Regards, Clive Smith.
Thanks for an interesting March home page. I was struck by Clive Smith’s suggestion that there hadn’t been any DMU diagrams in Southampton since c1965. The Swindon Inter-Cities were built for the Cardiff-Portsmouth axis and operated 1963-68 as 8-cars with buffet, but by the time I made my first rail trip to Southampton c1969 they’d been replaced by Hymeks, initially with Mk1 6-buffet sets but later reduced to 5-non-buffet and then 4-sets. When I started at Fratton Depot in 1973, these had just been downgraded to a mix of Swindon Cross-Countries and DEMUs displaced from recently-closed branches. There were some 6-car, but mostly 3-car with consequent crowding and limited lavatories which led to further downfall of the route. So in 1976 a few Inter-Cities reappeared and then they went back to loco haulage, initially Cl 31, but by the time I was working in Southampton Tunnel in 1983 we were being asphyxiated by Cromptons and the occasional Brush 4. We complained to the Chief Medical Officer and he sent a team down to measure their emissions, but we were told that Diesel exhaust wasn’t harmful. Finally in 1988 they went over to the new-fangled Sprinters (155, 156 and now 158) which continue to this day.
However, strange things happened at weekends when peak stock was freed from elsewhere, especially in Summer or during engineering work, eg loco-hauled sets from East Grinstead or Hastings units on the Brighton-Exeter. I don’t recall ever seeing a high-density DMU at Southampton, but a Bristol or Cardiff set could have been turned out to cover. The fact that L401 was always based at Reading makes me wonder if Clive’s spot had come down the main line, either as an excursion (unlikely in February) or driver-training, or because of engineering work somewhere.
Best wishes, John.
My thoughts and conclusions. First, it took a couple of hours to find and deliver, a replacement loco. I’m sure that in the days of Ranelagh Bridge Depot and Old Oak Common, we would have not needed to wait a so long to leave London, but that’s progress! Also, 57 306 appeared to really struggle with the load over the wet Devon banks. I thought at first it was slowing deliberately, but no, the train sped away up every time it hit a downgrade. Finally, the noise 57 306 made leaving Plymouth heading for Penzance at 07:02, so nearly two hours late, was pretty impressive and included a bit of horn!
Best wishes, Andy. Andrew Rigler, Manager UK & IRL