A look at the railway scene in Spring 1971
The closure of the Clapham Railway/Transport Museum was exercising many pundits who suggested that the relocation to York would be a disaster!
The opinion was that York would be good as a local area museum but most definitely not for the UK’s national railway museum. Indeed, concern was being expressed about the fate of some of the relics given that Clapham’s relics had already virtually filled available display space at York.
Other locations considered were Peterborough and Crystal Palace where diverting the track formation through the old station would have been required to incorporate the proposals. It was the cost of this track work and estimated four year timescale that precluded Crystal palace from being chosen as the location for the new national railway museum.
Lord Eccles, the Paymaster General and Minister with responsibility for The Arts, decreed that the museum would be located at York. Under the Transport Act 1968 it would come under the auspices of The Science Museum in South Kensington. The Clapham exhibits would be taken to York over the next 18 months it was announced. The cost of bringing York to national museum status would be £800,000 including converting the roundhouse and to transport the relics there from Clapham, £100,000.
Railway records, the important paperwork archives were to be retained in London at Kew, the then new public records office. Former London Transport relics were to be put into store at Hayes in Middlesex. This, combined with the failure of the planned steam centre at Liss on the Southern Region meant that the Bluebell railway was the only steam location in the south 40 years ago.
The BR annual accounts were published for 1970 and showed an operational profit of just under £10m, 1969’s figure was just under £15m surplus. Wages had increased by £40m and the dock and coal industry strikes in 1970 hit revenues hard. Repairs to the Menai Bridge linking Holyhead with North Wales cost nearly £3m which also materially affected the balance sheet. The total repair bill for this Stephenson tubular bridge destroyed by fire, caused it is said, by some lads looking for bird’s nests, ended up at £5m.
Several locomotives Nos. D5034 and D5083 were marooned at Holyhead as a result of this fire.
1969 - £228m
1970 - £205m
1969 - £256m
1970 - £271m
The forward 5 year plan 1971-1975 inclusive outlined investment in the London and Southeast commuter area of £155m out of a total of £517m. Government grants were expected in addition to these figures to pay for infrastructure improvements to allow the introduction of the 125mph High Speed trains planned from 1975.
For example, much of the Great Western main line was to be closed for long periods while the track and formations were made ready for this fast HST running. This was to be followed by the tilting train in the 1980s which also required a lot of investment to be financed. Freight services were to be speeded up to 75mph also requiring heavy investment in fleet and track.
The Western Region devised a new temporary speed warning board for drivers. The upper figure indicated the maximum speed for all non-passenger trains and the lower number was the maximum permitted speed for passenger trains. It was illuminated at night by a portable calor gas powered lamp.
The High Speed train was designated class 41 and was to be powered by a Ruston-Paxman built diesel ‘Valenta’ engine. BR also showed of their mock-up of what the high speed train could look like with its Mark 111 coaches.
BR announced that an automatic public address system would be fitted to trains using pre-recorded messages. These were called audio navigator units and 70 had been ordered for trials, the messages triggered by geographical location of the train.
The Altrincham to Manchester service was changed from DC Electric power to AC power and from May 3 1971, the first 25Kv trains ran allowing services to reach Crewe. To mark the occasion, BR ran a rail week including opening a shop for the week selling railway relics and nameplates!
To celebrate the introduction of these electric services a special electric service was run from Altrincham to Euston, electric hauled the whole way.
BR ceased accepting cheques for tickets (apart from season tickets over a month) without a cheque card due to the amount of cheques that bounced! The Liverpool area was said to be the worst for offenders.
The Liverpool area opened a charter train hotline which also gave details of bargain fares to callers called ‘Newsrail’ The two minute recorded message also gave hints for holidays and general train information.
A charter train was being organised by BR from Nottingham to Aberystwyth with a fare of £1.50 adult and £1 for children. Today’s cost, probably £60!
The Southern Region launched a rail-air coach link between Waterloo, Feltham and Heathrow. The fare included a coach ticket covering the road journey between Heathrow and Feltham. These ran every half hour 7 days a week from 720am to 950pm. This service complimented the Woking to Heathrow coach connection linking the Southwest main line and Portsmouth direct line services.
The Southern Region was taking on more Conductor-Guards whose duties were train cleanliness, revenue protection as well as the normal operational duties. They were to be deployed on most long distance corridor stock services and aimed to reduce fare dodging.
The Southern Region’s 4-REP 3rd rail units were covering 60,000 miles in around 23 weeks and therefore had to be lifted for motor, bogie and brake overhauls. This was carried out at Ashford Works. These units went to Eastleigh Works every 300,000 miles for body repairs and repainting.
Each unit covered the 108 miles between Waterloo and Bournemouth up to 25 times a week which is why they notched up such a high mileage.
LMS ‘Jubilee’ No. 45596 Bahamas ventured onto a short stretch of the BR main line in April forty years ago, from its base at Dinting to attend the Glossop transport festival. BR insisted that a diesel pulled the steam engine for the short journey!
However, at this time, a secret return for main line steam was being planned for October 1971 using GWR King No. 6000 King George V on a train from the Bulmers factory at Hereford to Newport, Didcot and Tyseley.
Steam could be seen at the Barry Scrapyard in South Wales where around 200 scrapped steam locomotives were stored. They attracted hoards of enthusiasts and all engines bar a couple were eventually saved and have been restored now running on preserved lines.
Steam fans had to travel to Europe to get a main line steam fix 40 years ago. France Belgium and Germany were the nearest, but many scorned this as not the real thing!
