46201 Princess Elizabeth (LMS 6201 & BR 46201)

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6201 was built in 1933 at Crewe for the sum of £11,675 (£2,465 over the estinate) and named Princess Elizabeth after the 7-year-old elder daughter of Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), Princess Elizabeth (later HM Queen Elizabeth II). It was one of the first two which after trials the boiler was modified with a new 32 element superheater, which dramatically improved the engines.

By 1936 the LMS was keen to present a public image which reflected the very necessary, radical changes and improvements which Stanier had brought about.  This was set against a background of competition with the LNER which, with the advantage of the relatively flat and straight East Coast Route, was able to – and did – run very successful short formation, and thus lightweight, high speed trains.

The operating conditions confronting the LMS were very different, the route was altogether more demanding and the need to operate heavy trains was ever present. Loads of over 600 tons of up to 17 coaches were commonplace and they had to be lifted to the summits of Shap and Beattock en route to Glasgow.

In a direct attempt to steal the limelight from the LNER the LMS elected to go for an Anglo-Scottish record over the West Coast Route which would rival its competitors ‘Six Hour Edinburgh Expresses’.  So it was that the plans were drawn up – clearly success depended on tightly controlled conditions and meticulous planning, and 6201 was selected to make what was, unashamedly, a record breaking attempt.

In November 1936 Princess Elizabeth broke a world record for long distance high speed steam passenger train operation of maintaining an average of 70.15 mph over a distance of 401.4 miles hauling a train of 8 vehicles. This was part of an 800 mile journey over two days from London Euston to Glasgow and back. This record still stands. The significance of the achievement can be gauged fro the fact that the footplate staff were taken from Euston to Broadcasting House and interviewed on the BBC.

This was a major publicity coup for the LMS, as the previous Anglo-Scottish record of six hours had been held by the London and North Eastern Railway’s Flying Scotsman service (not to be confused with the locomotive of the same name, which occasionally pulled this service), which used the East Coast Route, more flat and straight and thus more conducive to fast trains. The Princess Elizabeth’s driver, Tom Clark of Crewe who died in 1954, was rewarded for his achievement with the OBE as well as having two locomotives named after him (47 832 and 90 014). The fireman was Charles Fleet.

Following nationalisation 6201 was renumbered 46201 and re-painted initially into LNWR style BR black then in to Brunswick Green. From new it was painted in LMS crimson lake.

BR motive power depot allocations since 1948.

Date ArrivedDepot
January 1948Crewe North
December 1948Edge Hill
June 1953Crewe North
June 1958Polmadie
March 1961Carlisle Kingmoor
January 1962Carlisle Upperby

With the onset of dieselisation and the delivery of increasing numbers of Type 4 2,000 hp locomotives (later identified as class 40), 46201 was placed in store in March 1961, but was returned to service in May 1961. Diesel failures were legion and the new deliveries were struggling to maintain services.

As more diesels were delivered, in October of the same year 46201 was again placed into storage at Carlisle Kingmoor. However, again in January 1962 46201 was returned to traffic to cover for diesel failures and continued to work until September 1962 where it was once again placed into storage but was finally withdrawn from service by BR in October 1962 having accumulated more than 1.5 million miles whilst in service.

In February 1963, it was bought by Roger Bell of the Princess Elizabeth Locomotive Society for £2,160 and has been in the Society’s ownership ever since. It has been suggested that the price paid, was which was to be the value of the metals in the locomotive less the cost of cutting it up, was the result of a joke by the seller as it is a re-arrangement of the 6201 number carried by the locomotive.

The locomotive travelled from Carlisle to Saltley under its own steam in August 1963. At Saltley the connecting rods were removed and it was towed dead to Ashchurch.

Initially, the preserved locomotive was housed at the headquarters of the Dowty Railway Preservation Society in Ashcurch, Gloucestershire, and later at the Bulmers Railway Society in Hereford. Its first steaming post-preservation came in 1975 at Rail 150 at Shildon, and the following year it made its first main-line tours: it remains a popular locomotive for such tours.

In 1976 46201 moved to the Bulmer Railway Centre at Hereford from where it undertook regular mainline duties. It was later overhauled at Hereford and returned to mainline duties in 1986.

