THE WORLD’S FASTEST regular steam train is the “Cheltenham Flyer”, This express is booked to cover the distance of 77.3 miles between Swindon and Paddington in 65 minutes, at an average speed of 71.4 miles an hour.
THERE is a never-
On most main lines the highest speeds are attained over certain well-
Before proceeding further, readers will probably be interested to know how they may verify the speed of their trains at any point on their journeys. It is a statutory enactment that every railway shall mark out its line with mile-
If it is dark, or if the speed enthusiast is not the fortunate possessor of a window-
We now pass to a consideration of the principal speed trains of Great Britain, and of the points where highest speeds are attained. For some years past the Great Western Railway has held the record for the fastest start-
In the other direction the 11.15 am.and 1.15 pm expresses from Paddington, which for a long time past have covered the 118.3 miles from Paddington to Bristol in two hours, have in recent years abandoned their practice of slipping coaches at Bath in favour of stopping. They now run the 106.9 miles from London to Bath in 102 minutes. The highest speed on this journey is usually reached in descending Dauntsey bank, between Swindon and Chippenham.
Then there are the important trains to the West of England, which diverge from the Bristol line at Reading, and take the Westbury route to Taunton. Probably the hardest daily locomotive proposition on the line is the down “Cornish Riviera Express”, which is indeed a task fit for a “King”. An engine of this type is always used on the “Limited”, as it is affectionately known all down the line. The “Cornish Riviera Express” takes out of Paddington a minimum load of fourteen coaches, weighing with passengers and luggage roughly 500 tons, and is allowed only 169 minutes in the working timetable for the 173.5 miles from Paddington to Exeter. Paddington to Exeter is the longest non-
THE “SCARBOROUGH FLIER”, an express which runs in the summer from King’s Cross to Scarborough in four hours five minutes, with only one stop, at York. The distance of 188.2 miles from London to York is covered in 190 minutes non-
But the highest maximum speeds on the Great Western Railway are generally reached by the two-
The London Midland and Scottish Railway boasts the distinction of having a greater mileage booked in its timetables at over 55 miles an hour from start to stop than any other British railway. The “star turn” in the matter of speed is provided by the 5.25 pm express from Liverpool to Euston, which has to cover the 152.7 miles from Crewe to Willesden Junction in 142 minutes, inclusive of slowings through Stafford and Rugby to 40 miles an hour in each instance. It is closely followed by the up “Comet”, with a timing of 128 minutes over the 133.6 miles from Stafford to Euston. Except from Crewe up to Whitmore, there are no troublesome gradients on this section of line, which has been perfectly engineered with long sweeping inclinations of 1 in 330.
Efficient modern locomotives such as the “Royal Scots” may be expected to develop speeds up to and slightly exceeding 80 miles an hour on such fast bookings as these, when descending from Roade to Castlethorpe, near Wolverton, and towards London from Tring, on the crest of the Chilterns, the highest point of the route.
The same remarks apply to various other services almost equally fast. Shortly after midday four expresses are booked into Euston in succession, all of which have completed the final stage of their journey at a start-
Practically all the foregoing expresses are entrusted to 4-
None of the trains to and from Scotland attains such high speeds as these; but between Euston and Crewe they are of considerably heavier formation, and north of Crewe there are the formidable ascents to Shap and Beattock summits -
Another section of the London, Midland and Scottish system on which high speeds are attained is the Midland Division. Here the conditions differ entirely from those of the Western Division. Linking together many large cities, as did the original Midland Railway, this Division provides a frequent service of trains making relatively short runs from start to stop, but on very close timings, over fairly steep gradients. Going north from St. Pancras, once the expresses have cleared the high ground beyond Luton, they have a glorious racing ground ahead, down to the Ouse Valley, with many miles of 1 in 200 gradient, on which speeds exceeding 80 miles an hour are commonly attained. Coming south, the fastest travelling is made on the descent from Desborough past Kettering, from Sharnbrook Summit down three miles at 1 in 119 towards Bedford, and from St. Albans down to Radlett, where again “eighties” are common. The quickest train on the service is the down “Thames-
The “Breakfast Flyer”
On the London and North Eastern Railway, as with the LMS, it is not such famous trains as the “Flying Scotsman” that boast the highest booked speeds. The fastest train on the LNER is the so-
On the down journey from King’s Cross the first taste of speed is obtained as the trains sweep down from Potter’s Bar to the Lea Valley, just beyond Hatfield; but the principal speed stretch begins at Stevenage, and continues almost uninterruptedly downhill for over thirty miles, to Huntingdon. The maximum is usually reached at Three Counties, four miles north of Hitchin, and is often well over 80 miles an hour, even with the heaviest trains. The LNER “Pacifics” specialize in heavier load haulage than any other locomotive type in Britain, and such expresses as the 1.20 midday “Scotsman” out of King’s Cross commonly load to over 500 tons.
