A Famous Train of the LMS
No. 5999 “Vindictive”, one of the re-
IN olden days this train was called the “Wild Irishman”, though the London and North Western authorities at Euston may never have given official recognition to so stirring a title, that the expresses to and from Holyhead have ever been distinguished by exceptional speed, although doubtless at the close of last century they were among the fastest trains then running. Nowadays, however, their rates of travel are surpassed by those of fast trains in other directions, and the timings along the North Wales coast, indeed, are slower by nearly 10 minutes than once they were. So the more sober title of “Irish Mail” doubtless suits the subject of our study well enough.
Various express services on the LMS system give direct connection to Ireland. The “Ulster Express”, for example, provides the main service from London to Belfast and the North of Ireland, and another service to Belfast is afforded through Liverpool by the 5.55 p.m. “Merseyside Express” out of Euston. The principal Irish mails are all carried via Holyhead, however, and from there across the sea to the port near Dublin that was once called Kingstown, but which the Irish Free State authorities now prefer to designate “Dun Laoghaire”, in their Erse tongue. Pronounce it “Dun Lairy”, and you will not be far off the mark.
At one time there were three independent steamer services plying between Holyhead and Ireland. The City of Dublin Steam Packet Company carried the mails from Holyhead to Kingstown; the London and North Western Railway ran their own service up the Liffey into North Wall Station in Dublin; and another service, for the North of Ireland, was run by the railway from Holyhead to Greenore. The last of the three vanished early in the war, and was never revived, in view of the ample facilities provided by other routes. Then the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company lost the mail contract, and with it the chief financial reason for its existence, so that it promptly went out of business. This left the field to the railway, and the London, Midland and Scottish, as it had now become, diverted the North Wall service to Dun Laoghaire, which has splendid facilities for dealing with the traffic, and put into commission some splendid steamers, of large passenger capacity.
All the LMS passenger steamer services between England and Ireland have now come down to three -
Except during the summer months, it is only on the Holyhead route that both a day service and a night service are run. There are therefore two “Irish Mails”, one leaving Euston at 8.30 in the morning, and the other at 8.45 in the evening. In the opposite direction the times of arrival in London are exactly the same, 5.50 a.m. for the night mail and 5.50 p.m. for the day mail. The night train generally carries considerably the larger number of passengers -
The “Irish Mail” varies considerably in weight according to the season of the year. Next the engine are two or three vans, including the Post Office sorting tender; then follow several third-
The up “Irish Mail” running at speed. The engine is one of the original Claughtons.
It is now frequently the custom, in these days of lengthy continuous locomotive workings, to run the engine of the “Irish Mail” through from Euston to Holyhead, and as the “Royal Scot” 4-
The “Claughtons” have had a chequered history, having been notoriously variable and uncertain in the quality of their performances. Some of the early feats that I recorded behind No. 2222, “Sir Gilbert Claughton” -
In those early days the “Claughtons” were allowed to take trains of 440 tare tons without assistance, but in recent years it has been necessary on the faster trains to cut that figure by 80 tons. It is to be hoped, however, that the performance of the enlarged “Claughtons” will be in keeping with their magnificent appearance. In locomotive work, “hand-
We have twice previously travelled over the LMS main line between Euston and Crewe in these articles -
Between Camden locomotive sheds and the mouth of Primrose Hill tunnels there is one of the most wonderful -
View of the Menai Straits from the Anglesey side, showing the Britannia Tubular Bridge on the right and the Suspension Bridge in the distance on the left.
Meanwhile we are hurrying along to Willesden Junction, and 10 or 11 minutes after our departure from Euston at 8.30 a.m, we may expect to halt in the Low Level Station at Willesden, 5½ miles distant. The Willesden stop is a relic of bygone days. Formerly practically every down London and North Western express called at Willesden to pick up passengers from the suburbs who had been brought in by connecting trains; and every up express also stopped for the purpose of ticket collection.
