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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 43 - Spring 1981

British Rail - Local News - Neville Royce

New traffic passing through Quainton on BR is good business and some members may have seen the latest container trains carrying rubbish enroute for Calvert, especially if they are night birds.

These trains run from a site in the old flying junction at Northolt, where, in the last two years, a major installation has been built for the GLC for the reception and compression of rubbish, which is then loaded into ISO containers. These are easily recognised by their bright yellow paint, with GLC on the sides. They are loaded onto standard Freightliner flat wagons, three 20ft containers to a wagon. Departure time from Northolt for Calvert is 23.00 hrs and, to start with, the train is running on Tuesdays only, but it should eventually run on Mondays to Fridays inclusive and traffic may require two trains daily. Waiting at Calvert is a similar train of empty containers, which are taken back to Northolt on the same night. Motive power is normally a pair of Class 25's and the train crews come from Cricklewood via Brent and Neasden to Northolt. The trains work north through High Wycombe to Princes Risborough, over the Aylesbury branch and then down the GC main line through Quainton Road to Calvert. The power of the two locomotives is needed to lift the train out of Northolt yard and this climb has proved very difficult from the standing start from the foot of the gradient. There are also one or two steep climbs enroute, for example from Waddesdon Manor up to Quainton Road. This is why two Class 25's prove better than one Class 47, because speed is not of the essence on this job, merely keeping the train going. The potential high weight of this train has meant quite a lot of attention to the track enroute, especially between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury, which has not seen a revenue earning freight train for many years.

Incidentally, the Princes Risborough to Aylesbury branch now has two freight trains daily. For many years all coal for Aylesbury Coal Concentration Depot was worked up from Bletchley on the afternoon trip. However, last summer the traffic was re-routed and it now comes from Acton to Princes Risborough with the coal for High Wycombe and coal and stone for Chinnor Cement Works. The Aylesbury coal is collected from Princes Risborough in the afternoon, when required, by the Class 25, which has worked up earlier to Aylesbury from Bletchley with parcels van for the GPO. Therefore, what with empty stock workings, eight passenger trains a day and these freight duties, the old GWR branch from Aylesbury is far from dead.

One special problem which besets the railways in our area most autumns is leaves on the rails. At the end of October and during November the leaves fall from the trees, which seem to be so prolific on each side of the old Metropolitan line. Once they are on the running line and damp from dew or frost and crushed by passing trains, they become extremely slippery and cause adhesion problems, particularly with the DMU's out of Marylebone. The worst section of the line is between Rickmansworth and Chorley Wood, which is straight for almost two miles and on a gradient of about 1 in 100. As soon as the train is round the curve at the north end of Ricky station, the wheels 'pick up' and very often the DMU will then crawl up the hill at walking pace, although the wheels will be turning as if it were travelling at 60 or 70 miles an hour!

In the past winter at least one train took over an hour to travel the two miles to Chorley Wood and twenty to thirty minutes have been commonplace. Obviously the delays to LTE Met line trains, which use the same tracks between these stations, have been severe and quite often there have been two or three electric trains waiting at Ricky to follow the DMU up the hill to reach either Amersham or Chesham. At one stage last autumn the LTE stopped their trains travelling south of Amersham for three days and this is believed to be the first time this has happened since the reorganisation.

To combat the problem of crushed leaves on the track, LTE have a special train equipped with tanks and pumps to jet the running rails clear and this train is taken out of store when required for the exercise. In the last season the train comprised a Metropolitan Railway Motor Brake at each end with a bogie flat in the middle. The generator and the water tank were on the flat car and the water is forced onto the rails at such a high pressure that it gives the impression of being steam. BR staff are not too convinced of the value of the treatment, because the rails of both tracks become very wet and the DMU's do not have sanding gear. As a stopgap measure, the DMU brake compartments are provided with sacks of sand, which the guards use by sprinkling it into a funnel on top of a pipe which goes through the floor. The sand hopefully deposits on the rail near the driving axle of the power car in which he is riding! About half the Marylebone sets now have this modification, but again its efficiency is not 100%. Quite often in the past autumn a movements inspector was employed just to ride in the guard's compartment in the centre of the train - when there are eight coaches - simply to deliver the sand. Incidentally, the sand must be of the right grading. If it is too coarse it damages the surface of the rails and vehicle tyres, but if it is too fine it blows about and gets into the transmission and engines of the power cars.

One experiment tried was to use a Class 25 to bank the trains out of Rickmansworth, but this proved too costly and time consuming and was soon abandoned. The drivers who remember steam say there was no trouble in those halcyon days! The LT electrics do not suffer too badly either, because their power to weight ratio is more suitable than the DMU fleet.

By mid-December all the leaves had gone and everyone began to wonder what all the fuss had been about! Next autumn the problem will no doubt start all over again!

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1981 and so does not reflect events in the 33+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

British Rail - Local News - Neville Royce - Quainton News No. 43 - Spring 1981

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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