A Famous Train of the LNER
The Hook of Holland Boat Express.
IT would be interesting to know the exact derivation of the injunction to “hook it”, which in the course of time has doubtless been hurled at most of us -
Our train furnishes a decided contrast to those with which we have already dealt in this series. Instead of a journey of 400, 300, 200, or even 100 miles, the “Hook of Holland Boat Express” is content with one of 69 miles only, although, to be sure, it makes the trip twice daily, up in the early morning and down at night. No tremendously high speeds are possible during the run, because of the serious obstacles to speed, which we shall note in a moment. We are unlikely to “clock” any higher maximum rate than 70 miles an hour, or slightly over, save on the up journey, where we may reach 75 or so at the foot of Brentwood Bank.
Neither can the London and North Eastern Railway authorities use any of their biggest and most powerful locomotives on this service, as the clearance of certain overline bridges makes it necessary to keep the maximum height of the engines down to a shade tinder 13 ft, and the comparative weakness of certain bridges under the line has made it necessary to restrict the maximum weight of engines over this route to a figure considerably below that obtaining on other parts of the system. So our Great Eastern 4-
And why all these difficulties? The old Great Eastern Railway was an amalgamation of a number of lines constructed through country that could never offer much in the way of remunerative traffic, save for a couple of months or so in the summer, when holiday-
Not only that, but on account of sharp curves through various big towns and junctions severe reductions of speed are necessary at the five different points that I have indicated; at three of them the speed would normally rule at a high figure, as they are at the bottom of inclines from both directions of running. In this manner, too, insult is added to injury, as the unfortunate locomotive has to try and recover her lost momentum on an ascending gradient. To maintain an average speed of 50.3 miles per hour over the 69 miles between Liverpool Street and Harwich is therefore a really marvellous feat for a 64-
It is, indeed, a job for expert drivers and firemen only. The small “link” of engine crews engaged in working the night boat expresses -
Arriving at Liverpool Street Terminus shortly after eight o’clock in the evening we shall find a scene of considerable activity at No. 9 platform, where is drawn up the luxurious set of coaches in which we are to be whirled to Parkeston Quay. No. 9 is the longest platform at Liverpool Street, measuring 900 ft from end to end, which is just as well, as no other of the Liverpool Street departure platforms could accommodate the full length of our train.
There are at Liverpool Street in all some 18 platforms, 10 of which belong to the original terminus, opened in 1874, and the remaining eight to the “East Side”, which was added in 1894. For the enormous traffic that it handles daily, Liverpool Street is a remarkably compact terminus; despite its 18 platforms, it covers no more than 16 acres. No less than 1,200 trains are worked in and out of Liverpool Street in every 24 hours, the station having to deal with roughly one-
To see the stream of business passengers pouring into Liverpool Street in the mornings is one of the sights of London. By the time of our arrival in the evening the outward-
This is what has been called the “Intensive” train service to Walthamstow, Chingford, Enfield and Palace Gates, and represents by far the densest service of steam trains ever put upon metals in any country. The old Great Eastern always specialised in rapid passenger handling, and was the first railway to introduce suburban coaches seating six passengers a-
But we are straying from the “Hook of Holland Express”, whose starting time is rapidly approaching. At the back end of the train are a couple of capacious brake-
The main passenger part of the train now begins, and its similarity in appearance to the “Flying Scotsman” may make us rub our eyes at first, and wonder whether we have not come to King’s Cross by mistake! But this is the new standard for LNER main line stock, with the rounded coach-
A considerable addition was made to the weight of the “Hook of Holland Express” when these luxurious coaches were introduced. Previously the ordinary Great Eastern corridor coaches weighed about 27 tons apiece; these cars weigh 32 and 33 tons, and the dining cars even more. The probable formation of the train will be two first-
class corridor coaches, and a second-
“Hooking it” by LNER: The “Hook of Holland Express” at full speed, passing Chadwell Heath.
And now here we are at the engine. It looks quite deceptively large, but if you study the side elevation carefully, you will see that this is chiefly due to the exceptional size of the driver’s cab, which is, without question, the most capacious and comfortable express locomotive cab in the country. The old Great Eastern Railway, from the introduction of the 4-
But as regards the engine itself, the boiler-
The big suspended clock in the middle of Liverpool Street Station is now on the stroke of 8.30, and we must hurriedly get in. We will ensconce ourselves in the front coach, as the voice of our steed in “full cry” is one of the thrills of this journey that must not be missed. Steam is already blowing-
From Bethnal Green the gradients are slightly in the engine’s favour as far as Stratford, but the drastic speed reduction over the curve through the platform loses us much of the momentum we have gained by attaining 50 an hour or so as we swung round Bryant and May’s great match factory at Bow on to the straight. The mile from here to Stratford is one of the busiest on the system; it has six, and for part of the distance eight parallel lines, spanned by a whole succession of complicated signal gantries, and if we get through without a signal check we shall be lucky.
The section between Bow Junction and Stratford is, indeed, one of the worst obstacles to the electrification of the Great Eastern suburban lines of the LNER. All the trains from the Fenchurch Street direction, getting across to the slow lines, have to cross the main lines “on the flat”, and to get any value out of electrification by the provision of more frequent train services would certainly entail the provision of “flying” junctions here, at a cost which alone would run into millions sterling of money. Such facts as this are often forgotten by those who imagine that electrification is a comparatively simple matter.
LNER “1500” Class 4-
But by now we are gathering speed again. It is obvious from the continuous roar of the exhaust, as we dash past one after another of the string of suburban stations, that the engine is still being worked hard, probably at about 40 per cent, cut-
three miles up Brentwood Bank, are allowed no more than 13 minutes, at an average rate of 47.3 miles per hour. If it is a fine night and we get a perfectly clear road we may just do it -
wide over the countryside -
This is one of the fortunate nights, and when at last we have threaded our way up to the deep cutting past Brentwood, with regulator fully open and very likely quite 60 per cent, cut-
At last our driver breathes more freely; once past Shenfield Junction we are well out of the London suburban area, and may expect a clear road now for the rest of the way. The fireman, whose efforts have been unceasing up to this point, probably snatches a moment’s rest. But their is little rest for the engine; cut-
Away we go again, noting on the left of us -
The short down-
Yet once again the engine has a steep incline up which to recover speed, and mostly rising grades on to Wrabness; indeed, this last stretch of 9½ miles, only allowed 12 minutes from a 20-
Once past Wrabness, all the difficulties of the journey are at an end. The fireman is now beginning to rake out the fire that he has been maintaining with such strenuous efforts throughout the journey, in order that there may not be too much when the engine reaches the shed for the night. It is growing dusk, and all the myriad lights of Parkeston Quay bear into view as we swing round the wide curve -
No time is to be wasted here, as the Antwerp train is due in 10 minutes behind us, and before that our passengers must be off the platform. A shunting engine has whisked off the two vans at the rear and taken them round on to the Quay itself, opposite the Hook of Holland steamer, and our engine and train have moved off to the carriage sidings. There is just time to hurry up to the engine and give our warmest congratulations to driver and fireman. We could tour the country without noting anywhere a finer feat of locomotive handling than we have witnessed to-
The “Hook of Holland Express” on Brentwood Bank.
[From The Meccano Magazine, June 1927]