Why can’t City of Birmingham be returned to steam?


Over the many years you have done some excellent interviews with the management of the National Railway Museum but I can never remember an interview with the custodians of the Duchess No. 46235 City Of Birmingham (which is in public ownership), asking them why it has to be literally stuffed and mounted for ever.

I do remember in your magazine a statement being made a few years ago that the reason it could not be moved was because of asbestos. Okay, if that is the case, how come two A4s can be moved half way round the planet full of asbestos and no one even blinks?

LMS Coronation Pacific No. 46235 City of Birmingham incarcerated in the city’s Thinktank Museum, where it has been on display since it was moved from the former Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry in 1997. Over the years, its custodians have turned down requests for it to be returned to steam. ROBIN JONES

As a child, I travelled behind a Duchess to Euston before they were banned and it left a lasting impression on a young mind. To look at one of these locos waiting for the off you have to say it’s a beast, exuding power and waiting to do what it was designed to, that is haul heavy loads at speed up a winding and hilly permanent way, on the difficult West Coast line – Scotsman no contest. We will never know that if a Duchess or Princess had been given its head on Stoke Bank then history may have told a different story.

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There seem to be some sort of apathy towards some locos. Princess Margaret Rose seems to have totally disappeared into the never-to-be-heard of again category and then there’s the sad saga of Princess Elizabeth. These deserve the Heritage Railway appeal treatment.

There is a clear and present danger that if not this generation, the next generation of the guardians of heritage rail may come to think that the only heritage railway company worth interest is the LNER, with Flying Scotsman and a locomotive named after a duck. That so-called most-famous engine in the world had done a lot of good in raising the profile of heritage rail but it has come at the cost of others just as worthy if not more-so – it’s a dangerous obsession that not only the public has but also the railway press too it seems.

P J Lawrence, email

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