Because this was a new itinerary for us, we put a lot of time and effort into the planning for this trip. We don't just turn up and hope that everything is in place for us. Servicing the train at Stratford-upon-Avon was not a possibility, but our friends from Vintage Trains made their facilities at Tyseley Locomotive Works available to us. We visited the site beforehand, and planned exactly what we were going to do, and where and when.
We also had a good look at the pathing. On the way home, we would usually turn right at Reading and trundle through Ascot and Virginia Water. However, along with Network Rail, we identified a path on the Main (fast line) all the way from Didcot to Acton.
On the day, we ensured that we left Stewarts Lane with a full tender - seven tons of coal and five thousand six hundred gallons of water. We also made sure that we were still in gauge, with no risk of lumps of coal falling off. The outward trip ran very much to schedule, with a pilotman up to the change of crew at Didcot. We took another four thousand gallons of water, and pulled coal forward, at Hinksey Yard, just south of Oxford.
We dropped off our passengers at Warwick Parkway, and they were taken on to Stratford-upon-Avon by coach, while we hauled the empty train to Tyseley. The coaching stock was serviced at the West Midlands Trains depot, and the loco was detached and moved to Tyseley Locomotive Works.
Time was tight, but we cleaned the fire, dropped the ash, and loaded another four tons of coal and three thousand seven hundred gallons of water. We also dealt with the important lubrication. Everybody at Tyseley was very friendly and helpful, and they were as interested in our engine as we were in theirs.
We didn't have to turn the engine or train, as Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon and Tyseley more or less make up a triangle. Therefore, we towed the train, running tender first, to pick up our passengers again.
Leaving Stratford-upon-Avon with a heavy train, about four hundred and seventy tons, is quite tricky, with the steep climb, curving track, and the switch across to the running line. We made it, though, and were soon running well - we had a bit of time to make up. We stopped again at Hinksey Yard to pull coal forward, and to take on another three thousand five hundred gallons of water. We had some good running as far as Didcot, but we were held there at a signal. As soon as we got going, about ten minutes late, we were put across to the Main (fast line), and were soon up to our permitted maximum of seventy five miles per hour. We kept this up all the way until we had to slow for Acton. Anyone on the platforms of any of the stations that we went through would have had a really good example of a mainline express steam locomotive doing what it was designed to do. For those interested in the figures, we went from the signal stop at Didcot East Junction to a nine miles per hour passing of the signal at Ealing Broadway in forty two and a half minutes for forty seven and a quarter miles. We were doing seventy six miles per hour through Reading.
We finally returned to Victoria on time, with a trainload of happy passengers.