107 Through Andover


This reminiscence by former Basingstoke fireman R. D. Carrell first appeared in Ian Allan Ltd’s“Steam Days” magazine and has been reprinted in the 73082 Camelot Locomotive Society’s “Footplate” magazine and also in the Society’s monograph “73082 CAMELOT From Barry to Bluebell”. It describes a footplate turn on 73082 Camelot in which the speedometer was tested to the limit …

On Christmas Eve 1964 I was booked with a non-permanent driver to work a goods to Salisbury and, after servicing at that shed, returning to Basingstoke with a 'parcels'. We had a Standard Class Five, number 73082 Camelot, and on the way down my mate was moaning about missing a party at his house and, after such financial expense, he wasn’t going to allow his relatives to drink all his booze. He advised me that, at all cost, he intended getting back to Basing' before midnight. As we weren’t booked to arrive back before 0100 hours, I thought this was going to be an interesting evening.

Upon arrival at Salisbury MPD, Arthur asked me to give extra attention to cleaning the fire and ashpan - these locomotives had self-cleaning smokeboxes. As was to be expected with little traffic around, our train arrived early so we quickly attached to our return working upon release of the Salisbury-based Pacific that had brought it in. Fortunately for me, Camelot had proved a good steamer on the run down and now, with a clean fire, I had every confidence in her (this was an unpredictable era!). We got the 'Right away 'at about 23.14 hours, Arthur consulted his fob watch and asked if I was all set. I assured him (with tongue in cheek) that I could match his demands.

We had five on, fortunately a mixture of BGs and GUVs (no four-wheelers to restrict our speed), and with such a light train we fair 'lifted' them out of Salisbury station and around that notorious curve akin to a 1906 boat train! Speed was kept around the maximum allowable until we were clear of Tunnel Junction, thence began the climb to Grateley, after which I expected things to 'liven up' a little. Things, however, livened up long before Grateley; in fact, at full regulator and 50% cut-off, Porton was passed at 60 mph and I found myself working harder on this stretch than I ever had before, even with 15 bogies on!
"Perhaps reason will prevail" I thought "and an 'easing' would be experienced between Grateley and Andover, allowing me to roll a smoke".

We flew over the top at Grateley doing 80 mph and I sat down, but Arthur, with a gleam in his eyes, did nothing, not even an adjustment back to 45%. With a 'Rizla' flapping between my lips I grabbed the shovel again. After a few more rounds of coal I decided to play 'Mother 'and clean up the deck with my hand brush. While I was bending over to took at the floor, I noticed that the loco. was taking the easy curves down to Andover as if they were a 'roller coaster'. I grabbed my seat and, using it to straighten myself, glanced over at the ‘clock'- 98 ... 99 ... 100!

I began to feel giddy and crashed into my seat. The trauma of riding a rattling, lurching monster at such a speed is an experience I will remember for as long as I live. I staggered to my feet and, bracing myself against my backrest, threw in twenty rounds before dropping back into my seat again. "Is Arthur OK?" I wondered, but the glow and aroma of his 'Old Holborn’ indicated that he was, giving me tremendous withdrawal symptoms.

I managed to roll a smoke which, with shaking hands, resembled a dope 'reefer'. I took ten long drags and, through swimming eyes, was relieved at the sight of the lights of Andover, after which there is a stiff climb to Battledown and Worting junction. I realised that Andover would mark our fastest obtainable speed and a glance at the 'clock' revealed 107 mph, being the fastest I had ever travelled on rails!
We dropped to 98 by Hurstbourne and only recovered to 103 by Oakley, before easing for the tight curves at Battledown to arrive at Basingstoke at 2342 hours, having accomplished 36 miles in 28 minutes start to stop! An average speed of 77.1 mph!

Fortunately for Arthur, the Nine Elms men must have had the same festive desires and were waiting to relieve us at the platform. I gave Camelot an affectionate pat, not for the speed she had accomplished but just for keeping her knees straight during the whole event! As I handed over to my Nine Elms contemporary his face turned to astonishment when I muttered "She's a good 'un - did a hundred-and-seven through Andover; Merry Christmas!"

When I dropped to the platform Arthur had vanished. Of course, he had a party to go to. I wandered down the platform past the train, trying to collect my thoughts and re-establish the sequence of events which had made this a night to remember. I don’t recall seeing the guard, maybe he was suffering from air-sickness!