PRACTICE & PERFORMANCE
BACK FR -to
Tender-first running isn’t simply a case of putting an engine into reverse. There are numerous differences, many unappreciated by the casual observer – yet, surprisingly, the subject has never really been covered in depth. KEITH FARR obliges
AS the 5.15pm Oban-Glasgow/ Edinburgh clattered alongside Loch Etive, ‘Black Five’ No. 45179 seemed in good fettle. Through the narrow Pass of Brander, with its double-arm signals to warn drivers of rockfalls, the train continued with due caution before rounding the shoulder of Loch Awe to Dalmally station, at the foot of the long climb into wild Glen Lochy. The date was August 30, 1960, and the load of nine coaches, weighing at least 300 tons full, was up to the maximum permitted for an unassisted Class Five on this mountainous route. Even from the former ‘Devon Belle’ observation car at the rear of the train, the slowing exhaust beats were clearly audible as gradients as steep as 1-in-47 brought speed down to less than 15mph at the approach to Glenlochy crossing, where a westbound freight was waiting in the loop – and where the 5.15 from Oban drew thankfully to a stand. Within minutes, the observation car attendant muttered “Engine’s bust!” and a cacophony of sharp exhaust beats echoed
about the glen as No. 45179 briskly changed places with No. 45049 from the down freight. The impromptu exchange meant, of course, that both ‘Fives’ would continue their journeys tender-first. This did not deter the crew on 45049 from putting up a magnificent performance, with a crackling exhaust altogether more healthy than
Gresley V2 No. 60836 stands inside the exNorth Eastern Railway terminus at Alnwick, waiting to work the 5.55pm to Alnmouth on June 1, 1966.
that of the sister loco it had replaced. East of Crianlarich, the railway climbed at 1-in-69/70 past Killin Junction to Glen Oglehead summit, 941 feet above sea level, yet here the 4-6-0 was making a good 30mph – tender first. The descent to Balquhidder was taken at rather more than the 45mph maximum permitted for locos running tender-first. But 45049 continued in lively fashion to Stirling before handing over the Edinburgh coach, in which I was travelling, to another Class Five to take with the 9pm local to Princes’ Street. This was the longest and most vigorous tender-first run I personally ever experienced. Normally, such reverse working on British passenger trains was confined to short runs and, latterly, to such locos as the Ivatt and Riddles 2MT 2-6-0s with their tender cabs designed for running backwards when necessary: I recall travelling in 1962 behind (or should that be in front of?) a tender-first Ivatt 4MT Mogul from Carlisle to Langholm and with a ‘back-to-front’ BR Class 2 2-6-0 between Tillynaught and Banff on the former Great North of Scotland system. More distant recollections of tender-first
18 • The Railway Magazine • April 2009 FRONT
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The following aspects need to be borne in mind when running backwards with a steam locomotive: ● Forward visibility is restricted, almost entirely in the case of high-sided tenders not fitted with tendercabs or cutaway sides. ● Left-hand drive locos effectively become right-hand and vice-versa, adversely affecting signal-sighting etc ● Extra vigilance is required to ensure the firebox crown is covered with water when climbing gradients. ● In the case of lower-sided tenders, crews have absolutely no protection from the elements. ● Swirling coal dust causes a hazard by getting into crews’ eyes if not constantly dampened by use of the slacker hose. ● The tender becomes lighter (sometimes by as much as 50 per cent) as coal and water levels drop, thus affecting stability at higher speeds. ● Most tenders have a rigid wheelbase, a fact that needs to be borne in mind when negotiating tight curves and complex junctions. This is particularly true for eight-wheeled non-bogie varieties. ● On most tender engines, the sanding equipment is designed to work best in forward direction only. ● On express passenger engines, the valve gear is normally set to favour chimney-first operation. ● Reverse-running is subject to lower speed limits. ● The driver’s controls and gauges are behind him while he is keeping his eye on the road (this also applies to bunker-first running with a tank engine). ● Locos such as 4-6-0s lose the advantage on starting of weight transfer to the rear coupled wheels, adversely affecting adhesion. There are not many advantages, but one is that drifting smoke no longer restricts vision – and another is that on a sunny, windless day, the all-round view afforded by a low-sided tender can be most enjoyable!
Left: On many of today’s heritage railways, tender-first running accounts for 50 per cent of all operations. This is ex-GWR 4-6-0 No. 7802 Bradley Manor in Severn Valley Railway service on January 24. ANDREW RAPACZ
Below: Some photographers shun tender-first workings, but luckily enough good scenes were recorded to enable us to illustrate this article. Ex-LMS 4F No. 44009 at Rockliffe, near Carlisle, on August 3, 1963. DEREK CROSS
haulage are of J15 0-6-0s on the Walton-onNaze branch and Churchward 2-6-0s between Barnstaple Victoria Road, where trains from Taunton had to reverse, and Barnstaple Jct. It was on the Southern that larger locos regularly worked with tender leading on passenger duty. In the far west, Light Pacifics had fill-in turns with single-coach ‘trains’ between Padstow and Wadebridge, while tender-first operation by members of the same class between Hailsham and Polegate, in East Sussex, was quite common. Even reverse running by ‘Merchant Navies’ was not unknown. Travelling in 1965 by the overnight Weymouth-Waterloo ‘mail’ via Southampton Terminus, I was surprised when, at Southampton Central, No. 35013 Blue Funnel was replaced by 35012 United States Line to haul the train, tender-first, ‘round the corner’ to the terminus station. Blue Funnel, meanwhile, proceeded ‘light engine’ to Northam Junction before reversing along the east side of the triangle and backing on to what had been the rear of its train. After the up train had departed, United States Line would have been facing the right
way to work the equivalent WaterlooWeymouth train from Southampton Terminus to Bournemouth or possibly Weymouth. I gather this was normally a ‘West Country’ turn; or was it the only booked regular passenger duty for a Class 8 loco running tender-first? So, does a tender engine run as well in
reverse as in forward gear? In theory, the answer is ‘yes’ although, on express passenger locos, the valve gear is normally set to favour chimney-first operation. Also, with the loco climbing a gradient at low speed, the fireman has to be especially vigilant in ensuring that the boiler water level is maintained so that the firebox crown remains covered, for if ▼
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