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Heljan GWR 47xx Night Owl


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Been reluctant to add to this thread until I had my reference to hand. As one of a certain age I can attest that the nickname Night Owl is a modern fabrication. Put another way, if the nickname existed I don't ever remember hearing it until very recently.

 

But the idea that the 47xx only worked at night on fast fitted freights is somewhat apocryphal. I have a copy of R C Riley's Great Western Album from 1966 and there are three photos of the Mixed Traffic 2-8-0 class:

 

1. 4707 in unlined black on a Bristol Swindon stopping passenger train. 6 April 1951

 

2. 4700 newly painted in lined green passing Ealing with the 12:05 pm Paddongton Plymouth express. 10 August 1957

 

3. 4707 emerging from Parson and Clerk Tinnel with a west bound fitted freight - the purpose for which these powerful machines were primarily intended. The photo was taken in broad daylight, no date given.

 

So, two passenger trains out of three, all photographed in broad daylight. Of course this proves nothing much in that most photographs would have been taken in daylight. But it does show that they were out and about doing the mixed traffic duties that Halls and Granges also carried out.

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It had always been my understanding that they were used quite often on summer holiday expresses to the south-west when demand was heavy, and loco availability was stretched. Although the six examples I saw were on shed at either Old Oak, Southall or Oxley.

Edited by bike2steam
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More from the archives.  Peter Gray's "Steam on the West of England Main Lines" a photo essay book, has 4706 on a Sunday working 4:15 pm Exeter-Plymouth stopping service, on 30 August 1959.  Quote "This was a convenient way of returning to Laira the 47XX class engine which had worked down from London the previous day on the 1:25 pm from Paddington to Kingswear".  An additional comment is that the locomotive was in the "typical externally neglected condition typical of many Bristol St. Philip's Marsh engines at that time".

 

So, more evidence that the 47XX worked weekend specials to Devon.

 

In looking through this book it now comes clear that most of the 10XX County Class worked in the Southwest, which explains why I rarely saw one in the Midlands.  But that is OT.

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More from the archives.  Peter Gray's "Steam on the West of England Main Lines" a photo essay book, has 4706 on a Sunday working 4:15 pm Exeter-Plymouth stopping service, on 30 August 1959.  Quote "This was a convenient way of returning to Laira the 47XX class engine which had worked down from London the previous day on the 1:25 pm from Paddington to Kingswear".  An additional comment is that the locomotive was in the "typical externally neglected condition typical of many Bristol St. Philip's Marsh engines at that time".

 

So, more evidence that the 47XX worked weekend specials to Devon.

 

In looking through this book it now comes clear that most of the 10XX County Class worked in the Southwest, which explains why I rarely saw one in the Midlands.  But that is OT.

If anybody is interested in this aspect it's well worth trying to find a copy of 'Summer Saturdays in the West' or 'The Days of the Holiday Express' both now long out of print. Almost anything that moved could be pressed into service just to keep the trains moving. Fascinating reading.

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It had always been my understanding that they were used quite often on summer holiday expresses to the south-west when demand was heavy, and loco availability was stretched.

Consulting my old 'Combined' confirms that I saw all of them in traffic - and I never went trainspotting at night!  They were, of course, regulars on Summer Saturday West of England workings from Paddington although they were not at all liked on passenger work by many enginemen, especially Firemen as the lever reverse didn't really allow them to be worked on short cut-offs so they tended to be hard work firing (and off at Newton for coal if it was a rough trip).

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But I guess a 47xx would not have made it down the Henley branch, even on Summer Saturday of Regatta week?

 

Edit: just realised they would be too heavy for the branch.

Edited by Neal Ball
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It had always been my understanding that they were used quite often on summer holiday expresses to the south-west when demand was heavy, and loco availability was stretched.

Even "The Royal Duchy" on occasion.On the subject of motive power on the West of Engand line into Devon and Cornwall in the late 50's,from my own observations in August of 1959.....the days of the early Warships,D6XX and D8XX and their teething troubles....I can confirm the Counties status as the favoured power on the heavy Cornish expresses to & fro Paddington and elsewhere.

A factor which helped the shortage of suitable haulage capacity was the introduction at that time into traffic of the last batch of mainly Swindon built Riddles 9F's. They also took their turns on the holiday expresses and were in evidence at the same time.No 47XX though!

Edited by Ian Hargrave
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...1. 4707 in unlined black on a Bristol Swindon stopping passenger train. 6 April 1951...

 

Was it in clean ex-works condition? The Swindon-Bristol and return stoppers were regularly used as running-in turns for engines fresh out of the works, though Castles and Kings were the more commonly seen.

