The Golden Arrow 19th May 1996

On 19th May 1996, Clan Line hauled the British leg of the VSOE Golden Arrow.

Due to engineering works, the train was to start and finish at Kensington Olympia, run via Chatham to Margate to take water, and on to Canterbury West. From here, the passengers went forward by coach to catch the Seacat to Calais. Meanwhile, the train was serviced on the up side. The return was 68 minutes late starting, because the Seacat, with the return passengers, was delayed by rough seas.

That was the incentive to see what could be done. A phone call was made to control - "We have a full pot of water, we do not need the water stop at Paddock Wood, can we run non-stop via Herne Hill, please?" Control and the signallers did us proud - we were given a clear run, and '28 showed what she could do.

So we set off, only to come to a stand outside Ashford for a Eurostar to proceed. The driver asked if we could go a bit quicker, but the request had to be declined, as the Pullmans were restricted to 75 mph. As soon as the signal cleared, we set off, and the noise from the chimney was wonderful. We were up to 75 mph in no time, at which point the noise stopped, as we cruised to Tonbridge. The sight at Paddock Wood must have been wonderful, with '28 wearing full Golden Arrow regalia as she charged through the centre road. The many people on the platform would have been a bit surprised that we did not stop. The brakes came on for Tonbridge, but not for long, as the regulator and cut-off were set half way down the platform for Clan Line to drive through the London-end curve and attack Hildenborough Bank. She did this in fine style, as she would have done in BR days. It turned out that we were catching the Eurostar that had gone before us.

The following is the log produced by John Rule at the time:-

The Golden Arrow

VSOE Pullman Sunday 19th May 1996

Locomotive: BR (SR) Rebuilt Merchant Navy class 35028 Clan Line.

Train: MNLPS Mk 1 BFK (99782), nine VSOE Pullmans (99541, 99539, 99535, 99534, 99543, 99532, 99530, 99537, 99531), VSOE Mk 1 BSK (99538), VSOE Mk 1 generator car (6313).

Load: Twelve vehicles for 471.25 tons tare. 483 tons gross to Canterbury. 485 tons gross from Canterbury.

Route: Kensington Olympia to Margate for water stop via Catford, Chatham and Herne Bay. Margate to Canterbury West for transfer of passengers, servicing and water. Canterbury West to Kensington Olympia via Ashford (signal check), Paddock Wood (booked water stop missed out), Sevenoaks and Penge (diverted from Catford line).

Crew: Inspector John Pilcher throughout. Driver Colin Kerswill and fireman James Bannister to Canterbury. Driver Dennis Donovan, fireman John Neil and trainee fireman Robert Baines from Canterbury.

Weather: Dry, mostly sunny, some cloud, wind southerly, moderate to strong.

