been built, and after them the first of the famous “Director” class of 4-
Throughout the war the “Sheffield Special” survived, but with stops at both Leicester and Nottingham interrupting the non-
Since the war the non-
3.20 p.m. Marylebone-
And now a word about the engine before we start. Very occasionally one of the 2-
Smartness has always been the keynote of Great Central working, and punctual to the second we move out of the terminus -
At Neasden there diverges to the left the alternative Great Central main line to the North, via Northolt Junction and the Great Western and Great Central line through High Wycombe. This route, being easier in grading, is used by heavy excursion and freight trains, but its increased journey of 41 miles rules it out for the fastest expresses which, with one exception, unless calling at Wycombe, take the original and shorter Aylesbury route.
Profile of gradients, Marylebone to Leicester, LNER.
From Neasden we climb through Wembley to Harrow, and shall breast the last 14 miles at 1 in 94-
Now comes the gruelling rise to Amersham. Through Chorley Wood and Chalfont Road we mount, all the way at 1 in 105, until we have had no less than six miles of it right off. The speed averages 35 miles an hour or slightly over -
From here to Nottingham the steepest grade has been kept down to 1 in 176 by careful engineering, but there are some long stretches at this inclination, calling for hard work on the part of the engine. As the gradient profile shows, the bulk of the next 15 miles is adverse to the engine, largely at 1 in 176; but we shall find that our “Director” sails cheerfully up the banks at over 50 miles an hour, the speed seldom falling below about 52 and rising to just over 65 or so in the short intervening dips. Then we hurry over a sort of switchback “tableland”, past Culworth Junction, where the Banbury “spur” from the Great Western comes in on the left, and Woodford and Hinton, an important junction and locomotive depot. Thirty-
Scooping up a fresh supply of water from Charwelton troughs, we dash into Catesby Tunnel -
Breasting Rugby in about 91 minutes from London, we swing over the great girder bridge carrying our route across the whole width of the approach lines and sidings to Rugby Station on the LMS. Shortly after passing Lutterworth we reach the top of the second long downhill stretch and, accelerating gloriously, we probably just reach or even exceed another 80 an hour, prolonged through Whetstone right into the suburbs of Leicester, before drawing up smartly at Leicester platform. We have neatly covered the 103 miles in exactly the allotted span of 109 minutes.
Only two minutes are allowed for the stop, but they are sufficient to enable us to see that even so big a station as Leicester has been built on the island principle. The main up and down platform is one of the longest in the country.
Away again, we have but 25 minutes allowed in which to cover the 23½ miles into Nottingham, and that despite a slow finish round the sharp curves from “Weekday Cross” Junction into the Victoria Station, it is over this stretch that the fastest Great Central run of the day is made, the early morning newspaper express having to cover the 22½ miles to the Arkwright Street Station at Nottingham in no more than 22 minutes, start to stop. Such times involve dashing down to Loughborough at a speed reaching up to 78 miles an hour or so; then swinging over Barnston Summit at a minimum of 60, and perhaps touching 80 yet again near Ruddington before we begin to slow for Nottingham. These are tight timings indeed; there is not a single minute to spare anywhere!
Off from Nottingham again after a halt of two minutes, once more we have some tough climbing. The profile shows how the major part of the next 11 miles, to Kirkby South Junction, is as steeply ascending as 1 in 131. If we get up this ascent in no more than 17 minutes we shall do well. We are now on to the original Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire line, and henceforward are well into the coalfield area on to Sheffield. Broken grades to Pilsley herald the long descent from there to Staveley, on which we shall achieve our last really high speed of the journey, probably at least 75 miles an hour, but possibly higher still. Then we negotiate a very curved section of the line, taking water for the second time at Eckington troughs, and so manage, again with no margin of time, to come to a halt in the grimy city of Sheffield at the Victoria Station, 48 minutes alter leaving Nottingham (38¼ miles) at 6.26 p.m.
Profile of gradients, Leicester to Manchester, LNER.
Here we are saddled with the addition of a through coach from Bournemouth to Bradford, attached in rear, which, fortunately, we have not to take further than Penistone. For this journey has “the sting in its tail”. Look at the gradients west of Sheffield! One in 132-
We are now well up into the Pennines -
Approaching Dinting, we are slowed to 40 miles an hour for the sharp curve leading on to Dinting Viaduct, This structure, in its magnitude, is a fit companion to Woodhead Tunnel; it is 1,200 ft long, and reaches a maximum height of 130 ft above the valley that it spans. A few minutes later we draw up at Guide Bridge, where important connections are made to Oldham, Ashton, Stockport and other towns fringing Manchester on the east. A final run of 11¼ miles, right round the southern suburbs of Manchester, such as Belle Vue and Levenshulme, brings us into the Central Station from a south-
The 3.20 down Manchester Express leaving Marylebone hauled by a “Director” class locomotive.
“The Midland Scotsman” on this website.