BRC Website Home
Quainton Virtual Stockbook
Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 64 - Winter 1987 / 88
Metropolitan Railway E Class 0-4-4T No. 1
Over the Alps with No. 1
A chance conversation during the summer resulted in Met No. 1 playing a leading role in the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Mid Hants Railway on 19 and 20 September. Despatched from Quainton by low loader on Monday 7 September, the locomotive was steamed the following day for test purposes, with the railway's BR Sulzer Type 2 No. D5217 used as dead weight.
The following weekend, 12 and 13 September, saw No. 1 double-heading normal service trains with Urie S15 4-6-0 No. 506. Although the Southern locomotive was more than capable of hauling our engine, as well as its train, over the steeply graded route, No. 1 did its fair share - and on a number of occasion a bit more!
On the 10th anniversary weekend, N class 2-6-0 No. 31874 kept Met No. 1 company on the Watercress Belle wine and dine train conveying VIPs and invited guests. A point of interest here is that the intensive service run on these two days required the use of the BR platform two at Alton.
For those who are not familiar with the Mid Hants, the line is 10½ miles long and runs between Alresford and Alton, the latter being a BR interchange station. Passing stations are at Ropley and Medstead. The line climbs steeply from both directions to its highest point just on the Alton side of the Medstead station. This demanded care and skill on the part of the fireman, as when breasting the summit smokebox first the water dropped a full glass as the engine nosed downhill.
There could be no letting the water go in order to maintain steam pressure. Fortunately, keeping the needle on the mark was no trouble, so long as a classic wedge-shaped fire rolling out the door at the back and dancing on the bars at the front was maintained, fuel being added across the back and down the sides of the firebox at frequent intervals. No. 1 thrived on this treatment, although there was the odd aching back at the end of the day - not because of the amount of coal moved, more to do with the cramped awkward cab!
Under the watchful eyes of a pilotman, the Mid Hants generously agreed we could man the locomotive throughout; four crews thus gained some valuable experience. However, everybody marvelled at the Met men who worked six Dreadnoughts from Baker Street to Verney Junction with these machines. All agreed they must have been very skilled, very strong midgets, with a permanent stoop!
The ironies of No. 1's visit have not been lost on those who restored the locomotive, as it was the MHR who loaned us equipment to re-machine the big end journals and came to the rescue with a replacement vacuum ejector when it was discovered the original had been stolen.
The Dreadnought ejector now on No. 1 was once carried by the N and was part of a deal involving the ejector now fitted to the S15. It was completely coincidental that these engines worked with No. 1 during the visit.
The Met's short stay in Hampshire came to an end on 23 September, as it had to be back at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre by 26 September to take part in a special open day for Equitable Life Insurance. However, even such a short visit helped to make more people aware of our Centre and has earned good coverage in the railway press. In addition, the Locomotive Department gained much useful information. We now, for instance, have a better idea of the engine's capabilities, how well it runs, how much coal and water it uses and which types of lubricating oil give best results.
The Society can also be justly proud of the locomotive's faultless performance on one of the hardest preserved lines in the country - not for nothing is its known locally as The Alps.
A less hurried return visit has been proposed for 1988, but much has to be taken into consideration before this can be arranged. Of one thing, however, we are certain - there'll will no doubleheading next time ...
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 26 November 2017