NOTES ON ASPECTS OF VALE RAILWAYS
By John Kyte (1938-2018)
(A personal recollection of the uphill struggles of trains departing Evesham for Redditch in the 1950s)
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GWR "Hall" class no. 4976 "Warfield Hall" at Evesham 1/6/1963 with the 3.33pm (SO) Moreton to Worcester Shrub Hill working (Vale of Evesham Historical Society Collection)
In 1951 we [the author and his parents] went to live in Cambria Road where the back gardens of the houses overlooked the GWR and LMS (at that time BR) railway lines which ran through Evesham. From these houses you experienced the noise and activity of the lines. After some time you knew the times of the trains, their type and destinations. You also became aware of any different events such as special excursions and problems.
I can recall quite vividly the night freight trains, particularly on the LMS. On this line a number of trains carrying produce from the Vale used to run to the north of England and Scotland. These were very heavy and starting from the goods yards at Evesham, immediately were faced with three obstacles, a steep incline, a set of points where the track merged into a single line, and finally at the top of the incline, a sharp bend to the left, over the bridge crossing the main GWR line. This was quite a difficult start for a heavy goods train; it meant that the driver had to build up speed quickly to move the train from the station and have enough power to master the three obstacles. However, a further handicap was the natural elements; when the lines were wet, the rails were like ice and the wheels lost their adhesion.
The results I am sure will not be lost on the reader. With the driver opening the regulator, increasing the power to the locomotive, the wheels would spin and the forward momentum would be lost. This being late at night, the noise of the exhaust, the clanking of the connecting rods and steam released, produced a mighty noise and the glow from the chimney and firebox was a sight to behold in the night sky. The driver was now in a situation where he had to shut off the power, thereby losing all the forward motion and the train shuddered to a halt sometimes halfway up the incline, poised on the points where the line merged.
At this point the driver would slowly ease open the regulator, and the wheels slowly started to turn, and sometimes if the driver was careful the train would move forward. Suddenly, the driving wheels would spin again and all the noise, fire and steam would blast the night. Usually, the driver would give up the struggle and begin to reverse the train back down the incline into the station. Some drivers however would in vain hope try to move forward, again without success.
After some time the train would reverse further back to endeavour to gain a longer run at the incline. Then the same procedure would start again and very often with the same result! All this in the middle of the night. For a railway enthusiast a great spectacle.
After a number of tries, with the loss of steam pressure and the fireman struggling to maintain the fire, a shunting engine would be put at the back of the goods train and with a sharp blast on the locomotives whistle, the train would begin its climb out of Evesham and set off for the North of England.