Real steam days: 50 YEARS ON – The final week of BR steam


BR main line steam ended on Sunday, August 4, 1968. In an exclusive feature Trevor Gregg remembers the final week of steam operations and the specials that marked their end.

On Saturday, July 27, 1968 I set off from my home in Blyth with mixed emotions. I was looking forward to the week’s holiday chasing after the last BR steam operations, but it was sad to think this would essentially be the end of my hobby. Steam engines had been part of my life for as long as I could remember.

The author stands in front of BR Standard Britannia Pacific No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell at Lostock Hall shed on July 27, 1967.

My earliest memories were of watching the NER G4 0-4-4Ts working the passenger services between Blyth and Newsham. This developed into trainspotting with weekends and school holidays spent at Newcastle Central station. Joining my school railway club then brought about organised visits to steam sheds that started my interest in steam locomotive photography.

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Although it was sad, I certainly could not miss seeing and experiencing the last rites of BR steam, so with a fellow steam enthusiast I joined a Newcastle to Manchester train. We arrived at Manchester Victoria to find there were no longer ‘Black Fives’ waiting to provide banking assistance for the climb to Miles Platting. Newton Heath had closed to steam on June 30 and now BR Type 2 diesel D7595 was standing ready to undertake the role. We changed onto a train for Preston, which was to be our base for the week.

LMS 8F 2-8-0 No. 48665 drifts downhill past Great Harwood signalbox with a coal empties on July 29, 1968.

Arriving at Preston we dropped our suitcases off at our B&B, which was conveniently situated not far from the station and then we were off to Lostock Hall shed. When we arrived at the shed late in the afternoon, we found it was like an open day – there were large numbers of steam enthusiasts wandering around taking numbers and photographs.

Quite a number of steam locomotives were still to be seen. On the scrap lines there were five 8F 2-8-0s, five ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0s and one Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0. Inside the shed were a further four 8Fs, eight ‘Black Fives’ and two Ivatt 4MTs. Standing outside the shed mouth were a further five ‘Black Fives’, two 8Fs and an immaculate BR Standard Britannia Pacific No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell, which had moved down from its home shed of Carnforth in preparation for railtour duties the next day.

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