When the Bulmers Centre closed in the 1990s, the locomotive moved to the East Lancashire Railway.

In 1987, it became the first steam locomotive to enter the Crewe Heritage Centre, and also the first steam locomotive to enter the confines of Crewe station since the end of steam on British Rail in the 1960s: later that year, when the Centre opened to the public, the engine was inspected by the Queen herself.

Princess Elizabeth has set a number of firsts:

  • The first steam locomotive to work out of Crewe in 20 years (in a trial in 1988).
  • The first steam locomotive to run on the West Coast Main Line since the abolition of steam on BR.
  • The first Princess Royal to work out of Euston in 41 years (in 2003).
  • The first steam-hauled West Coast Main Line train from Liverpool to Euston since the 1960s (in 2003).
  • The first-ever steam locomotive to work out of the present-day Birmingham New Street station in 2010 (the station was rebuilt in the 1960s, and reopened in 1967 under a steam ban).

In 2009 it became been based at the Crewe Heritage Centre. In that year its main-line boiler ticket was extended to until 2012. In 2010 it was relocated to the Tylseley Locomotive Works as its engineering base.

On 3 June 2012, Princess Elizabeth’s whistle signalled the start of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant while the locomotive was standing on Battersea Railway Bridge.

On 11 July 2012 46201 Princess Elizabeth hauled the Royal Train from Newport to Hereford and again from Worcester to Oxford as part of the Diamond Jubilee Tour. It is only the second time in Preservation that the Queen has been conveyed on a steam-hauled Royal Train on the Mainline (the other was also an LMS engine 6233 Duchess of Sutherland in 2002 where Princess Elizabeth was the stand-by engine).

It is believed that it was the first time that the Queen has travelled behind the locomotive that was named after her and was the longest steam-hauled Royal Train operation for over half a century.

46201 was withdrawn from service in July 2012 for a piston and valve examination at the Tyseley Locomotive Works and was then able to return to service on the main line in November of that year. It was withdrawn for overhaul at the end of December 2012 having completed its longest period of operation in preservation.

46201 returned to steam in June 2015 after a heavy overhaul. After an initial problem with a hot axlebox on the leading bogie Princess Elizabeth returned to the main line in August 2016. This run did not go without incident as the water tanker was stuck in traffic on the M4 motorway so 46201 had to be detached from the train earlier than planned as there was no water available for it at Reading. Shortly afterwards when the locomotive was back at Derby for servicing it was discovered that the water pipe between the tender and locomotive had been torn – possibly when entering the siding at Derby. As a result 46201 was taken back to Butterley for repaires to be carried out before its next main line duties.

In August 2016, Princess Elizabeth hauled its inaugural mainline train of the Steam Dreams’ Cathedrals Express from London Victoria to Minehead on the West Somerset Railway via Ascot, Reading and Newbury and return. Later that month, whilst the locomotive was being serviced at Chaddesden sidings ahead of working a train from Matlock to Kings Cross, it was discovered that the water pipe between the engine and tender had been torn off.

A week later a faulty blower valve prevented the engine from hauling another main line train.

In November 2016 a weeping small boiler tube was discovered during a routine boiler wash-out and inspection. In December the Princess Elizabeth Locomotive Society announced that the locomotive had failed. A more detailed investigation revealed more suspect tubes which resulted in the locomotive being taken out of service.

Replacement tubes were ordered and 46201 returned to the West Shed at the Midland Railway at Butterley.

In early 2017 it was estimated that £100,000 would need to be spent on the locomotive to complete repairs. This is in addition to the £280,000 paid to Tyseley Locomotive Works for the recent overhaul of 46201. The overhaul had taken three years and was only completed in 2015.

The boiler was not lifted off the frames during the Tyseley overhaul but was subsequently certified by the boiler inspector. Following the problems with the locomotive in 2015 and 2016 the same boiler inspector stated that the boiler needed to be lifted from the frames. The newly appointed Chief Engineer responsible for looking after the locomotive produced a list of 25 essential repairs before Princess Elizabeth can run again.

