Last Hymek to Penzance
Capturing D7032 at Penzance was a total stroke of luck. At the beginning of 1972 my mother was working in the Education Department at Old County Hall, just up the road from Truro station. During a conversation with the Horticultural Education Officer the subject of a new demonstration garden at Probus came up – plans had been drawn up and work on the site had started, but he ideally wanted a model of the finished product for display at that year’s Royal Cornwall Show in June, but how to go about it? “I’m sure my eldest son would be able to help you with that”, said my mother, “he’s just finishing up in the Vehicle Records Office”, and so it was that I ended up with three 3-foot square boards in an outbuilding behind Old County Hall – within earshot of the main line. The task took me until Tuesday 18th April to complete, a little longer than they had anticipated (and budgeted for) but the result way exceeded their expectations so that was OK!
While building the model I could hear down trains roaring up the incline to Highertown Tunnel, but on that final day at around 14.30 came a Maybach roar with a difference. A Western or Warship in trouble? Hymek withdrawals had commenced in September 1971 and by the end of March 1972 just half the fleet remained in service - considering their rarity in Cornwall when all 101 were extant that possibility never occurred to me, but later that day a friend who saw it from a distance informed me that the extremely unlikely had indeed happened. It was later identified as D7055 hauling three coaches, and a photo of the train at Exeter exists, with the headcode 2B14. Usually there were no down trains at that time but industrial action (we were in the 1970s remember….!) presumably created this working with its unusual motive power. So the next day at 14.30 I waited outside Truro ticket office with camera and return fare to Penzance in hand, peering down the line to see if it would happen again, more in hope than expectation…….and to my astonishment it did! I was already purchasing the ticket as D7032 pulled into Platform 2. I had to jump on board quickly as it didn’t hang about – and with just three coaches in tow it continued to not hang about all the way to Penzance, where I took my photo at around 15.00. Alas the whole thing had caught me unawares and I only had the one exposure left – I tried but failed to find another film in Penzance as it was half-day closing (seaside towns on Wednesdays, inland towns Thursdays – seems very odd now) and having prior arrangements for the evening I was unable to wait for D7032’s uncertain return working and instead had the “pleasure” of returning to Truro in a Class 119 DMU full of schoolchildren! There were no repeat performances and so I had unknowingly captured the last Hymek to reach Penzance and the last on a Cornish passenger working, although it was not the last one seen in Cornwall – D7011 reached Truro with overnight milk empties on 11th August 1973 and D7093 made it only as far as Saltash with a ballast train on 7th March 1974.
Following the devastating Hymek cull throughout 1972 no more were withdrawn until April 1973 when two more went – strangely enough the two Cornish adventurers from a year earlier, D7055 on the 16th and D7032 on the 20th. D7032 had been one of the final Hymek overhauls at Swindon Works in August 1971 so should have lasted longer, but engine failure curtailed its future – despite its still overall good condition a transplant from D7075 was ruled out on cost grounds.
It has been reported that D7032 made an earlier Cornish appearance on 6th January 1965 – at Wadebridge! Route to get there and purpose unknown……
After a difficult few years the Council’s horticultural demonstration garden at Probus closed down in 2004, and I believe the site is still derelict. I’m sure my model is way beyond dereliction by now!