Equally fine achievements, proportionately to their smaller size, stand to the credit of the thirty-
THE “QUEEN OF SCOTS”. The London and North Eastern Railway’s famous Pullman express near Grantham, Lincolnshire. The train runs between King’s Cross and Edinburgh and Glasgow. The “Queen of Scots” covers the 185.7 miles between London and Leeds non-
Also noted for its high maximum speeds is the Great Central section of the LNER. As with the Midland Division of the LMS, this has steep gradients, light trains, but very close timings. The fastest train on the service is the down “Newspaper”, leaving Marylebone terminus at 2.32 am. This makes three mile-
Of the principal passenger trains, the 3.20 pm from Marylebone is probably the best known. Generally made up to seven coaches, it has to run the 103.1 miles from Marylebone to Leicester in 109 minutes. Top speeds of over 80 miles an hour are generally attained on the long 1 in 176 downhill stretches from Charwelton to Braunston (just south of Rugby), and from Ashby to Leicester. Equally high speeds are also occasionally reached on the steeper pitch from Wendover down to Aylesbury, which is preceded by a hard climb -
Little high speed can be expected on the Great Eastern Section of the LNER, because of steep grades and numerous slowings for curves. A timing such as 2½ hours non-
The principal “racing ground” of the North Eastern area of the LNER is across the Great Plain of York, from York to Darlington, 44.1 miles away. This is almost dead level, and for many years before the war it boasted the fastest timing in the British Empire, as the then 12.20 pm express was booked from Darlington to York in 43 minutes. There are still two expresses with the same 43-
THE “BOURNEMOUTH LIMITED” of the Southern Railway. This express runs every weekday between London and the Dorset coast, covering the 108 miles non-
But it is, perhaps, the Southern Railway that gives the most surprising results in the matter of speed. Between Salisbury and Exeter the old London and South Western main line is a switchback of extremely steep gradients, culminating in the climb from just beyond Axminster up to Honiton Tunnel, for 4½ miles as steep as 1 in 80. But fortunately the alinement is so good that practically unlimited speeds can be run down the banks, giving a helpful impetus for the succeeding climb. Thus any single journey on a non-
Between Waterloo and Salisbury the gradients are flatter, but longer and more sweeping. There is a long pull for fifty miles from Waterloo out to Worting Junction, two miles west of Basingstoke, which is shared with the expresses for Southampton and Bournemouth. Of the latter the chief is the “Bournemouth Limited”, covering the distance of 108 miles between Waterloo and Bournemouth Central in the even two hours -
Speed on the Brighton Line
Expresses from Bournemouth and from Salisbury travel at high speeds continuously from Basingstoke onwards until it becomes necessary to moderate the rate of travel somewhat on entering the electrified suburban area at Surbiton. It is by no means unusual to cover this 36 miles at an average speed of well over 70 miles an hour for the whole distance.
On the Central Division the main line breasts in succession three summits -
The Eastern Division of the Southern is notorious for its extremely difficult gradients. Over sections where high-
Not much opportunity for speeding is given on the Margate main line, which is extraordinarily difficult, but the sharp descents from both sides to the viaduct at Farningham Road can generally be relied on to give a top speed of 75 miles an hour, now that the 4-
THE “CORNISH RIVIERA EXPRESS”, drawn by a “King”, leaving Paddington. In summer this Great Western train covers the 225½ miles between London and Plymouth in four hours without a stop. In the winter months it stops at Exeter.
“HECTOR”, one of the LMS “Royal Scot”
[From part 22 published 28 June 1935]