This was my first chance of a ride behind Stanier Pacific No 46233 Duchess of Hamilton since her loaded test run the Night Owl at the end of March. It was eagerly anticipated, despite the cold wet weather in which we arrived at Crewe.
We set off gently with our ten coaches (and no diesel!) but by Acton Bridge we had reached 67 and we swept through Warrington at 70, continuing briskly to the outskirts of Preston. We barked up the hill out of the station, reached 60 again by Broughton and roared through Lancaster at 74, inside even time from Preston.
After the water stop at Carnforth we reached 60 near Burton and maintained good speed after the start of the climb to Grayrigg, passing Oxenholme at 53 and dropping only slowly to a minimum of 46 at the summit. We cantered through the Lune Gorge in the early sixties, with 65 at Tebay as we hit the climb to Shap. Again speed dropped only slowly, to 56 at Greenholme, 51 at Scout Green and 46 at Salterwath. From this point we slogged away without losing more speed, and made it over the summit at a minimum of 45. From there right the way down to the outskirts of Carlisle, we had an exhilarating run at around 70 (plus and minus 5), rounding off an excellent outward journey. 68 round the curve at Penrith was a highlight!
The return climb to Shap is less demanding, and it was a brisk and competent climb in the 50s and 60s. After from a momentary slowing to 48 at Shap village, the summit was breasted at 59. There followed a rollicking run in the 70s down to Carnforth, slowing only to 65 at Grayrigg before sweeping through Oxenholme at 73. More lively running on through Lancaster and Preston saw us early through Wigan at 71 and Warrington at 61, before being held at Weaver Junction for the stopper from Liverpool. A last burst of speed through Winsford saw us to Crewe almost on time, after an excellent day out with this fine locomotive.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures