Alan Newman was a Nine Elms Engineman between 1962 and 1967, he has kindly allowed us to reproduce this article below:
"35011 at Nine Elms "Just another day doing the best job in the world, with the finest steam locomotives ever built"
The Train: 'The Royal Wessex'
The Driver: A E Hooker Nine Elms
The Locomotive: 35011 'General Steam Navigation'.
A regular duty at Nine Elms for No 2 Link was the 2.45am Waterloo to Bournemouth West paper train. The return train was the Up Royal Wessex departing Bournemouth Central at 8.40am. stopping at Brockenhurst, Southampton Central and Winchester City, due to arrive Waterloo at 10.53am. I worked the Up Wessex with my regular mate Driver Bert Hooker over thirty times in my time with him, but one trip stands out from the others.
In August 1965 we had 35011 with 12 coaches equalling 404 tons behind the tender. I was enjoying a good trip. We made our final stop at Winchester, where the starting signal remained 'On'. I then saw the Station Master walking from the signal box. The Station Master came up to the cab and infomed Bert, that a freight train had failed between Winchester Jct and Wallers Ash tunnel. Control wanted us to unhook and go forward light engine to assist the failed train into Wallers Ash loop.
The plan was to clear the failed train into Wallers Ash Loop then to return wrong road and get our own train. Bert said the job would be better done taking our own train, the extra weight would add to the momentum, for starting on the 1/250 gradient. Bert was always up for a challenge!
We duly set off to the point where the failed train was standing, just past Winchester Jct.. We stopped initially to pick the guard up who had walked back putting his detonators down as protection. Bert stopped 35011 about 10 feet short of the failed train.
The fireman (Alec Jones of Eastleigh) was waiting in the Guards brake van. Alec informed Bert that all the brakes apart from the brake van were fully released. The failed train had a type 33 diesel with 70 empty van fits plus a Guards Brake van. Bert told Alec to release the hand brake when the buffers were about 8 -10 inches apart. Bert sounded the whistle code (1 Crow) to alert the driver on the Diesel and duly eased 35011 into forward motion we gently eased onto the rear as soon as the buffers came into contact the momentum started the whole ensemble up the bank. We were soon up to 15/18 mph Bert working 35011 at 50% cut off.
For my part we had 250 psi steam and just over 1/2 a glass of water. Bert encouraged 35011 into action saying "come on old girl do it for Gaffer Gilmore" whose regular engine she was when brand new at Nine Elms. On clearing the failed train into Wallers Ash Loop Bert stopped then waited while Alec secured the failed train with the hand brake. Bert eased 35011 back and stopped making sure the hand brake was holding the failed train, and it did not follow us out of the loop. The Wallers Ash signalman gave us a green hand signal as authority to drop out of the loop and we stopped behind his home signal. The signalman set the road and cleared his Up signals. The rest of the trip was bit of anti climax, and Waterloo was reached just 30 minutes late.
It's a shame the event was not captured on film, Bert said it was probably the heaviest train a Merchant Navy ever tackled. Bert estimated the total weight to be around 1,200 tons. All started on a 1/250 rising gradient without a slip, Bert was indeed the Driver for such occasions.
Alan Newman Nine Elms Engineman 1962-1967
All text and images strictly Copyright Alan Newman