Bradley Manor’s first timetabled mainline run on the Torbay Express had mixed fortunes on 10th August 2003. A good outward run was achieved despite developing a mechanical problem which prevented the locomotive making the return run.
The journey started at Bristol Temple Meads about 20 minutes late due to operational difficulties delaying the arrival of the empty coaching stock prior to attaching the steam locomotive at Barton Hill depot. The Train Protection Warning System (TPWS), recently fitted on 7802 by Heritage Rail Traction, performed faultlessly on the run from Bristol to Kingswear but regrettably the trip was then marred by signs of a “hotbox” which was beginning to develop on the right centre driving wheel axle. An EWS Class 37 was summoned for the return journey from Kingswear which arrived back in Bristol about half an hour later than the original scheduled time. The punters however seemed well pleased with a very good days outing with up to four hours at the seaside on a gorgeous summers day. The train performance itself was characterised by some very competent driving which carefully avoided thrashing the engine and the risk of setting alight to the surrounding countryside on what was described as Britain’s hottest day on record. The skillfully handled locomotive gave a very sound performance up to the summit at Whiteball with nine well loaded coaches. The Class 37 also gave a very brisk and stimulating performance on the return. The avoidance of any lineside fire raising incidents can also be attributed to the spark arresting measures carefully applied during previous weeks and many hours voluntary efforts of an EMF team led by Chairman Terry Jenkins under SVR direction. There was absolutely no sign of any offending sparks or falling cinders in the darkness during passage through the tunnels at Whiteball and near Dawlish. Engineers from both Resco (the Vehicle Acceptance Body) and HMRI were in attendance as observers on this first load testing trip monitoring the performance of the Thales supplied TPWS equipment, which is the first example of TPWS used in conjunction with a vacuum braked steam locomotive. This pioneering aspect of the development represents EMF’s contribution to the mainline steam movement!
The EWS crew apparently were particularly appreciative of the use of the former BR type vacuum operated AWS horn in the TPWS configuration because they were able to hear it! This again is novel in a TPWS set up as electronic horns are now normally used but difficulties have been experienced in hearing the electronic version against the background noise on a steam locomotive footplate. There were no unexpected TPWS brake applications on the inaugural trip, except perhaps at Paignton where it had been envisaged that the TPWS could be overridden to get past the fixed red signal at the end of Network Rail territory at Paignton. The inevitable TPWS brake application, which occurred instead, fully proved its effectiveness! The Manor remains at Churston on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, where the centre drivers will be dropped this week for attention to the offending bearing. As it was considered unlikely to be ready for next weekend’s run, Past Time Rail have arranged for Castle class no 5051 to deputise for the second in this series of four similar trips. Hopefully, 7802 will be able to perform the last two runs on the Torbay Express as planned on Sundays 24th and 31st August.