A Famous Train of the Southern Railway
“King Arthur” class 4-
ALTHOUGH the famous express leaving Waterloo at eleven o’clock in the morning can look back on a long history -
We may well pause for a look at Waterloo terminus before we pass through the barrier to our train. Waterloo, once the most awkward and inconvenient of all London termini, an invariable topic for comic papers, a “maze” where one might hunt for a long, long time before running the right train to earth -
It was the fact that so many additions had been tacked on to the original Waterloo -
Apart from the arresting frontage of the station, its most remarkable feature is the vast “concourse”, or circulating space for passengers, which extends almost across the whole width of the station. At the back of this are the offices, and at the opposite side the platform entrances. The old station on the Windsor side -
Now let us pass through on to our platform. During the height of the summer, the traffic to the coast is so heavy that one “Atlantic Coast Express” can far from provide room for all those who desire to travel by it. Two trains are then run daily, except on Saturdays, when the number swells to five or even six in all. But as we are at present in the spring of the year, we shall find every one of the destinations of this famous “flier” served by one striking assemblage of vehicles. First to leave us are the two rear coaches, the hindmost labelled “Sidmouth” and the next one “Exmouth”, although we shall travel 159½ miles together -
The big break-
Probably all the coaches will be of the latest steel-
We need be in little doubt as to what type of locomotive we shall find at the head of the train. We may be fortunate enough, of course, to run across the new 4-
It is difficult to lay one’s finger on the precise secret of the success of these remarkable engines. Almost every week, in connection with my series of articles in the “Railway Magazine” entitled “British Locomotive Practice and Performance”, I receive from readers who have been using their watches while travelling some new record of “King Arthur” performance. Maximum speeds of 90 miles an hour; sustained speeds of 65 to 70 miles an hour over long sections of favourable track; splendid hill-
In one very important respect their designer, Mr. Maunsell, who has developed them from the general lines of the previous 736-
Beyond this the “King Arthur” is not an enormously big engine, as our modern engines go, nor, do the two 20½-
Well, the time has now undoubtedly come to start, and we must therefore take our places in the train. Out of Waterloo, where there is for a short distance a fairly steep rising gradient, the engine which brought in our empty coaches will probably assist us by a friendly push in the rear, but will not venture much further out than the end of the platform. Our speed will then rise fairly rapidly until, at the bottom of the slight dip between Vauxhall and Clapham Junction, we may expect to be travelling at 50 miles an hour, or slightly over. As the Brighton section from Victoria flies over our heads and then comes down to join us on our left, we cannot fail to be impressed with the enormous width of parallel trackage. So far as parallel running lines are concerned, apart from sidings, there are probably more here than anywhere else in the country.
Seven minutes after our exit from Waterloo we are through Clapham Junction, where the Brighton main line bears away from us on the left, after thus keeping us company for about a mile. Clapham Junction is, without any question, the busiest station in Great Britain and probably in the world. It has 17 platforms, covers 24¼ acres, or if all the sidings be included, 34¾ acres, and deals with no less than 1,730 trains every 24 hours. The majority of these are now electrically operated, by the third-
Down “Atlantic Coast Express” in Clapham Cutting, Southern Railway. 4-
For the first 20½ miles of its journey our “King Arthur” locomotive has a fairly level route to traverse. The line rises on modest gradients from Clapham to Wimbledon, is dead level from there to beyond Surbiton, whence it falls slightly past Hampton Court Junction to Esher; on this fall we may expect an increase of speed well above the “sixty” line to about 67 or so an hour. To the junction, 134 miles out of Waterloo, we are allowed 18½ min. in the working time-
We may notice here how the Hampton Court down line is carried over the main line by a “flying” junction, so obviating the obstruction that would be caused had the Hampton Court trains to cross on the level the up and clown main lines, and the up slow line as well. You see the same principle operating at the junctions at Raynes Park, Malden, Byfleet, Pirbright, Sturt Lane and Worting, the layout of all of which helps to prevent the expresses from getting delayed by signal checks.
By now we are descending the 1¼ miles past Weybridge to Byfleet Junction, and are probably doing 67 or 68 miles an hour.
