Alexander Seal

Argo Transacord

TR 103 The Somerset And Dorset

Recordings made between Bath and Evercreech Junction on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Line

Side One

On a damp afternoon in November 1956 the 'Pines Express' stands in Bath (Green Park) station, waiting to leave on the last lap of the long journey from Manchester and Liverpool. Two engines have been attached to take the train over the steeply graded Somerset and Dorset joint line, across the Mendip Hills, past Shepton Mallet to Evercreech Junction and on to Bournemouth. The train is made up of eleven coaches, including a Restaurant car, headed by a 'Standard Class 5' 4-6-0 No. 73051 with a 'Class 2.P.' 4-4-0 No. 40568 as pilot.

Given the 'right away' the two engines start the train away on level track to Bath Junction and cross the small bridge at the beginning of the single line section which extends over the summit to Midford.

Almost immediately after the junction the line starts to climb at 1 in 50 and this gradient continues for about ¾ of a mile before easing, very briefly, to level and 1 in 66. Here two young enthusiasts at the lineside cheer 'The Pines' on its way.

The gradient is no 1 in 50 again for the next mile, which includes the notorious Devonshire Tunnel. Conditions inside the single line tunnel, especially on the foot-plate of the second engine, can be better imagined than described as the two engines pound their way up towards the tunnel mouth. Leaving Devonshire Tunnel and still climbing at 1 in 50 the exhausts of the two engines reach a crescendo on the approach to the summit at Combe Down Tunnel, greeted with a long whistle from the pilot.

Once inside the tunnel there is a brief respite for the engine crews as the gradient changes, after a short level stretch, to 1in 100 down to the tunnel mouth.

From Radstock North, now on double train, more hard work begins as the line starts to climb again towards Masbury summit, seven miles ahead. For 1¼ miles the line climbs at 1 in 50, through Midsomer Norton, after which the gradient eases slightly to 1 in 53 for a further mile to the short tunnel near Chilcompton. A stopping train, bound for Bath, passes on the other track as the line winds, on slightly easier gradients, past Chilcompton Station to the start of another long stretch at 1 in 50 and 1 in 60 past Moorewood and on to Binegar. A final mile's climb at 1 in 63 and 1 in 73 leads up to the summit at Masbury.

Coasting down from Evercreech New 'The Pines' comes to a stop at Evercreech Junction where connections are made for the Highbridge Branch and Templecombe.

Note: In the recording of the journey on the 'Pines Express' the arrival at Evercreech Junction, including the long whistle approaching the station, was not recorded at the same time as the rest of the journey. The latter section was recorded on a later occasion when the 'Pines Express' was headed by 4-6-0 No. 73019 with 4-4-0 No. 40569 as pilot.

The recordings of No. 43201 and No. 43419 were made at Evercreech Junction during July 1956.

Side Two - Band One

At eleven o'clock on a showery morning in August 1956, the 'Pines Express' from Bournemouth arrives at Evercreech Junction, headed by un-rebuilt 'Bullied Pacific' No. 34109 Sir Stafford Leigh-Mallory

In the short siding between the Up and Down lines to the north of the station a 'Class 2.P.' 4-4-0 No. 40568 has been waiting for pilot duty on 'The Pines'

From a point some way to the north of the station No. 40568 is heard coming out of the siding after arrival of the express and as pig in a nearby farmyard provide a squealing background, the 4-4-0 comes up to the crossover before backing down to the head of the waiting train.

The 'Pacific' gives a short whistle, answered by the 4-4-0 and the two engines get 'The Pines' on the move up the 1 in 198 gradient out of the station there is a strong contrast between the deep, steady, exhaust beat of the 4-4-0 and the sharp rapid, exhaust of the 'Pacific,' which has some difficulty in getting a grip on the greasy rails. As the train rounds the sharp curve by the North Box and tackles the start of the long climb towards Shepton Mallet, Bath and the North, the 'Pacific' again has some bouts of slipping on the damp rails.

The yard to the north of Evercreech Junction station is busy with shunting and the powerful exhaust of one of the S & D 2-8-0's is heard approaching. The 2-8-0 No. 53802, at the head of a line of wagons, coasts to a stop, and after a brief halt reverses to move move past and away again.

Another 2-8-0 moves slowly out of the yard, the fireman sounds the whistle in acknowledgement of the guard's hand signal and No. 53803 is opened up to take the train down the grade through towards Templecombe.

With wheel flanges squealing on the sharp curve, No. 53801 now brings a goods train down the grade from Bath and another S & D 2-8-0, No. 53809, with a good head of steam in readiness from the hard climb ahead, pulls slowly out of the yard before getting smartly away to tackle to long pull up towards Shepton Mallet and Bath.

Side Two - Band Two

On the 1 in 50 gradient between Evercreech New and Shepton Mallet, on a morning on August 1956, a '2.P.' 4-4-0 heads a Templecombe-Bath stopping train.

S & D 2-8-0 No. 53800 comes up the gradient from Evercreech with a morning goods train for Bath and No. 53802 is head again, heading downhill towards Evercreech with a goods train from Bath.

One summer Saturdays passenger traffic on the S & D is heavy and trains follow each other in quick succession, outwards from Bournemouth to the Midlands and North during the morning and in the reverse direction during the afternoon. The next recordings were made on a Saturday morning in July 1956, at the entrance to Windsor Hill Tunnel, on the 1 in 50 gradient between Shepton Mallet and Masbury summit. It is a windy, unsettled day with thunder clouds rolling up from the West.

'2.P.' No. 40509 and 'Std.5.' No. 73116, at the head of a Bournemouth-Manchester train, come lustily up the grade and into the tunnel. A wood pigeon coos softly from a nearby tree just before the 'Pines Express' approaches the steep sided rock cutting and with a whistle from the Pilot, 4-4-0 No. 40634, and a final vigorous bursts of exhaust from 'West Country' Pacific 4-6-2 No. 34040 Crewkerne, the train disappears into the tunnel mouth as approaching thunder rumbles round the hills.

Heading a Bournemouth-Leeds train is another 4-4-0 No. 40700 as pilot to a 'Std.5.' 4-6-0. This time there is no whistle from the pilot engine and No. 73047 gives a solo performance by way of contrast. Rooks are disturbed by the approaching storm and thunder sounds closer as 4-4-0 No. 40568 pilots 4-6-0 No. 73051 at the head of a Bournemouth-Bradford train. The pilot engine provides the whistles before the train disappears into the tunnel.