Riding behind steam
Main line steam in the 1980s

5305One of my first serious attempts at recording came on 20th September 1980 when HLPG ran a special from Hull via York to Carlisle and back hauled by their LMS Black 5 4-6-0 5305.
By this time my technique had improved from much earlier attempts and I didn't stick the microphone out of the window; as a result the recordings were very much better!
I have had better recordings of 5305 since but the recordings that I made that day were probably responsible for my continuing liking for Black 5s (and 5305 in particular) and starting my on-going interest in sound recording.
I had already travelled over the S&C behind 5305 earlier in the year on one of Bernard Staite's early SLOA trips over the line and while the loco had performed well enough on that occasion no records were broken.
Sadly, I have no notes or logs of the run on 20th September but 5305 put in a very fast time for the climb from Settle Jc. to Blea Moor which I seem to recall being told was some kind of record!
Well, this recording which starts passing as 5305 emerges from Stainforth Tunnel and ends near Helwith Bridge is just part of the 21 minute recording of the complete climb that I got that day and somewhere around 21 minutes from Settle Jn. to Blea Moor seems pretty good to me. And it doesn't sound too bad either!

5305 from Stainforth Tunnel to near Helwith Bridge. 20th September 1980
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In February 1983 the Midland Railway Class 2P Compound 4-4-0 1000 was let out for one of its very few forays on the main line when, in company with LMS Jubilee 4-6-0 5690 'Leander' it worked two Cumbrian Mountain Pullmans.
The northbound run on the 5th February was made in 1000 & 5690appalling weather conditions with high winds and snow and, at one point it was looking like we weren't going to get a run over the S&C at all. In the event we did but the train was terminated at Appleby rather than Carlisle. Although there was plenty of snow on the ground, the southbound run with 1000 & 5690 over the S&C a week later on the 12th February 1983 was made in much better conditions.
Midland Compounds were never usually particularly noisy engines, especially when being worked as a compound so most of the noise we heard during the climb from Appleby came from 5690 but after a water stop we did get to hear the Compound as the par depart from Garsdale.

1000 & 5690 departing from Garsdale. 12th February 1983
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4472 While I was being entertained on the Welsh Marches on the 10th November others were getting a new route for steam in the book travelling behind 4472 from Manchester to Spalding.
This train was operated to get 'Flying Scotsman' and some Pullman coaches to the London area to provide no lesser person than the HRH The Queen Mother with a ride behind the engine from Stratford to North Woolwich.
Having completed its Royal duties the loco returned north on 24th November 1984 with The Fenman running from Spalding via Nottingham to Sheffield and Manchester before continuing over Sough to Blackburn. At least, that was the plan.
There wasn't much scope for noise until steeper gradients were encountered west of Sheffield.
This recording is of 4472 departing from Sheffield and beginning the 1 in 100 climb towards Dore & Totley and Totley Tunnel.
Later, on exiting Totley Tunnel the train was brought to a stand by signals at Grindleford. It appeared that a Class 31 diesel on a preceding passenger train had failed and until it was rescued we could not proceed.
This delay was fortunate for a few of our passengers who, having left the station at Sheffield to take refreshment had lost track of time and missed our departure. A fast taxi allowed them to catch up.
Eventually the failed train was rescued and we were able to continue now running rather later than planned.
Our late arrival in Manchester meant that a decision was taken to terminate the steam haulage there and not run through to Blackburn thus missing out on what should have been an entertaining climb to Sough.

4472 departing from Sheffield. 24th November 1984
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46229Throughout the summer of 1985 the ex LMS Coronation Pacific 46229 'Duchess of Hamilton' had been based at Marylebone and in the capable hands of the steam drivers there had provided some remarkable performances. On 5th October 1985 the locomotive travelled north on it's way back to York to work it's last few trains before coming out for overhaul and, on this last run out of Marylebone we were hoping for something special!
During the early stages of the journey, while the running was good enough, the engine wasn't worked particularly hard. This situation changed dramatically after High Wycombe.
Having passed through the High Wycombe station, where there is a speed restriction, at around 30 mph. Once clear the driver opened the engine up ready for the climb to Saunderton. On gradients never steeper than 1 in 164 speed rose rapidly and, in just over 2 miles had topped 60 mph. The driver gradually extended the cut off and speed continued to rise and, after passing Saunderton station reached a little over 72 mph before the regulator was closed close to the summit.
A truly remarkable performance with a 12 coach load providing us with one of the highest power outputs ever produced by a steam locomotive in the UK.
We had been hoping for something special and we certainly weren't disappointed!
This recording is of just the last part of that remarkable climb.

46229 climbing to Sauderton. 5th October 1985
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48151Some years previously a well known BR person with more than a little responsibility for main line steam running had been heard to remark that we would never get an LMS 8F 2-8-0 on the main line. The reasoning behind his opinion was based on the fact that, with small driving wheels, the loco would be restricted to a maximum of 50 mph and, for that reason would be almost impossible to time among other much faster services. Not for the first time or the last, he was wrong!
At that time, there were two 8Fs which were eventually destined, if possible, for main line use; 48773 on the SVR and David Smith's 48151.
On 24th October 1987 BR East Midlands had arranged another steam hauled railtour, this time with the spa town of Buxton as it's destination taking a very interesting route via the Hope Valley and the now freight only lines from Chinley over Peak Forest, once part of the main Midland route from Manchester to London St. Pancras.
The locomotive originally rostered for this train was the Jubilee 5593 'Kohlapur' but this wasn't going to be available. Alternatives were either everybody's favourite, 'Flying Scotsman' and 48151 having it's first revenue earning main line run since preservation but it was only when we arrived at Derby and glimpsed a black, rather than green loco that we could be certain of the motive power.
This was certainly a most fitting choice as these 2-8-0s had been regular performers over most of the route that we were about to take, albeit on freight rather than passenger trains.
With the locomotive restricted to 50 mph we had expected the running on the main line north of Derby to be rather sedate but the 8F exceeded it's theoretical maximum at times, particularly so on the descent towards Clay Cross and by the time we rolled into Chesterfield where we stopped to pick up passengers our opinion of the locomotive was already quite high!
In this recording 48151 is heard on the climb from Tapton Jc. towards Bradway Tunnel near Dronfield.
On the 1 in 100 gradient the 8F with over 450 tons behind the tender was able to maintain speed above 30 mph. A fine performance and some very fine sounds!

48151 near Dronfield. 24th October 1987
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4468Moving from a class of loco that wasn't noted for high speed running to one that certainly was...
1988 was to be 'Mallard's year this being the 50th Anniversary of the A4's record setting run down Stoke Bank in July 1938.
On actual anniversary of the record run, 3rd July 1988, 4468 worked the Anniversary Pullman, which started at Kings Cross but was only steam hauled from Doncaster to York where the NRM had arranged a line up of three A4s with 'Bittern' and 'Sir Nigel Gresley' making up the trio.
Four further railtours with the loco were originally planned but so popular did these prove that two more had to be arranged.
The first of these ran on 9th July 1988 which started with steam haulage at York, ran to Scarborough before returning to York via Bridlington.
Having reached Scarborough after a good run from York with Bernard Wilkinson driving we departed for the return with Derek Gell in charge of the A4.
At Seamer we had an unexpected stop as the signalman there had set the road for York rather than Bridlington!
A little later we were stopped at Hunmanby to wait for a service train to clear the single track section to Bridlington.
With the line clear 4468 is heard in this recording departing and accelerating to over 40 mph on the 1 in 112 gradient towards Speeton, very good work with a 12 coach train.

4468 departing from Hunmanby. 9th July 1988
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