Great Britain’s Fastest Start-
“MANORBIER CASTLE”, experimentally streamlined, hauling the “Cheltenham Flyer” near Sonning Cutting, Berks. The locomotive has four cylinders 16 in by 28 in, coupled wheels 8 ft 8½ in diameter, a total heating surface, including superheater, of 2,312 sq ft, and a boiler pressure of 225 lb. The tractive effort is 31,625 lb.
The “Cheltenham Flyer” of the Great Western Railway marks a stage in railway history. For some years this famous express held the unchallenged title to be the world’s fastest train. Even when Diesel propulsion in Germany had wrested the “blue riband” of speed from Great Britain for the fastest railway run from start to stop, the supremacy for steam still remained in Great Western hands with the 71.4-
The “Cheltenham Flyer” now has a Great Western rival in the “Bristolian” service, which was introduced in September, 1935, as a celebration of the GWR centenary. The down express, leaving Paddington at 10 am, is booked to cover the 118.3 miles to Bristol via Bath in 105 minutes, and the return train, leaving Bristol at 4.30 pm and travelling via Badminton -
It is only over the main line from Swindon to Paddington that the “Cheltenham Flyer” can be said really to “fly”. From Cheltenham to Swindon the distance of 44¼ miles requires 71 minutes, an average of 37 miles per hour -
In the year 1923 the Great Western Railway decided to cut the Swindon-
There were runs on the Continent, however, which were superior in speed to this, and for many years before the war of 1914-
Matters remained thus until a new speed challenge came from Canada, which until that time had shown no high-
“MONMOUTH CASTLE”. One of the ten new “Castle” class engines constructed in 1935 at the Great Western Railway’s Swindon works. They were brought into service for the summer traffic. Locomotives of this class are generally used for the haulage of the “Cheltenham Flyer”, and are stationed for the purpose at Old Oak Common engine sheds. They work the 10.45 am from Paddington to Gloucester, and return with the “Flyer” -
So near was this to the “seventy” line that the temptation to institute the first seventy-
PASSING AT SPEED. An unusual view from the tender of a goods engine showing an approaching Great Western express between Reading and Didcot. The locomotive heading the express is of the “Saint” Class. The leading dimensions are: cylinders (two) 18½ in by 30 in; total heating surface, 2,104 sq ft; grate area 27.07 sq ft; diameter of coupled wheels, 6 ft 8½ in; working pressure, 225 lb; tractive effort, 24,395 lb; and weight of the engine, in working order, without tender, 72 tons.
[ Note: The “Saint” is No. 2934 “Butleigh Court”; whilst the colour plate was previously used on the cover of part 34.]
Almost invariably the engine employed is of the four-
The first constituent of the train to get under way is the through coach from Hereford, which leaves that Cathedral City at 1.15 pm, and is brought along the Wye Valley through Ross to Gloucester by a “slow”, calling at all stations, and taking 70 minutes for the 30-
THE WORLD’S FASTEST STEAM TRAIN in regular service from 1932 until 1935 was the “Cheltenham Flyer”. This picture shows the celebrated express passing through Slough, Bucks, at speed. On a normal run the highest speeds -
Paradoxically enough, the train begins its journey in a direction which is exactly the opposite of that in which it really wishes to travel. This first stage is west-
At Standish Junction this friendly rivalry comes to an end, for the Great Western line -
PREPARING FOR THE RUN. “Castle” engines are generally employed for hauling the “Cheltenham Flyer”. Here is the “Trematon Castle” taking water. The “Castle” engines were formerly equipped with tenders of 3,500 gallons capacity, but the latest tenders carry 4,500 gallons. These new tenders no longer bear the Great Western Railway coat-
The valley through which the “Cheltenham Flyer” now runs is industrial and thickly populated. Stonehouse comes first; then Stroud, at which the train stops from 3.14 to 3.16 pm. and then Brimscombe. All these places are practically joined together. By Brimscombe, the valley, with its steep sides, has closed right in, and the railway now begins to climb. For three miles the gradient is as steep as 1 in 60 to 75, while the railway mounts higher and higher up the side of the valley through some fine wooded scenery. Finally, the line turns inwards at Frampton Crossing, and enters Sapperton Tunnel.
