Cloud, mist and rain hung over Birmingham as Tyseley’s Castle 4-6-0 No 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe pulled into Moor Street (9 coaches and REG the water carrier) before heading off for the south west in a big loop.
On leaving Stourbridge Junction the Earl was up to 61 by Blakedown and continued in the 60s to the outskirts of Droitwich. After our final pickup at Worcester and reaching the Midland main line to the south west at Abbotswood, we were off like a rocket, reaching 72 by Defford and continuing at or around our maximum speed until beyond Cleeve. A shorter burst after Cheltenham saw us briefly into the 70s again until slowing for our stop in the loop outside Gloucester.
Then, turning up the Golden Valley line, still in mist and rain, we were at 36 at Stonehouse, 42 at Stroud and 52 at Brimscombe where the real climbing started. Chalford was passed at 44 and we slowed to 35 by Frampton Mansell and entered Sapperton tunnel at 32 mph. We romped down the other side, sweeping through Kemble at 72 and continuing around maximum speed until well after Purton when we started slowing for Swindon.
Out on the main line now, we were back up to 74 at Shrivenham and we had a marvellous high speed run right through to beyond Steventon, when we slowed for the turn for Oxford at Foxhall Junction. With no more fireworks we still reached Oxford station before the scheduled time.
The sun was shining brightly as the Earl pulled back into the station for the return run on the route of the original Cathedrals Express. We reached 71 by Charlbury but were following a stopper, so we had stops and slows amidst bursts of speed such as 72 beyond Moreton in Marsh, 75 around Honeybourne and 73 after Pershore.
After stops at Worcester and Stourbridge Junction, we barked briskly away towards Old Hill bank, blowing off and with black smoke billowing, reaching 46 at Cradley Heath after which speed dropped rapidly as we hit the 1 in 51. Our speed had dropped to 15 mph as we entered the tunnel, passed with a deafening roar and the unique smell of smoke and steam. We emerged at 14 mph and reached 20 by Rowley Regis and Langley Green at 55. (Tyseley have since advised that the Earl had to be restrained in its run towards the climb so that a service train just ahead did not cause a red signal whilst we were on the worst of the gradient).
This dramatic finish brought an end to a wonderful and varied day out, on which the Earl once again put in some fantastic performances.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures