56049 Wolverton, 231285 ta to Mark Beal
Local Freight flows remembered, the "ARC" stone train
Introduced in the early 70's to convey stone to the then new city of Milton Keynes the bright yellow ARC hoppers were a familiar sight rumbling over Bletchley flyover with Western Region 2 x 37 or a 56 at the helm. The stone (from Tytherington) was unloaded at the old Wolverton CCD (coal concentration depot) South of the US just pass the station.
The ARC "PGA" hoppers used then "state of the art" automatic unloading technology whilst in the early days tipper trucks also used were conventionally unloaded by gravity drops. The flow continued for around 30 years with the last known flows in 1992.
6M30 0235 Bristol Parkway-Wolverton CCD (0631 at Denbigh Hall) -D1830 timings AIR-COY
6M44 0545 Bristol Parkway-Wolverton CCD (1242 at Denbigh Hall) - D1069 timings
6V20 0918 Wolverton CCD-Bristol Parkway (0930 at Denbigh Hall) -D1830 timings
6V40 1610 Wolverton-Bristol Parkway (1621 at Denbigh Hall) -D1069 timings
This basic two train pattern continued well into the late 80's by when just the first morning train tended to run. In the early 70's 6M44/6V40 was formed of standard open MSV tippers before also becoming an "AIR-COY" train using the distinctive yellow ARC hoppers.
Individual workings gen to follow but the more regular performers on the ARC hoppers have been 37 x 2, 47, 47901, 56 and even 59 in its very last few months of operation. The afternoon working when MSV tippers produced many Westerns and 47's.
Primarily using Bath Road based 37/56 power in the 80's the ARC also saw 31/45/46/47 substitutions on occasions. More local failures saw heroics by 25's of which more gen of gutsy small Sulzer ARC performances will follow.
A Leighton ARC connection is that by 1990 with contraction of WR wagon repair shops the ARC rake was, on occasions, after unloading its stone working from Stoke Gifford at Wolverton, diverted to Loughborough ARC for maintenance/stock rotation. Running a loco round in the Bletchley area is not an easy process so the ARC empties were sent down to Tring to run round! Thus Leighton got a regular if not infrequent 56 hauled ARC working.
The ARC stone went down to 3 days a week operation in late 1990 as privitisation cuts dug in and the last ARC workings were, we believe in Summer 92. The stone terminal site remained empty for many years until redeveloped. The track bed of the unloading line remains largely unspoilt to this day. With the planned reopening of the Bletchley-Claydon section for passenger services to Oxford an awful lot of ballast will be needed, fitting if it was dropped from ARC hoppers and a 56 up front!
"ARC" Phot spot- 11 nostalgic images 1982-92-Thanks to Mark and Ian for these wonderful photos
Swanbourne, 160882 thanks to Ian Windmill
Bletchley Flyover West, 080383 thanks to Ian Windmill
Mursley, 130683 thanks to Ian Windmill
Wolverton CCD siding, 250783 thanks to Mark Beal
Bletchley Flyover, 130984 thanks to Ian Windmill
Wolverton CCD siding, 201285 thanks to Mark Beal
Wolverton, 190388 thanks to Mark Beal
47079 named no more, reverses the loaded stone out of Wolverton station
Milton Keynes, 270189 thanks to Mark Beal
Wolverton, 170792 thanks to Mark Beal
Thanks again to Ian and Mark for the photos and gen, any other ARC memories to share in the ARC part Two coming soon
More Wolverton “ARC” memories, thanks to Mark Beal
Sample Wolverton ARC -power 1972-1992
25117, 25206, 25256
37117, 37127, 37130, 37135, 37142, 37176, 37180, 37182, 37185, 37187, 37200, 37203, 37204, 37208, 37224, 37232, 37234, 37236, 37249, 37270, 37277, 37291, 37293, 37294, 37296, 37299, 37300, 37305,
45001, 45013, 45040, 45074, 45076
47030, 47031, 47054, 47056, 47063, 47079, 47085, 47091, 47098, 47120, 47145, 47147, 47159, 47249, 47250, 47359, 47901
50014, 50030, 50041
56001, 56031, 56032, 56033, 56036, 56037, 56039, 56040, 56041, 56042, 56043, 56045, 56046, 56047, 56049, 56050, 56053, 56064, 56057,
Local Freight flows remembered, the "ARC" stone train- ARC events
A few ARC events listed here, any more out there?
