From January 1st Class 25s took over a Hymek turn out of Westbury, now being used on the trips to Yeovil and Warminster. Class 31’s had also been expected to take over several turns out of Exeter from the Laira Class 25’s but this did not take place. One of these turns included the 20.10 Exeter - Newton Abbott, assisting the 18.00 Penzance - Paddington to Bristol, then returning west with the 03.10 parcels to Exeter. Class 25’s were also reaching the WR at Didcot on mgr workings from the Midlands - a shortage of slow-speed-control fitted LMR Class 47’s left them little choice. Once at Didcot these trains were worked through the power station with ssc equipped WR Class 47s.
January 13th found 5218 & 7524 in use between Windsor and Wembley on an excursion from Huddersfield. The journey set out behind 269, with the intention to use E3136 from Stockport. As the electric was unable to heat the train the Class 40 ran through to Mitre Bridge Jcn, where 6516 took over for the leg to Windsor. As this machine also could not heat the train the Class 25s were found for the first part of the return leg. Also in the London area, this time Kings Cross, 5186 & 5237 and 5641 & 5234 were noted working Leicester - Finsbury Park (for Highbury) F A cup tie specials.
On January 18th a Class 25 toured the Birmingham area with the Walsall Area inspection saloon containing BR & WMPTA officials. Specifically a proposal was being mooted to reopen the Camp Hill line to passenger traffic in an attempt to reduce road congestion in the central Birmingham area. Another Midland machine, 5057, spent the following day on the wheel lathe at Gosforth! It was at this time that the ScR announced the achievement of Deltic 9010 of having travelled two million miles, the first British diesel to reach this milestone. Over on the west side of the country the WCML electrification projects, with the Scots heading south and the English heading north, met just south of the border at Mossband. In conjunction with this Crewe Works was near to out-shopping the first of the Class 87’s, to be used on the newly completed electrification scheme. The completion of this major project would have serious implications for the Class 24 fleet.
January 19th’s 17.05 Glasgow - Aberdeen suffered the failure of 262 prior to departure, the train eventually left behind 17, how far the Peak got is not recorded! Another Peak visiting unusual places was 91 working an Exeter - Honiton ecs on January 24th, prior to working displaced Ugandan Asians to a new camp near Cambridge.
Royal Train duty befell 5218 & 5219 on February 14-16th. The Duke of Edinburgh journeyed from Euston, at 23.00 to Sheffield via Northampton & Leicester. Twenty four hours later he returned to Lamport, near Market Harborough, with the five coach train stabling overnight, before leaving at 7am for Leatherhead via the west London line, Clapham Junction, Selhurst, West Croydon & Sutton. On return the Class 25s ran through to Dorking, there running round heading back to Wolverton via Sutton, Mitcham Jct & Clapham Jct. Overnight heating was provided by a heater van delivered by 5221.
The end of February and part of March saw industrial action by ASLEF union members. Total strikes occurred on February 28th and March 8th, work to rule on other days took its toll on railway activities. Class 33s were not operated at night because of the inability to see the speedometer with the controller in the off position. For a short period Southern Region electric multiple units without speedometers were also blacklisted. Additionally on the Southern Region were many 'foreign' Class 47s stopped by local drivers due to a variety of faults ('unsuspected defects'). Some drivers would not exceed 40mph. An overtime ban was also in effect as was a policy of non-cooperation. The three day race meeting at Cheltenham suffered mixed results for travellers, services on March 14th ran smoothly, but the next two days saw many cancellations. The Western Region testing of Mark IIe stock with Class 50 No.400 were curtailed due to the industrial action. On March 17th six football specials from Luton to Sunderland were cancelled due to crewing issues. The industrial action was called off on March 16th, effective March 17th.
Visitors to Derby Works during March found the recently initiated renumbering scheme being applied to the diesel fleet, these first diesels being 45101 & 45102. For the BR/Sulzer Type 2s two number series were used, the 1160hp units became the Class 24s and the higher powered 1250hp units became the Class 25s. Although members of the classes had already been withdrawn the gaps were not filled in the renumbering scheme, with the exception of 24005, since 5005 had been retired in 1969, this slot was filled by 5000. The TOPS computer system would not recognise ‘000’ as a valid number.
On March 12th 5271 was in charge of the 06.00 Westbury - Northampton stone train. Regrettably its progress was halted near Northampton by the derailment of the five rear wagons. Two days were required to repair over a mile of the up & down lines damaged in this incident. This line had been plagued by derailments, with the stone trains featuring predominantly. The most dramatic had been on March 7th when the 03.35 Tring - Clitheroe, powered by E3097, derailed three wagons south of Bletchley station blocking the slow lines. In recovering one of the wagons the Bletchley crane was thrown down the embankment when the track subsided. Its recovery required the Saltley & Willesden cranes, a difficult task not helped by the close proximity of the Bletchley flyover.
On March 19th the line from Weaver Junction to Bamfurlong, just south of Wigan was energised. March 20th - 24th found the 14.15 Edinburgh - Newcastle receiving solid Peak haulage, and mostly Holbeck based Class 45’s at that - this working seemed to receive whatever Haymarket might have available. Laira based 156 was noted on March 28th’s 06.20 Glasgow - Aberdeen freightliner.
An odd combination noted working the 6M70 18.50 Millerhill - Carlisle freight was 5153 leading 1534 on April 10th.
The Consett iron ore service suffered two derailments during April, both at Ouston Junction. The resulting shortage of serviceable wagons led to 5109 working just four wagons on April 22nd. A rear-end collision at Kidsgrove on April 27th involved four Class 24’s and led to the death of one railwayman. 5032 & 5145 were in charge of the 1K00 03.55 Crewe - Stoke on Trent newspaper train which had stopped as scheduled at Kidsgrove. It was run into by the 8K52 02.20 Ordsall Lane - Cresswell goods train hauled by 5049 & 5042, this train was under the control of the second man, it was his life lost in the collision when the No2 end cab was crushed back to the bulkhead, which itself was bent backwards into the boiler compartment. The rear vehicle of the newspaper train sustained only minor damage, it also came into contact with the overhead electrified wire. Responsibility for the accident lay mostly with the driver of the goods train who had isolated the AWS equipment, it is believed both crew may have temporarily nodded off on the approach to Kidsgrove. 5049 paid a visit to Derby Works for repairs, gaining a new cab with the later style roof mounted headcode box.
The RCTS 'The Skye Sleeper Special' ran over the weekend of April 6th - 8th from Leeds to Kyle of Lochalsh. The motive power was predictable, 1111 to Edinburgh, 368 to Inverness, 5332 Inverness - Kyle - Inverness. The return was bedevilled by engineering work with 5334 & 5130 working Inverness - Perth - Larbert - Greenhill Junctions - Cowlairs - Springburn - Barrhead - Kilmarnock - Dumfries - Carlisle, 210 to Newcastle - York - Leeds.
On May 3rd the prototype HST running trials between Darlington and Hitchin. This day also found 45103 working a roundtrip Hope - Exeter Central cement - the first visit of a renumbered Class 45 to the West Country. And as the new came in so some of the old went out for on May 6th thirty eight years of ‘shed code’ designations came to a close when the former LMSR system of numbers and letters was replaced by a series of two letter codes, in the majority of the cases the letters forming a very short abbreviation for the depot name. Also with the commencement of the May timetable came the first withdrawals of the Class 52 ‘Westerns’. Elsewhere pairs of class 25’s substituted for Class 45’s on coal trains destined for the Kent area. May 14th found 5231 & 5246 on a Brent - Southfleet service and the return Betteshanger - Toton, 7557 & 5187 were used on 17th and 5272 & 5284 on 18th.
The new timetable commencing on May 7th found the Midland mainline having six new services added between principal stations and St Pancras. For the time being all services would remain vacuum braked. On the Trans Pennine route a number of timing improvements were introduced, some were quite dramatic, yet had been promised many years before. The average improvement was about twelve minutes, though route changes and reduced stops created greater savings for the Class 40/46 hauled services. Transfers of Peaks during 1973 would not amount to much, just a minor reshuffling principally at the beginning and end of the summer timetable.
On May 12th Glasgow Works held its first Open Day, remarkably there were sixty four diesels on display that day, although twenty seven of those were condemned Claytons. Two class 25s were present, 5178 and 5157, the latter having a replacement cab fitted from withdrawn 5149. Class 24s noted were 5006/19, 5121/27 under repair and elsewhere withdrawn 5067, 5114/49. Parts of 5068 were still present. The last thing that the workshops needed was more repair work but unfortunately the following Wednesday, May 17th proved to be quite a day for mishaps on the Scottish Region.
The day began with 5308 derailed at Burnhouse Weighs and 3384 going through the stop blocks at Mossend Yard. As 5008 was leaving Cadder Yard it came into a sidelong collision with 5375 running light. Five wagons hauled by 5008 were derailed, two containing scrap iron cascaded around the Class 27. Later and more seriously a collision occurred near Coatbridge involving 1930 hauling the 4A16 06.10 Glasgow FLT - Aberdeen. This ran into the rear of the standing 05.05 Glasgow FLT - Motherwell hauled by 6844. The crew of 1930 escaped injury despite the locomotive suffering major damage to both cabs. Amongst a series of failures as the day progressed was the loss of 5357/98 scheduled to work the 1V54 Stirling - Newton Abbot motorail service. Grangemouth quickly provided 5013 & 5096 to work the service to Carlisle, however being without working boilers it was possibly a chilly journey.
A week later on May 19th the 1N33 14.40 Edinburgh - Inverness was in charge of 7581 & 5070. Despite having been on the Highland Line services now for over twelve years the Inverness based Class 24’s were still bearing the brunt of work over the Highland mainline, though these services were not without their off days. On May 25th the northbound ‘Royal Highlander’ set out with 5116 & 5327. Trouble befell 5327 near Blair Atholl so 5322 was borrowed from a freight train to assist. This locomotive, on the climb to Drumochter summit started putting out filthy smoke from a burning traction motor. The fire brigade dealt with this at Kingussie, leaving 5116 to soldier on to Aviemore. Here 5322 was removed being replaced by 5318 sent out from Inverness, arrival was just an hour late.
A sign of the times found Laira without any Warships on shed, its last - 821 ‘Glory’ headed east on May 24th. Even worse for the hydraulic fleet was the withdrawal of the first Class 52’s, 1019 & 1032 during May, being dumped at Laira.
The daily Harwich - Manchester Piccadilly boat train reverted to Class 45 haulage between Sheffield and Manchester at the start of the summer timetable, ER Class 37’s had previously worked throughout on this cross country service.
During June the HST testing continued between Darlington and York, each day the maximum speed attained increased, by June 11th a world diesel record was at hand with 140 mph maintained for ten miles, with a brief maximum of 141mph. The next day Driver Jim Wilson attained a speed of 143.2 mph, with power cars 43000 & 43001, a test car, Mark 2 buffet and three Mark 3 coaches. The HST was expected to enter public service during August on ‘The North Briton’ but a pay dispute with the drivers delayed its introduction. The WCML was also experiencing high speed running during June. On 24th a pair of Class 86/2’s and four coaches were tested between Beattock and Ecclefechan. With only one locomotive under power, 100mph was achieved by Beattock, powering up the second machine achieved 125mph between Murthat & Dinwoodie with a maximum achieved of 129mph near Nethercleugh. By August the line from Carlisle to Motherwell was fully energized allowing for further testing.
The last green Class 44, 6, entered Derby Works during June for overhaul - it would emerge in blue when outshopped.
The Coventry - Nuneaton line was visited by the area manager using saloon M45026 hauled by 7560. Singling of the line was under consideration. June 26th found 5189 & 7621 handling the 12.49 Garston - Maidenhead throughout. A few miles west at Swindon 144 had to replace 400 on the 11.30 Bristol - Paddington. Ascot Week saw a number of specials arriving in the hands of Class 47’s, however two from Manchester Piccadilly received Class 25’s between Willesden and Ascot, 7523 & 7530 on June 20th and 7645 & 7662 on June 21st. June 29th found 5401 failed prior to departure of a Queen St - Edinburgh service. Queen St’s pilot 5227 was attached to the front to assist the rear unit, 5395 upto to Cowlairs box. Here 5227 was removed and the service continued with just the rear engine working. This high speed service continued to take its toll on the eleven year old Class 27’s. Some of these failures were a little out of the normal but reflected the tremendous demands being put upon these modest machines. On June 28th 5387 leading the 17.35 Glasgow - Edinburgh service suffered a partial collapse of its leading bogie whilst approaching Falkirk High. The train was able to stop safely, fortunately the scattering components of the bogie did not hit anybody. The service was cancelled and the train berthed in Polmont loop. Four days later 5400 pushing on the 16.30 Edinburgh - Glasgow became derailed passing Cadder signal box, whilst traveling at 90mph. The train was quickly brought to a halt, but not before 5400 had demolished the points at the west end of Cadder Yard. Again fortunately nobody was injured and only 5400 derailed. After a visit to Glasgow Works the Class 27 was returned to traffic during early August. Investigation revealed that part of a tyre had separated in Haymarket tunnel, the remainder slowly disintegrating until the derailment occurred.
Late in July the northward march of the electrified WCML service reached Preston, the first day of locomotive changing here, July 28th was reported as not going to smoothly. A new Freightliner service was established between Forders siding, Bedford and Trafford Park/Garston. The route out was via the Midland line and the Hope Valley route, returning over the WCML. From the beginning of the service Class 25’s have been used, with 7592, 7654/55 frequently being noted.
The failure of 1859 on a northbound Motorail service on July 19th brought 5019 & 5398 to the rescue, being noted heading through Stirling during the evening. 142 had the honour of towing 401 into Bristol on July 23rd, the second Class 50 to transfer to the WR.
Shades of the future were witnessed in the arrival of Class 31 5522 during August at Cricklewood, being transferred in from York. This was the first of the class to be permanently allocated to the LMR. With more Class 31’s due to arrive the Class 25’s were intended for Scotland, releasing Class 37’s to the ER. Concurrently Doncaster was beginning a program to fit electric train heating equipment to the Class 31’s, with 5521 being the first. As if in protest, on August 2nd a morning Peterborough - Kings Cross service was worked through out by 5190 & 7608. Locomotives diagrammed for the Fridays only 15.05 Kings Cross - Leeds were often sent light from Holbeck, or piloting an ‘Up’ service, at this time this was frequently a Class 45 turn.
Closure proposals for the Cambrian Coast line were again raised and brought swift opposition from many. Heavy rains fell here on August 6/7th with flooding in several places including Dovey Junction.
Similar to a blockage on the Kyle line, the Fort William - Mallaig line was severed by a bridge collapse on August 31st. At about midday the third span of bridge No51 fell into the floodwaters of Dubh Lighe River at Drimsallie Lodge (between Glenfinnan and Locheilside). Two sets of stock and locomotives, 5350 & 5359 were trapped west of the blockage. These provided a shuttle service until repairs could be effected, expected to take several weeks at least. Elsewhere during August Inverness Type 2’s were frequently diagrammed on freight or parcels services to Berwick & Newcastle, so noted was 5121 on August 7th & 5115 8th.
Ilford car sheds provided maintenance for its extensive electric fleet. However during August it appears their talents were extended to members of the ER’s diesel fleet with 5111 noted there on August 14th and 6736 the next day. These machines were present for use of the wheel lathe, the volume of work at Stratford necessitating this. 5111 was later noted on September 24 heading north with a freight through Cambridge. Time was running out for Gateshead’s Class 24’s - a new iron ore terminal opened at Redcar during September which would eventually supply Consett, the commissioning services were hauled by Class 31’s, although Class 37’s were intended for this new service.
A locomotive slightly off the beaten track on September 3rd was Laira’s 142 arriving at Aberdeen with the 07.15 ex York! Another remarkable working occurred on September 5th when 5230 worked the 10.10 Exeter St Davids - Waterloo after the failure of the booked Class 33. An Exeter crew was required to man the locomotive though it is not recorded how far the locomotive worked. The first week of September proved to be exceptionally hot, 31C was reached along the North Kent coast on 5th. Ten days later the same area was hit by monstrous thunderstorms with heavy rain, for thirteen hours on 20th six inches fell at Ashford whilst almost eight inches fell at West Stormouth.
The use of A4 60009 on specials between Inverkeithing & Dunfermline on September 8th found 5015 & 5307 hauling the excursion from Edinburgh to Inverkeithing, with 5015 working the return leg alone.
The late summer season had found poor timekeeping on the Trans Pennine services, particularly between Manchester & Leeds, seemingly the Class 40’s were most challenged by the timetable, though numerous permanent way slacks did not help matters. On the Midland mainline all fifteen express coach sets were now dual heated, many using the eth option for heating, the semi-fast sets remained steam heated, though cascading of stock was expected.
The previously announced renumbering scheme had in practice been applied very slowly to the locomotive fleet, principally to locomotives going through the major workshops. During September the first Class 24 was renumbered, 24041 after visiting Derby Works for an overhaul, as were the first Class 25’s 25208(7558) & 25282(7632). To speed up the fleet renumbering the depots would soon take a much greater part in this task. Front line service befell an odd couple on September 14th when 5858 and 5185 powered a Bournemouth - Newcastle passenger from Birmingham New Street. Reddish Depot held an Open Day on September 9th including Jubilee 5596 Bahamas in steam and giving footplate rides. For the more modern traction enthusiast 5294 was also providing cab rides. Whilst on electrification work at Barton (Preston) 5258 derailed in the down loop, luckily falling away from the running lines, retrieval was four days later. On September 22nd Crewe Works held its annual Open Day, although the Type 2’s were no longer maintained here 5063 was used to bring in a breakdown train complete with a fifty ton 1930 vintage Cowans Sheldon steam crane. The up ‘Ulster Express’ had green liveried 7626 on September 26th.
A step back in time occurred early in October when a motive power shortage in Scotland saw a number of the Edinburgh - Aberdeen services reverting to pairs of Type 2’s. So noted on October 8th was 5116 & 5236 on the 10.30 to Aberdeen. The next day 191 was in charge of the 08.07 Edinburgh - Aberdeen.
Five Class 25s were required for local jobs in Cornwall, being needed for trips to Drinnick Mill, Goonbarrow, St Dennis Jct, Boscarne Jct, Falmouth Goods, Penzance pilot (morning only), Hayle Wharf. Drump Lane & Truro were handled by the daily Penzance - St Blazey freight. Liskeard, Burngullow & Carne Point were handled by a Tuesday - Friday diagram. In the Exeter area two Class 25’s worked turns to Torrington & Barnstaple, in the evening they were combined at Exeter to handle a stone working to Westbury, where after refuelling they would return to Exeter on the balancing working.
On October 16th an event in Kuwait City would have serious global implications, including the ability of British Rail to provide services. Six oil delegates from the Gulf states raised the posted price of oil by 70% to US$5.11 a barrel.
October 28th was a good day for Class 25s at Manchester Victoria. The station pilot was typically a Class 25, 7515 this day, whilst 7582 worked the 16.55 to Preston, a tougher job lay before 7543 which set out on the 17.00 to Newcastle.
During November the two complete cabs from withdrawn D5114 were sent from Glasgow Works to Derby Works for re-use, at Derby 5055 was noted having one of these cabs grafted on.
25011 in charge of November 9th’s 20.47 Perth - Carlisle created sparks of its own when severe arcing occurred between one of the hinged engine room roof covers and the overhead line equipment at Motherwell. The train was placed in the Shieldmuir Loop, with power turned off to allow for further investigation. At least two other services were delayed because of the errant 25011.
On November 14th an afternoon Chester - Wolverhampton service was noted arriving at its destination with the dmu being assisted by 7602 & 7610. The next working, to Shrewsbury again utilised the Class 25s.
The SR continued to receive Peaks on the Toton - Brent - Southfleet coal trains, occasionally paired Class 25’s substituted, during November 7616+7619 and 5270+7560 were noted. Top of the line duty befell Laira based 153 went it hauled the down Flying Scotsman on November 19th, regrettably it was running with a scratch Mk1 set with no restaurant facilities, this day a one day strike in London caused considerable dislocation. Scottish journeys for the Class 46s continued, principally on the passenger services to Aberdeen, those from Gateshead and Holbeck were the most frequent depots represented. 45116 was noted at Darlington for turntable tests on November 21st, the first to be used here for quite a while.
The 08.00 Bristol - Plymouth passenger on November 22nd was noted west of Exeter behind 5230 (failed?) and 400. Exeter was also host to foreign Class 25s (& 31s) arriving with sugar beet from the ER, 7626 was noted on 1st, 25031 (2nd) & 5251 (6th).
During December an influx of Westerns into South Wales allowed them to replace Class 25s on the Margam - Trostre/Velindre steel coil workings. At the same time pairs of Class 25s began working the iron ore trains between Port Talbot Docks & Llanwern Steelworks. In the Bristol area the Avonmouth duties were taken over by a Class 25. A new diagram at Cardiff saw a Class 25 work an early morning Cardiff - Swansea parcels, a Margam - Crewe working followed by an evening Crewe - Cardiff parcels. On December 9th (a Sunday) eight additional freights ran from Margam to Knighton & Toton, three powered by Class 37s, the remainder by Western Region allocated Class 25s. All worked as far was Washwood Heath, returning to the west as light engines or with a freight train.
December, a month already challenged by the petrol crisis, was further marred by an ASLEF ‘go slow’, with the rule book strictly adhered to causing many operating difficulties and delays. Defects that failed locomotives ranged from broken speedometers (thus immobilising nearly all the 4-SUBs, 4-EPBs & 2-EPBs) to defective windscreen washers, missing windscreen wipers and broken seat springs! Draughty cabs were reported as the reason for the curtailment of Waterloo & City line services during the dispute. Particularly badly hit were the London commuter services. The ‘go slow’ started on 13th, with no traffic at all on Sundays. The WCML lost about fifty percent of its services, those that did run made extra stops - this drew the ire of the drivers who then claimed they were ‘specials’ which required a secondman in the cab! A serious derailment at Northchurch tunnel did not help matters. On 19th the tragic derailment of Class 52 No.1007 on an Oxford service at West Ealing led to the loss of ten lives, the ASLEF action at Old Oak Common was called off whilst the clean-up and return to regular service was sorted out. Once some sort of normal service had been resumed, the ‘go-slow’ from Old Oak crews was reinstated. At Stratford on December 16th when no trains were running the depot was filled with over eighty locomotives - ER Class 46s were frequent visitors to the Works. The LTS - Fenchurch Street services were decimated, occasional services did run, but of little use to the commuters on this route. On the GN route the disruption was much less severe, but with some issues with the coaching stock rosters and congestion at Kings Cross as incoming locomotives became trapped at the buffers.
Three Coventry locals, targets 38,39 & 42 required dual braked locomotives, in this case Class 25’s, since Bescot only had two at this time (7601 & 7626), this diagram was somewhat difficult to maintain! These matters were not helped by locomotives being borrowed, at the end of December Thornaby borrowed Bristol based 7624 for several days on local duties.