PACERS (Class 142)
These units are going for scrap (at long last) and there seems to be an outpouring of sentimentality and nostalgia about it which I completely fail to understand. These bus conversions provoked more hate and dislike than almost anything else I have ever heard about or read concerning railway stock, with some justification I feel.
I experienced a specimen only one (more than enough) when I decided, on holiday, to take a nostalgic trip up the Newquay to Par branch. This is a branch I have always loved, as I have some stunning memories of large trains being hauled and pushed up the Luxulyan Valley and under the Treffry Viaduct; 3 locos working hard (two mainline locos on the front and a Prairie working hard on the rear) while the echo's from the blast pipes rang around the valley. I don’t think it was ever recorded, at least I have never found anything; mores the shame.
Right, enough wallowing, I got on the unit at Newquay and was lucky enough to get a seat at the front, so I had a good view of the line (next to driver sort of thing). The unit seemed quite new and I looked forward to a pleasant ride and a good day out. We started and at once I thought that it sounded a bit noisy, but things had only just begun! The engine note rose and with it the rattling, which got worse as we began to move. By the time we passed the site of the old shed and signal box, at the throat of what was once the station complex the engine was in full cry and the vibration in and around the bodywork was warming up. As we began to climb passed the site of the “triangle” and move inland it was rather like being inside the well know “bucket of bolts” and I began to wonder if things could get any worse, of course they could!
We met the first real “Cornish” curve when an ear-splitting screech came from the wheel sets, something with which I was going to be subjected on regular intervals all the way to Par. To make matters worse all the small stations I had seen when young and thought how wonderful and well kept they were had now been reduced to a state of inhabited dereliction, which did not improve my mood. Even the wonderful station site of Bugle, once the hub of traffic for the line was in a parlour state. Next along the line was the only part which showed any sign of care, maintenance or life, the Goonbarrow Junction and its signal box, with the clay dries behind and locos, yes locos, moving trucks and shunting around its yards ( note the plural). It quite buoyed me up. On down the line to Luxulyan Station which also seemed to have deteriorated, but seemed to have a couple of camping coaches!
Down hill we rattled and screeched into the beautiful Luxulyan valley, under the Treffry Viaduct and through the site where I am sure that if you are ever to seen a Cornish Piskey it will be there amongst leafy glades surrounding the stream which is at its heart. Anyway, we continued to screech our way down the valley, we did a particularly intense one as we hit the curve under and just beyond the viaduct itself.
Eventually, we came to Pont’s Mill and worked our way down to the headquarters, work-shops and shed of the old C.M.R (Cornwall Minerals Railway) at St.Blazey, which much to my surprise seemed largely intact, although I had the feeling that much of it (the main company buildings etc.) had been commandeered by local industry and was no longer part of the
railway complex, but it was still in existence unlike many other railway site rented or sold to other organisations. We passed the lines of clay wagons either in store, awaiting their next turn of duty or a turn in the works.
Onward we went, squealing, screeching and rattling through St.Blazey station and on into Par Junction, still squealing of course, were we halted at the station (Par Junction) and waited for the return journey. I got out to stretch my legs and found the driver doing like-wise and I said that that was the noisiest and worst ride I had had on the railway bar none, and I wondered what was wrong with the unit? “Nothing”, he said it was just a normal run in one of these “B****y things”. I shall leave out the expletives, suffice to say he was not a happy bunny. The gist was that the riding of the unit was awful, which made each journey most unpleasant. The units were totally unsuitable for Cornish branches, the frames and 4-wheel arrangement gave miserable riding and resulted in strain on the frame and considerable wear on the wheel-sets, which resulted in them being returned to the workshops for wheel-turning and re-profiling over what were very, very short periods. He could not wait for the day that a proper works built unit replaced it and he never had to see “the bus replacement” again. (That is not an exact quote).
A short while later we all (driver, guard, myself and the odd punter) got into “the bus replacement” and ground, bumped and squealed back to Newquay over the declining branch. They say “never go back”, sometimes they are right; but I shall keep my memories of a wonderful steam powered railway and its very unique sounds and sights.
Just as matter of interest and to round the story off, my driver got his wish and some months later the Class 42s were removed from his “ken” (I slip into the Scot’s vernacular) and were replaced by single car bogied units. I have little doubt that this gave him considerable joy, but feel sorry for the fellow employee and travellers who played “swapsies”.