HISTORY was made on Thursday, May 18, when not one, but two, Bulleid Merchant Navy class 4-6-2s made initial main line test runs on the national network on the same day.
By pure chance, No. 35018 British India Line made its long anticipated appearance and morning departure from Carnforth on its first run since being rebuilt – and later that day the Southern flagship and preservation icon No. 35028 Clan Line made its way out of Crewe following an extended overhaul.
British India Line appeared alongside Carnforth station the day before, in black livery, and as a jest by its owner, West Coast Railway supremo David Smith, carried the nameplate from West Country 4-6-2 No. 34016 Bodmin, which is undergoing overhaul in the adjacent depot.
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Routed by way of Settle Junction to Hellifield working engine and coach, No. 35018 returned to Carnforth by the same route.
Back at Carnforth the 4-6-2 was checked over before being prepared for as yet undated formal light and loaded proving runs. It was understood that no firm bookings for its debut trip in passenger service or any others had yet been made, in accordance with West Coast’s long-standing policy of not promising to deliver the final product before it is ready. What amounts to a new engine is to be carefully run in before it is released for passenger hauling duties.
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