The first weekend in August saw the Severn Valley and Great Central railways remember in style and atmosphere the final weekend of timetabled BR steam exactly 50 years before, writes Robin Jones.
Sunday, August 4, 1968 was the day when ‘normal’ timetabled British Rail main line steam ended. That day saw just two engines with a full head of steam at Rose Grove.
Immaculately turned-out No. 48773 was all set for the Blackburn-Hellifield-Carnforth leg of the Locomotive Club of Great Britain’s ‘Farewell to Steam Railtour’. A grimy No. 48519 was kept in steam as standby.
As it turned out, No. 48519 became the last steam locomotive to leave Rose Grove, replacing a Class 08 diesel shunter on a permanent way working, in order to let its large fire burn out.
No. 48773 was the last steam locomotive to arrive on shed that evening, when it came back from Carnforth via Preston light engine. It was also the only one of the final steam allocation to Rose Grove to have a new life in preservation.
Rose Grove 8F No. 48493 was kept in steam at Lostock Hall until the following morning, when around 9am it shunted ballast wagons. This humble shift comprised the final non-passenger steam working on the British Rail standard gauge network.
However, that working was missed by the army of enthusiasts who were following the various Farewell to Steam specials that day.
The Locomotive Club of Great Britain had organised its own railtour – 1Z74 – from St Pancras to Carnforth, with a complicated route north of Manchester, via Bolton, Blackburn and Hellifield to Carnforth. From Manchester to Blackburn, it was headed by Oliver Cromwell and No. 44781 double-headed.
However, because of the loss of paths caused by engineering works, No. 70013, heading 1Z74, was running late by three-and-a-half hours, and was very low on water by the time that Stockport was reached, and it was 2am on the supposedly steamless Monday the train arrived back in London four hours behind schedule.
Read more and view more images in Issue 245 of HR – on sale now!Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.