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Query Corner

Q14.24. Steam Double-Heading on the Western Region.

Many photographs of steam haulage over the South Devon banks show the assisting locomotive to be coupled inside the train locomotive, showing for example a King in front of a smaller type put inside for the climb. Why was the assisting loco not simply coupled in front, bearing in mind the shunting needed when attaching/detaching?

Enquiries to drivers on preserved lines with a GWR flavour have not produced any information.

(SB:11804)


Answers
This apparently odd method of working was required when double heading passenger trains if only one of the engines was fitted with a four cone vacuum ejector. These were fitted to the larger passenger engines (Grange upwards) and also the 47xx 2-8-0's. Smaller engines had only a single cone ejector which was relatively slow in operation. Hence the instruction that the larger engine must lead.
This information is extracted from a letter in Steam Railway magazine dated around 1991 from J. Smout (former Traincrew Manager at Bescot). (MM:12243)

It was always considered safer that, if there was one, an engine with a bogie should lead, due to the perceived greater stability that the bogie provided. Also bogie locomotives would have four cone ejectors, helping more effective control of brake release. Furthermore it was generally arranged that the larger locomotive should lead , and this would generally mean that it was still the train engine driver who was in control All of this seems to have been generally complied with. However at Newton Abbot on a summer Saturday there was very little time for such niceties, and quite often the assisting locomotive was quickly put on the front regardless (and the train locomotive was very often a King particularly on the Paddington trains). Also a prairie tank banker returning to Brent for Totnes was often the leader. One combination viewed on two occasions was a King and a 4700 and in both cases it was the 4700 piloting the King. (MB:10893, PG)

It was always considered safer that, if there was one, an engine with a bogie should lead, due to the perceived greater stability that the bogie provided. Also bogie locomotives would have four cone ejectors, helping more effective control of brake release. Furthermore it was generally arranged that the larger locomotive should lead , and this would generally mean that it was still the train engine driver who was in control All of this seems to have been generally complied with. However at Newton Abbot on a summer Saturday there was very little time for such niceties, and quite often the assisting locomotive was quickly put on the front regardless (and the train locomotive was very often a King particularly on the Paddington trains). Also a prairie tank banker returning to Brent for Totnes was often the leader. One combination viewed on two occasions was a King and a 4700 and in both cases it was the 4700 piloting the King. (MB:10893, PG)
Is there any printed instruction about double headed locomotive pairing for any railway? (QCE)

All rules are made to be broken. On the South Devon banks It was quite common for the 10.35 Paddington-Plymouth to be piloted on summer Saturdays by the locomotive off the 10.30 Cornish Riviera (which changed engines at Newton Abbot, as it did not stop at Plymouth) from Newton Abbot to Plymouth and both these trains were frequently hauled by King class locomotives. There is a photograph by A R Butcher of 6025 piloting 6003 on this train in the April 1958 Trains Illustrated. (Harold Cater:12060)

last updated: 19/01/16