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Double Headers

photograph by Mike Morant

One sparkling example of double-heading near the end of Southern steam brought together Standard class 5 73029 and original 'West Country' 34023 Blackmore Vale, sadly shorn of nameplates, at the head of an RCTS railtour from Waterloo to many points south.
The special was captured on film at Wimbledon on 18 June 1967; only 3 weeks away from the end of Southern steam.

Questions about double-headers on the Southern and its constituents come to the fore on a seemingly routine basis and generate much the same responses every time. The answer is probably that no-one has the complete answer!

Such is the passage of time, more than 35 years since steam ended on the Southern's metals, that few people actually remember much more than just the last few years of active steam and so the best-remembered double-headers are those wonderful railtours which brightened enthusiasts' lives in the last ten years.

There is, of course, much more to write about where Southern double-headed steam is concerned and it is probable that this page will be the subject of much revision as more material is submitted for discussion.

The first point to be sorted out is where did double-heading occur on a frequent /regular basis? The obvious candidates are:

Kent Coast expresses
Folkestone Harbour branch
Isle of Wight
Lyme Regis branch
West of Exeter
Weymouth to Dorchester (and beyond)

The boat trains from the Harbour station to the Junction at Folkestone were faced with a sharp incline of 1 in 30 once the harbour bridge had been cleared and that was also from a standing start. The feat required to lift the heavy boat trains was compounded by the fact that only locos with a light axle load could be utilised for this awesome task. The locomotive type charged with this responsibility was, for many years, the SER R1 0-6-0T working in multiple formations of from one to three at the front and usually one or two at the rear.

According to John H. Bird's tables of Southern railtours for the period 1957 - 1967 there were 65 tours which included double-headed combinations involving SR and contituents' motive power. There were many more combinations on SR metals which utilised either BR Standard classes, BR(M) or BR(W) motive power. There were also SR railtour double-headers prior to the date range covered by those tables.

It is probable that the best-remembered combination of former SR motive power was the 'Somerset & Dorset' excursion on 5 March 1966, organised by the LCGB. The return leg from Bath to Bournemouth was double-headed by a pair of original condition Bulleid pacifics (34006 Bude piloting 34057 Biggin Hill) and was blessed with glorious evening sunshine.

The RCTS double-header of 18th June was preceded by a similar combination of motive power a week earlier, 11th June 1967, when the Warwickshire Railway Society (WRS) organised a marathon special which started at Birmingham. Following electric haulage as far as Mitre Bridge the motive power changed to steam until the return leg on the WCML. This tour included the well known MN double headed Merchant Navy exploit from Weymouth to Dorchester as well as 34004/80146 on the Swanage branch.

The embryonic Bluebell Railway attracted several double-headed railtours in the late '50s and early '60s and some of those tours brought already preserved motive power to Haywards Heath.

