Steam on The Main Line – The End of Steam on BR

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Steam on the Main Line – Return of Steam


Modernisation Plan

A report formally known as Modernisation and Re-Equipment of the British Railways, more commonly the Modernisation Plan was published in December 1954 although it is generally referred to as the 1955 plan. It was intended to bring the railway system up to date. The aim was to increase speed, reliability, safety and line capacity, through a series of measures which would make services more attractive to passengers and freight operators, thus recovering traffic that was being lost to the roads. This effectively resulted in the change from steam to diesel and electric traction.

Last Steam Locomotive Built – 92220 Evening Star

92220 was completed at Swindon in March 1960 as the 999th and last steam locomotive built by BR. The locomotive was standard class 9F and was specially turned out in GWR green livery and equipped with a copper capped chimney and given the name Evening Star. It was earmarked for restoration as soon as it was built and is now part of the National Railway Museum collection.

Last Locomotive Overhauled – 70013 Oliver Cromwell

70013 was selected by British Railways to haul a number of special trains throughout 1968. In fact, it was in charge of 16 such trains before it was finally withdrawn from service.

Because of this it had been the last main line engine to receive a repair at Crewe, emerging from the Works on the 2nd February 1967 after a prolonged an expensive overhaul (The overhaul which started in November 1966 was deliberately slowed down to ensure that it was the last locomotive to leave Crewe Works). WD Austerity 2-8-0 90281 did return to Crewe Works on 23rd February to have a faulty regulator valve repaired but 70013 has returned twice to Crewe since being overhauled there. It is interesting to note that of the last fifteen locomotives outshopped from Crewe Works seven were 2-8-0 Austerities, four 4-6-0 Black Fives, two 4-6-2 Britanias (the other was 70014 Iron Duke) and two 2-10-0 standard locomotives. Of the fifteen only two have been preserved – 70013 and Standard 2-10-0 92203.

70013 returned to the works in June 1968 for a paint touch up. The second time it returned was in July 1968 to have its front buffer beam straightened after a rough shunt.

Following 70013’s overhaul at Crewe the locomotive was based at Crewe South depot for a week whilst it was run in on parcel train duties between Crewe and its home base of Carlisle. It then returned to its Carlisle Kingsmoor shed from where, following the withdrawal of the last of its class stablemates, it moved to Carnforth in January 1968. In August it was one of the locomotives which hauled the 15 Guinea Special.

The End of Steam By Region

The timing of the end of steam on the main line was not the same over all of the network as can be seen from the table below. This excludes the narrow gauge locomotives of the Vale of Rheidol Railway.

End of Year




2,228 1,298 6,736 5,098 1,407



2,182 1,241 6,523 4,872 1,536 16,354


2,094 1,186 6,246 4,606 1,678



1,980 1,128 6,054 4,090 1,739



1,800   987 5,479 3,416 1,753



1,628   908 5,155 2,866 1,754



1,485   682 4,513 2,325 1,751



1,126   477 3,567 1,265 1,642



  795   335 3,060   860 1,543



  363   161 2,340   581 1,323



    32   109 1,674   304   881



    66 1,024   111   494


1967   307       2     52


The Same picture can be seen by looking at the closure of steam depots. See table of Steam Motive Power Depots – Post January 1966.

For detailed of the locomotives in service during the last three years of steam see The end of Steam – Tables by Class, Region & Depot


1968 – The Final Year

There were still 307 locomotives operating on the Midland Region at the end of 1967. Of these 151 were Black Fives and 150 Stanier 8F 2-8-0 locomotives. The remaining 6 were Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0 locomotives (43000 class). There were no tank engines anywhere on the network. Of the 151 Black Fives still in existence 47 were withdrawn in August 1968 when steam operation ceased.

The last timetable steam hauled passenger service was the 9:25pm train from Preston to Liverpool on the 3rd August 1968. It was hauled by 45318 which was based at Lostock Hall. The engine was formerly withdrawn from service on the 8th August 1968 and cut up at Drapers in Hull the following year.

The Fifteen Guinea Special

The Fifteen Guinea Special was so named because of the high price for tickets on the railtour (15 guineas = £15 15s 0d in pre-decimal British currency). Ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.

