The latest circular tour of the South Western Division by Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific No 35028 Clan Line featured a climb through the western end of the South Downs National Park, along the old Portsmouth Direct route.
Departure from Victoria was followed by the usual trundle along suburban lines south of the Thames round to Byfleet, but Clan Line gave us a taste of what was to come with a burst to 64 mph through Ashford Middlesex.
Once on the South Western main line, the pace remained pedestrian until Woking but by Brookwood we were up to 50, then 67 through Farnborough and into the early 70s before having to slow to 30 through the platform at Winchfield. 56 through Hook was followed by 67 before slowing, then crawling, through Basingstoke. We then worked gradually up to 37 at Worting Junction, then Clan Line was given her head, reaching 58 at Steventon, 65 at Roundwood and 70 at the Popham tunnels. From there we rollicked down through Micheldever at 75 and sustained the high speed dash for the next ten miles, rattling the windows at Winchester with a magnificent display. As we approached Winchester we came down to earth for a bit, then turned eastward at Eastleigh on the line towards Portsmouth.
After stopping for water at Hedge End we reached 50 after Fareham and were up to 67 after Portchester before a signal stop at Cosham. Then we turned onto the Portsmouth Direct line to reach Bedhampton at 31 and Havant at 34, where we were blowing off in anticipation of the climb ahead. Despite the gradient we blasted up to 49 and slackened only to 47 at Rowlands Castle, but accelerated again into the mid 50s and dropped only to 38 at Buriton summit. Then we fairly galloped downhill, whistle screaming through Petersfield at 70 and well into the 70s through to Liss at the foot of the next climb. We remained in the 60s almost to Liphook where we were slowed to 49, then back up to 59 before the slowing for our water and coaling stop at Haslemere.
With nothing to worry us now, we fairly roared away downhill, reaching 74 within 4 miles before being brought down to 15 through Witley. Milford at 64 and Godalming at 59 seemed pedestrian after the fireworks, but we were not done yet. 66 on approach to Guildford provided a fitting finale to a most exhilarating tour.
Moseying back through Twickenham, where England and Wales were at loggerheads, we happily reflected on the huge success of this collaboration between MNLPS and UK Railtours, reached even from Manchester with a decent sleep at home both before and after.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures