Monday, 2 March 2015

Tebay and Shap

  Tebay’s existence as a railway centre owes itself to 2 functions – the junction between the L&C / LNWR / LMS and BR London Midland region and the SD&LU / NER / LNER and BR North Eastern region and the need to bank trains. Tebay was pretty much razed from railway existence at the end of steam, the tail end of the Stainmore line having been retained to store miles of coal wagons during summers when they were not required.

  The change in ownership over the years appears to have done little to change operations until close to the end of steam – separate sheds, signalling, platforms, and I believe most through freight changed engines in the exchange sidings behind number 3 platform.
  Northbound passenger trains would be banked at the discretion of the driver – the Tebay crews would sit on standby behind the platform, and a train requiring assistance would sound a “crow” whistle (three rounds of short-long) on approach to Tebay No.1 box at the south end of the Down Loop, and would come to a stand just where the M6 currently crosses the line. Tebay No.2 box would allow the banker out onto the down main to buffer up to the train, where whistles would exchange and the climb begin. Cine film (affirmed by conversation with a former Oxenholme platelayer) shows that engine handling was certainly “confident” to say the least – the full tanks on a class 4 could spill dramatically when checked by a freight train, and I expect all but the greenest of guards would take cover in their van!
  Tebay Shed was home to a stud of Fowler 2-6-4 tanks for banking duties, later replaced by Fairburn’s take on the same design and finally BR Standard mogul tender engines. None of the Fowler tanks survive, but 2 Fairburns enjoy a peaceful retirement in familiar surroundings at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite now in familiar BR black rather than their fictional (but rather fetching) Caledonian Blue and LNWR Blackberry of the 1970s.
  Halfway up the climb is Scout Green box - a gated minor road crossing and block post for the climb, and favoured spot for photographers. The cabin, with its crooked Chimney, was tiny, and the bobby had to move his armchair to pull off lever number 1. The Up Home signal was a colossal 60ft co-acting LNWR type for maximum visibility for descending trains. The box also controlled intermediate block signals at Shap Wells, providing a further line capacity on the climb to the Summit. There is a rumour that when the box was taken out of service that it was dismantled and stored for reuse on a preserved line, though despite extensive research I can't find anything. Answers on a postcard.

Cine and photos show the bankers were worked full-on for their climb to Shap summit, which must have been a difficult firing turn – sat around for some time on the engine and having a huge demand for steam at short notice. Engines would drop off at Shap summit, cross over at the box to the up line and clank their way back to Tebay and cross over to the siding to do it all again. 

Unlike Beattock, not all trains stopped – a Duchess in good nick could take 12 with relative ease, and from photographs it looks like a Class 7 engine (Scot or a Brit) would take 10 unaided, and a 5 would take 8. The decision to stop would be down to many things – the condition of the engine, the coal, the weather - the strong cross winds found on Shap could add significantly to the friction of a train, and there are pictures of Diesels taking steam bankers! Freights were nearly always banked. 5s and 8s were the usual motive power, with 9Fs surprisingly infrequent visitors to Shap.
  Earlier, most goods traffic would be in the hands of LNWR G1 and G2 “Super D” 0-8-0 engines. Unglamorous they certainly were, and fireman Pete “Piccolo” Johnson of Crewe North shed recalled they appeared to have been designed to be as inconvenient and painful as possible for a fireman, with every edge perfectly positioned to scrape a firemans knuckles. They were, however, free steaming, powerful and economical engines and would slog up banks all day with very heavy loads.
One duty they are remembered for were the “Jellicoe specials”, where the Admiralty took the decision that the welsh steam coal for the Navy fleet could no longer travel by sea to the base at Scapa Flow Orkney given the U-Boat attacks. A continuous series of coal trains were worked from South Wales by the GWR to Crewe, thence by LNWR to Scotland (in total 700 miles) mainly in the hands of Super D’s marked “A” for Admiralty on their cabside and not to be used for anything else! There were at least 5 trains northbound a day, loads were 40 wagons (of the greased axlebox variety, adding to the task) loaded and 60 empty, and it is estimated that over 5 million tons worked its way over Shap during the war.
I had the very great privilege of a footplate ride on the last remaining Super D, 45395, at Llangollen and even at 20 miles an hour the ride was the liveliest I’ve ever experienced on a footplate, and my respect for the crews who toiled for hours in all weathers on the toughest of roles is total.
By contrast, the Lakes Express from Euston was often hauled by a Duchess and after removing portions at Preston and Oxenholme was often down to load 3 and a Kingmoor crew wanting their tea would lead to unbeatable times over Shap. Whilst unofficial, one photographer at Scout Green witnessed an extraordinary performance, and the passing time at Tebay was checked to reveal an extraordinary average speed of over 80 mph for the first half of the climb. Hardly scientific, but clearly an extraordinary performance.
Some WIP Images of Clifton Moor

More Soon. . . . . . . . . .

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