But nowadays, to save time, and also because the majority of suburban passengers prefer to join the train at the starting point of the journey, thereby getting a better choice of seats, the Willesden call is a rarity. On the down day “Irish Mail” however, it is still preserved, as well as on the following 9.0 a.m. and 9.10 a.m. down Birmingham expresses, for the benefit of suburban people wanting to join the train. Only a brief stop is necessary, and at 8.43 a.m. we are away again on our 77-
This is an easy stretch. Throughout its length we pass over no gradient steeper than 1 in 330, the summit points being Tring, 31½ miles out of Euston; Roade Cutting, 60 miles; and Kilsby Tunnel, about 77 miles distant. The line rises at this inclination all the way from near Wembley to Tring, save for a short level stretch from Carpenter’s Park, just before Bushey track-
Such gradients are too flat for high speeds with heavy trains. We may touch 60 m.p.h. at Watford, 70 or a shade over between Cheddington and Leighton, and a little over 60 at Weedon; while the three summits should be breasted at round about 50 m.p.h, or possibly a little less at Tring and a little more at Kilsby. The allowance of 84 minutes from Willesden to Rugby ought to be observed with ease, in the proportion of 31 or 32 minutes for the 26 miles front Willesden to Tring, 14 minutes for the 15 miles on to Bletchley, 14 minutes for the 13 miles from Bletchley to Roade, and 24 or 25 minutes for the last 23 miles into Rugby.
We are due away from Rugby at 10.11 a.m, the next stop being at Crewe, For this distance of 75½ miles the timetable allows 85 minutes, inclusive of a long slowing round the Trent Valley curve at Stafford, and the possibility of being slowed, too, on account of subsidences caused by colliery workings under the line at Polesworth, near Tamworth. Shortly after re-
At Hademore, between Tamworth and Lichfield, there lie ahead the fourth set of track-
The ornamental entrances to Shugborough Tunnel should be noted as we hurry through Shugborough between Rugeley and Stafford. Brakes then go on for Trent Valley Curve, and we pass through Stafford at 40 miles per hour. From Rugby we shall have taken about 18 minutes for the first 14½ miles to Nuneaton, then 12 or 13 minutes for the 13½ miles to Tamworth, according to the severity of the Polesworth slack. The 13¾ miles from Tamworth to Rugeley may be expected to occupy 15 minutes and the 9¼ miles on to Stafford 10 minutes, making 55 or 56 minutes for the 51 miles from Rugby. There is now a long and gentle ascent for 14 miles ahead to Whitmore, which should not take more than 17 minutes, and we shall then have 12 or 13 minutes in hand for the 10½ miles of downhill into Crewe. This includes three miles at 1 in 177 -
The platform at which we are stopping in Crewe is not the longest in the country, but it makes a good bid for supremacy, being 1,509 ft in length. We are booked to halt here from 11.36 to 11.48 a.m, as important connections are made at Crewe, and a good deal of mail matter has to be dealt with. On leaving, we shall have to divide our attention between the fleet of engines of many different types standing outside the North engine-
A line photograph specially taken for this article, showing the up “Irish Mail” passing Kenton.
It is but a short level run of 21¼ miles from Crewe to Chester, and for this the timetable allows 27 minutes. When the night “Irish Mail” runs in duplicate, the first portion is booked to run non-
Important connections from both Liverpool and Manchester are made at Chester, which bring in so much traffic that during the height of the summer a relieving train is run ahead of us from Chester to Holyhead, and we do not pick up passengers. For the Chester stop eight minutes are allowed -
There is a 1 in 200-
For the level stretch from Chester to Rhyl, 30 miles, we shall take 34 minutes or so; then follow 14¼ miles of undulations past Abergele and Colwyn Bay to Llandudno Junction, which occupy 17 minutes more. Through Llandudno Junction there is a speed restriction. The line then swings across the Conway River by means of a tubular bridge of considerable span, which provides a foretaste of the much bigger Britannia Tubular Bridge, over which we shall pass presently. At the further end of the Conway Bridge we pass right through the walls of Conway Castle, and are soon again running high above the water round the margin of the Penmaenmawr Mountain, with its busy granite quarries, between Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan. Rising on a moderate grade from Aber, first at 1 in 163 -
The famous Britannia Tubular Bridge, which plays an important part in the run of the “Irish Mail”.
Immediately on the other side of the bridge lies the famous Welsh village that rejoices in the name of “Llanfairpwllgwyn-
Into the commodious harbour station we run at 2.5 p.m, 263¾ miles from London, and 5 hours, 35 minutes after leaving. Across the quay lies the steamer for Ireland, and the transfer of passengers, mails and baggage is quickly effected. Later on we, too, must pay a visit to the “Emerald Isle” and see how its railways conduct themselves -
The up “Irish Mail” at Kenton, double-
[From The Meccano Magazine, September 1928]