The triumphant return of Clan Line this summer, with some sterling performances way beyond the Surrey hills, prompted me to book on this round trip in the South West, whose scheduled permitted a ‘there and back in a day’ journey from Manchester.
I felt quite at home in the dark, dank and damp conditions as we moseyed round secondary suburban lines to keep clear of the southwest main line until just before Woking.
Hopes of more speed on the main line did not materialise immediately, as stoppers ahead and tricky rail conditions meant that we could only touch 50 after Fleet, and we were well onto the Salisbury line before touching our first 60 near Overton. Then we roared downhill through Hurstbourne at 71 and a spell of 75 before flying through Andover at 73. On the climb thereafter to Grateley, we did not dip below 67 until we had to brake for our water / coal stop.
Thereafter we had a gentle start but reached 71 at Porton and touched 72 before turning back eastwards at Laverstock rather than running into Salisbury. On this next stretch we were soon up into the 60s and then the 70s, with a particularly lively spell around Dean and Dumbridge before slowing for Romsey. Then a slow spell around Southampton was alleviated only by a good view of P&O’s Arcadia and a quick red flash of the funnel of Cunard’s Queen Victoria in the distance (remember my pjhliners moniker).
The running back up the main line continued disappointing for many miles, as a freight had been put in ahead of us, and we did not reach 60 till after Roundwood. A lively few miles in the sixties was topped by a 69 at Battledown before we slowed for another servicing stop at Basingstoke.
And now for something completely different. We were away like the clappers and within two and a half miles were up to 67 at Basing then 71 at Hook, 75 at Winchfield and on, and on, a magnificent run as if all Clan Line’s power, pent up for most of the day, was released on this final racing stretch.
During our chug back round the suburban lines to Victoria, we could bask in the memory of an outstanding final lap from this wonderful engine. This trip was well worth the journey down to the smoke.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures