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
- 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.
© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011
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.
Brittania 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
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.
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
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
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 Brittania 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
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.