Miles Location B'ked Actual Sp'd Notes
0.00 Kensington Olympia 10:22 10:21:20
2.75 Latchmere Junction 10:28 10:28:10
3.60 Longhedge Junction 10:31 10:29:54
4.17 Wandsworth Road 10:32:46 Signals
4.50 Clapham High Street 10:35:11 23.4
5.94 Denmark Hill 10:42 10:39:18
6.40 Crofton Road Junction 10:43 10:41:29
6.82 Peckham Rye 10:42:24 29.3
7.65 Nunhead 10:46 10:43:48 33.9
8.76 Crofton Park 10:45:57 36.6
9.72 Catford 10:47:58 18.8 Braking for PWS
10.58 Bellingham 10:50:22 26.7
11.18 Beckenham 10:51:18 38.1
12.05 Ravensbourne 10:52:40 36.9
12.50 Shortlands Junction (MP 9.75) 10:53 10:52:25 35.3 MP Change
12.79 Shortlands 10:53:52 40.0
13.67 Bromley South 10:55:07 42.0
14.71 Bickley 10:56:36 42.1
15.23 Bickley Junction 10:58 10:57:19 42.2
16.00 St. Mary Cray Junction (MP 13.25) 10:58:21 47.5
17.50 St. Mary Cray (MP 14.75) 11:00:10 52.2/ 53.5
20.15 Swanley (Footbridge) 11:04 11:03:42 36.7 Min. at Summit
23.29 Farningham Road (Footbridge) 11:07:15 64.7
26.16 Longfield (Footbridge) 11:10:04 54.2
28.74 Meopham (Footbridge) 11:13:47 40.0
29.71 Sole Street (Footbridge) 11:16 11:15:26 31.0
35.78 Rochester Bridge Junction 11:26 11:26:07 27.6 30 MPH PWS
36.50 Rochester (Exit) 11:28 11:27:25 35.5
37.00 Chatham (MP 34.25) 11:28:21 32.1 Exh'st Loud
38.75 Gillingham (MP 36) 11:33 11:31:17 38.7/ 39.9 Eased for PWS
41.68 Rainham (Footbridge) 11:36:04 52.5
44.25 Newington (MP 41.5) 11:39:05 59.9
47.50 Sittingbourne (MP 44.75) 11:43 11:42:51 40.0/ 44.3
50.74 Teynham (Footbridge) 11:46:23 59.7
54.69 Faversham (MP 52) 11:50 11:51:25 23.2/ 28.6 30 MPH PWS
61.80 Whitstable (Footbridge) 11:59:24 53.0 50 MPH PWS
63.28 Chestfield (Shelter) 12:01:00 58.4/ 60.8
65.50 Herne Bay (MP 62.75) 12:02 12:04:03 22.2/ 21.6 Braked for PWS
73.50 Birchington (MP 70.75) 12:14:30 56.0
75.14 Westgate-on-Sea 12:16:16 58.6
76.61 Margate (Arrival) 12:15 12:19:08 Water Stop
0.00 Margate (Departure) 12:35 12:36:28
3.23 Broadstairs (Footbridge) 12:43:33 37.3/ 40.2
5.39 Ramsgate (Subway) 12:44 12:47:38 30.1/ 29.8 30 MPH PWS
9.00 Minster E. Jnc. (MP 82.25) 12:53:33 20.0/ 33.6 Signals
9.45 Minster (Footbridge) 12:50 12:54:17 41.3
18.50 Sturry (MP 72.75) 12:55:44 43.8/ 46.9
21.11 Canterbury West (Arrival) 13:08 13:10:18 Water and Service Stop
0.00 Canterbury West (Departure) 15:10 16:18:30
3.2 Chartham (Footbridge) 16:25:11 50.6 Exh'st Loud
4.8 Chilham (Footbridge) 16:27:27 59.3 Track Rough
10.0 Wye (Footbridge) 15:22 16:31:56 65.0
14.0 Ashford Yard (MP 56.75) (Arrival) 16:36:43 Signal Check for Eu'star
0.00 Ashford Yard (MP56.75) (Departure) 16:38:35
0.64 Ashford (Footbridge) 15:28 16:41:17 10.6/ 23.9
2.75 MP 54.00 16:42:21 54.1/ 55.5
3.75 MP 53.00 16:45:22 61.9
6.30 Pluckley (Footbridge) 16:47:31 74.7
10.50 MP 46.25 16:50:30 83.4 Max. Speed
11.50 Headcorn (MP 45.25) 15:39 16:51:15 77.5 72 Min. Late
14.92 Staplehurst (Footbridge) 16:54:07 75.7
17.36 Marden (Footbridge) 16:56:03 79.1
21.94 Paddock Wood (Footbridge) (Arrival) 15:50 16:59:31 80.4 Pass (Water Stop Missed Out)
Paddock Wood (Footbridge) (Departure) 16:10
27.21 Tonbridge 16:18 17:04:02 54.3 50 MPH PWS
29.75 Hildenborough (MP 27) 17:06:40 55.9/ 56.5 Roaring
30.75 MP 26 17:07:44 55.6/ 55.7
31.75 MP 25 17:08:49 55.0
32.11 Sevenoaks Tunnel (South) 17:09:14 53.1 2 Slips in Tunnel
34.08 Sevenoaks Tunnel (North) 17:11:25 52.0/ 49.8 Min. at Summit
34.63 Sevenoaks (Footbridge) 16:29 17:12:04 54.1
36.25 Dunton Green (MP 20.5) 17:13:45 61.6/ 62.7
38.01 Polhill Tunnel (South) 17:15:23 64.1
39.50 Polhill Tunnel (North) 17:16:50 60.8
40.25 Knockholt (MP 16.5) 17:17:34 61.1
41.5 Chelsfield (MP 15.25) 17:18:42 65.9/ 70.6
42.91 Orpington (Building) 16:39 17:19:55 67.3
44.1 Petts Wood (Footbridge) 16:41 17:21:19 40.4
44.5 Petts Wood Jnc. (MP 12.25) 17:21:49 43.3
45.33 Bickley Jnc. 16:44 17:22:55 47.7
45.85 Bickley (Building) 17:23:30 48.4
46.89 Bromley South (Footbridge) 17:24:44 46.7
47.79 Shortlands (MP 10) 17:25:56 44.7
48.04 Shortlands Jnc. (MP 9.75) 16:49 17:26:16 45.7 Div'ted via Penge
49.09 Beckenham Jnc. (Footbridge) 17:27:30 55.0
49.95 Kent House (Subway) 17:28:22 50.6
50.55 Penge East (Footbridge) 17:29:11 48.3
50.78 Penge Tunnel (South) 17:29:28 49.1
51.99 Penge Tunnel (North) 17:30:59 47.9
52.01 Sydenham Hill (Footbridge) 17:31:26 48.0
52.74 West Dulwich (Exit) 17:31:54 51.8
53.76 Herne Hill (Subway) 17:33:15 39.6
54.56 Brixton (Overbridge) 17:34:22 43.0
54.99 Shepherds Lane Jnc. 17:06 17:34:56
55.49 Clapham High St. 17:35:43 38.2
55.73 Wandsworth Rd. 17:36:20
56.3 Longhedge Jnc. 17:12 17:37:51
57.15 Latchmere Jnc. 17:16 17:39:40 Signals
59.9 Kensington Olympia (Arrival) 17:21 17:46:17

The following notes were made by the time-keeper at the time:-

  1. Most mileages are taken from RPS mileage charts, but those from Kensington Olympia to Wandsworth Road, and Minster to Ashford, are calculated from gradient profiles and maps, and are less accurate.
  2. There are numerous milepost errors on this route, which reduces the accuracy of speeds. Speeds are given to one decimal place, but they are not that accurate. Allowing for this, the maximum for the day was at least 83 mph, possibly 84mph, between MP 47.25 and MP 46.25.
  3. The highest calculable power output was achieved between Tonbridge and Sevenoaks Tunnel, when 2,183 EDHP was sustained for over three minutes at about 55 mph. The loco was reported to be being driven at full regulator and 35-38% cut off. Boiler pressure was between 220 and 245 psi, with a 10 psi drop from the boiler to the steam chest, and with both injectors on.
  4. Throughout the day, loco handling and fire management were of the highest order, no blowing off, but plenty of steam when required. The loco was never driven excessively hard, but still produced excellent work. Given the various speed restrictions, the standard of running (particularly uphill!) compares well with that recorded in BR days. Comparing the performance on the climb to Sevenoaks with graphs produced when 35018 was tested suggests that 35028 is in exceptionally good shape. If pressed hard, she might equal, or exceed, the highest power outputs recorded by Merchant Navies in BR days. However, her full potential remains a mystery.