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  • T9 + Mogul
    Upwey Wishing Well
    A commendably clean Drummond T9 pilots a Maunsell mogul - so begrimed that it is unidentifiable - past the erstwhile halt at Upwey Wishing Well in the mid-'50s.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Three R1s
    This picture, sadly not sharp enough to read the leading engine's number, depicts a typical example of a heavy train climbing to the Junction station with three R1s leading and at least one banker's exhaust visible in the distance.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Two F1 Class
    Two Wainwright F1 Class locos double-heading in 1936. The stock is out of the photograph!
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Morthoe Bank
    Heavy trains over Morthoe Bank on the Ilfracombe line would require assistance, either from a bank engine or by being double headed. Here N°34061 73 Squadron is the train engine of this double-header, with unidentified N Class as pilot engine, photographed leaving Braunton in 1960. It's almost certainly a working to get the N back to Barnstaple Junction after a stint of perhaps banking from Ilfracombe earlier in the day.
    Photograph by John Bradbeer.
  • 34002 & 34106
    Two spamcans - N°34002 Salisbury (pilot engine) and N°34106 Lydford (train engine) pulling away from Braunton in the summer of 1960.
    Photograph by John Bradbeer.
  • Two Ivatts
    Two Ivatt tanks heading the the early morning train from Barnstaple Junction at Torrington during May 1963. Once the pilot engine was detached and moved, the train engine ran round and worked the more or less immediate return working from Torrington to Barnstaple.
    Photograph by John Bradbeer.
  • Radials
    The 10:45am ex-Waterloo pauses briefly at Combpyne, on the Axminster - Lyme Regis branch, in the charge of Adams radial 4-4-2Ts 30583 and 30584. This was a regular double-headed turn on summer Saturdays and was photographed on 25 June 1960.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Two Q1s
    Raynes Park
    Not only was it rare to see double-headers in the London area but it was even more unlikely that the combination of Bulleid's Q1s would be seen working in tandem anywhere on the system, which makes this fluke sighting of 33035 back-to-back with an unidentified sibling on an engineers' train an exceptional slice of photographer's luck. They are seen trundling southwards at Raynes Park in early summer 1962.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • Two Std 4 Tanks
    Standard 4 tank N°80033 doubleheads a service train past Hellingly, on the Cuckoo Line, a few weeks before the line was closed in 1965. The absence of a head signal is most noticeable.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • Two Spams
    Nr Chilcompton
    Biggin Hill and Bude near Chilcompton.
    Photograph by Roger Merry-Price.
  • Std 5 & West Country
    Traditionally, clean locos were the order of the day for railtour duty but this was a rare and unfortunate exception as the weather was particularly dull for the time of year.
    Standard 5 4-6-0 N°73085 pilots rebuilt WC N°34004 Yeovil, without name plate adornment, as the special makes a lively restart at Kensington Olympia.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • Std 5 & West Country
    Raynes Park
    The evening return of the WRS special sees N°73085, which had been re-attached at Woking, piloting original WC N°34023 Blackmore Vale as they approach the A3 overbridge at Raynes Park nearly at the end of daylight. Steam gave way to electric power at Willesden Jct. so was that the last steam train on the WCML south of Crewe?
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • U and N Moguls
    Nr Grange Road
    On 13th June 1965 the LCGB 'Wealdsman' tour employed a pair of Maunsell moguls from Three Bridges to Hastings and Eastbourne via Heathfield. Here we see U class 31803 piloting N class 31411 somewhere in the region of Grange Road.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • Two U Moguls
    The swansong for Maunsell's moguls on railtours was the RCTS 'Longmoor' tour on 30th April 1966 and saw a pair of the U class, N°31791 & N°31639 haul the final leg from Windsor to Waterloo. They are depicted here, in evening shadow, at Wraysbury.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • Two Beatties
    Raynes Park
    December 1962 heralded the end for the Beattie well tanks in BR service although both those depicted here, 30585/7, survived into preservation. The tour date was 2nd December but it was so overbooked that another trip was arranged for two weeks later.
    They are seen here passing the erstwhile signal box at Raynes Park and are en route for Hampton Court.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • Two USAs
    N°30064 and N°30073 headed rail tours on successive days on 19th & 20th March 1966. The first was the LCGB 'New Forester' (Southampton Terminus - Fawley - Totton) and the second ws the RCTS 'The Solent' (Southampton Docks - Fawley - Southampton Terminus.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • E4 & Std 4 Tank
    East Croydon
    On the miserable morning of 31st March 1963 the Bluebell Railway's latest motive power acquisition, ex-LBSCR E4 class 0-6-2T N°473 Birch Grove in original livery, made its way to Horsted Keynes as the train engine of yet another 'Blue Belle' railtour. With newly out-shopped Standard 4MT 2-6-4T N°80084 providing able assistance they are seen here at East Croydon.
    Note the snow which hadn't cleared since December's falls.
    Photograph by .
  • Single & T9
    Purley Oaks
    On a wonderfully sunny 15th September 1963 Caledonian single wheeler N°123 and LSWR-liveried T9 N°120 hauled the 'Blue Belle' special from London (Victoria) to Haywards Heath and back.
    The train is depicted here as it passes Purley Oaks at a goodly clip.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.

This page was last updated 8 August 2010

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