A Co-Bo Cab Ride!

This is Geoffrey Freeman Allen's report of his cab ride on the 'Condor' just after the service was premièred in 1959. This report first appeared in Rail Enthusiast magazine's September 1982 edition....

I "cabbed" a Co-Bo through the night from Carlisle to Hendon on the 'Condor' - an absorbing enough experience, but not one that I hanker to repeat. At the start, I don't think I was ever going to make the cab of the lead Co-Bo. My accompanying inspector had bidden me stow my gear in the rear unit, D5708, and since only two minutes were allowed at Carlisle for the crew change there was no time after that to walk along the platform to the front unit, D5704, before 'Condor, was whistled away. The journey had to be made through the engine compartments and the inter-locomotive vestibule.

Threading through the slender walkway past the nerve shredding din of two Crossley engines full open was agony enough, but I all but stuck, Keystone Cops-comedy style, in the stunted gangway between the two units, below the cab windows. One of its doors would not fully open. It took about half a dozen tries, attacking it with my front, hips and bottom to get my bulk past it.

My recollections fo the trip are chiefly of an admirably soundproofed cab, of a generous schedule which left the Co-Bos at least three-quarters of an hour grace - we were on time into Hendon, despite several tedious signal checks and without exceeding 66mph (on the descent from Sharnbrook) - and of the wonderful prospect of wild and moonlit Dentdale, in the topmost reaches of the Settle-Carlisle line, locked in by mountains and mysteriously lovely on a perfect night. Even the Carlisle Kingmoor enginemen with me, who must have known the panorama as well as their own domestic bakyards, and seen it in all weathers, waxed quite lyrical.

Throughout the night, the Co-Bo rode like a carriage, but I noticed a decided stress in the underlying rhythm every time one of the wheel sets in the two axle bogie hit a rail joint. It sounded like a confirmation of rumours that misjudged weight distribution over the Bo bogie was limiting the Metro-Vicks' route availability. The Kingmoor men, though, were delighted with their new charges.

"With a Black Five," the driver remarked as we forged past Ais Gill summit with four minutes in hand on the train's 81 minute's allowance for the 48.4 mile climb up from near sea-level at Carlisle to 1,169 ft up, "I've often taken half an hour more. Had a pair of these Co-Bos on a 578 ton sleeper from Carlisle to Glasgow the other night and we walked it over Beattock."