THE END IS NIGH – A MEMORABLE FINAL TOUR

Several railtours were run to mark the end of normal BR main line steam working on August 4, 1968. Chris Scott, then aged 22, travelled on one of the trains and here is his account of the momentous day, written soon after the event.

SUNDAY, August 4, 1968 dawned grey and gloomy in the mind as well as in meteorological fact. British Rail, as it proudly proclaimed, was running out of steam. The long-awaited and long-dreaded end was nigh.

There were six steam railtours that Sunday, to the last refuges in the far north-west. I was booked with a group from SEERS – the South East Essex Railway Society – on to the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society tour, which promised a grand 560 mile safari from Euston, lasting 13 hours!

LMS 8F 2-8-0 No. 48476 and BR Standard 5MT 4-6-0 No. 73069 wait at Manchester Victoria to head the RCTS ‘End of Steam Commemorative Railtour’ on August 4, 1968.

With four steam classes, various diesels and electrics and a complex route, a memorable day seemed assured. So it was to prove, although not always in the intended manner.

Due to engineering work, the usual lightning run from Euston was a series of checks and delays, starting on Camden bank. Over an hour was lost to Stockport where Brush type 4 diesel D1624 took over from E3183 for the last few miles into Manchester Victoria. That station teemed with spectators eager to feast their eyes on the numerous specials booked through during the day.

The sun may have been shining by now but the feast was really a wake, the ‘Fiteen Guinea Special’ and preservation apart.

As we drew in to Victoria, the engines taking us on were lined up on the centre roads – Stanier 8F 2-8-0 No. 48476 piloting the last Standard 5MT 4-6-0 No. 73069. Both were unusually clean and several miles of film were exposed as they moved off to take over our train. Then, as we awaited departure, an ecstatic cry from the corridor brought everyone to their feet. A resplendent No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell was leading ‘Black Five’ No. 44781 into the station, only a matter of yards away – a real photographic bonus, even if we were due to be hauled by the ‘Brit’ later in the day.

Read more and view more images in Issue 243 of HR – on sale now!

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