This locomotive and coach combination is one of the most iconic in the history of western region steam. The autotrain is the last of the visitors to be covered here, of the Watercress Line’s Autumn Spring Steam Gala. Although the last it wasn’t the least for me, although the little tank engine was certainly the smallest!An autotrain uses a push-pull system that allows the regulator, brakes and whistle to be controlled from the carriage, which takes away the need for the locomotive to run around its train when changing direction. This allowed for a quicker turn-around of services and had the added benefit of lower infrastructure costs as there is no need for a passing loop.
The 14xx class (originally numbered as 48xx) were auto-train fitted, unlike their similar cousins, the 58xx class. They were based on Victorian designs but proved to be reliable and good steamers despite their antiquated heritage. They were a lightweight design that numbered 75 in total and four of these have been preserved, including 1450 pictured here. 1450 was built in 1935 and spent a large proportion of its life working at Oxford, although it spent some time working from Slough, Taunton Axminster and Exmouth in BR days and was withdrawn in 1965. It was purchased by the Dart Valley Railway (now the South Devon railway) where it stayed until sold to Mike Little.
Another survivor of the 14xx class is on static display in Tiverton Museum, Devon and was knicknamed the Tivvy Bumper. Number 1442 worked the Exe Valley line and became a local celebrity as a result. I long remembered my grandfather talking about this train and it is for this reason that I was very much looking forward to riding on the autocoach hauled by a classmate.