 

Nick

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Consulting my old 'Combined' confirms that I saw all of them in traffic - and I never went trainspotting at night!  They were, of course, regulars on Summer Saturday West of England workings from Paddington although they were not at all liked on passenger work by many enginemen, especially Firemen as the lever reverse didn't really allow them to be worked on short cut-offs so they tended to be hard work firing (and off at Newton for coal if it was a rough trip).

All of my sightings were daylight, in the West Midlands, London area shed trips and Taunton to Exeter on summer Saturdays

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Was it in clean ex-works condition? The Swindon-Bristol and return stoppers were regularly used as running-in turns for engines fresh out of the works, though Castles and Kings were the more commonly seen.

 

Nick

Looking at the photo it certainly could be running in ex-works as it has that oily look about it. That thought had crossed my mind.

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The November issue of 'Steam Days' has an article on Newton Abbot.

 

At the end is a photo of 4704 at the head of the 1.20pm Padd to Kingswear on 15 July 1961. The engine is pretty clean and carries lined green livery. The caption states that this was on of the 'more regular' turns for these engines. As the photographer is Richard Riley we can be pretty confident that the details are correct.

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But I guess a 47xx would not have made it down the Henley branch, even on Summer Saturday of Regatta week?

 

Edit: just realised they would be too heavy for the branch.

I presume they were banned from the branch (without checking) but teh main reason would be the curve at Twyford although possibly they were off the Bridge Curve for Wargrave viaduct.  The branch was of course 'Red' and regularly saw 'Castles' and 'Halls' right up to teh end of steam worked passenger trains while 28XX definitely visited on a number of occasions in later years - as had 'Stars' in earlier times (albeit not regularly).

Even "The Royal Duchy" on occasion.On the subject of motive power on the West of Engand line into Devon and Cornwall in the late 50's,from my own observations in August of 1959.....the days of the early Warships,D6XX and D8XX and their teething troubles....I can confirm the Counties status as the favoured power on the heavy Cornish expresses to & fro Paddington and elsewhere.

A factor which helped the shortage of suitable haulage capacity was the introduction at that time into traffic of the last batch of mainly Swindon built Riddles 9F's. They also took their turns on the holiday expresses and were in evidence at the same time.No 47XX though!

Alas the Hawksworth 'Counties' weren't much good until Sam Ell had done his work and they acquired their final double chimney, at which time they were turned into more or less exactly what they had originally been intended to be - hence their later popularity in both Cornwall and on the North & West.

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I presume they were banned from the branch (without checking) but teh main reason would be the curve at Twyford although possibly they were off the Bridge Curve for Wargrave viaduct. The branch was of course 'Red' and regularly saw 'Castles' and 'Halls' right up to teh end of steam worked passenger trains while 28XX definitely visited on a number of occasions in later years - as had 'Stars' in earlier times (albeit not regularly).

Slightly OT but I would love to see a pic of a 28xx on the Henley branch. I knew that Castles and Hall were regular features there but I would not have thought the freight sufficient to justify a 2-8-0.

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Slightly OT but I would love to see a pic of a 28xx on the Henley branch. I knew that Castles and Hall were regular features there but I would not have thought the freight sufficient to justify a 2-8-0.

Alas I didn't take a picture (and I don't think anyone else did either) but one was used on at least one occasion on engineering trains when track recovery was taking place after singling and understand it was not a unique appearance.  Branch freight was normally, and seemingly invariably from the mid '50s onwards, worked by a 2251 - Reading seemed very keen on using them on freight trips with the Coley trip also being a regular job for them but I bet they weren't too popular for shunting!

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Been reluctant to add to this thread until I had my reference to hand. As one of a certain age I can attest that the nickname Night Owl is a modern fabrication. Put another way, if the nickname existed I don't ever remember hearing it until very recently.

 

But the idea that the 47xx only worked at night on fast fitted freights is somewhat apocryphal. I have a copy of R C Riley's Great Western Album from 1966 and there are three photos of the Mixed Traffic 2-8-0 class:

 

1. 4707 in unlined black on a Bristol Swindon stopping passenger train. 6 April 1951

 

2. 4700 newly painted in lined green passing Ealing with the 12:05 pm Paddongton Plymouth express. 10 August 1957

 

3. 4707 emerging from Parson and Clerk Tinnel with a west bound fitted freight - the purpose for which these powerful machines were primarily intended. The photo was taken in broad daylight, no date given.

 

So, two passenger trains out of three, all photographed in broad daylight. Of course this proves nothing much in that most photographs would have been taken in daylight. But it does show that they were out and about doing the mixed traffic duties that Halls and Granges also carried out.

 

1.  Friday - was probably a running in turn out of the Works.

2.  Saturday - usual work for 47XXs on a saturday.

3.  Work as intended for 47XXs.

Edited by M.I.B
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