The driver would tell you, in his own expressive language, that the engine is “getting hold of ‘em”, which is just as well, for directly we have skirted on the left the Brooklands motor track -
For the next 32 miles, indeed, there is very little intermission in the climbing. Not that it is steep; the 10½ miles from Byfleet Junction to mile-
These are not heavy grades, as I have said, but we must remember , that our locomotive is scheduled to run up them at an average speed of nearly 56 m.p.h. -
By Woking speed will have, dropped to 60 miles an hour. We have now covered 24½ miles from Waterloo in 29 minutes. Between here and Basingstoke we notice, for a distance of over 20 miles, a stretch of entirely automatic signalling. The signals are carried on lattice girder bridges over all four lines, and by electro-
This is, in fact, one of the fastest stretches on the Southern system, the up expresses, in certain cases, being only allowed 21½ min. to cover the 23½ miles between Basingstoke and Woking, and not infrequently covering the distance in under 20 minutes. On the inaugural up-
We shall probably breast the miniature “summit” at mile-
From a minimum rate of 47 m.p.h. or so at Worting our acceleration at first will be relatively slow, but by the time we pass Overton -
The impetus of this swift flight will help to carry us up the seven steeply-
The Southern Railway 4-
For the 83½ miles from Waterloo the time-
At Salisbury we shall probably lose our London “King Arthur” and get another for the next 88-
These average speeds are only made possible because of the splendid lay-
Out of Salisbury we climb, gradually at first but then more steeply, for 17½ miles to Semley, only the final two being as steep as 1 in 145. Then, suddenly, as though we were dropping down the roof of a house, there comes a thrilling speed-
From here we shall traverse 5½ miles of undulations to Yeovil Junction at high speed, the 39 miles from Salisbury to this point having taken us about 44 or 45 minutes. Sutton Bingham bank -
But from Hewish onward is one of the most glorious “racing grounds” of the journey -
This begins rather less than two miles beyond Axminster, Here the line makes a right-
Once through the summit tunnel, our “King Arthur” has no further troubles to face. In the summer, when the 11 a.m. from Waterloo makes no stop at Sidmouth Junction, less minutes will probably be taken from Honiton into Exeter than the miles
covered. On my last journey but one the locomotive “Elaine” touched 85 miles an hour on this descent, but the same engine beat this record in the same week by taking me down the other side of Honiton at a top speed of exactly 90 an hour!
Even in the sharp dip before Sidmouth Junction, however, we may and probably shall get high up into the “seventies”, possibly even to 80; and then, after leaving the junction with a trainload less by two coaches, we may expect a final “burst” of 75 to 78 m.p.h. through Broad Clyst. So, after these thrilling experiences, we draw up at Queen Street, Exeter, 171½ miles from Waterloo, at 2.22 p.m. The fastest time in the summer, of the Ilfracombe portion of the train, is 3 hours 13 minutes to Exeter, inclusive of a six minute stop at Salisbury.
As our “Atlantic Coast Express” now breaks up into various parts, we will bid it a reluctant farewell. The Plymouth, Padstow and Bude coaches are going to climb high up the slopes of Dartmoor; beyond Meldon Junction, Okehampton, the first-
Immediately after the various portions of the train leave Queen Street Station at Exeter, they have to descend the steepest gradient on the whole of the main line. It is only ½-
In this connection it is a singular thing that as in St. David’s Station at Exeter -
The Ilfracombe and Torrington portions make off up the fertile valley of the Taw to Barnstaple, where they separate. What the Ilfracombe train does not attain in the matter of height, as compared with its Plymouth and Padstow associates, it certainly makes up for in the matter of gradient, for beyond Barnstaple it has to climb at 1 in 40 between Braunton and Mortehoe, finally dropping down to the “Atlantic Coast” at Ilfracombe by a two mile gradient at 1 in 36!
So another day’s travel of the “Atlantic Coast Express” is brought successfully to a conclusion.
The “Atlantic Coast Express” (first portion) leaving Waterloo for North Cornwall on its first trip, July 19th. The second portion (Ilfracombe) is in background, by No. 11 Platform.