The Bournemouth Expresses of the Southern
Down Bournemouth Express passing Clapham Cutting. Southern Railway “King Arthur” class Locomotive No. E.792, “Sir Hervis de Revel”. The train is running over a section of track fitted for both steam and electric working.
IT has been a great puzzle to decide upon the most suitable title for this article. To speak of the fine service of expresses that will form the subject of our study this month merely as “The Bournemouths” -
Of all the systematic long-
the most complete. During the summer months the first Bournemouth express leaves at 8.30 in the morning, and the series goes on without a break at each “thirty” round to 7.30 in the evening -
The odd hour “Thirties” make various additional calls, chiefly at Basingstoke, where important connections are made; the Cathedral City of Winchester; and Brockenhurst, the heart of the New Forest and junction for Lymington, whence a steamer service plies to Yarmouth, at the west end of the Isle of Wight. In certain cases further stops are made, such as Surbiton and Woking, at the London end; Christchurch and Boscombe; at the Bournemouth end; and Eastleigh; the journeys by these slower “Thirties” for the most part taking round about 2 hrs. 50 min. to Bournemouth Central.
It is typical of the comfort of present-
The people of Bournemouth profess to have a grievance in that their best trains from London are not so fast as the best of pre-
But what the Bournemouth people “lose on the swings” they most certainly “gain on the roundabouts”. Apart from their four pre-
To revert to the lengthened journey time between Waterloo and Bournemouth, this is due partly to the time required for the stop at Southampton West, and partly to the much increased weight of the trains. The pre-
Southern Railway “King Arthur” class Locomotive No. E.787, “Sir Menadeuke” leaving Southampton West Station. This Locomotive was one of the first of the type to be fitted with Smoke Deflectors.
We now have to choose one of “The Thirties” for our journey. We cannot do better, I think, than the 12.30 p.m. luncheon car express from Waterloo, as it is easily the most historic train on the service. As far back as 1845 there was a 12.30 p.m. express from Nine Elms -
On our journey by the “Atlantic Coast Express” we inspected Waterloo at some length, so that we need not stop now for another detailed survey. It is easily Britain’s finest railway terminus, and this chiefly because it has been carried out as one complete scheme, rather than as a succession of additional platforms tacked on to an original station of small dimensions. The Waterloo of to-
The attractive green livery of the coaches immediately invites attention. Present-
At times the 12.30 p.m. may load up to 13 or even 14 coaches, but at this time of the year the load is not likely to exceed 12 -
The praises of the “King Arthurs” have been sung in these pages before. It was Mr. R. W. Urie who laid the foundation of the design, first in the series of engines numbered from 482 to 491, and then in the far more successful 736-
Out of the platform, as at St. Pancras and Euston, it is the practice for the engine bringing the empty coaches into Waterloo to give a helpful “shove” in the rear, in order that a smart start may be made up the short initial gradient. It is quite likely that between Waterloo and Vauxhall an impertinent electric train that has started after us may overhaul our proud “King Arthur” while he is getting his heavy load into speed, but he will get his own back with interest presently. Not too soon, though, for the Southern “electrics” are easily capable of speeds up to and slightly over 60 miles an hour, and 55 an hour or so is a common rate of electric travel between Vauxhall and Clapham Junction.
The tremendous width of electrically-
Down Bournemouth Express passing Barton Mill, drawn by Southern Railway “King Arthur” type 4-
It takes us about seven minutes to clear the four miles through Clapham Junction. With its 17 platforms, this is Britain’s busiest junction, handling a total of 1,730 train movements daily. Our speed has mounted into the “fifties” by now, but it falls slightly as we ascend through Clapham cutting, and then, ere we dash through the line new station at Wimbledon, begins once again to rise. From here on to Surbiton cutting the track is practically level, followed by a gentle fall through Surbiton to Esher, where we reach and probably just cross the “sixty” line for the first time.