The Birmingham Railway Museum was home to GWR Castle Class No. 7029 Clun Castle which was steamed from time to time. In May1971, Tyseley steamed No. 7029 and LMS ‘Jubilee No. 5593Kholapur on shuttles within the depot complex in conjunction with the Standard Gauge Steam Trust. LNER A3 No. 4472 also visited around 40 years ago and was also used on these shuttles. In 1971, much of the depot had been upgraded with a wheel-drop and other machinery installed and in working order.
Industrial use of steam locomotives was still strong in 1971. Unsurprisingly they were used in the coalfields of the northeast at Backworth and in the south Wales valleys where coal was cheap.
LNER A4 No. 60007 Sir Nigel Grelsey was in steam for the weekend over the weekend of May 8 and 9th at the National Coal Board Philadelphia depot in the northeast. This was to make sure the engine was in good operational condition.
The Severn valley railway announced that their new chairman, Sir Gerald Nabarro, was to form a SVR company to buy the land from Alveley to Foley Park (including Bewdley) near Kidderminster. The share issue was expected to raise £150,000 and trains from Bridgnorth to Bewdley were expected to operate from 1973.
Experimental daily services were announced for July 1971 when trains would operate daily for two weeks and a TV advertising campaign was planned. To keep up with demand more volunteers had been passed as firemen bringing the total to 24.
The K&WVR released their passenger numbers and these had grown from 12,000 to 24,000 passengers in the first third of 1971 compared to the previous year.
Just north of the Worth Valley Railway, preservationists were running steam trains at Embsay, near Skipton. Today, the railway has expanded to Bolton Abbey and is planning to run to Skipton and carries over 100,000 passengers a year.
Over a dozen special trains were delayed for 30 minutes by a points failure at Wembley on Cup Final day on May 8, rectified 90 minutes before kick-off!
These trains had previously been in doubt over crewing issues when various depots claimed the right to work the special services and Edge Hill Depot staff objected. One special was cancelled and the others only ran because timetabled services were cancelled – this would not happen today!
For example, the Liverpool-Crewe all stations electric service was replaced with a DMU for the day and London and cross-country services were disrupted to the staffing problems.
After the cup final (between Liverpool and Arsenal) which went to extra time, the special trains had to be retimed as BR had not planned for the game to go into extra time.
That years’ FA Vase Final was won by Telford defeating Hillingdon Borough and the event attracted six specials carrying Telford fans to the game.
Forty years ago, charter trains or Railtours were regulated by BR as to where and when they could run. Thirty years ago BR gave approval/permission for a few routes to see steam Railtours and it all changed 15 years ago when Railtrack allowed steam anywhere that it could be gauged for.
So, the 1971 railtour conference was held with representatives of the Stephenson locomotive Society, The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, the Manchester locomotive Society and the Locomotive Club of Great Britain.
The purpose of the conference was to avoid date clashes when arranging special trains but not all charter train promoters joined in with this planning arrangement. This worked well but was sometimes thrown into chaos by BR organising their own charter trains which occasionally clashed with third party charters bringing a loss of revenue as passengers could obviously only travel on one train at a time!
A few years ago, the major tour promoters tried to do the same but the market has expended so much in the last five years or so, each train has to stand or fall commercially on its own. But of course none of the franchised train companies organise any charters or mystery trips anymore, so at least that area of competition no longer exists!
Ian Allen Travel advertised a railtour from Paddington to the Dart Valley Railway on August 17 for £2.50 second class and £4.35 first class. Today it would be another £60 in standard and probably another £100 in first!
A class 40 No. D211 worked a train from Euston to Aberystwyth charter service. Because of a derailment at Wrexham, trains were disrupted on the Chester, Shrewsbury route and this led to train shortages in the area. A single car DMU was used on an evening service from Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury for example.
Midweek holiday specials were run from Newcastle and York to the south coast stopping at Brockenhurst for Isle of Wight connections and on to Bournemouth.
Leamington held a rail week with fares to Birmingham set at 10p instead of the usual 70p. A modern railway exhibition was put on at Leamington comprising of modern carriages and locomotives.
On this former Great Western line, the end was in sight of the class 43 Warship diesels which now ran from Waterloo on west of England services.
BR announced that their order for Mark 11D coaches now stood at 950 as at the end of May 1971. In addition, air conditioning was to be fitted to another 250 Mark 11C vehicles.
Four Derby built Mark 11C coaches had been fitted with anti-termite protection and a pressure ventilation system. These were built for export to Guinea as were 150 pallet vans built at Shildon for Malayan Railways.
The prototype Hawker Siddeley Group built diesel No. HS4000 was sold to Russia and regauged to 5feet. It had run 125,000 miles since being introduced in 1968 on trial. This and BR stock was being shipped to Moscow for a railway exhibition in July 1971.
It seemed that the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and Maiden Newton to Bridport branches were about to lose their passenger services. BR announced that these route closures were being considered. The Minehead branch from Taunton was also the subject of hot debate about what to do with it and who might run it.
Dawlish Warren, Exeter St. Thomas, Torre, Frome and Whitland stations all lost their scheduled timetabled services.
Forty years on, The Kyle line is still open, the Minehead branch reopened throughout and most of the above stations are open again!
Due to corrosion issues on axleboxes, the DC trains ran using the 4th rail north of Queens Park to Watford also helping to keep the system fully operative. This in turn ensured that the four daily LUL services from Elephant & Castle to Watford could be maintained.
High speed testing and crew training was underway between Glasgow and Edinburgh in preparation for the push-pull diesel services about to be introduced using class 27 diesels.