søndag 20. oktober 2013

The 37/4s - Why were they built and the Other Rumours at the Time ?

As a thirty seven fan and former addict to haulage by them, I do get de-tractors from time to time ;-)

That is people who question how good they were and why they bothered refurbishing so many of them.

The 37/4 story is the one most at hand here:

The core here is that BR actually had a twenty year old committment to ridding the network of steam heated stock. By the end of steam in 1968, boilers were a complete anachronism but so much of the new coaching stock had been built such that steam could still work them that the phenomenom would tender white whisps and hissing from two tone blue coaches for another 20 years.

For the west highland line this meant that the turning point would be the introduction of the Mrk III sleeper coaches, which had replaced most of the then extensive sleeper services on the main lines,. In addition it wasonly the scottish overnight services retaining steam heat by the early 1980s on the older Mrk I sleepers (Bedz as we called them)

At one point during trials of the stock, Scotrail were quoted in the media as saying the coaches were not suitable and the service was going to be abandoned, but the coaches were in fact pretty suitable for the duty, in particular the air cushioned ride and sound proofing leant themselves to some decent "doss" on the highland and higher speed metals the services ran over to London.

Why did BR not utilise an existing locomotive class with ETH ?

Well the rumour is that Eastfield had at some point asked if they could get the unofficially RA 5 class 33/2s, the slim Jims. However they produce a lower ampage than needed for the sleeper services. Also Eastleigh wanted them for their own purposes of keeping fitters in a job.

The more obvious candidate was the higher ETH rated class 31/4- there is some confusion on how much power these can apply, but realistically a 250 tonne train would be a piece of cake even if they are only sending 1000hp or so down to the wheels. GIven the decision making time of say 1980-82, then in fact these locomotives were very much in use on the cross pennine roots via derby and in the west country where in both cases they had replaced unreliable 1st generation DMU operations. So they were not up for grabs.

Also there is CHris Greene's comments, as the then general manager of the ScR aka Scotrail by then, who did not entertain the idea of class 50s at ED (the question was posed and the rumour about in the early 8os as the IC 125s displaced 50s from their top spots in the course of less than 6 years. This rumour may have come with the fact that ED was ridding itself of 6LDA sulzers with then three or four types of EE SVT/CSVT locos being manageable) He said a new class in ScR was a bad idea in terms of crew training, spares and repairs.

The 31 Brush type two had been "failed" for services on the west highland line in its rather puny Mirlees day, but the SVT 1470 hp unit may have fitted rather well into ED as a depot. However, it would mean all the above Chris Green mentions,  despite their eminence in the reliability stakes.

Also there was another point of view- 37/4s would have to work both bigger passenger trains, and as an allocation to ED would work freights. The CP7 bogie offered the ideal solution for all round services out of ED where there is little opportunity for 37s to work at 90mph anyway on the allocated RA5 services, while often pairs had to be used to ensure starting and progress on WHL freights which were subsequently handled by a single 37/4.

A really grand allocation they became then! Being able to work until 2010 on the sleeper if I read correctly and I remember hearing them on the service after 2004 when sleeping at a relative's house near the line- with some disbelief having given up bashing 18 years before!

I gave up bashing for all the right reasons- my era was in those whisps of steam and 37s doing over 90mph when they got let loose on the west coast main line or a replacement Glasgow-Edinburgh service and so on. 37/4s marked modernity and shiny stuff and I nodded and smiled and retired from bashing as they began plying their trade of fast acceleration and better wheel slip control on the routes. Later when I saw they had displaced duffs on Highland Line services a little part of me wanted to get a freedom-of-Scotland and clear some numbers and lines but really that was just a tiny part of me by then. A lot of bashers went on to misspend youths and budding romances by carrying on with the several incarnations of liveries and routes the 37s then went on to work, and I am glad for them and glad that I did not follow them!