The Wolverton ARC remembered

Local Freight flows remembered, the “ARC” stone train

Introduced in the early 70’s to convey stone to the then new city of Milton Keynes the bright yellow ARC hoppers were a familiar sight rumbling over Bletchley flyover with Western Region 2 x 37 or a 56 at the helm. The stone (from Tytherington) was unloaded at the old Wolverton CCD (coal concentration depot) South of the US just pass the station.

The ARC “PGA” hoppers used then “state of the art” automatic unloading technology whilst in the early days tipper trucks also used were conventionally unloaded by gravity drops. The flow continued for around 30 years with the last known flows in 1992.

Timetable extract.

May 1975

6M30 0235 Bristol Parkway-Wolverton CCD (0631 at Denbigh Hall) -D1830 timings AIR-COY

6M44 0545 Bristol Parkway-Wolverton CCD (1242 at Denbigh Hall) – D1069 timings

6V20 0918 Wolverton CCD-Bristol Parkway (0930 at Denbigh Hall) -D1830 timings


6V40 1610 Wolverton-Bristol Parkway (1621 at Denbigh Hall) -D1069 timings

This basic two train pattern continued well into the late 80’s by when just the first morning train tended to run. In the early 70’s 6M44/6V40 was formed of standard open MSV tippers before also becoming an “AIR-COY” train using the distinctive yellow ARC hoppers.

Individual workings gen to follow but the more regular performers on the ARC hoppers have been 37 x 2, 47, 47901, 56 and even 59 in its very last few months of operation. The afternoon working when MSV tippers produced many Westerns and 47’s.

Primarily using Bath Road based 37/56 power in the 80’s the ARC also saw 31/45/46/47 substitutions on occasions. More local failures saw heroics by 25’s of which more gen of gutsy small Sulzer ARC performances will follow.

A Leighton ARC connection is that by 1990 with contraction of WR wagon repair shops the ARC rake was, on occasions, after unloading its stone working from Stoke Gifford at Wolverton, diverted to Loughborough ARC for maintenance/stock rotation. Running a loco round in the Bletchley area is not an easy process so the ARC empties were sent down to Tring to run round! Thus Leighton got a regular if not infrequent 56 hauled ARC working.

The ARC stone went down to 3 days a week operation in late 1990 as privitisation cuts dug in and the last ARC workings were, we believe in Summer 92. The stone terminal site remained empty for many years until redeveloped. The track bed of the unloading line remains largely unspoilt to this day. With the planned reopening of the Bletchley-Claydon section for passenger services to Oxford an awful lot of ballast will be needed, fitting if it was dropped from ARC hoppers and a 56 up front!

 “ARC” Phot spot11 nostalgic images 1982-92-Thanks to Mark and Ian for these wonderful photos

Swanbourne, 160882 thanks to Ian Windmill

The early morning peace is shattered by these 2 growling, stone covered beasts with 37130 and 37135 Bletchley bound with the loaded ARC stone for Wolverton CCD

Bletchley Flyover West, 080383 thanks to Ian Windmill

47147 is seen descending Bletchley flyover with Eastbound ARC empties

 Mursley, 130683 thanks to Ian Windmill

Climbing hard in nice country East of Mursley 56046 provides the ARC power

Wolverton CCD siding, 250783 thanks to Mark Beal

37180 Sir Dyfed County of Dyfed (LE) + 37249 (HM) running onto the empties at Wolverton

Bletchley Flyover, 130984 thanks to Ian Windmill

Large logo liveried 56036 ( 1 of 2 large liveried machines at the time) ease off Bletchley flyover with Westbound empties

Thanks to Steve Chapman for this rare image of 31202 and 31259 on the ARC at Wolverton on October 14th 1985

Wolverton CCD siding, 201285 thanks to Mark Beal

A rare view of 50030 “Repulse” unloading at Wolverton, not many 50s worked the ARC

Swanbourne, 151186

I was lucky to catch this rare duo of split box 37117 (ED!) and 37200 on the return ARC empties approaching Swanbourne

Wolverton, 190388 thanks to Mark Beal

47079 named no more, reverses the loaded stone out of Wolverton station

Milton Keynes, 270189 thanks to Mark Beal

New liveries appearing such as Railfreight grey with construction decals on 56032 heading West

Denbigh Hall, 080589

Steve Kesterton’s classic Denbigh Hall view of 56051 on the ARC 080589

Mursley, 180889

Another livery, another grid in 56064 in Mursley Cutting with westbound empties

Wolverton, 170792 thanks to Mark Beal

Into the privitised/GM era although sadly this was one of the last ARC workings of thousands, 59101 reverses the ARC in Wolverton station

More Wolverton “ARC” memories, thanks to Mark Beal

What a view! as new 317 units sit inside the works yard, 37204 + 37176 depart from Wolverton with empties on 30 March 1983. Note 25146 sitting in the centre sidings.

  56037 Richard Trevithick departs Wolverton CCD with ARC empties on 14 April 1983

A grey day sees 45145 SCYLLA heading back to the WR at Milton Keynes with ARC empties on 11 November 1987. Peaks were always rare on the ARC, 451s especially so.

Sample Wolverton ARC -power 1972-1992

1019, 1066

25117, 25206, 25256

31202, 31259

37117, 37127, 37130, 37135, 37142, 37176, 37180, 37182, 37185, 37187, 37200, 37203, 37204, 37208, 37224, 37232, 37234, 37236, 37249, 37270, 37277, 37291, 37293, 37294, 37296, 37299, 37300, 37305,

45001, 45013, 45040, 45074, 45076


46002, 46010

47030, 47031, 47054, 47056, 47063, 47079, 47085, 47091, 47098, 47120, 47145, 47147, 47159, 47249, 47250, 47359, 47446, 47901

50014, 50030, 50041

56001, 56031, 56032, 56033, 56036, 56037, 56039, 56040, 56041, 56042, 56043, 56045, 56046, 56047, 56049, 56050, 56051, 56053, 56064, 56057,

59101, 59104

Local Freight flows remembered, the “ARC” stone train- ARC events

A few ARC events listed here, any more out there?