Speed remains at or slightly above the mile a-
Now our “King Arthur” has some “collar-
Next come six more undulating miles ere we strike the six miles up at 1 in 249, past Basingstoke, which marks the conclusion of the climbing. To maintain a high average speed, therefore, the engine must be worked very hard without respite practically all the way from Waterloo until we have cleared the 52nd mile-
We shall probably breast the first long stretch, to mile-
The line does not begin to fall immediately after the summit at mile-
Any speed within reason might easily be run down so tempting a declivity as this; I have indeed, from the footplate, timed a maximum of 83½ miles an hour past Winchester. If we are on time, however, our driver will probably be content to stick to a maximum not much over 60 miles an hour, but possible reaching 70 or a shade over. We shall dash through the wide cutting, terminated by tunnels at both ends and used as a chalk quarry by the Southern Railway, in which stands Micheldever station. Possibly we shall note that we have come 10¼ miles through this sparsely-
At Winchester Junction the line that has come from Waterloo by Alton -
In 75 or 76 minutes after leaving Waterloo we clear Winchester, and a little under seven minutes later we hurry through Eastleigh, at whose extensive locomotive works of the late London and South Western Railway our “King Arthur” first saw the light. Shortly afterwards we enter the suburbs of Southampton. The main station of the original line -
The timetable allows 92 minutes for this 79½-
The public timetable shows an allowance of live minutes for the Southampton stop, but actually the working time is seven minutes, so that we are due away at 2.9 p.m. At first the line runs along the margin of Southampton Water, and if we look back towards that part of the town that stretches as a kind of peninsula into the water, where the docks are located, we may have a striking reminder, not merely of the marine activities of Southampton, but also of the vast size of some of the vessels using the port. There is a church at that end of the town, with a tower of quite a reasonable height. But if there happens to be in the docks any one of that great trio of ocean mammoths the “Majestic”, the “Berengaria” or the “Leviathan” -
Presently we pass Redbridge, where the Southern Railway have now established their chief permanent way depot, for casting chairs, creosoting and chairing sleepers, making switches and crossings, and so on. Then we bear sharply to the left over the River Test, and enter the New Forest country.
The line rises gently through Lyndhurst Road and then drops sharply towards Beaulieu Road and Brockenhurst, which we pass at over 60 miles an hour. After that come another sharp ascent to higher ground at Sway, undulating line to New Milton, and a further swinging drop to the valley of the Avon at Christchurch, where a curve through the station demands some reduction of speed. Lastly we rise at 1 in 99 for a short distance, and then at easier grades into Pokesdown, an outlying suburb of Bournemouth; Boscombe; and finally Bournemouth Central. The 28½ miles from Southampton have been covered easily in the 36 minutes allotted.
A view of the chalk quarry at Micheldever. The extensive scale of the operations may be realised from the length of the train of wagons. Main line tunnel on extreme left.
Bournemouth Central is yet another of the stations on which a good deal of money has been spent recently by the enterprising Southern Railway with a view to modernisation. The chief improvement is an extension to 1,750 ft of the main down platform, so that two trains may be dealt with at the same time. The stay of the principal portion of our train here, however, is brief. A separation is made at the centre, and at 2.48 p.m. The “King Arthur” draws out with the six front coaches for Bournemouth West. As the crow flies the latter station is only just over a mile distant, but the circuitous course of the railway round the outskirts of the town, through Meyrick Park, makes a 3¼-
From Poole we have a short run of seven miles to Wareham, an important Dorset town where connection is made with the popular resort of Swanage, allowed 12 minutes. The next break is one of 15 miles, from Wareham to Dorchester, over which the gradients are chiefly against the engine, rising as steeply in one part as 1 in 100, for 1¾ miles in all, and elsewhere at 1 in 200 and 1 in 240. The uphill time allowance is only 19 minutes, however. At one period the late London and South Western worked over this section the fastest run in their timetable, the 15 miles from Dorchester to Wareham being allowed 16 minutes, start-
Only seven miles remain between Dorchester and Weymouth, but they are mountainously steep. We mount at 1 in 88 to
the tunnel above Upwey, and then descend precipitately a gradient of two miles ranging in steepness from 1 in 54 to a short strip at 1 in 48, to Upwey. Then we have a mile at 1 in 71 to 74, and a final mile at 1 in 170 into Weymouth -
So, at four minutes before four o’clock in afternoon, we alight at Weymouth, singular to reflect, at the conclusion of the journey, that three more of “The Thirties” have already left Waterloo in pursuit of us!
The first railway communication between London and Southampton was brought about as the result of the success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The ship-
Work commenced in due course, but one difficulty after another was encountered and progress was extremely slow. In the meantime, the available money came to an end, Fortunately, there were men at hand capable of handling the situation, and after some changes among the leading engineers, work proceeded steadily. There were still difficulties to be encountered, however, including many cuttings and embankments and also the crossing of Fleet Pond, beyond Farnborough.
Gradually the work proceeded, and by June, 1839, it was possible to make the journey from London to Southampton by a combination of train and coach. The trains ran from London to Basingstoke, and then came a coach ride to Winchester, followed by another train trip to Southampton. This state of affairs continued until May of the following year, when the first train ran through from London to Southampton.
After this line was opened, the people of Portsmouth decided that they would like a branch from it, but they insisted that the name should be altered to “London and South Western”, to avoid using the name of the rival port!
The main entrance of Southampton West station, which deals with a large volume of passenger traffic. The present station was opened on 5th November, 1892, and was built on the site of the old Blechynden station. Since 1892 many additions and alterations have been made. The up platform is 600 ft in length and the down platform 800 ft in length. The entire station is supported on a foundation made of concrete 30 ft deep. The height of the clock tower is 100 ft.
[From The Meccano Magazine, March 1929]