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This view comes from a CCQ slide whose uneven tones and debris I have cleaned up and balanced. Taken sometime in the 1930s it shows Southern Railway "King Arthur" No 742 Camelot at the head of a southbound express with 10-11 carriages behind the tender. Note the long distance coaches with destination boards, and among them what appear to be strengtheners, some of which may have been added at Oxford. The staff on the ground by the train would have been involved in remarshalling the train. They seem to be waiting for the off so they can climb back on the platform. At the head, it looks like a fresh loco with safety valves blowing off has taken over the train for its next leg to the south.

The question is, what was the express?

There are two cross-country candidates for which I quote from the LNER 1939 (summer) Working Timetable:

10.10am Newcastle-Bournemouth - arr Oxford 2.53pm : alternating LNER and SR stock.

2.55pm Newcastle-Southampton - arr. Oxford 7.56pm : alternating LNER and GWR stock (actually the Glasgow-Southampton, remarshalled at Newcastle)

Based on the angle of the shadows in the picture and keying 2.53pm into a solar calculator gives a good match, for 2.53pm, not for BST but the "winter" period between the end of October and end of March. This would of course be in the railways' winter timetable and on a fine day give a photographer plenty of low-slanting sunlight.

The puzzle is that a mixture of GWR and SR stock would suit neither train. It's almost as if the two cross-country trains were in some way combined. And I have no knowledge of such a practice, even though all my Carriage Working Books are for summer period. Any ideas, anybody? Or was this a different train altogether that arrived at a similar time?

John Smart has come up with an explanation, referencing the May 1934 Bradshaw, with two possibilities where GWR and SR stock was carried on alternate days. The first was a service between Birkenshead-Brighton and the SE coast ports, leaving Oxford at 12.12pm.

More likely, however, and tallying with the sun angle, was the Birkenhead/Manchester to Southampton and Bournemouth, with through coach Manchester-Portsmouth, which departed Oxford at 2.25pm. Well done, John! :)

More recently, the slide has been dated as April 1939.

Click on the picture for an enlargement.


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