There are few more seminal dates etched into the consciousness of UK railway enthusiasts and historians than Sunday, August 11, 1968, when the legendary ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ – immortalised by the headcode 1T57 – marked the end of British Rail steam haulage on the national network. In the first of two special 50th anniversary features on this landmark tour by linesiders who were there, Trevor Gregg continues his story about the demise of main line steam.
I’m sure many steam enthusiasts like myself considered it was Saturday, August 3, 1968, when BR steam operations came to an end.
Yes, there were the five farewell to steam tours the following day, but normal steam operations ended on that Saturday evening when LMS ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 No. 45318 departed Preston with the 9.25pm to Liverpool Exchange.
I had been very surprised when BR announced it would be running a farewell to steam special a week later on Sunday, August 11, particularly when one of those five farewell tours had been a BR organised one.
What was even more surprising was the price of a ticket for this farewell special, an astronomical 15 guineas – equivalent to around £250 today.
The price led to 50 tickets remaining unsold. Guinea prices, in this case £15 15s 0d in 1968
pre-decimal currency were normally used only for luxury items or professional fees, and ticket prices had been inflated because of the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled train over the network.
This price was far in excess of the average weekly wage, and it appeared BR intended to make some money out of its last use of steam traction.
This farewell to steam special, headcode 1T57, the ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’, started at Liverpool and unlike the other farewell tours was not restricted to the Lancashire area.
It instead offered a return journey to Carlisle via the picturesque Settle to Carlisle route. Irrespective of the motives behind BR running this tour, I was certainly not going to miss seeing it. I was still restricted to rail travel, therefore my photographic locations had to be near railway stations, so I decided Carlisle would be my destination.
Read more and view more images in Issue 244 of HR – on sale now!