A full day at Penzance yesterday in the gloom! One highlight was the class 08 08410 scuttling in to collect the overnight sleeper stock. It contrasts with more modern traction waiting to set off.
The sight of the these 350HP beauties shunting around stations across the UK are sadly missed. Largely ignored by enthusiasts, they provided a vital service when perishables were sorted and coaches needed shunting. We are fortunate in the South West that the 08s come in from Laira occasionally to shunt HST power cars.
Cheers Craig Very nostalgic - many thanks Craig
Yes, the Cornish Riviera Express DID work in and out of St Ives, usually with the proper stock complete with “Cornish Riviera” boards slotted in place on the Carriages and it was always referred to with reverence as the Cornish Riviera Express. Indeed, when the Chocolate & Cream sets consisting of 8 brand new BR Mk1 coaches plus a pair of pre-war GWR Restaurant Cars were introduced in the mid-fifties, they promptly appeared at St Ives. Even the underframes were still shiny black. I remember the surprise and pride I felt when this happened although I thought it a pity that nothing had been done to smarten up the engines (yet). Regrettably Chocolate & Cream only lasted for a few years after which all carriages were gradually painted in boring old maroon.
Through the fifties, loads were 10 coaches at the beginning and end of the season (2nd week of June – end of 1st week of September) rising to 11 or even 12 at peak season. Invariably three 45XXs would be involved. One would be waiting, ready to go, usually on the run-round loop but sometimes elsewhere. As the train drawn by a pair of engines approached along the cliffs from the stop signal at Porthminster Point it would come to a halt again just under the road bridge by the engine shed where the leading engine would be detached and run up to the shed for water. As soon as the points were clear the train engine would then take the train into the station and smoothly come to a halt hard up against the wall at the end of the platform. Meanwhile the engine which had been quietly simmering on the loop would make its way up onto the viaduct before backing onto the train, followed by the engine which had been taking on water. The pair would then sit patiently with steam pouring from their safety valves waiting for the “OFF” which would be delivered with much whistling and flag waving. The whole operation took about 20 minutes supervised, in the fifties, by the Station Master.
The above procedure applied to both the morning UP train and the evening DOWN train except that in the morning the fireman of the engine sandwiched between the train and the buffers would usually take the opportunity to have a breakfast fry-up. I have smelt the bacon and watched bacon, eggs tomatoes and even chips being cooked in a shiny shovel wiped spotless with a bit of cotton waste!
As for the suggestion that the train was pushed back to allow the train engine to escape over the crossover, this would not have been possible, certainly in the morning, as the whole platform from end to end would be filled by a seething mass of humanity with their suitcases, push-chairs and children clutching their buckets and spades. The instant the train stopped (if not before) the doors would be flung open and the throng would surge forward to get the best seats. There would be people getting on and off the train right up until the blowing of the whistle. In any case, quite often the crossover was unusable because of the number of carriages parked in the sea siding and it was usual for there to be an engine in the station the whole day until the evening train; as each branch train arrived the waiting engine would back onto it and take it back to St Erth leaving the other engine free to go and get water and then admire the view.
In the late fifties as post-war conditions improved and more people took holidays but before the era of universal car ownership and cheap flights to foreign parts, some Saturdays would see every spare space taken up with assorted through carriages from the North – old pre-war LMS and LNER specimens and even some from the Scottish Region. Sometimes some would be gathered up and used as the next Branch train to St Erth simply to give a bit of space to move.
Towards the end of through trains when the Rivera was reduced to a meagre 8 carriages and D63XXs ruled the roost, there were one or two occasions when only 2 engines were used for the down train and the empty stock pushed back to let the train engine escape but these were very, very, much the exception. There was even one solitary occasion (the 7th September 1963, the last day of the Summer Timetable and the final day of through Paddington trains) when the morning train was brought down the Branch by THREE D63XXs, the first 2 (D6321 & D6316) being detached leaving the third to draw the train into the station. At the other end of the scale, in the days of steam there were times when there were four 45XXs in the station because of the density of traffic.
Although talk of closure had been in the air for a long time it was obvious that something was afoot when, early morning of Thursday 15th August 1963, I was surprised to see a polished D6340 sitting in the bay platform with an equally polished solitary coach which turned out to be the Engineer’s Inspection Saloon (from where – does anybody know?). Odd bods with Trilby Hats were wandering about the station. During the mid-morning lull D6340 propelled the saloon back to St Erth and was never seen again.