The list includes-

  • Repairs to cracks on all four firebox corners
  • Firebox tubeplate and foundation ring rivet replacement
  • Renewal of outside steam pipe elbows
  • A new smokebox door
  • The replacement of a wasted section of the boiler barrel extension
  • Re-boring of all four valve chests
  • New valve heads
  • Two new piston heads
  • Complete replacement of all 123 small smoketubes
  • New tender tyres

There is also the possibility that all of the superheater flue tubes will need to be replaced.

Whilst the owners of the locomotive decided not to legally challenge the thoroughness of the work done at Tyseley all future work on 46201 will be undertaken at based at the West Shed at Butterley. Tyseley owners, Vintage Trains, have commented that the overhaul had to be completed on limited funds.

It was estimated in May 2017 that it would cost another £100,000 to complete the repairs required in order to enable the locomotive to run again. This amount is a long way in excess of the funds available.

In February 2018 the locomotive was hauled by diesel locomotives (top and tail) to Carnforth where it will be restored to full main line working order by the West Coast Railway Company. This was unexpected as shortly before this agreement had been reached on re-tubing the boiler and other outstanding work to be undertaken under contract at Butterley by the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust (PRCLT). The move to Carnforth followed the announcement that on work on 46201 could be undertaken for at least another seven months because of other commitments including repairing 46233 Duchess of Sutherland.

In early October 2018 the locomotive moved under its own steam again at Carnforth and shortly afterwards it passed its official boiler inspection.

In March 2019 the locomotive returned to the main line when in undertook a light loaded test before undergoing a loaded test run at the end of the month. The following month it returned to main line revenue earning.

In July 2021 the locomotive was found to have a cracked boiler throat plate which prevented it from undertaking some main line duties.

Princess Elizabeth was subsequently withdrawn from main line running for the foreseeable future. This followed a nondestructive examination of the locomotive in August which resulted in a recommendation that all “external coverings and attachments need to be removed, all boiler fittings and attachments should be presented for examination and the superheater header needs to be removed to allow an examination of the top of the front tubeplate to be made before the locomotive can be returned to service”. The boiler is approaching the end of its ten year certificate and it is likely that it will have to be lifted off frames and overhauled before it is given a new ten year certificate.

As of September 2021 there was no timetable for the work to be undertaken at Carnforth.  

In the following month an appeal was launched by the 6201 Princess Elizabeth Society to raise funds to cover the anticipated £165,000 which is the estimated cost of  returning the locomotive to steam again.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
West Shed Butterley/CarnforthAwaiting overhaul6201 Princess Elizabeth Society
46201 Princess Elizabeth on a train of fish vans
46201 Princess Elizabeth heads a fish train on unknown date and location
46201 Princess Elizabeth in store – July 1961
46201 Princess Elizabeth in store at Carlisle Kingmoor – June 1963
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Tyseley – September 1969
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Tyseley – 1970
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Tyseley – June 1971. 6000 King George V was on the rear of the train.
46201 Princess Elizabeth returning from Newport to Hereford – April 1976
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Bulmers Railway Centre – July 1976
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Rainhill as part of the Rocket 150 cavalcade – May 1980
46201 Princess Elizabeth restarts its train on the 1 in 82 climb at Abergavenny – April 1981
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Bulmers Steam Centre – January 1982
46201 Princess Elizabeth emerging from Gledholt Tunnel at Huddersfield – April 1987
46201 Princess Elizabet leaving Craven Arms – October 1987
46201 Princess Elizabeth near Horton in Ribblesdale – July 1991
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Appleby - July 2003.jpg
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Appleby – July 2003
46203 Princess Margaret Rose & 46201 Princess Elizabeth at Crewe – September 2005
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Bury on the East Lancs Railway – January 2007
46201 Princess Elizabeth heads towards Chat Moss – 2009
46201 Princess Elizabeth heads towards Chat Moss – 2009
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Tyseley – June 2010
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Winwick – October 2011
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Winwick – October 2011
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Winwick – November 2011
46201 Princess Elizabeth on Battersea Railway Bridge after being part of Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames – June 2012
46201 Princess Elizabeth passes Sandy with a Kings Cross to Matlock charter – August 2016
46201 Princess Elizabeth at Gloucester Central – October 2016

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