scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

The "Jellicoes" by Roger E. G. Read


IN the war years, the traveller on Crewe station, any time round about 1 p.m., would hear the loudspeakers announce, in the flat, tired tones so common to the period, "Platform No. 3 for the Thurso train, H.M. Forces only."

That was all, and if, intrigued by the discovery of a through train to the remotest part of the L.M.S. system, he tried to get further information, more likely than not he would meet with no response. For the "Jellicoes" were special and "hush-hush."

Put on to benefit those whose war service took them to Scapa Flow, the Orkneys generally and Caithness, and descended from similar specials in the 1914-18 war--hence the nickname--the "Jellicoes" possessed features unparalleled by peace-time travel to those parts. Thus, of the southbound trains, the second gave a regular through carriage service over the entire distance between Thurso and Euston. In the other direction some of the stock worked through, but for the passengers there was an enforced break at Perth. Another novelty was that sleeping car facilities were provided north of Inverness.

The start, in July 1940, was with three coaches on the wartime equivalent of the "Midday Scot," the 1 p.m. ex-Euston, but by May, 1941, the vehicles, now often double the original quota in number, were transferred to the 10.8 a.m., except when expanded arrangements were necessary, as will be related. The service ran until the end of September 1945.

The little station at Thurso presented an animated appearance any evening, except Saturdays (when the trains did not run), at about 7 o'clock, with the two portions of the "Jellicoe" standing side by side at the island platform and, by reason of their length, almost fouling the points beyond its end. The work involved in getting those specials in and out taxed the resources of the operating staff to the utmost, for the layout and accommodation generally was designed for traffic of very different proportions. It was a gay scene in all weathers, for in this direction most of the personnel were travelling home on leave.

Prompt at 7.30 p.m. the first special was away. This terminated at Perth, arriving there at about 5.30 a.m., well in time to connect with early morning trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow and elsewhere. Made up to within the single haulage compass of one of the ubiquitous Class "5" 4-6-0s over this route, the load varied between 7 and 9 coaches, including the "canteen coach," and a pilot was required only for the climb from Inverness by either route to Aviemore.

The second portion, that running through to Euston, was a different proposition, being loaded to between 10 and 14 vehicles, with both canteen and sleeping cars in its formation; so this was double-headed to Blair Atholl at least, and often all the way to Perth. Two Class " 5s " invariably were provided for this turn. As reversal took place at Georgemas Junction, ten minutes away, the engines of both trains started tender first from Thurso.

Onwards to Inverness, stops were made at Helmsdale and Tain nightly for water and occasionally for crossing purposes elsewhere; over this section the "Jellicoes" were faster than any peacetime train. At Inverness, reached in the "small hours," the engines were changed and the train examined in preparation for the tremendous climb to follow. Later in the war, however, the thrill of hearing the "bark" of the Class "5s" going flat out up the 1 in 60 towards Slochd--they have never sounded quite so vocal in England---was somewhat dimmed when the train was switched to the old route more often than not, and the engines did get a chance of warming up before they tackled the 1 in 75-70 ascent to Dava.

More stops for water at Aviemore and Blair Atholl, and the train rolled into Perth just before six in the morning. The long wait here gave ample time for a morning toilet and breakfast, while the stock was taken to the other side of the main island platform, and lightened to the extent of the sleeping car and at least two coaches and a van. Away at 7.40 a.m. and hauled now by a Class "5XP" 4-6-0 or perhaps a Class "5" again, and with a water stop at Stirling and no further booked interruption to the running, Carlisle was usually reached shortly before noon.

Here, with platform duties completed, the train was shunted into one of the centre roads, deprived of the canteen coach and its attendant brake-composite, and then held while the main platforms dealt with the 9.35 a.m. from Glasgow to Birmingham, and the 10 a.m. from Glasgow to Euston. On the arrival of the 8.40 a.m. from Perth to Euston, the "Jellicoe" coaches were pulled out and backed on to this express, and the combined train--exact return working of the 10.8 a.m. from Euston in the other direction--left at 12.42 p.m. for the south. With a Pacific now at the head, a good run was made to London, calling only at Crewe, and the "Jellicoe's" passengers, if the "Perth" was on time, were due at Euston at 7.8 p.m., after 23 hours of continuous travelling.

Going north, the "Jellicoe" was dignified by a separate existence south of Carlisle only if the troop section exceeded 240 tons tare, when it used to be started between the 10 a.m. Glasgow and the 10.8 a.m. Perth expresses out of Euston. Otherwise it formed the first set of coaches of the latter train, and so would leave the terminus behind a Pacific or a "Royal Scot." The separate train was usually entrusted to a Class "5XP " 4-6-0, and stops were made at Rugby and Crewe, as by the two expresses between which the "Jellicoe" was sandwiched.

At Carlisle, the canteen coach and its "extra," together with a fresh "5XP" or "5" 4-6-0 came on, and the "Jellicoe," now recognisably itself once again, would be quick to detach itself and be away to the Border ahead of the "Perth," or, if it had enjoyed an independent run from the start, to continue to show the latter a clean pair of heels. The Stirling stop only intervening, 8.45 p.m. or thereabouts would see the train in the General Station at Perth, where all its occupants were compelled to alight.

Part 2