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The Lickey Banker

Monday, March 26 2012

photos by John Savery, words by Dyspozytor

Stanier-designed LMS Pacific 6201 built in Crewe in 1933 hauling the Vintage Trains Double Lickey Banker on 24 March 2012. Photo John Savery.

After many months ‘resting’ it seems only right that English Rail should celebrate its reappearance in suitable style. And what could be more stylish than these glorious late afternoon photographs of the Double Lickey Banker.

The train hauled by Princess Elizabeth started its tour at Solihull and picked up more passengers at Dorridge; it then ran South through Banbury via Oxford and Didcot. It then headed West and ran through Box Tunnel, descending towards Bath before reaching Bristol.

At Bristol there was a pause of a few hours to service the Pacific before it returned to the Midlands via Bristol Parkway, Wickwar Tunnel and Cheltenham. At Bromsgrove the train paused briefly while two GWR Pannier tanks were attached to the rear of the train for the ascent of the Lickey incline. (In the days of steam banking engines were never attached, they just pushed as far as Blackwell summit and then slowed allowing their train to draw forward.)

The Pannier tanks then took the lead as the train ran over the Chiltern main line to drop off its passengers at Solihull and Dorridge.

GWR 57xx 0-6-0T Pannier Tanks, 7752 and 9600 banking their train up the Lickey Incline. Photo John Savery.

(Click image to enlarge.)

As I look at these photographs I find myself wallowing in waves of nostalgia. I first came across Princess Elizabeth in 1967 when it was a static exhibit at the Dowty Railway Society’s base at Ashchurch in Gloucestershire. I was with a group of school friends on a cycle ride from West Ealing to Corris in North Wales. I had had a Triang Trains OO gauge model of Lizzie since 1962 and it was a thrill to find the prototype, albeit stuck between other rolling stock on a rusty siding. I never imagined they she would ever steam again.

Living in Middlesex in the 1950s with the Piccadilly line at the bottom of my garden (the Great Central’s link line to the GW&GCJR was on the other side of the road) various exotic London Transport steam engines in Metropolitan Railway livery on works trains were quite a common site. I’ll never forget being woken by the chanting in unison in the middle of the night as a squad of navvies lifted a length of rail by hand with no mechanical assistance other than a a set of rail tongs for each.

Around 1962, we moved to West Ealing which had no less than 3 separate freight depots. Here GWR Panniers were a common site particularly at Southall Shed and Acton Yard. My favourite 57xx memory is looking across the Grand Union Canal near Osterley Park at a Pannier hauling a train of empty coal wagons back up the Brentford branch towards Southall.

My thanks to John for bringing the memories flooding back of those Halcyon Days!

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