Interesting news in the land of steam trains, as a joint project by First Great Western and Vintage Rail aims to recreate the non-stop Bristolian Express service this April. The Railway Herald reports that the details are still sketchy, as quite obviously for a non-stop service, you can’t stop the train for more water and the details for that situation are still being worked out.
However, possibly after the Herald went to press, Vintage Rail updated their website with the full details for the recreation – which will take place on Saturday, 17th April – and will run from, and back to London Paddington.
Even better – they managed to get the 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe “Castle class” train to run the route, which is exciting for steam fans as it was a mainstay of the original Bristolian express service. Built in 1936, the train was mothballed in 1963 and only recently restored to mainline service just over a year ago.
Whilst current regulations do not allow an attempt at beating the 98mph recorded speed that 5043 achieved during its June 3rd 1958 Bristolian run, provision of a specially adapted vehicle will ensure that water stops will not be required en route and in so doing deliver a pair of steam hauled runs along the length of Brunel’s railway between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, the likes of which has not been seen for almost 50 years.
The service was inaugurated in 1935 by the Great Western Railway (GWR), and was one of the three top GWR named expresses. The formation of the train was of seven coaches totalling 220 tons. Initially, a ‘King’ class locomotive was employed on the ‘Bristolian’, but within a short time, the ‘Castle’ class were found to be more suitable. The service was suspended at the beginning of the Second World War and was finally restored in 1954, again with the use of ‘Kings’ later to be replaced by the ‘Castles’.
By this time, the ‘Castle’ class had been modified with regard to their steaming capabilities, and maximum speeds of 100 mph were not unknown. At the end of steam, several trains were known to complete the journey in under 94 minutes at an average speed of 75.2 mph.