The end came ignominiously less than 4 weeks later on Sunday 8th September, the first day of the Winter Timetable; Sunday trains didn’t run during the winter. A team of men arrived by motor lorry (not even by train!); out came the tablet apparatus from the Signal Box and the arms came off the signals. Then came the much longer job of disabling all the interlocking between the signals and the points, at a stroke reducing the Signal Box to a ground-frame and the status of the Branch to one engine in steam.
In actual fact the job took a few days to complete as there was more to do than one might think. A proper Blacksmith and his assistant, (complete with old fashioned portable forge and bellows) were part of the team which surprised me as I thought technology had made such things well and truly obsolete. The pair were engaged in actually making or modifying linkages to connect with the bell-cranks etc. having removed the interlocking. These were made from standard ends, typically a clevis on one end and a screw on the other, fire welded together in the white hot coke in the hearth and then adjusted to fit exactly. I remember being very impressed by the skill of the Blacksmith using not much more than hot coke, hammers, chisels and the anvil, oh, and the brawn of his assistant to operate the bellows and wield a sledge hammer when required. I did ask why they were using such an old-fashioned welding method when I would have expected them to be using oxy-acetylene or electric-arc and I was told that it was found to be far more reliable.
While inside the Signal Box I managed to “liberate” the freshly out-of- date Summer ’63 working timetable for the Plymouth Division, which I still have and I have scanned the relevant pages which show the UP and DOWN Saturday Cornish Riviera Expresses, both on the main line as well as on the Branch. Examination will show that they did run through to St Ives right until the bitter end.
Take the morning train: This started ECS from Ponsandane at 8:50, arriving St Erth 9:02, in time to form the 9:12 passenger train to St Ives where it miraculously became the 1A81 to Paddington leaving at 9:50. Simultaneously the other part of the train left Penzance (also with the 1A81 headcode) for St Erth where the two parts were united, departing for Paddington at 10:17. Unfortunately I was never able to get to St Erth at this time of day so I do not know how the trains were joined up. The most obvious way would be for the Penzance section with tender loco (or locos) to drive straight into one of the sidings at the UP end of the station and then wait for the St Ives section to proceed into the UP MAIN platform. The tender loco would then have to back its train onto the other section. But, would they have done this with passengers still in it?
The procedure for the evening Down Cornish Riviera Express, the 1C30, was completely different: Page D36 shows that its first Cornish stop was Truro at 4:26, where the Penzance Portion was detached from the rear. The front section was then sent forward, non-stop, to St Erth arriving at the Down Advance Starting signal at 5:08. It then reversed, still with the 1C30 headcode, arriving at St Ives at 5:40. Bear in mind that at that time there was still a Branch connection to both UP and DOWN lines at St Erth. Meanwhile the other part departed from Truro at 4:45, but downgraded to the headcode 2C20, arriving Penzance at 5:35.
Regarding the headcodes, whilst the train crews may have been careful to show them correctly on the main line, the opposite applied on the Branch. Seeing the correct headcode on a diesel engine (or, for that matter, a DMU) was a rarity; away from prying eyes they simply didn’t bother. I think the blinds were prone to getting jammed and were easily damaged so fiddling with them was best avoided. Western National buses also often appeared to have problems with their destination blinds, so I suppose it is not so surprising.
Actually, when I think about it, they weren’t too fussy back in steam days either – all that really seemed to matter was that they showed white to the front and red to the rear. Indeed I seem to remember that sometimes the engines only possessed a single headlamp, anyway.
I left St Ives later that same autumn so never really saw what went on after that time although we know for certain that St Ives never again saw more than one engine, or train, at a time.
This extremely interesting article together with pictures and timetables is repeated in our St Ives branch section. Many thanks to Laurence
Roy Hart writes :- I recall once, in about 1965, riding a DMU to St Ives which towed a wagon of coal. On arrival at St Ives, the DMU backed up as far as the engine shed, the wagon was uncoupled and braked. The DMU returned to the platform. The man in the ground frame (ex-box) moved the points to the back platform road and the wagon descended by gravity into the siding. Such a wagon is shown in one of Mr Hansford's pictures.
Roger Aston & Andrew Triggs
'When the donkeys are gone (143's) - a look into the future'. Excellent reading pictures and analysis - well worth a click on the above. Many thanks David for drawing our attention to this
Last day at Chard Central