7 MARCH 1970, Page 26

Lines blocked

Sir: Mr Bendixson, in his interesting article 'Lines blocked' (21 February), writes of 'diesels double-headed as in the days of steam', in order that trains can surge up over Shap. I have before me details of a journey in 1939 in the course of which a Pacific hauled 610 tons gross from Winsford to Carlisle. 132 miles in 131 minutes. The speed fell to 30 mph on the 1 in 75 at Shap. This was not exceptional and smaller express engines hauled heavy trains over this route without assistance. Before 1914 the 'Claughtons' on the_West Coast route could take 400 tons over Shap unaided and could even re-start a heavy train on the steepest part, if brought to a halt by the signal at Scout Green. I believe that during the last war it was not unusual to see Gresley Pacifies lifting trains of twenty coaches up out of King's Cross. I hope that this letter will- appease the shades of these much lamented Giants of Steam. Double-headed indeed!

What a pity that the enormous sums in- volved in scrapping hundreds of recently built steam locomotives and buying ex- pensive diesels were not used on new freight wagons and conversions of some, at least, of the steam locomotives to oil-firing. However it is encouraging to learn that some freight still goes by rail. In these parts a freight train is a very rare sight and Western Region, which has coal yards at Hungerford, Newbury and other stations prefers to have it distributed by lorry along the already over- crowded A4. Parcels traffic too is in- creasingly diverted to the roads. I was not a railwayman but in retrospect the railway age seems to have been a civilised era while road transport is barbaric and anarchic.