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Mechanical Failure Halts Steam Loco in the Gloom After it Passes Chilworth Station

Published on: 30 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 30 Aug, 2023

By David Rose

A steam train special was halted in its tracks due to a mechanical failure on the locomotive soon after it had passed through Chilworth station as darkness fell on Tuesday evening last week (August 22).

The Sunset Steam Express, a weekly dining train operating from June to the end of August, has been running on a circular route from London Victoria and back through Surrey via Guildford and Redhill.

The Sunset Steam Express hauled by BR Standard Class 7, 70000 Britannia has passed through Guildford and is thundering through Chilworth station shortly before it suffered a mechanical failure. Picture is taken from the film uploaded to YouTube by Tail Lamp Productions.

Steam trains on the main line and heritage railways are now often filmed by fans and enthusiasts and uploaded to YouTube.

One of these (Tail Lamp Productions) filmed the train, hauled by BR Standard Class 7, 70000 Britannia, as it passed through Chilworth station at about 8.40pm and heading up “the bank” as it’s known, towards Gomshall. As the train disappears from sight into the darkness several bangs can be heard on the film.

The crew on the footplate shut off steam and brought the train to a halt. A number of people, commenting on the YouTube clip, said the fault was a damaged cross head which is part of the locomotive’s valve gear.

The Sunset Steam Express is operated by Steam Dreams. It has confirmed the fault was due to a damaged crosshead, adding that a fault was discovered near Chilworth and alterations needed to be made before the train could be moved.

Retired railwayman Geoff Burch has supplied this drawing of what the Walschaert valve gear looks like on Britannia. The cross head is labelled (bottom centre left).

Geoff also supplied this photo he took on the Mid Hants Railway in 2005 of the same type of valve gear but seen on a BR Standard 9F locomotive.

However, the drama did not end for the stricken 70000 Britannia and its passengers.

Another YouTube film, upload by N Gauge Modeller, shows the Class 47 diesel-electric locomotive that was attached to the rear of Britannia’s train pulling it and the failed loco back into Guildford station, this was well past midnight.

Steam Dreams added: “After dropping some passengers at Guildford station, the train then departed with Class 47 and went via Clapham Junction before terminating at London Victoria.

“It is hoped 70000 Britannia will be out on the rails reasonably quickly but unfortunately not in time for this last night’s (August 29) Sunset Steam Express. This trip, our last of the season, will be hauled by Mayflower.”

The cause of the damaged cross head is not yet known.

On the RailUK Forums’ website, in which the Britannia incident is discussed, one person wrote that the train did not reach London Victoria station until 2.37am!

LNER Thompson Class B1 61306, Mayflower was rostered to haul the Sunset Steam Express on Tuesday evening, August 29. It is seen here on a previous special approaching Guildford seen from the Stoughton Road bridge on May 31, 2023. Picture: David Rose.

BR Standard Class 7, 70000, Britannia, is quite a famous engine. It was built in 1951 and pulled the funeral train of King George VI, from Kings Lynn to London following his death in 1952 at Sandringham.

Although Britannia did not operate regular trains on the Southern Region of British Railways, it did visit Guildford prior to be preserved. This was on October 5, 1964, while it hauled the Vectis Rail Tour.

Britannia on the coal stage at Guildford on October 5, 1964. Picture: Geoff Burch collection.

It is seen here on the coal stage at Guildford’s motive power depot.

After just 15 years service, Britannia was withdrawn in May 1966 and entered preservation. It has had a number of owners, the current being the Royal Scot Locomotive & General Trust.

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Responses to Mechanical Failure Halts Steam Loco in the Gloom After it Passes Chilworth Station

  1. I Macpherson Reply

    August 31, 2023 at 1:01 pm

    That’s how I remember trains in the steam days, a wee bit unreliable. Electric into Waterloo dead on time. Steam into Paddington 1/2 hour late, steam into Euston 3/4 hour late.

    The secondary problem with trouble of this kind is the knock-on effect to the Gatwick service. How many folk missed their planes?
    On the other hand, a cleam steamer with a train of Pullmans ain’t half an impressive sight!

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