70000 Britannia

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This engine was completed at Crewe works in January 1951 at a cost of £20,325.

Britannia did not reach the high mileages of many of its classmates on the Great Eastern down to being selected as the regular engine for The Hook Continental, a Boat Train from London to Harwich Parkeston Quay to connect with the ferry for the Hook of Holland. It accumulated 57,500 miles during 1954, which is about the highest for 70000, but is way below the mileage accrued by the majority of Britannias on Great Eastern metals. Britannia was a regular visitor to Doncaster Works for repairs, whilst it was also shopped at Crewe Works four times and visited Stratford Works on about three occasions, one of which was for repairs to its mainframe.

70000 Britannia made its first appeared in January 1951, although it was painted black, and was seen to be unnamed for the first four weeks of its career. It was trialed between Crewe and Carlisle to begin with, and re-entered Crewe Works for its final paint finish of Brunswick Green, lined out with Orange and Black in which livery it was named at Marylebone Station, in London on 30th January 1951 by the Minister of Transport.

Early in 1952, 70000 attained the title of Royal Train Engine, and for this reason its cab roof was painted white, and as such Britannia was seen at Brookman’s Park, hauling the funeral train of King George Sixth, from Kings Lynn to Kings Cross dated 11th February 1952 (the train journey began at Sandringham). In September 1953, Britannia was a display engine at Doncaster Works Open Day.

During 1951 and 1952 Britannia often hauled The Norfolkman or The East Anglian expresses between London and Norwich. Soon after this 70000 became the regular engine for The Hook Continental connecting London to the Netherlands. As a result 70000 was usually stabled out at Parkeston rather than its home base of Stratford.

In 1958 the Essex Coast Express was inaugurated; the new service was advertised as ‘to London by Britannia’, travelling between Clacton and Liverpool Street with only two stops on the way, at Thorpe-le-Soken and Colchester. The engine chosen was 70000 Britannia, and it was polished to a fault, and Stratford MPD applied the new BR emblem to the tender, because there was to be fanfares and fancy girls at the initial send off, dated June 1958.

By September 1958 70000 was seen at Sheffield in a very grubby state, having taken over from an electric locomotive, on a Liverpool Central to Harwich boat train. This was a new diagram for Stratford, involving freight to Parkeston, train to Sheffield, and returning the same way.

In September 1961 70000 went into Doncaster Works and had the boiler replaced as well as some other work undertaken.

BR motive power depot allocations.

Date ArrivedDepot
January 1951Stratford
January 1959Norwich Thorpe
September 1961March
March 1963Willesden
May 1963Crewe North
May 1965Crewe South
March 1966Newton Heath

Withdrawn from service May 1966.

Initially it was planned that Britannia would form part of the National Collection but in the event the National Railway Museum chose to preserve 70013 Oliver Cromwell instead.

The reason for this is said to be that Britannia was not chosen due to its prototype design and construction differences from other members of the class that some people considered would have made its preservation more complicated. Another reason put forward is that Britannia was in a poor mechanical condition.

Following withdrawn the locomotive was stored – firstly at Stratford, then Preston Park  Pullman Car Works at Brighton and then Redhill. During this time the East Anglian Locomotive Preservation Society was formed and bought 70000 in 1970.

After this it was moved to the Severn Valley Railway in April 1971 where it was eventually returned to steam in the May 1978 and renamed Britannia by MR R A Riddles, the locomotives’s designer. It completed 250 miles on the Severn Valley Railway in that year and a further 80 the following year before it left to go to the Nene Valley Railway. It has been suggested that Britannia was not suitable for use on the Severn Valley Railway as it was too heavy with an axle load of 20 tons.

Whilst at the Nene Valley Railway it was fitted with an air-brake equipment which the locomotive still has.

In the late 80’s she was moved to Steamtown in Carnforth for an overhaul to mainline condition.

After a few years of running, it was fully overhauled at Carnforth and returned to main line running in July 1991 some 25 after hauling its previous train on the main line. It continued to operate on the main line until 1997 when boiler problems forced her withdrawal from service.

With an expired mainline boiler certificate, due to the high cost of refurbishment, the locomotive was sold to the Waterman Railway Heritage Trust in 2000, with the hope of returning it to steam at the workshops at Crewe Heritage Centre.

In need of extensive repairs the engine was sold to the Waterman Railway Heritage Trust in 2000, with the hope of returning it to steam.