The railtour, on the 11th August 1968, started at Liverpool Lime Street and was hauled by 45110 to Manchester Victoria. 45110 was replaced with 70013 Oliver Cromwell for the run up to Carlisle. For the first part of the return leg 44781 and 44871 double-headed the train back to Manchester Victoria. Re-joining the train at Victoria station, 45110 then worked the remainder of the journey back to Liverpool Lime Street.

45305 was allocated to the original train back in 1968 but failed the night before with a collapsed firebox brick arch and was replaced by 45110.

Of the locomotives involved in hauling the special only 44781 has not been preserved. Although 45305 was unavailable to take part it was subsequently preserved. 44781 was used for filming of the film The Virgin Soldiers at Bartlow in Essex, for which it was derailed and hung at an angle for visual effect. After filming was completed, an enthusiast purchased it, but was unable to find the amount quoted by BR to recover the engine and re-rail it. So 44781 was then sold for scrap to A.King & Sons Ltd, Norwich and cut up on site in 1968.

The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain. The BR steam ban was introduced the day after the railtour, on 12th August 1968. This allowed 70013 Oliver Cromwell to make the journey to Diss where it was to be kept at the Bressingham Steam Museum.

This made the Fifteen Guinea Special the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network (though BR would continue to operate three steam locomotives on the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol line until it was privatised in 1989). The only steam locomotive to which the ban did not apply was Flying Scotsman due to a clause in the contract in when it was purchased from BR in 1963. The Flying Scotsman left to go to America in 1969 leaving the ban complete. The only other known exception took place in July 1969 when three steam locomotives were permitted to run at an open day event on a length of track at Cricklewood depot.



A total of 388 locomotives which had carried British Railways numbers passed to people or organisations who were looking to preserve steam engines. This should not be taken as meaning that all of them were purchased with the intention of restoring them to working order. Some have been used as spares or have donated parts to new build projects.

Of the 388 213 locomotives survived because they were sold by BR to the Woodham Brothers Ltd scrapyard at Barry. A further 38 were taken into the stock of the National Railway Museum (including 46235 City of Birmingham which was donated by BR to the Science Museum at Birmingham).

Of the 3,000 locomotives in service at the end of 1965, 92 avoided being cut up at scrapyards although 32 of them were initially sold by BR for scrap to Barry.  (Barry Story  and full details of Saved from Barry)

A number of classes of locomotive still operating at the end of 1965 are not represented in the locomotives being preserved. These are.

  • 0F 41528-41537    0-4-0T   MR   Deeley
  • 4MT 42300-42424   2-6-4T   LMS   Fowler
  • 4MT 42425-42494 & 42537-42672  2-6-4T  LMS  Stanier 2cyl
  • 0F 47000-47009   0-4-0ST   LMS & BR   Stanier
  • 3F 47200-47259   0-6-0T   MR  Johnson   Jinty
  • J37 64536-64639   0-6-0   NR   Reid
  • 6P5F 72000-72009   4-6-2   BR Standard   Clan
  • 3MT 77000-77019   2-6-0   BR Standard   Class 3
  • 3MT 82000-82044   2-6-2T   BR Standard   Class 3   Tank
  • 8F 90000–90732   2-8-0   MOS (WD)  Austerity

A number of these classes are the subject of new build projects

The 8F Austerity (90000–90732   2-8-0   MOS (WD)  Austerity) numbered 227 at the end of 1965 but none have been preserved. One locomotive built as part of those built for the War Department in 1945 but was shipped abroad after being built. It has since been brought back to Britain and carries the number 90733.

The 3F 47200  (47200-47259   0-6-0T   MR  Johnson   Jinty) is represented in preservation by the class ( 3F   47260-47681  0-6-0T   LMS & SDJR   Fowler  Jinty) which was developed from it and became the LMS standard shunting design.

The  Stanier two cylinder 2-6-4T (4MT   42425-42494 & 42537-42672  2-6-4T  LMS  Stanier 2cyl) is represented in preservation by the three cylinder version.



Steam on the Main Line – Return of Steam