Class 25’s on the ARC!
25206 & 25117 came to the rescue of 56031 on July 19th 1983 after the Class 56 suffered a turbo-charger failure working an ARC stone train at Verney Jct, the Class 25's taking the working to Wolverton and then the broken Class 56 to Bletchley for examination. The following ARC stone train stopped on the Bletchley flyover, the two Class 37's were removed, ran forward to Bletchley to pick up 56031, all returning to the WR on an empty working. 25256 arrived to take the loaded train forward to Wolverton, not surprisingly making hard work of the heavy load. - thanks to David Hills Sulzer site
ARC engine on class 1
Heading North on a “Mid” bash early on July 28th 1983 I viewed 56031 on Bletchley flyover on the ARC and 56033 in the stone terminal ready to return West with the empties. A fairly uninteresting day in the Midlands was enlivened by a New St announcement of a 60 late 0740 Penzance-Liverpool due loco failure. Was surprised when 56033 rolled into New St dragging a failed 50050 , obviously having been pinched from the return ARC somewhere in the Bristol/Yate area to rescue the failure. An electric took the train forward from New St and 56033 probably returned home with due haste before the Midland could “borrow” it!
ARC engine on class 1 again!
December 20 and 21st 1983 will long be remembered for 36 hours plus continual dragging using a combination of class 25/31/40/47 power after a serious wires down incident in the Hemel-Bourne End area. The second morning of the drags saw 56041/037 (mag reports vary, may have been both) “borrowed” from the ARC to assist in the Bletchley-Watford-Euston drags of passenger (incl 310 units!) and freight. Our local contact only saw “Inter Citys” with class 56 power through Leighton but just what the ARC power did on December 21st remains a fascinating mystery
ARC engine derailed
Probably been a few on the sometimes lively Bletchley-Oxford trackbed but this one was very visible. On August 14th 1984 37277 managed to derail itself on the siding leading to the ARC terminal blocking the up slow for some hours. The “Tractor” rested at a precarious angle and I wished one of us had photted, rather than just laughed at it, on passing on a “roarer” that same evening!
Temporary closure of the Oxford-Bletchley route must have led to the ARC traffic being routed via London or perhaps Birmingham but reports are non existent to date. One interesting diversion was personally viewed on a grey November 16th 1990. Presumably to rotate the stone stock for maintenance (Marcroft Works Radstock on the Western had long since closed by then) the STN advised on the empties from Wolverton being diverted to Tring (run round) and then going to Mountsorrell via Bletchley, Bedford and the Midland main line. I half expected it to be a paper move so common with STN gen, but no it happened! 56053 hauling the ARC through Leighton twice that November morning! This then became a regular FO Wolverton - Mountsorrell via Tring and Leighton operation for a year or so
Cab rides and more
The locals out Swanbourne way would always know if the stone had gone up (to Wolverton), “aye, woke me up at 0600 as usual” was a common reply when we asked them whilst waiting to phot the return empties. Each morning local enthusiasts of all ages would be eager to view and or photograph the ARC as it had a great variety of power and was often rare (to the WCML) South Wales/Bristol based 37’s/47’s or Western 50’s. Sociable drivers would offer cab rides on occasions making a young enthusiasts week!
More ARC phots
Even more Wolverton “ARC” photos 1982-89
From the “60A” collection with thanks
Claydon Jn, 300381
Oxford Nth Junction, 300389
Interestingly the Biceter-Oxford North section of this still operational branch is expected to close early in 2014 whilst rebuilding to double track main line is undertaken for new Chiltern - Oxford -High Wycombe - Marylebone services.
See 60A’s impressive collection here
We’ll happily add more ARC photos and memories if you have them, such is the interactive power of the web, the Wolverton ARC gone but not forgotten