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Summer Saturdays to the West (GWR)

The Starting Point (Paddington)              Barmouth, The Cambrian Coast

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First, the Most Fascinating Railway Book Ever.

"Summer Saturdays in the West", by David St John Thomas and Simon Rocksburgh-Smith, which describes how the Western Region of British Railways dealt with the massive demand for travel to Devon and Cornwall on summer Saturdays in the 1950’s, calling every locomotive and piece of carriage rolling stock into service, funnelling train after train down through one stretch of double track line from Taunton to Exeter, even timetabling trains where there was no timetable “path” for them, on the assumption that they would get through somehow. (Plus the section just south of Exeter shared with the Southern Region, where their holiday trains to and from North Devon and North Cornwall were going in the opposite direction to the corresponding Western ones !!)

And then to deal with the all the empty carriages, and service the locomotives, and then the homegoing holidaymakers and their trains.  I find it completely fascinating, especially how constant ingenuity is required to deal with late-running, lack of locomotives in the right place, trains which are the relief to a relief to a relief.  All the more fascinating to me because at the time I used to go to a footbridge over the main GWR line out of London Paddington, at Southall, where westbound trains were beginning to get up a good speed, and watch the endless procession of steam-hauled expresses follow each other on very close headways out of London. Awe-inspiring.

A little bit before my time this - almost all trains were carrying reporting numbers by the late 50s, but this catches the great western atmosphere splendidly as 4082 Windsor Castle hammers through on the fast lines with an express. Lovely lower quadrant paraphernalia too. (Not my photo - I’d love to acknowledge whoever took it).



PADDINGTON early  1960s. The starting point for all those famous expresses. Here Castle Class 4-6-0 no 5077 "Fairey Battle"  waits for the green light to set off with "The Merchant Adventurer"

PADDINGTON 16th May 1959 Here Britannia class standard pacific (4-6-2) no. 70023 Venus arrives with an express, probably from South Wales. There seems to be a headboard as well as a reporting number so this may be the up "Red Dragon", which often turned out a Brit.

PADDINGTON 16th May 1959. Castle Class 4-6-0 no. 5091 Cleeve Abbey backs down onto its train.

Platform 1 at Paddington, from where this photo was taken, was the favourite for trainspotters. No platform ticket needed - and one of the longest. 

PADDINGTON - early 1960s. The beginning of the end. One of the early diesel hydraulics, possibly D801 Vanguard.  Note the duffel bag, grey flannel shorts, and long socks on the train spotters. Also the long line of utility vehicles at the parcels bay in the distance.

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