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Your Yuletide puzzle for 2017 is the train in the above picture. The negative arrived with only these words on the sleeve "2479 Rugby 1-8-37".

There is a lot of content here and the basic questions are to identify:

1 - Season and day of the week.

2 - Direction of travel and possible destination.

3 - The NPCS (2 vehicles).

4 - The passenger stock (there's at least eleven - as many as you can: not all are possible but there are some significant types and groupings.

5 - The loco is a passenger tank and it's carrying a reporting number, presumably for an excursion, and Ordinary Passenger lights. What is likely to have been happening here?

Answers on New Year's Eve, 31st December, with commendations as appropriate. Good luck, it's quite a tough one! If you'd like to submit your thoughts please use Contact/feedback via either of the menus or Contact/feedback.

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Possible solutions

Not many suggestions came thundering into my in-box, but good progress was made after Philip Millard recognised the precise location, and thus allowed examination of the local track plan and the likely routes onwards. So, starting with the questions outlined above:

1 - 1st August 1937 was a high summer Sunday (so popular for a day out that many years later it would become a Bank Holiday). The sun angle indicates just before noon.

2 - The train is leaving Rugby and heading west.

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This is the layout after Rugby No.7 signal box was moved from the north to the south side of the running lines in 1936. The train is on the third track up from the bottom of the plan and the signals indicate that the route being taken is towards Leamington Spa.

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3 - The NPCS comprises a pair of CCTs (covered carriage trucks), often used as general vans. Leading is an LMS 6w covered combination truck, and behind it, an ex-NER bogie CCT.

4 - The passenger carriages divide into two parts.:

Leading are four modern P.III Staniers - (BT, CK, TK, TK) and they are carrying destination boards which have been reversed.

Nearly all the visible stock behind this modern quartet is older and includes various LMS P.I carriages and what appears to be an ex-MR Bain arc-roof carriage.

5 - What was happening?

Combining the above, and that a modern LMS 2-6-4T was perfectly capable of managing a load like this over a modest distance - or was to hand over to a tender loco - my feeling is that the picture shows a Sunday half-day excursion which may have started from Rugby, or the nearest station beyond it, and was stopping at nearby stations to pick-up for a chartered excursion, a works outing, for example. The leading quartet look as if they have been parted from a weekdays main line express (and would be reunited in time for Monday) and not only offer the best accommodation in the train but 1st class seats as well. Could they have been for the leading lights in the party, the senior staff or managers?

Once the pick-ups were completed, possibly only at Rugby and a local station on either side - this was a Sunday, after all - the train could have proceeded to its destination as an Express. But where, exactly? Leamington Spa was a possibility, but what about the next town in this direction: Stratford-upon-Avon? The distance of around 25 miles would have taken around an hour, leaving everybody plenty of time on a fine sunny day to see the sights, go boating on the river, have a cream tea, and return happily in the evening.

All of which brings us back to the CCTs. It's possible that some of the well-heeled staff might have decided to take their cars for the day, or perhaps they were loaded with beer for the day, the LMS using any spare vans to hand? We have no way of knowing.

If anybody can add to these notes and thoughts, it would be good to hear from you. :)

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