50 years ago, the last regular expresses hauled by pre-Nationalisation express steam engines ended; the LMS Jubilee’s last regular turns being on the Settle & Carlisle line. It was 13 years before the line saw the return of a Jubilee… but 50 years on from the withdrawal of the last three of the class, this has again become commonplace. Brian Sharpe examines the long and ongoing relationship between Stanier’s express 4-6-0s and England’s most scenic main line.
In July 1967, steam traction ended on the Southern Region and it would only be a further 13 months before the total elimination of steam on BR.
Although there were still steam-hauled express trains in the North West after the summer of 1967, the regular ones were mainly the ‘Belfast Boat Express’ and short Blackpool/Liverpool/Manchester portions of expresses from Euston or Glasgow. Traction was usually provided by LMS ‘Black Five’ mixed traffic 4-6-0s, with even the remaining BR Standard Britannia Pacifics seeing little express action.
The last of the true ‘Big Four’ express steam engines on the London Midland Region, Stanier Jubilee 4-6-0 No. 45627 Sierra Leone, had been withdrawn from Liverpool’s Bank Hall shed in September 1966, but fortunately some of the class survived at Eastern Region sheds in the West Riding; the ER having merged with the NER in September 1967. There appeared to be a genuine desire to keep the West Riding Jubilees going and to use them on express workings if at all possible.
Stanier’s 191-strong 5XP express 4-6-0s, painted maroon, became known initially as ‘Red Fives’. Henry Fowler’s parallel-boilered Patriot 4-6-0s were still being built when the new 5XPs were introduced in 1934, but the last five were built with Stanier’s taper boiler and so became the first of the new class.
Introduced along with the ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0s and in a bit of a hurry, with 113 going straight into service, they were not a great success and comments from footplate crews included the classic “the black ’uns are alright but the red ’uns won’t steam”. The moderate degree of superheating on the 5XPs was partly to blame but changes to the blastpipe and chimney dimensions helped transform them, although they could still be temperemental.
On April 29, 1935 No. 5552, the first of the class, permanently swapped identities with No. 5642 which had been named Silver Jubilee 10 days earlier in recognition of the Silver Jubilee of King George V on May 6, but it was the decision to swap identities with No. 5552 so that Silver Jubilee became the first engine, carrying unlined black livery with chrome embellishments, that led to the familiar Jubilee class name.
Read more in Issue 232 of Heritage Railway – on sale now!