Class 25s on the ARC!

25206 & 25117 came to the rescue of 56031 on July 19th 1983  after the Class 56 suffered a turbo-charger failure working an ARC stone train at Verney Jct, the Class 25’s taking the working to Wolverton and then the broken Class 56 to Bletchley for examination. The following ARC stone train stopped on the Bletchley flyover, the two Class 37’s were removed, ran forward to Bletchley to pick up 56031, all returning to the WR on an empty working. 25256 arrived to take the loaded train forward to Wolverton, not surprisingly making hard work of the heavy load. – thanks to David Hills Sulzer site

ARC engine on class 1

Heading North on a “Mid” bash early on July 28th 1983 I viewed 56031 on Bletchley flyover on the ARC and 56033 in the stone terminal ready to return West with the empties. A fairly uninteresting day in the Midlands was enlivened by a New St announcement of a 60 late 0740 Penzance-Liverpool due loco failure. Was surprised when 56033 rolled into New St dragging a failed 50050 , obviously having been pinched from the return ARC somewhere in the Bristol/Yate area to rescue the failure. An electric took the train forward from New St and 56033 probably returned home with due haste before the Midland could “borrow” it!

ARC engine on class 1 again!

December 20 and 21st 1983 will long be remembered for 36 hours plus continual dragging using a combination of class 25/31/40/47 power after a serious wires down incident in the Hemel-Bourne End area. The second morning of the drags saw 56041/037 (mag reports vary, may have been both) “borrowed” from the ARC to assist in the Bletchley-Watford-Euston drags of passenger (incl 310 units!) and freight. Our local contact only saw “Inter Citys” with class 56 power through Leighton but just what the ARC power did on December 21st remains a fascinating mystery

ARC engine derailed

Probably been a few on the sometimes lively Bletchley-Oxford trackbed but this one was very visible. On August 14th 1984 37277 managed to derail itself on the siding leading to the ARC terminal blocking the up slow for some hours. The “Tractor” rested at a precarious angle and I wished one of us had photted, rather than just laughed at it, on passing on a “roarer” that same evening!

ARC diversions

Temporary closure of the Oxford-Bletchley route must have led to the ARC traffic being routed via London or perhaps Birmingham but reports are non existent to date. One interesting diversion was personally viewed on a grey November 16th 1990. Presumably to rotate the stone stock for maintenance (Marcroft Works Radstock on the Western had long since closed by then) the STN advised on the empties from Wolverton being diverted to Tring (run round) and then going to Mountsorrell via Bletchley, Bedford and the Midland main line. I half expected it to be a paper move so common with STN gen, but no it happened! 56053 hauling the ARC through Leighton twice that November morning! This then became a regular FO Wolverton – Mountsorrell via Tring and Leighton operation for a year or so

Cab rides and more

The locals out Swanbourne way would always know if the stone had gone up (to Wolverton), aye, woke me up at 0600 as usual was a common reply when we asked them whilst waiting to phot the return empties. Each morning local enthusiasts of all ages would be eager to view and or photograph the ARC as it had a great variety of power and was often rare (to the WCML) South Wales/Bristol based 37s/47s or Western 50s. Sociable drivers would offer cab rides on occasions making a young enthusiasts week!

More ARC phots

Ian Windmill catches 56045 descending the bank between Mursley and Swanbourne with the return ARC empties on 260484

Powering up on the final few miles of its long journey from out West, 56046 passes Milton Keynes on 250583

56046 again! this time heading West through Milton Keynes with the ARC empties on a crisp 230186

A second passing Swanbourne view of the “big pair” 37200 and 37117 heading West, Swanbourne station is in the background, well cared for by the then enthusiast owner

47159 approaches Claydon station with the Wolverton ARC empties, 030387. Thanks to “60A” for the phot

The ARC at Old Linslade! 56053 with Wolverton-Mountsorrel (via Tring(r/r), Leighton, Bletchley, Bedford and MML) on a grey 161190. This was to later become a regular FO operation

Any excuse for a “Wizzo” phot!. 1015 is seen here with stone empties (Yeoman stock) bound for Meldon near Frome on 200476, and to date is the best we can offer for a Wizzo on the Wolverton ARC!

Even more Wolverton “ARC” photos 1982-89

From the “60A” collection with thanks

Claydon Jn, 300381

37224 and 37296 pass the impressive box at Claydon jn with the Wolverton – Stoke Gifford ARC empties

Islip, 240382

Feel that early morning crispness as 47901 takes the Stoke Gifford – Wolverton ARC stone Eastwards

Claydon, 030387

Capturing the rural branch atmosphere, 56036 with 6V11 Wolverton – Stoke Gifford ARC

Kidlington, 071287

No ETH needed on the ARC!, 47535 with Stoke Gifford – Wolverton ARC

Oxford Nth Junction, 300389

56043 with 6V11 Wolverton – Stoke Gifford ARC empties

Interestingly the Bicester-Oxford North section was rebuilt to double track main line is undertaken for new Chiltern – Oxford -High Wycombe – Marylebone services in 2015. By 2021 the Bicester – Bletchley section (including the Flyover) is undertaking a huge rebuild to become a double track main line, be good to see some aggregate traffic return when the line finally opens….

the Wolverton ARC gone but not forgotten

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