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Then and Now

The Shakespearian Rail Tour 

1966 - 2016
A 50 Year Then and Now special 

The Locomotive Club of Great Britain (LCGB) ran a tour from London to Stratford upon Avon and Stourbridge on Saturday 12 November 1966. 50 years to the day, I retraced part of the route - with main line steam, courtesy of Vintage Trains.

The tour in 1966
The train left London Waterloo behind West Country no. 34015 "Exmouth", taking the train via Staines to Reading. There was a brief photo stop at Ascot. At Reading, Merchant Navy no 35023 took over for the run to Banbury. The reason for the two locomotives was the lack of water facilities for 35023 on the Western Region.

Another locomotive change at Banbury saw Castle no. 7029 "Clun Castle" take over for the run to Stratford upon Avon. 

By this time it was in private ownership but in a rather scruffy condition. Following this trip, it was to be repainted and reappeared resplendent on special trains to Chester in March 1967.


The tour in 2016 - The Pannier Rambler IV
The tour planned to use two former GWR pannier tanks, 9600 and 9466, both resplendent in BR black livery. 

The tour route was Tyseley - Stratford Upon Avon - Birmingham Snow Hill - Stourbridge Junction - Worcester. The train returned to Tyseley via the Lickey Incline and Birmingham New Street.

The train ran to Stratford upon Avon with the engines top and tail. It was a pretty rousing run with the train ahead of what was quite an easy schedule. At Stratford the lead engine, 9466 ran round to join 9600 ready for the bunker first run to Worcester. Whilst water was taken it was apparent that something was amiss with 9600. 

Although the only survivor from the 1966 tour engines, it wasn't possible to see "Clun Castle" in 2016 as it was under overhaul in the workshops at Tysley.

At Stratford, Britannia no. 70004 "William Shakespeare" took the train from Stratford, through Birmingham Snow Hill to Stourbridge Junction. A photo stop was made at Henley in Arden before a rather sedate run to Stourbridge Junction. Originally two surviving GW 57xx pannier tank engines were to take the tour train to Stourbridge Town station. However the last remaining pannier tanks were not in a suitable condition so a DMU shuttle was run instead.

Attempts to water the dining car were unsuccessful so an extra stop was made at Birmingham Snow Hill station. 

The train left Stourbridge Junction on time but "Clun Castle" made rather heavy weather of the various climbs. With the extra ten minutes at Snow Hill, the train arrived back at Banbury around 20 minutes late.

35023 had been serviced at Banbury shed and took over for the run to London Victoria, stopping at High Wycome for water. The Banbury crew were unfamiliar with the engine and the running was poor, Old Oak Common being reached some 41 minutes late. The train eventually arrived at London Victoria 56 minutes late. The LCGB report said the tour was not outstanding but was quite a pleasant day out.

It turned out that it was running hot. The train left Stratford 52 minutes late and with 9466 doing most of the work at a reduced speed, the train arrived back at Tysley. It was a noisy run with the train cresting Wilmcote Bank at 28mph.

At Tyseley the decision was taken to remove 9600 but continue the tour with a class 47 diesel assisting 9466.

There was a further delay in watering 9466 due, I gather, to a burst water main and low water pressure. The 1966 tour had a similar problem as the dining car could not be watered due to low water pressure.

I decided to leave the train at Birmingham Moor Street but I gather the journey to Worcester was uneventful with the class 47 leading 9466.

After servicing, the train left Worcester on time and with 9466 leading and making a fine attempt at tackling the 1 in 37 Lickey Incline.

My decision to leave the train early was a pragmatic one. I wanted to try and revisit Stourbridge Junction and possibly Henley in Arden to replicate some of my 1966 pictures as close to 12 November as possible. I toyed with the idea of driving up to Birmingham the following week but circumstances on the day enabled me to visit Stourbridge Junction on the actual anniversary date. This is no reflection on the efforts of staff at Vintage Trains who did their best to complete the tour on what was a difficult day. I am looking forward to another tour with Vintage Trains next year.

A sequence of shots from the 1966 tour can be found on B & R Video Productions Vol.59

There were some great pictures and videos taken of the 2016 run to Stratford upon Avon and return. This one shows the noise and steam from the two engines.

Copyright: Marsh Steam Videos

Stratford Upon Avon
The station today retains much of its Great Western heritage with the buildings and footbridge. Even the new footbridge and lift shaft are sympathetic to the GWR style. I hope that with two footbridges side by side, the older (Great Western) one is not removed.

The station also has some rather ornate platform lamps.

The sidings beyond the station have long gone, as have the semaphore signals. The picture on the right shows 70004 "William Shakespeare" waiting departure from platform 1. This picture was taken from platform 2 where 50 years later, the two pannier tanks wait with their train. 

The 1966 picture of 70004 was taken at 12.20pm whilst the 2016 shot of the two panniers was taken at 10.55am - one hour and 25 minutes short of 50 years!

The 1966 tour stopped at Henley in Arden for a photographic stop. 

Just eight minutes were allowed, yet most passengers got off the train to get their shots and were back on board in time for the departure. 

The picture was taken from the footbridge and shows the bay platform and line to the left. 

The 2016 picture (courtesy of Clive Hanley) shows how things have changed. 

The signal box and semaphore signals have gone. There are new station lamps and whilst the running-in board is still there, the rather worn-out original is replaced by a smart one. However it only shows the station name on the side of the running line. It is still set within a stone flowerbed and looks quite smart today with the trimmed bushes. (I wonder whether the stones are original?)

You can see more of Clive Hanley's pictures from the 2016 tour here.

The 1966 picture was taken between 12.40 and 12.48pm. Clive's 2016 shot was taken at 12.33pm - as near as 50 years apart as one could get!

This station has been rationalised with the extensive sidings replaced by a car park. The station once boasted 4 platforms, sidings and an engine shed. The branch line to Stourbridge Town is still used.

Above:  The 1966 picture of "Clun Castle" was taken at the Birmingham end of the station, roughly where the last coach of the departing train is. This 1966 picture gives some idea of the sidings there were here as well as the semaphore signals.

Looking at the 2016 picture, the branch line to Stourbridge Town runs off to the left behind the trees. The GW signal box still appears to be in use.

Above: When "William Shakespeare" arrived with the tour train in 1966 it came into platform 4. This no longer exists, the area being used by the station car park.

Below: The 2016 picture shows the three remaining platforms. The one on the right (platform 1) is used by the shuttle to Stourbridge Town. Whilst the GW platform buildings are intact the distinctive GW awnings have given way to the rather ugly steel sheets.

The 1966 picture of "Clun Castle" was taken at platform 4 which today no longer exists but would have been to the left of the 2016 shot. It is now part of the car park.

The pictures in 1966 were taken between 2 and 2.30pm on the 12 November.
2016's pictures were taken around 4pm - 50 years and 2 hours later.

Below:  After arrival, the train was shunted to the adjacent sidings and both this and the 2016 pictures were taken from platform 3/4.

1966 Rail Tour - Route Map
For those interested (and there were quite a few fellow passengers on the Pannier Rambler tour) below is the route map from the 1966 tour. This is reproduced from the tour booklet.

Published 14 November 2016

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