This bore is now shorter than it once was; in earlier days the centre portion of the tunnel collapsed, and was subsequently opened out into a cutting, so that the tunnel is now in two parts, with a stretch of daylight between. The longer section is 1,860 yards from portal to portal, and on a rising gradient of 1 in 90. At the summit of the ascent the train reaches Sapperton Sidings, and little but downhill or level now lies ahead all the way to London. A stop is made at Kemble from 3.33 to 3.35 pm where connection is made with the Cirencester and Tetbury branch trains, and from there a smart run is made over the 13¾ miles to Swindon in 16 minutes, start-
Paddington is roughly 300 feet lower in level than Swindon, and the most pronounced of the modest gradients that make up this difference are found between Swindon and Didcot. From the start at Swindon the line falls at 1 in 834 to Shrivenham, and then at between 1 in 754 and 1 in 880 from there to Didcot.
The driver loses no time in attaining speed. By the time Shrivenham, 5.7 miles from Swindon, is passed -
DEPARTURE FROM SWINDON. The “Cheltenham Flyer”, hauled by “Launceston Castle”, bound for London. The express is scheduled to cover the 77.3 miles to Paddington at an average speed of 71.4 miles an hour; it is only over this section of the journey that the trains travel at a very high speed. On a record run in 1932 the Swindon-
But the best thrills are reserved for the days when the train has left Swindon late, and a driver who is keen on showing off the paces of his steed lengthens his cut-
Very efficient locomotive work is needed to achieve and to maintain such high speeds with little or no assistance from gravity. It is not merely the matter of getting the steam into the cylinder with such lightning rapidity, but the even more important matter of getting it out again. This is where the wisdom of Swindon locomotive designing methods finds such striking proof. Long valve-
At Eighty Miles an Hour
From Didcot onwards the line flattens out, and the steepest grade subsequently is no more than 1 in 1,320, or four feet to the mile. Speed usually drops slightly between Goring, Pangbourne and Tilehurst, partly because of the resistance of taking water from Goring track-
The value of the movable diamond crossings in the track is fully appreciated as the “Cheltenham Flyer” cuts through the intricate points and crossings at the west end of Reading Station, with not the slightest jolting or discomfort to passengers. Speed continues to rule high while running through Twyford and Maidenhead, and the slight descent, though no more than four feet to the mile, to Slough, may produce another maximum of anything from eighty-
Speed may fall slightly below eighty miles an hour onwards through West Drayton and Hayes to Southall, but if the train is behind time, there will now be some slight acceleration, and given, as usually happens, a clear road, the driver will continue at full speed -
The fastest recorded journey on the “Cheltenham Flyer”, up to the time of writing, was on June 6, 1932, when a special attempt was made to ascertain the minimum time in which the journey from Swindon to Paddington could be completed. The train consisted of six coaches, weighing 186 tons empty, and 195 tons with passengers and luggage, and was hauled by four-
In two miles from the start “Tregenna Castle” was travelling at sixty-
Two miles out of Paddington the train was still travelling at eighty-
Over certain sections of the journey even quicker times have since been achieved, and on a number of occasions the run has been made in an hour, or slightly over, which proves that if the Great Western Railway decided to put a sixty-
Throughout, the “Cheltenham Flyer” has shown conclusively that ultra high-
STARTING THE JOURNEY. The “Cheltenham Flyer” is the popular name for the “Cheltenham Spa Express”, which daily leaves Cheltenham for Paddington at 2.40 pm and covers the last stretch of the journey from Swindon at 71.4 miles an hour. Above is a photograph of a Cheltenham express outside Paddington Station.
[From part 42, published 15 November 1935]