The repairs proved too costly and in 2006 Britannia was again sold, this time to Jeremy Hosking. In 2009 it became part of the Royal Scot Locomotive and General Trust (RSL&GT).

An overhaul of Britannia commenced that same year and took over three years to complete.

This overhaul involved fitting a newly refurbished cab, a new smoke box and major work on the boiler; replacement steel sides, new crown stays, new front section barrel section, new steel and copper tubeplate, repairs and patches to door plate and major work to copper firebox.

As a result of changes in the standards for locomotives on Network Rail changing dramatically in addition to a complete overhaul of the boiler and ‘bottom-end’ of the locomotive Britannia had to be fitted with TPWS and OTMR safety systems to supplement the original BR Automatic Warning System.

Britannia made its return to steam in late 2010 when it hauled an excursion in April 2011 from Oxford to Canterbury.

After its running in period, the Pacific was repainted in BR Brunswick Green, and on January 24th 2012, with a temporary white cab roof, it hauled the Royal Train with Prince Charles who re-dedicated the engine at Wakefield Kirkgate.

After just three years back in service, Britannia was involved in a collision at the North Norfolk Railway in March 2013. While running through a station in foggy weather it shunted into BR Standard 2MT 78019, causing significant damage to its front buffer beam. This was compounded weeks later with revelations that some of the copper boiler stays used in Britannia – and many other engines – might not have been of the correct standard.

Britannia re-entered traffic in the Autumn of 2013, working a number of trains before being withdrawn from service again with flats spots on some of her steel tyres. In March 2014 it returned to the mainline but it was found that one of Britannia’s leading driving wheels had slipped on its axle, causing significant vibrations throughout the locomotive.

The complex nature of the repair work necessitated a prolonged period out of service whilst parts were prepared and paperwork percolated through the system.

The engine returned to service in April 2015 when it worked the first two legs of the Great Britain railtour from London to Plymouth and back to Bristol.

In 2017 it was identified that the tender axlebox bearings needed to be replaced. The engine has been out of service for a while after axlebox problems in 2015.

Work on the locomotive at LNWR Crewe slowed in the latter part of 2017 because of problems with the driving wheels and the boggie cannon boxes. It was thought there might be some cracking but this turned out not to be the case and it was anticipated that reassembling the engine would commence by the end of 2017.

It was anticipated that Britannia will be running again on the main line in 2018 and by the middle of that year reassembly of the bottom end was hopeful thought to be completed by the end of August. Towards the end of July 2018 the repaired wheelsets were fitted to the locomotive.

In August 2018 the locomotive passed its annual boiler inspection before undertaking running in trials. In October 2018 it underwent a light and then a loaded test run before hauling a railtour in early December.

The boiler certificate expired on the 1st September 2020. It was is planned that the locomotive would go straight into the works at Crewe.

By November 2021 the overhaul had progressed to the state where the boiler could be lifted back on the rolling chassis following successful hydraulic and steam testing.

The locomotive returned to steam at Crewe in January before going to the Severn Valley Railway. The locomotive then undertook light and loaded runs on the Severn Valley Railway before returning to Crewe and undertaking a test run on the main line in February

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
CreweOperational Royal Scot Locomotive & General Trust.
Operates on behalf of the Royal Scot Trust on the main line and preserved railways by Icons Of Steam.
70000 Britannia at Liverpool street Station along with class J69 68619 which was the station pilot – circa 1961
70000 Britannia at York after arriving with a train from Great Yarmouth – September 1961
70000 Britannia at Crewe – July 1964
70000 Britannia running light engine at Rochdale East Junction – May 1966
70000 Britannia at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway – 1971
70000 Britannia leaving Mythomes Tunnel on the KWVR – April 1997
70000 Britannia at Warrington Bank Quay on a test run from Crewe – November 2010
70000 Britannia at Salisbury on The Cathedrals Express from Southend on Sea to Salisbury – September 2011
70000 Britannia at Llangollen – April 2012
70000 Britannia passes West Brompton station heading the Victoria to Exeter leg of The Great Britain – April 2015
70000 Britannia at Newton Abbot – May 2015
70000 Britannia at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway – September 2015
70000 Britannia at Highley on the Severn Valley Railway – September 2015
70000 Britannia at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway – September 2018
70000 Britannia near Howe & Co sidings near Cumwhinton on the Settle – Carlisle line – July 2020
70000 Britannia hauling the Fellsman from Crewe to Carlisle at Ribblehead – July 2020
70000 Britannia at Kingswear on the Dartmouth Steam Railway – August 2022

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