44767 (LMS 4767 & BR 44767)

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4767 was completed on the last day of the LMS, 31 December 1947 at Crewe Works. It was unique amongst the 842-strong class in that it featured outside Stephenson link motion in addition to other experimental features; a double chimney, Timken roller bearings throughout and electric lighting. The locomotive cost £13,278 to build which was double the cost of the early Crewe built engines.

This experimental set of outside Stephenson valve gear was developed with two fly cranks rather than eccentrics to give a maximum travel of about 6½in, the same as the piston valves in the Walschaerts gear engines. The cost in drawing office time and manufacture of the components must have been considerable for a one off and on the eve of nationalisation of the railways in 1948. To put this into context, the last main line locomotive previously to 4767 to have outside Stephenson valve gear in Britain are believed to be the William Dean’s single drivers of the Great Western Railway in 1884.

This locomotive, when new was turned out in LMS livery and numbered 4767 and fitted with a double chimney. Problems with drifting smoke from the double chimney saw it replaced with the normal single variety in 1952.

4767 was renumbered 44767 by British Railways after nationalisation in 1948.

BR motive power depot allocations since 1948.

Date ArrivedDepot
January 1948Crewe North
February 1950Bank Hall
March 1962Southport
November 1964Carlisle Kingmoor

Carlisle Kingmoor closed on 30 December 1967 and a day later 44767 was finally withdrawn, exactly 20 years to the day from when it entered service. It would have certainly gone for scrap had it not been for the intervention of the late Dr Beet, who set up Carnforth Museum and who tried to find buyers for potential good engines to preserve.

44767 was initially sold to Buttigegs scrapyard in Newport and it is thought that the plan was to cut the locomotive up at Kingmoor rather than transport it to Newport. The tender was cut up before another buyer could be identified.

A new buyer was desperately needed to save this unique locomotive and Dr Beet he turned to someone who already had black five 45428 and part ownership of LNER K1 2-6-0 62005 and A2 60532 Blue Peter. This was the late Brian Hollingsworth, who purchased 44767 for £2,100 from the British Railway Board, who must have compensated the scrap dealer who had recently bought it. 44767 did of course not have a tender but fortunately one of those with roller bearings from the batch of 30 engines had been attached to another class member, 44950, which was withdrawn from service and sold to Drapers of Hull. This tender was somehow attached to a freight train from Hull to Carlisle, coupled to the locomotive, then the whole engine towed dead over Shap to Carnforth.

At Carnforth, restoration of 44767 commenced but progress was slow. By 1971 the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Preservation Society required more large engines prior to the opening of the line in 1973.

In 1972 it was planned to have 44767 commercially restored at Hunslet in Leeds (the last UK steam builder) or Doncaster but because the contractual arrangements could not be set up quickly, there was not enough time to do the restoration and have 44767 perform on the opening day so the locomotive remained at Carnforth.

At the same time in 1972, great plans were being made in the North East by the local councils to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1975 by having a cavalcade of steam locomotives.

The North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG) agreed to restore 44767 to full working order at Thornaby in only 12 months and so the engine was moved from Carnforth to Thornaby in August 1974.

Working against the clock in Thornaby roundhouse, progress was good, with the cost of materials being met by the owner but in 1975 44767 was sold for £7,000 to Ian Storey who was then the chairman of the NELPG.

Progress was so good that within just nine months, the engine was steamed for the first time in preservation by NELPG volunteers at Thornaby in March 1975 and by August, right on schedule, the engine was fully repainted in its original LMS livery as 4767.

At the Shildon exhibition 1n August 1975 44767 was named George Stephenson and the locomotive took part in the cavalcade at the end of that month as planned.

George Stephenson then began its life in preservation and with its owner involved with the locomotive and running a successful engineering company, Ian Storey Engineering, at Hepscott, near Morpeth. Its home base was the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which at that time had no covered accommodation for 44767.

The first of many main line runs, The Scarborough Flyer, occurred in 1976 when it ran between Newcastle and Stockton and 9F 2-10-0 No 92220 Evening Star between York and Scarborough. This was to be the first of dozens of railtours by this engine that has seen it travel throughout the north, along the Blyth and Tyne, Newcastle to Carlisle, the Settle & Carlisle, but also further afield to places such as Swansea, Fishguard, London St Pancras, Cleethorpes, London Waterloo, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ayr, Perth, Inverness and Helmsdale.

It also made a considerable contribution to the success of the Fort William to Mallaig service, running seven seasons between 1984 and 1998.

Following the 1975 Thornaby overhaul, it was re-tubed by NELPG members at Grosmont in 1980, followed by general overhauls at Hepscott 1989 to 1991 and 2003 to 2009. After the overhaul completed in late 2009 44767 returned to steam at Morpeth before moving to the Great Central Railway for running in and painting.

The 46-year-old copper firebox fitted in 1964 required little work. Hydraulic and steam tests were carried out between October and December 2009, then the locomotive moved to the Great Central Railway, where it made its first run on 14 January 2010.

Between May and September 2010, 44767 was in use at the North Norfolk Railway, before visiting the West Somerset Railway for their Autumn Gala. It then spent the winter of 2010 at the Churnet Valley Railway, before visiting the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for their winter steam gala in February 2011. It has since returned to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for the 2011 season, though it returned again to the Churnet Valley Railway for the 2011 winter season.

In 2014 it ran on the North Norfolk Railway following an overhaul there.

44767 was undergoing overhaul at Butterley but the job which was expected to be quite small has turned out to be much larger. Ian Storey, the owner, has said that the strip down that was being undertaken was the biggest the locomotive has ever had. It was planned that it would return to the North Norfolk Railway when the work, which was expected to cost around £300,000, is completed. There was some doubt about the future of the locomotive towards the end of 2017 as the owner was in discussion with prospective buyers.

In September 2018 it was announced that West Coast Railways had bought the locomotive from Ian Storey. The overhaul of the locomotive is expected to continue at Carnforth.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
West Coast Railways – CarnforthAwaiting overhaulDavid Smith
44767 at Rochdale hauling a Liverpool to Leeds and Bradford express – January 1960
44767 heads north out of Carlisle – August 1965
44767 at Chester shed – September 1965
44767 at Skipton shed – October 1965
44767 passing Carlisle Kingmoor shed – October 1966
44767 leaving Shipley for Bradford Foster Square – July 1967
44767 descending Grayrigg Bank into Oxenhope station – August 1967
44767 backing onto Carlisle Kingmoor shed – November 1967
44767 at Steamtown, Carforth
44767 taking part in the Stockton & Darlington 150th anniversary cavalcade – August 1975
44767 takes on water at Garsdale whilst working the Cumbrian Mountain Express from Carlisle – February 1981
44767 heads south having just reached the top of the climb from Settle – April 1984
44767 George Stephenson at Stirling - April 1985.jpg
44767 George Stephenson at Stirling – April 1985
44767 at Mallaig - June 1986.jpg
44767 at Mallaig – June 1986
44767 at Mallaig – 1997
44767 named George Stephenson at Cheddleton on the Churnet Valley Railway – November 2010
44767 at Weybourne on the North Norfolk Railway – May 2014

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