Despite the awful weather conditions spirits weren’t dampened as hundreds of people turned to witness the arrival of the ‘Golden Arrow’ steam train in Margate.
Among them was former train driver and enthusiast John Horton who reports on the journey and the locomotive’s heritage:
Crowds were out at Margate, Ramsgate and Dumpton stations and others along the route from Faversham to see the 4-6-2 Merchant Navy Class loco, 35028 “CLAN LINE” hauling the British Bellmond Pullman, formerly the coaches of the “Venice Simplon Orient Express”.
The train was actually booked to travel down to Surrey, but due to last minute engineering works the route was changed 3 weeks ago, to depart London Victoria and run via Swanley to Medway, then to Faversham and Margate, where the loco had a booked stop in order to take on water for the tender.
With only a 10 minute booked stop, the loco crew had to work hard, along with the water bowser, to complete the task. Additional loco crew climbed high up on to the tender of the steam loco to assist with the filling up of water and to rake the coal from the back of the tender to the front, to ease firing of the train.
Young and old thronged around the locomotive to admire a bit of British engineering at its finest, People took family snaps and spoke to the Loco crew during the stop.
The train departed a few minutes late, heading back to London Victoria, via Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Canterbury West, Ashford, Charing, Maidstone, Swanley and then Victoria, where it is due to arrive at 6.30pm.
The loco was designed by OVS Bulleid and built at Eastleigh works in what was known as original streamlined condition, where they were known as Merchants” or “Spams. In the 1950s the entire fleet were returned to Eastleigh Works and emerged in a totally new form, being known as “Rebuilts.”
35028 CLAN LINE ended its working career at Nine ELms Depot London and was purchased by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Association and restored to working order. She had been in very fine shape upon her withdrawal from service in 1967.
Since then other members of the same class have been saved, the most recent returning to Mainline service being 35018 British India Line.
However there are others in running order on reserved lines, 35005 “Canadian Pacific” 35006, “Penninsular and Oriental” and 35027 “Port Line”.
A member of the once 30 strong class, 35029 “Ellerman LInes” is on public display at the National Railway Museum in York, where it has been “sectioned” to show how a steam locomotive works. Other preserved members are still undergoing restoration.
The famous “Golden Arrow” headboard and associated regalia is in memory of the prestigous Pullman car service from London Victoria to Dover Western Docks.