The impact of this prolonged severe weather on the diesel fleet was catastrophic. For those diesels that escaped freeze damage to the power unit/cooling system they were generally relegated to freight diagrams following the failure of their steam heating boilers. In their place ran many of the steam locomotives that had only recently been taken out of service, many of them in a very run-down condition, typical of this was the re-activation of a number of rundown Jubilees from Burton shed to cover shortages on the Midland main line. The disruption was made worse by the length of the severe weather and the closure of lines simply due to the volume of snow. The Class 24's covering the Tring/Bletchley/Northampton services suffered to the extent that less than a handful were available, resulting in a steam revival on these lines. On the lines out of St Pancras availability of the Peaks fell to about 50% caused by frost damage, mechanical failures and boiler failures. The DMU's also suffered failures in service as the air control lines froze up. And steam was not immune from the problems, water and coal supplies froze, the latter also being in short supply in some areas. And into this chaos of fog, snow and ice came the first of the Class 25/1's, D5176 from Darlington during the middle of January.
A visit to North Eastern area sheds on a dull and overcast February 17th found several inches of snow on the ground at Darlington, Tyne Dock, North Blythe and Blaydon. In many cases the depots contained withdrawn steam locomotive, most of which would not see another winter season.
March 5th saw the first frost free night in Britain since December 22nd and would signal the start of a gradual thaw that would end this memorable cold spell. However in many parts of the country snow would remain late into April.
Extremely cold weather in the north east in late December caused a number of diesel failures. To cover the shortages five 9F's were loaned to Heaton from Tyne Dock for two weeks. They were primarily used on goods trains to Tees Yard & York. However on December 21st 92061 reached Millerhill on a special freight from Heaton. And on Christmas Eve 92097 handled empty stock workings between Heaton & Newcastle!
On January 12th there was light snowfall in Eastern England.
There was snow in the Derby area on February 18th, it may have been responsible for the derailment of Jubilee 45579 Punjab at Denby Colliery trap points. The Derby 4 shed breakdown train with 8F 48183 was sent up to rerail the errant locomotive, all the tender wheels were derailed, with the tender leaning over, whilst the locomotive had one pair of wheels on the ground. It continued to snow during the rerailing with the crane required to lift the tender. After examination at Derby 45579 was pronounced OK for further use. (M Peakman)
Easter was accompanied by snow showers on 18th.
Heavy snow fell in November, in parts of Lincolnshire it lay on the ground for at least ten days.
On November 27th the first snow of the winter, several inches at least, fell over the southern Peak District.
On February 10th at Flitwick twelve loaded wagons hauled by D5218 ran into a stationary ?? immediately north of the station. Most of the train was derailed, necessitating the attendance of D7503 and the Cricklewood crane. The lines was cleared by midnight, hindered additionally by a snowfall. The damaged locomotives were removed to Bedford, prior to heading north to Derby Works.
About a week later on February 19th heavy snow in the Glasgow area affected traffic. In particular disruption to the Gourock & Wemyss Bay lines gave passengers a very challenging time. Many ended up having their journey utilise steam traction, a bus, a diesel multiple unit and more steam traction. A landslip near Dunrod signalbox just made everything more complicated. The snow brought down the wires at Georgetown during the morning, buses filled in until the wires were repaired later that day.
A moderate fall of snow occurred on the west side of the Pennines during the first week of April. On April 2nd Class 4 4-6-0 Nos. 75012 & 75015 were on snowplough duty between Skipton & Garsdale. Also on this date passengers on the SLS Lakes & Fells Railtour hauled by 46458 & 46426 enjoyed snow covered countryside and Lakeland Fells as they journeyed between Keswick & Penrith.
There was a good snowfall in the Glasgow area during November.
Heavy snow fell in Dorset on December 9th.
Although this January was a remarkably mild one heavy snowstorms on January 9th & 10th brought considerable chaos to many parts of the country. Particularly hard hit were the London commuters with most of the termini suffering many cancellations due to frozen up equipment. Perhaps because of this it was no surprise to find Holbeck based D5112 at St Pancras on 9th, whilst on 13th D7573 was noted southbound through Newark with the 08.25 Leeds - Kings Cross, albeit with four coaches only! And passengers on rush hour services into Liverpool St were taking an hour to cover the final four miles into the terminus.
Birmingham New Street came to a complete standstill between 6am & 9am with the heavy snowfall and freezing conditions causing many point failures. Numerous local services were cancelled, many used Moor St as did the Paddington services. Tyseley improvised quickly with the fitting of old steam lances to boiler equipped diesels for the purposes of clearing ice and snow from pointwork. Tyseley adapted these lances for at least three Type 2's and later to some Brush Type 4's. Additionally services out of Paddington were still trying to recover from a freight train derailment at Southall on the afternoon of the 8th, which had left only the up relief line open.
In the West Country heavy flooding closed Exeter St David's station, the Barnstaple - Exeter line was closed for several days, trapping the local freight. Also lost to floodwaters was the A39 Bideford Road bridge across the river Torridge. To alleviate this the Bideford - Torrington line was re-opened (previously closed October 1965), using a single car dmu working a shuttle service on the east side of the river to Torrington, from there a bus service shuttled passengers to Bideford.
A major storm caused major problems in the Clyde valley on January 14/15th.
A localised major storm on February 5th brought cold and snowy weather to the West Midland, 37cm of snow fell at Keele whilst Crewe & Birmingham suffered major traffic disruptions, but only forty miles away at Nottingham there was only rain. Snow did eventually reach Central Eastern England and remained at least until February 8th.
During April there was widespread light snow & a blizzard in Scotland on 2nd
Snow fell in the Midlands on May 18th.
