Stirling was the most distant destination in the Duchess's 2012 tour programme, so it meant an early start in mist and fog for the trip to Carlisle where Stanier Pacific No 46233 Duchess of Sutherland would take over. Haulage before then was in the hands of preserved electric loco E3137 / 86259 Les Ross, in striking electric blue and white, with its eponymous owner in the cab.
The Duchess was out of the box like a rocket, reaching 60 before the north end of Kingmoor yard and 75 well before the border. For a while the pace was a little less brisk but we were doing 68 at Beattock as we started the ten mile climb. Speed dropped only slowly, with 53 at Longbedholme and still 40 at Harthope, only two miles from the summit. We reached the summit still doing 30, one minute inside the 15 minute schedule from Beattock, then fairly raced down the beautiful Upper Clyde valey, by now bathed in glorious sunshine.
There is little to say about the running through the Scottish Lowlands. We arrived more or less on time at Stirling, but departed 20 minutes late after a change of plan for turning the engine. By the time we left Carstairs we were 40 minutes late, but once again the Duchess threw herself at the climb ahead. She reached 65 at Thankerton then 76 down the dip to Lamington before being looped at Abington for a Voyager to pass. We were away after less than two minutes and bashed up the grade again, reaching 65 in the level stretch at Elvanfoot and slowing only to 50 at the summit. We fairly rollicked down the other side, touching all the 70s until slowing for water at Lockerbie, where Bill Andrew was noticed chatting to the crew.
More lively running to Carlisle started to reduce our lateness but the approach to Shap was somewhat slower, passing Plumpton at 65 and Penrith at 63. We were still doing 62 at Clifton but dropped to 50 at Thrimby and 45 at Shap village, after which the short level stretch helped us back up to 52 at the summit, in a little over 15 minutes from Penrith. Another racing run down Shap, through the Lune Gorge and down Grayrigg provided at fitting end to the steam running at Carnforth, where the Duchess handed us back to Les Ross.
No records broken, but an excellent day out with a magnificent locomotive on fine form in glorious Autumn sunshine - many thanks to all who made it possible.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures