A year around the end of steam
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Steam finished in 1968. Of course it's still around - there are dozens of preservation sites in the UK operating steam locomotives now, and there can be few days in the year when there aren't several in steam. But real, grimy, everyday, part- of-the-landscape steam finished in 1968. The withdrawals had progressed through the 60s until, by late 1967, only the north-west retained steam. I was still at school then, lacking the means to travel very far
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
- most of my "spotting" was done on day trips to York, or Northallerton where ex-LNER steam could still be seen at full speed in the early 60s. In 1967, I was given a camera - a Kodak "Instamatic", taking square pictures on 126 cassette film. But film was very, very expensive, in real terms, and the camera was rudimentary to say the least.... Consequently, though I managed to see lots of real steam, very little was successfully recorded on film. The pictures which follow are some of those early efforts.
September 1967 - October 1968
A "Black 5" on a northbound freight, Scout Green A steamy assortment at Carnforth No 9 at Devils Bridge A green 37 heads south, Pilmoor A southbound freight hauled by a green 47, Pilmoor 41241 at Keighley, ready to depart with the reopening train 41241 at Oxenhope with the reopening train 42085 and 61306, stored for preservation, Carnforth 45017 and 45231 beside the coaling tower, Carnforth 3205 and 46443, Bridgnorth View from a cab, Barry Barry - a view of the scrap lines Bridgnorth, July 1968 In the cab of a Brittania D6794 heads north, Pilmoor Deltic-hauled "Tees-Tyne Pullman", Pilmoor Dolgoch at Abergynolwyn Douglas at Towyn Wharf The Earl runs round his train, Castle Caereinion Earl of Merioneth departs Dduallt The Brittania Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straights The reopening special departs Keighley
A "Black 5" slogs up the 1 in 75 of Shap, at Scout Green, September 1967 The offer of a day out on Shap was gratefully accepted. We started with half an hour on the bank itself, at Scout Green, then spent the rest of the day at Tebay, where there was still a station and engine shed, home of the bankers. Britannia Cab, Manchester Victoria, December 1967 I spent a happy Saturday at Victoria, where there was still lots of steam - but cloudy days in December are not really ideal for fixed exposure Instamatics, so this was the only useable (!) picture...
Timetable trials, Oxenhope, 21 April 1968 The Keighley and Worth Valley reopened later that year - here are AB2226 of 1946 and P1999 of 1941. The use of small industrial locos was not successful - I think nearly all their axleboxes ran hot that day...
Pilmoor - diesel interlude, May 1968 Pilmoor is on the east coast main line, between York and Thirsk, and was an hour's easy cycle for me, across the plain of York. The four track route was always busy, though steam had gone when I took these pictures The Tees-Tyne Pullman was regularly Deltic-hauled, and like most trains hauled by those fine locomotives, could first be sensed, then heard as that throbbing whine approached. They were usually going flat out here.
Keighley and Worth Valley - Reopening - 29 June 1968 Steam had still a few weeks to go when the line reopened - but on this day, I seem to recollect, these were the only steamers in action for miles around - there was a national rail strike! The train was hauled by LMS-designed 2-6-2T no 41241, and USA tank no 30072. The pair are seen at Keighley, before departure, then from the train as it pulled away, and lastly at Oxenhope, shortly after arrival
Bridgnorth, July 1968 This was part of a rail-related trip to North Wales. Unlike the Worth Valley, there was still a bit further to go here. Bridgnorth has changed a bit over the years...
Welsh Narrow Gauge, July 1968 From Bridgnorth, we headed west, to visit, over the course of two or three days, the "Great Little Trains" We started with the Welshpool & Llanfair, where "The Earl" is seen at Castle Caereinion, then headed for the coast to have a look at the Vale of Rheidol. No 9 "Prince of Wales" is seen in the BR blue livery which looked so inappropriate on these fine little locos.
Next on the itinerary was Towyn for the Talyllyn Railway. As with the others, we took a ride. "Dolgoch" is seen at Abergynolwyn having hauled us up the valley, and "Douglas" is seen at Towyn Wharf, ready to depart with another train. Earl of Merioneth runs round at DdualltThe last line on which we travelled was the Festiniog. At this time, the line was only open as far as Dduallt, where we spent a little while looking at the work in hand on the spiral for the deviation. Earl of Merioneth is seen running round its train, then leaving Dduallt - we would travel back down on a later train.
Menai Bridge Taken from the Anglesey shore, it seemed a good idea to take a picture - and what a good idea it turned out to be, in view of later events. It looks nothing like this today.
Carnforth The last port of call on the way home from our North Wales trip. It wasn't exactly on the route, but it would be our last look at a real steam shed. These were the last days of steam, and the relatively good appearance of the locomotives is indicative of the huge number of railtours which ran in those last weeks. 45017 and 45231 (now preserved) are seen by the coaling tower, while several more locomotives are seen, in the company of a class 40 diesel. Also "snapped" were 42085 and 61306, in storage for preservation. A couple of weeks later, on 3rd August, the last steam-hauled normal service trains ran. The following day there were no fewer than six specials, hauled by some of the remaining Black 5s, an 8F and Britannia 70013 "Oliver Cromwell". A week later, on 11th August, the 15 Guinea Special ran, organised by BR. This was to be the very end (or so we thought at the time). I persuaded my father to take me to Hellifield, where we were able to see Oliver Cromwell arrive with the special. Soon the train was away again, heading for Carlisle, and as that sharp exhaust echoed away into the distance, I felt unbearably sad. Things would never be the same again.
Barry, October 1968 Steam had finished. Well, on the main lines anyway - there was still a fair amount of industrial steam around. This was a trip, with a few friends, to the South Wales coalfield. We saw lots of colliery steam, including the famed banana van train at Talywain, but like the Manchester pictures, very little "came out". A couple that did come out were these taken at Barry scrapyard, when the stock was at its peak. The pictures make a fitting end to this page, although we all know the eventual outcome, and of course many of the locomotives pictured here are once again earning their keep in preservation.
Footnote: Regular visitors may have noticed that, within the rail pages generally, where main line traction is concerned, locomotives are frequently unidentified (if the number isn't visible in the photo, then I don't know what it was). The reason is simple. After no 70013 pulled away from Hellifield, I put away my notebooks. At the age of 15, I’d come to the conclusion that collecting numbers was a futile occupation (please forgive me!), and after steam, there seemed to be no point. I never "spotted" another number.
Earl of Merioneth runs round at Dduallt Timetable trials, KWVR, Oxenhope