During December there was much snow between Christmas & the New Year, including East Anglia sustaining a modest snowfall.
On January 4th the Edinburgh - Carlisle 'Waverley' route was closed. Ironically on this last day 'Grand Tour No. 6' hauled by 1974 with a full complement of passengers traversed the Waverley route en route to Newcastle. From here a trip to Benton & Tynemouth used 250, on return to Newcastle 1974 regained the train for the run back to Edinburgh via the coast route. The last scheduled train, the 1M82 21.55 Edinburgh - St. Pancras, with eight coaches and two sleepers was handled by Class 45, 60. Carlisle was reached over two hours late caused by the boisterous activities of many local people protesting the closure of the route. The Hawick pilot, 8606, was sent ahead light engine to ensure the integrity of the line south of Hawick. A light snow fall had taken place during the day, but the evening saw clearing allowing the sun to set one last time on this run and providing the protesters with a chilly night out.
February 7th brought some intense severe weather to most parts of the country. The low level wind speed record for the month was set at Kirkwall on this date with a speed of 118kn. Blizzard conditions in the London area affected many services, Waterloo was badly impacted, as in many places the gas powered point heater pilot lights were blown out by the gale force winds. Many of the SR's VEP & REP emu's were taken out of service, their already troublesome lighter weight shoe gear suffered badly from the quantities of snow & ice encountered. In Kent the 21.36 Charing Cross - Ramsgate formed of 4-CEP's 7107 & 7201 became well and truly stuck in a drift between Herne Bay & Reculver. The train had left London two hours late becoming stuck just before 3am. In trying to protect the train the guard had trouble in laying the detonators, the snow was so deep. The darkness and depth of the snow prevented rescue by air or road, the neighbouring A2 had accumulated eight foot drifts. Just after 7am E6036 & D6596 reached the stranded train, pulling it and its three crew and seven passengers back to Herne Bay. The last down train of that night, the 23.10 Victoria - Ramsgate with 4-CEP's 7113/31 arrived at Herne Bay at 09.45, just over nine hours late! It remained there for another half hour until snowploughs powered by 6571/91 had finished clearing the route.
The Midlands also bore scars from the blizzards. In the Derby area the point heaters were operational, but the point rodding froze up, throwing the evening commuter services into chaos. Manchester was ill prepared for the storm, suffering many cancellations to both local & long distance services. On the Woodhead route the Manchester - Sheffield electric service encountered delays, diesels taking over a number of the services. East of the Pennines delays occurred and services were amended to fill in the gaps. The 21.50 eight coach York - Aberystwyth mail was surprisingly hauled by 5150, filling in between Leeds & Huddersfield as a local. Hopeless road conditions necessitated the rescue of fifty students from Marsden by a two car dmu.
Scotland appeared to miss the worst of this weather though services from the south were often hours late. Such was the 23.35 (Fri) Euston - Glasgow Central which arrived behind 445 at 13.52, almost seven & half hours late. When another storm hit the Manchester area on the 14th the previous lessons had been well learned with an almost normal service operating.
The 20th produced even worse weather, with the 7.56 Sheffield Victoria - Manchester stuck in a drift for five hours. A similar situation befell the 18.02 New Mills - Sheffield Midland on the Hope Valley route, this dmu becoming stuck at the west end of Cowburn tunnel. The 19.10 Sheffield - New Mills only reached Chinley with the help of two Class 20's taken from Earles Sidings. These machines then rescued the passengers from the stranded 18.02, this dmu not being dug out until the next afternoon! At Diggle the semaphore signalling froze, with hand signalling being resorted to. At the same location the 17.05 ex Liverpool (Newcastle?) with 174 took three attempts to break through the snow drifts. The dmu service on the Penistone branch became superpowered on the 19th when 399 piloted all trains between Clayton West Jcn & Penistone due to the appalling conditions. So bad was the weather that 6922 even after splitting the 27 loaded wagons was unable to depart Skelmanthorpe for Clayton West. The train was abandoned and 6922 set of for Healey Mills only to become a total failure near Brockholes, eventually being pushed into Huddersfield by two local dmu's. That night the Penistone line was kept clear by two snowploughs handled by Healey Mills 37's making four trips over the line.
Coventry was prepared for this blizzard having steam lance equipped 1950 available to free frozen pointwork. It was however not able to handle ice accumulation on the overhead line equipment which did cause some delays. The blizzards had also wreaked havoc in the West Country. Spring tides coupled with the strong winds damaged the WR mainline in the Dawlish area and along the River Exe. Single line working created major headaches, made worse by twenty four hours of snow, which blocked the line between Plymouth & Totnes. To open up an alternative route the authorities sent out 865 with two snowploughs to clear the closed St Budeaux - Bere Alston - Tavistock - Meldon Jcn - Okehampton - Cowley Bridge route. The same trip was made the next day, however the use of these lines as a through route presented difficulties as all signalling & phone equipment had been removed when the line closed in August 1968! All local services were cancelled with the late running expresses filling in as locals. In the London area the blizzards of the 19th created problems too numerous to mention.
Possibly the extreme weather took its toll on Gateshead's paired Class 03's used in the Sunderland area on the South Dock - Silksworth turns. The regular machines were all under repair necessitating the borrowing of a Tyne Dock Class 24. This was quickly missed by the Consett trains, Claytons then being utilized until at least one of the 03 pairs, 2071/74 returned from repair.
Moderate snow fell in the Highlands on February 10th.
The Midlands & north of England were hit by ice storms between March 16-18th, with a modest amount of snow falling.
Christmas Eve found a light snow fall in the Home Counties.
Snowy days in the 1970's
Snowy days in the 1980's
Page added April 15th 2004
Page updated October 12th 2013.
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