Main Line 6
Some memorable climbs

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Some of the tracks are quite long, so please be patient while they load and to get the full effect headphones or a good quality sound system should be used.


The Royal Duchy-The Luxulyn Valley

On 24/10/1998, 48773 & 45110 took the first steam hauled train to Newquay in preservation, on a day of high winds torrential rain, driving drizzle, fallen trees and leaves in abundance. This is a sound recording taken from the front of the second coach, sadly no photographs are available, mainly due to the weather, but with headphones and a little imagination they are not needed. The Barton Hill crews had come well prepared and had worked out a strategy for the run in advance, professional to say the very least, the 8F was coupled ahead of the 5 to aid adhesion and this proved decisive. Despite being loaded to 13 bogies Dainton was taken with ease, at a fair old speed and with very little sound audible from the chimneys, rather a disappointment as some fireworks were expected, the climb from Totnes was quite spectacular with an incredible cacophony of sound but Luxulyn was a different matter all together. As can be seen from the gradient profile the Luxulyn valley has similar gradients to Dainton, 1:39/42/37, but there the similarity stops, heavily wooded, reverse curves and a 5mph restriction at the bottom, with an all in weight of around 700 tons this was going to be quite a battle.

The recording is split into three sections, the initial start from the speed restriction, the first restart after we were stopped by a Railtrack man warning us of fallen trees, and the second restart after we stalled on the 1:37 in the tunnel near the top.



Part 1, the beginning of the climb from St Blazey, 48773 & 45110 get to grips with the 1:39 , note the quicker beat of the 8F, and as the 5 is gradually opened up you realise just how slow the train is moving, but they settle down with some confident sounds, until a Railtrack man with a Red flag halts the train, to warn of fallen trees , I certainly didn’t envy him being out on a day like that, and to have to face the crews to explain why they had been halted!

Part 2, with the whole train on the 1;39, the restart was going to be interesting, without any slipping the train is restarted, with the wonderful sound of the two locos, coming in and out of sync, the 8f slips as speed slowly increases, but the 5 just keeps on blasting away until the 8F regains adhesion , this was to happen several times with the 5 taking the weight of the whole train, helped obviously by the forward motion. The 5 is then opened wide to allow the 8F to be eased, to help with adhesion, but speed really falls and entering the 1:37 on a vicious curve near the tunnel the 8F slips in a very big way and finally the 5 slips as well, with both locos entering the tunnel all adhesion is lost and the train stalls.

Part 3, after 10mins of hand sanding the crews are ready to do battle , with the engines still in the tunnel on a vicious curve,1:37 gradient and 13 on, the restart is a real testament to the crews and the locos, forward movement is barely noticeable, the sleepers creaking under the weight, but without a slip the train is on the move and being almost at the top the locos are soon triumphantly blasting through Luxulyn station, a truly memorable climb.




The Lochaber-Glen Douglas


21/09/1991, 44871 made the annual return south with the stock from the summer Fort William-Mallaig runs. As was quite common the outward run was delayed and terminated at Tulloch where 44871 was put on the train. Loaded to 7 she made a very determined climb to Corrour and a solid climb from the Horseshoe curve and with favourable weather some fabulous sounds were heard. Heavy rain the previous week had saturated the mountains so there was a lot of water running in torrents onto the line in cuttings, particularly so on Glen Douglas, add the leaves on the line reverse curves and steep gradient, the climb was going to be interesting to say the least. Arrival at Arrochar always give a wonderful sense of anticapation as to what lies ahead, the isolation of the place and the silence adding to the atmosphere,44871 waiting patiently for the road with steam drifting skyward in the still air. Departure is always entertaining as advantage is taken of the initial downgrade to try and get some momentum for the climb. Once on the first stretch of 1;53 the driver gives his intention of a no nonsense attack of the bank, with the loco repeated slipping as she passes the numerous waterfalls crossing the line. Finaly approaching Glen Douglas loop she stalls but with plenty of hand sanding the train is restarted.
A superb climb, expert handling of the loco in very difficult conditions, many a lesser man would have stalled much earlier on and would have been unlikely to get going again.


The recording starts at Arrochar & Tarbet and finishes with the restart into Glen Douglas loop.



South Pembrokeshire- Narberth

17/10/1993 80080+80079 loaded to 10 ran from Swansea to Pembroke Dock and return. After a steady start the real fireworks started at Carmarthen and continued all day untill Cockett tunnel on the return, an amazing run indeed, and the likely hood of steam returning to the line is very remote with the current policy of big engines, The tanks ran bunker first from Carmarthen and shortly after departing Whitland set about the bank in fine style, as 44767 had stalled on the climb a short while before, there were going to be no half measures this time. The line turns 180 degrees almost entirely on a 1:50/1:52 gradient and a vicious curve, with the very small bore of Narberth tunnel right in the middle, being in the leading vestibule ( no support coaches that day) we could have touched the smokebox of 80079 and the intensity of the heat in the tunnel was something I have never experienced before or since, the sound of course was quite intense as well! As the 1:52 after the tunnel starts to take its toll both locos slip and speed falls rapidly, fortunately with dry rails they go over the top without to much problem, but it made you realise that on a wet day and with foreign crews, rather than the local Swansea men it could have been another story. The outward run was incredibaly, rather eclipsed by the return, Tenby, Llanelly, and Cockett, but that will have to wait for another day.

The recording starts around milepost 261, and the photos show the pair at Tenby.

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