Cromwell Shoots Up Evershot
The Weymouth Seaside Express, an RTC sponsored charter from Bristol to Weymouth, was in charge of 70013 Oliver Cromwell last Sunday, the 22nd July. The train consisted of only nine coaches because of the severe gradients on parts of the route. Every seat was taken and pay-on-the-day potential passengers who were waiting at the pick-up points had to be turned away. Business is apparently booming on the weekend trains out of Bristol as the Royal Duchy charters which go down to Par and back are also full with waiting lists for cancellations.
Starting at Temple Meads station, 70013 took her train briskly through the Wiltshire countryside and picking up at Bath, Trowbridge and Westbury. A short delay at Westbury waiting for confirmation that appropriate paperwork had been lodged with Network Rail meant a late departure from here but an extensive water stop allowance at Frome soon rectified this. Blue skies and plenty of sunshine were the icing on the cake for the passengers as the train worked its way through Castle Cary to Yeovil Pen Mill, where Oliver Cromwell had a short stop to gather her breath for the demanding climb ahead. The driver used the reasonably level stretch to Yetminster to gather speed. From there the gradients become 1 in 73, 1 in 65, 1 in 53 and finally one and a half miles at 1 in 51 to Evershot summit just beyond a short tunnel. 70013 reached this summit at 26 mph and the bark from the chimney must have been heard for miles around. The descent to Dorchester gave everyone chance to recover from this experience before a short repeat performance was necessary on the uphill bit to Bincombe tunnel. Arrival at Weymouth was a couple of minutes early, which shows just how good the run had been.
After a long light engine journey to Yeovil Junction, where Cromwell was turned on the table there and serviced, the loco return to Weymouth. The journey back to Bristol commenced with the steep climb up to Bincombe tunnel, with sections at 1 in 74, 1 in 50 and 1 in 52. 70013 took these in her stride and was 10 minutes early for the token stop at Maiden Newton. Late running service trains caused delay to the charter but slick work at Yeovil Pen Mill put The Weymouth Seaside Express back on time. The rest of the journey was completed faultlessly with the dash back from Bath to Bristol being of particulary high quality.
Oliver Cromwell will concentrate on the Devon banks for its next three outings on the 29th July, 5th and 12th August when it is booked to work The Royal Duchy from Bristol to Par and back. These should be something to look forward to with relish.