The PRCLT continued the 75th anniversary celebrations of their flagship Stanier Pacific No 46233 Duchess of Sutherland by arranging an epic two-day excursion from Crewe to Perth and back, echoing those amazing turns worked by Crewe men on the night sleepers and Postals.
It was a dark, grey, wet morning as no 46233 reversed into Crewe station and onto its train on Friday, but there was nothing dreary about her running when we got going. In the third coach, the noise was deafening as she reached 76 by Winsford, and then some. Between Preston and Lancaster she was strangely restrained but we managed 73 through Lancaster and and 75 past Hest Bank before the water stop at Carnforth. After this we passed Milnthorpe at 67, Oxenholme at 55 and Docker at 50 before falling to a minimum of 44 at Grayrigg summit. We rattled down and along the Lune Gorge, passing Tebay at 74 as we hit the bottom of the climb to Shap. Our twelve coaches were no mean load and we fell to 64 at Greenholme, 51 at Scout Green, 37 at Shap Wells and 33 at Shap Summit. Then we had such a rollicking ride down into Carlisle that we arrived 22 minutes ahead of schedule!
There was more lively running across the lowlands north of the border, and we passed Beattock station at 65. The ten mile climb took its toll and we passed Greskine at 38 and Harthope at 35 but then slogged on nobly, passing the summit at 33. We had another fast run in sunshine down the glorious Upper Clyde valley to our water stop at Carstairs. Picking our way through all the junctions to the east of Glasgow was an anticlimax, but gaining the main route north through Stirling and Dunblane, we maintained 38 up the 1 in 88 to Kinbuck and reached the outskirts of Perth ahead of time.
In the evening there was a celebration dinner at the Station Hotel, Perth with several good speakers, the stars being the legendary retired footplatemen Bill Andrew and Frank Santrian. During this wonderful double act, Bill revealed that his secret name for the Duchess was Gladys!
The following morning we had a lively run up Strathearn and down Strathallan before the drag round Glasgow. Leaving Carstairs, we were into the 70s around Lamington and stayed in the 60s up through Abington, Crawford and past Elvanfoot, where the brakes went on to enter the loop at Beattock Summit for a pathing stop. Near-continuous braking was needed down the bank to hold our free-running engine to something resembling her speed limit, and lively running continued through to Carlisle. From there we made a gentle start, not reaching 60 till just short of Penrith. We were then looped for a late running Pendolino at Clifton, but slogged up the hill thereafter, reaching Thrimby at 36, Shap Village at 39 and Shap Summit at a commendable 48. We then had fast runs to Carnforth and then to Preston. After a slow spell to Standish, we reached the 60s and then the 70s, passing Wigan North Western at 69, Warrington Bank Quay at 75 and similarly onwards to Crewe, reached three minutes early after an excellent two days with a very fine locomotive indeed.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures