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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 38 - Spring / Summer 1979
An Enthusiast Muses
Quainton Road in early May 1962 - by A J Barton
In this article the author imagines a day at Quainton when the decline of the Great Central main line was well advanced. It does not report on a particular day, but it tries to capture the atmosphere of the station and the traffic seventeen years ago. The picture above takes the mind much further back and reminds us of the famous Jersey Lilies, the C4 Class GC Atlantics. 5260 was renumbered 2918 in the 1946 alterations and it was the last LNER 4-4-2 when it was withdrawn from Lincoln shed in December 1950. In past years the Atlantics were familiar sights at Quainton on Marylebone and Manchester main line expresses.
We arrive just as the sun rises over a warm Bucks morning, insect-catching birds are calling over the fields and the night signalman has gone home. It's about 6.30 am and the lines stretching away south to Metroland and north to the quiet mysterious shires gleam as silver under the early light.
The first train is not due until after breakfast, at about 9.45 am. It is the semi-fast to Nottingham - the 8.38 am from London. Nothing now goes through to Sheffield, except the night train, so the 8.38 am is only four coaches pulled by a Brit from Neasden. As the signals come off and the train appears, quietly rolling past up to Brackley, we notice that the carriages are virtually empty, just a few wandering gazes.
The next north bound isn't until 2.40 pm - so we settle down on the sleepy platform to await the bells from the box for the up at 10.15 am. Like the previous train, this is a semi-fast. It is the 8.15 am from Nottingham hauled by an LM Royal Scot from Annesley depot - and this train too is quite empty, a few early travellers bound for London.
Into the signal box now, our signalman sits down as the bells ring along the line, rolls a cigarette and nods. "It wasn't this quiet even this time last year", he sighs "and I'll bet it gets worse".
"Up to a while ago we were still getting V2's down from Leicester, even A3's. Now ... ", he paused, "now its down to bad engines, second rate stuff due for works at the least". Bells ring and up he gets.
Mid-day under the May sun, the home is pulled off, followed by the distant and soon a Black Five appears grimy and pounding away at a parcels train from Nottingham bound for London; ten rattling racing vans with destinations far away on their sides in chalk. This is followed at 12.15 pm by another semi in the hands of another Scot, once a fine class of engine, now in its twilight and awaiting the torch. It has been transferred to the GC to work out its retirement
At 2.40 pm the down signals drop for the afternoon local to Brackley, a rake of maroon main-line coaches pulled by a BR standard 2-6-0 deputising for the rostered DMU - a handy train for Bucks visitors and locals. 3.10 pm and the up is cleared for another London bound semi the 1.25 pm from Nottingham hauled by a Scot from Leicester.
Half an hour later we see a return semi to Nottingham, the 2.25 pm from Marylebone pulled by a BR standard 4-6-0, which is passed a few minutes later by the afternoon Crewe parcels which brings a Crewe engine into London, today a Black Five.
In the hazy afternoon, with steam in the air, our thoughts wander back to days when trains like the Master Cutler, the South Yorkshireman and the Starlight Specials to Glasgow would come pounding up from Aylesbury, great hauls of freight trundled by, local trains to Leicester and Woodford were pulled by A5 tanks, Directors sped past, always a fine sight, and pick-up freights were pulled by J39's, K3 2-6-0's and GW Halls and Granges.
In quick succession, just past 4 o'clock, the Neasden to Woodford freight passes with vans and trucks chattering by, hauled authoritatively by an Austerity 2-8-0, whilst a similar freight with an LM 2-6-4T in charge trundles south.
About a hour later the local Brackley train returns still fairly empty. Half an hour after the down semi to Nottingham, the 4:38 pm from Marylebone storms past into deepest Bucks away from Aylesbury, with a Scot again taking control and steaming up through the quiet station platforms, alas, few trains call here now, getting the few travellers home for tea.
6.30 pm and the line is set for the freight from Aylesbury up to Woodford yard powered by another 2-6-4T, crossing in the opposite direction the return pick-up to Princes Risborough and beyond now in the hands of a Black Five.
7.15 pm brings the 5.15 pm from Nottingham hauled by a Neasden Britannia, followed by another semi an hour later with a Royal Scot; more people in these trains now and not far behind, as the evening gets cooler, another freight from Woodford for Aylesbury and the south trundles by pulled by a clanking and very grimy WD 2-8-0.
With the closure soon of Neasden depot and the loco duties to be transferred to Cricklewood can we expect different motive power? Dieselisation, maybe?
After all, it was not long ago that GT3 was here, that curious mutation - a steam outline holding a gas turbine engine, a 4-6-0 that was tried on passenger services between Aylesbury and Leicester.
But perhaps the charm will remain. GW locos may still appear on freights from Old Oak yard and High Wycombe to Woodford, Bletchley and beyond, and maybe we will still see Brits and Scots, class 5's and BR standards, V2's and B1 's bringing specials into London; at least for a while.
Although diesel units will attempt to run the service to Nottingham and even now the odd one trespasses onto the Brackley local, a DMU crossing the viaduct still doesn't look right.
9 pm and its time for the evening Nottingham train with an Annesley Scot in charge. The car sleeper for Scotland is not far behind hauled by the Black Five off the Crewe parcels.
The York parcels passes at 10.15 pm hauled by the Leicester loco from t he 4.20 pm arrival in London, once a V2 but now Scot takes the train.
At ten past eleven the night parcels and passenger train to Manchester hauled by a Brit passes - a lot of parcels vans and two coaches in the middle - dimly lit and only quiet strangers huddled into the corners.
The night signalman has arrived by now, and at quarter to two he pulls off the paper train to Nottingham - hauled these days by a diesel from Cricklewood, either a BRCW (class 20) or a Sulzer (class 24). Tonight its a Sulzer throbbing menacingly in the deep dark night.
And deep in the night, as an owl hoots after nocturnal mice, we have a train from Nottingham - the 2.15 am parcels and passenger, darkly moving past with a B1 4-6-0 at its head; slinking past as if wanting to keep its presence hidden, a ghostly guest from the north.
Dawn is not too far away as both up and down signals are pulled off for trains from Manchester and the northbound parcels for Nottingham - the 3.40 am from Marylebone. The Manchester train is the opposite working to the down train at 11.10 pm and according to the time table actually originates in Sheffield on week-days, although it does start from Manchester. Tonight it is headed by a Brit returning home to Neasden. The Nottingham train has a Black Five in charge, beating north into the oncoming new day.
In another year Quainton will loose its passenger service. By 1965, all that will be left will be a few freights, the semis to Nottingham, down to three lightly filled coaches and the night parcels howling past hauled by a run down Britannia working from Banbury depot.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 17 November 2017