"Difficult decision and a no brainer",
The above title sums up two days that I had in Scotland in Feb 1985.
I'd gone up on the Thursday 7th and managed to get the Oxenholme-Windermere branch in via a 108 DMU. Did an evening bash on the West Highland to Ardlui and back with 37017 and 37051,
The "internal overnight" was 47593. previously Haymarkets 47272 so no junk there.
Inverness saw 37035 on stock of the 06:55 to Kyle at 04:40.
The 06:30 Wick turned out 37175 "on loan" from Eastfield which I took to Lairg where I made the 06:00 ex Wick, this produced 37260 which was a requirement.
Now on arrival at Inverness 37025 was on the 10:55 to Kyle so not enamoured with that. I was then landed with a dilemma.
I had stated that with 37s working on the West Highland and Far North and Kyle lines that I wouldnt have one to Wick, Thurso, Kyle or Oban these being ex LMS lines.
Mallaig was acceptable as this was an ex LNER line. I could do part route without angst.
Now the fact that Inverness had hired in 37175 should have been an indication of a traction crisis.
Looking at dates of conversion by the centre of locomotive numerology I reckon that there were still at least twelve unconverted 26s were still available at the start of February 1985.
I base this on the fact that 26043 may have just gone into works.
This shot shows 26034 coupled to 37114 on the 11:30 to Wick at Inverness on the 8th February 1985. The loco also carries the Highland Rail Motif. (Head on shot was right into the sun)
Thus I was sitting on the horns of a dilemma!
The thought of a one way trip never came into my head when I realised that the 26 had been put on for train heat.
Class 37 boilers were not very reliable and with "blue star" multiple working the 26 should do both trips out and back.
I'm not cutting my nose off to spite my face so decided that in the words of Jagger/Richard "This could be the last time" for a trip up to the top so bit the bullet regarding the 37.
Leisurely water stop at Helmsdale
This was not a mega thrash run; time was gained on most sections partly due to request stops not being taken
I wont bother to include a log here suffice it to say that it was efficient.
Of interest I had a better run with 26034 back in 1983 on load seven and paired with 26035 it passed the northern county march in 5mins 48s from Forsinard.
This day on load five it took 5mins 58s.
26040 was the Thurso branch loco.
No photographs were taken at Wick as the light was going fast and the 37 was leading.
Another competent run back to Inverness saw both locomotives powering.
Back at Inverness I had 47593 south on the Internal overnight and spent two days in Glasgow and Edinburgh scratching the track that I had left in January and had a nights B&B.
There was supposed to be a pair of 26s on a tour on the Saturday but the cold weather put paid to that.
On the Sunday night I had 47469 on the internal overnight. This was the infamous Wick Adex loco (Thats another story)
11th February 1985 37025 on the first Kyle so flagged that as a new 37264 was on the 06:30 Wick so I took this to Lairg for 37175 back
Now its a no brainer as on arrival back at Inverness the 11:30 to Wick was a pair of 26s
My Lords! Off to the top for a second time 26038 leading 26041 and whilst work worn they appeared to be ok
26038 at Inverness. Its leading 26041. on the 11:30 to Wick 11th February 1985 Note that this loco has now lost its two lights and is replaced by a centre spotlight On the Friday 26034 had a "lash up light" 37260 lurks on the Kyle service (sun not fully out hence the shot)
Comparing runs the 26038 and 26041 performed on typical 26 timings as far as Fearn and then 26041 decided to shut down.
We must have had a "passed" second man as he drove 26041 from Tain to Brora and kept time well. However at Brora the crew changed over and 26041 was shut down and 26038 was on its own Suddenly we have gone from load five to load seven and a half.
We then effectively had the old time scenario of a 26 slogging it up the Far North line on a proper load and it didnt let me down 26038 was going like a good un!
What interested me now was the climb to the Northern County March
26034 & 26035 had done this in 5min 48sec with a maximum of 52mph at Mp 129.5
26034 & 37114 completed the course in 4min 48 sec attaining 60 mph at the same mile post.
Both these runs were flyers with super power for the load The 26s having a 9.46 hp/ton ratio and the 26 & 37 a whopping 16.54 hp/ton.
Poor 26038 had only a ratio of 4.54 so didnt expect fireworks.
Instead what we had was a cacophony of sound as 26038 was opened up and with its low gearing attained 40 mph a mile out of Forsinard (Or should I say Frozenard as it was cold)
No snow on the "Fairy Hillocks" today.
Climbing up the hump to the March speed gradually dropped and reached a minimum of 22.5 mph at post 128.25, The 37 & 26 were doing 50 mph.
Speed then picked up and reached 33mph before topping the March at 30mph.
Doing the horsepower calculation 30 mph on 1 in 80 gave a rail h/p of 922.8 which is just about on the maximum.
The rated maximum of a 26 is 900 hp but using the "Law Method" one can accept a plus or minus 50 hp.
In disgrace 26041 at Wick waiting for 26038 to run round and back it on to the "blocks"
26040 took three coaches on to Thurso and then the phones went into action with 26s to the rescue!
26038 waiting to depart Wick.
26040 attached its Thurso portion at Georgemas Junction, and then paired up with 26038 and we went our merry way to Inverness.
At Brora we crossed the 17:30 Inverness-Wick with 26034 piloting 37175.
Replacing 26040 on the Georgemas Pilot
47467 was on the overnight back to Glasgow this was delayed due to the freezing weather
This was the "last time" I went north of Inverness with 26s I scratched a few 37/4 but never got north of Golspie
Think this article shows just what reliance Inverness had with its 26s and that spare locomotives were most definitely needed.
The conversion of the 26s to air brakes though a lengthy one helped immensely and I believe that it was deliberately prolonged to allow Inverness to retain some 26s over the winter of 1984/85. There was a lengthy gap in the programme which backs up my claim.
A final thought here is that Scotrail should have gone down the Irish Rail route and introduced generator vans on at least the Kyle service.
Say three 26s stabled at Inverness and whilst 37/4 would be the preferred traction the 26s could cover the odd engineers working and also bail out when the 37/4s failed. This would also justify the fitting of RETB equipment.
Thanks again to Dave Spencer for the epic memories