1966-67: LAST DAYS of SOUTHERN STEAM
By now I had moved to Chiswick as I was working for British Rail in Alperton, but I still found time to visit my old haunts south of the river. I was able to take advantage of quarter-fare privilege tickets, taking two journeys in early 1966 to Bournemouth and Tunbridge Wells (where l met a girl who lived in New Ash Green).
On 3 April 1966 I took a trip to Southampton to see an RTCS rail-tour that visited the Fawley branch pulled by the unlikely combination of ‘U’ class 2-6-0 No. 31639 and ‘Q1’ 0-6-0 No. 33009. The up ‘Bournemouth Belle’ that day was hauled by ‘WC’ Pacific No. 34005 Barnstaple.
On the 14th and 15th May I went on a geology fieldtrip with another evening class from Surbiton, run by John Robinson. We visited the Jurassic Oolite and ironstone quarries in Clipsham and Ketton (Northants), and saw the Welland Viaduct, Corby steelworks and the East Coast main line at Little Bytham. I came back to Gloucester at the end of May and took some landscape photos from Robinswood Hill (one of my obsessions), and on the Bank Holiday met up with Rog Speck, Jeff Treece and their girlfriends, Christine and Sheena, visiting Berkeley Castle and the Forest of Dean.
However, I still found time to visit my old haunts south of the river, and as I was now working for British Rail and able to take advantage of quarter-fare privilege tickets, taking two trips journeys early in the year to Bournemouth and Tunbridge Wells (I’d met a girl who lived at New Ash Green). Then on 5 June I visited the RH&D Railway, travelling to Folkestone from Victoria. I was pulled by No. 2 Northern Chief and No. 5 Hercules, getting photographs of No. 6 Sampson at Hythe and No. 9 Winston Churchill at New Romney. I also took a day trip to on 17 July to Herne Bay, although I did not record details as all services were EMU operated.
Back in London, I made further trips from Surbiton on what was now the last steam main line in the south, travelling to Southampton in early April. Steam was still working most passenger services, and despite the grubby external appearance of some of the locomotives, good runs could still be had, particularly with the Bulleid Pacifics which were still common. I returned to hunting Southern steam later in the year, taking a Saturday trip on the Swanage branch before travelling back to London on 17 September on the 6.30pm from Weymouth to Waterloo. This was headed by a worn-out ‘Black 5’ No. 45222 (nominally shedded at Colwick), piloted by No. 41295 up the bank out of Weymouth. It took over four hours to do the journey, climbing up the long bank from Winchester to Micheldever at little more than 30 mph.
On 15 October, I went on the Railtour that commemorated the end of express running on the LSW main line to Exeter and provided the last opportunity for fast running before services were revised. The train left Waterloo at 9.10am, hauled by 35023, calling at Salisbury and Westbury where locos were changed. 35026 Lamport & Holt Line took over for the continuation over Whiteball to Exeter Central. After a break we left at 2.10pm to return via the L&SW main line, changing locomotives again at Salisbury.
On a murky 5 November I attempted to do some line-side photography west of Woking, but the results were unsatisfactory. On 4 December I took a trip on the North Woolwich line, but the ‘N7s’ had long gone by then, and the service was worked by DMUs from Stratford.
Finally, on the 12th and 13th December, I went with Roger Peakman on what was one of our last trips experiencing the final months of Southern steam travelling to Weymouth, visiting the Lymington branch, photographing steam at Portsmouth, Southampton, and Bournemouth. Roger had also acquired a portable battery tape recorder, which he used to record from the train the last steam locomotives, particularly Bulleid Pacifics in action on the line of out Waterloo. We also visited the Isle of Wight where services were still in the hands of ‘O2’ 0-4-4Ts. Only the line to Ventnor remained now as the last train to Cowes ran on 20 February 1966. A proposal in 1966 to introduce to the Isle of Wight ten Standard ‘2’ 2-6-2Ts redundant from the LMR never materialised, and the locomotives were withdrawn instead. Remaining steam on the Isle of Wight duly finished on 31 December.
The Bournemouth line soldiered on until July 1967 when the full electrified service was introduced, but steam was still in evidence until the end. On 1 July I hired a bicycle taking it to Southampton on the train, and over the weekend I cycled to Weymouth photographing steam. The weather was very warm, and I got quite sunburnt by riding without my shirt, so it was nice to find a glade in the New Forest by the railway where I could strip off for a while. I stayed the night in Bournemouth. The weekend after marked the end of steam on SR, and on 9 July I took a final trip by train to Weymouth, taking two photographs at Dorchester.
On the 10 July, the full electrified service to Bournemouth commenced using high-powered 4-REP units for express services. The extension of electrification to Weymouth did not take place until summer 1988 when the ‘442’ Class Wessex electric units were delivered. Until that date Weymouth portions of Waterloo expresses were operated by four-car push-pull trailer set powered by Class ‘33’ diesels.
On the inauguration of the Bournemouth electrification, redundant steam locomotives were dumped at various depots. Weymouth held a collection of Bulleid Pacifics, Ivatt ‘2’ 2-6-2Ts and various Standard classes. A visit to Salisbury shed later, on 20 January 1968 found 13 dead locomotives still waiting to be towed away for cutting up, including two ‘USA’ 0-6-0Ts that had performed shunting duties in Southampton Docks. One, No. 30072, had also been the shed pilot at Guildford (70D) from 1963.
On 22 October, I met up in Gloucester with Roger and Jeff and visited the South Wales scrap yards, particularly Cashmores and United Wagon Company at Newport and Woodhams at Barry. Over 220 withdrawn steam engines were recorded languishing at Barry Docks, many of which had recently arrived from the SR consequent upon the Bournemouth electrification.