Unique events mark 50 years since the end of main line passenger steam in the UK.
Great Central Railway in Loughborough and the National Railway Museum invited the public to join them this summer on a unique trip through history to celebrate 50 years since the end of the steam age.
The ‘End of BR Steam Gala’ commemorated the famous ‘15-Guinea Special’—British Rail’s last main line, steam-hauled passenger service which ran on 11 August 1968.
Passengers travelled behind a historic lineup of steam locomotives including celebrated Britannia-Class locomotive No.70013 —one of the main engines that hauled the original 15-Guinea Special service.
For a special one-off event to mark the end of steam anniversary, Great Central Railway teamed up with the , the and TV presenter Tim Dunn to host a live broadcast direct from the footplate of Oliver Cromwell.
Footage of the journey was shown for free—live on the National Railway Museum’s from 11.30am on Saturday 11 August—with the aim of giving as many people as possible the chance to take part in the event.
The broadcast featured interviews with passengers, the train crew and National Railway Museum Curator Anthony Coulls, as well as original film footage of the original 15-Guinea Special taken in 1968. The film reached more than 100,000 people on Facebook and was watched more than 30,000 times, with international viewers tuning in from countries such as Portugal, Belgium, Canada and Australia.
Michael Gough, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway, said: “The event was a great success and the only place to travel behind Oliver Cromwell on the anniversary of the 15-Guinea Special. This was a rare opportunity to take part in such a special anniversary and to see one of the giants of steam up close as we remember those last days of the steam age, 50 years ago.”
Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator at the National Railway Museum, said: “It was a privilege to be able to broadcast live from the footplate of Oliver Cromwell and although there is no substitute for riding behind a steam locomotive in person, we were pleased to enable many people to enjoy the experience. Thank you to everyone who watched and to everyone at Great Central Railway for their support and assistance.”
“The ‘15-Guinea Special’ effectively brought an end to the age of the steam engine—a fantastically successful technology that Britain gave the world, but the railways would quickly move on, adapting and developing to serve a new generation of UK rail passengers.”
Tim Dunn, TV presenter and railway historian, said: “This was a real adventure and we were pleased to give people an exciting, behind-the-scenes look at this magnificent locomotive during a very historic occasion.”
To view the broadcast, visit the National Railway Museum’s Facebook page or blog:
Britannia Class locomotive 4-6-2 No.70013 ‘Oliver Cromwell’ is part of the internationally significant Science Museum Group collection (more information and images are available ). The locomotive is based at the Great Central Railway in Loughborough and operated by the 5305 Locomotive Association.
As well as Oliver Cromwell, six rail vehicles took part in the gala including steam locomotives BR Standard Class 5 No. 73156 (appearing as No. 73069), Stanier 8F No. 48624 (appearing as No. 48476) and BR Standard Class 2 No. 78018.
For more information, please contact:
Michael Stokes, Events and Marketing manager at Great Central Railway
07710 934 788
Simon Baylis, PR & Communications Manager at the National Railway Museum
01904 686 299
About Oliver Cromwell and the 15-Guinea Special
- The 15-Guinea Special was named after its ticket price—not an inconsiderable sum in 1968
- The original 15-Guinea Special was a round trip from Liverpool to Carlisle via Manchester and was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey
- The 11 August date is significant in marking the end of steam-hauled passenger services on the main line rail network as more efficient and cheaper diesel and electric locomotives were introduced across the country
- Following the end of steam, many locomotives were scrapped, but a number were preserved by private individuals and public bodies such as the National Railway Museum in York
- No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell was one of 55 BR Standard Class 7 (also known as Britannia Class), locomotives built between 1951 and 1954 to haul passenger and freight services
- Locomotives appearing in the gala included:
- 70013 Oliver Cromwell appearing courtesy of the National Railway Museum
- BR Standard Class 5 73156 (appearing as 73069)
- Stanier 8F 48624 (appearing as 48476)
- BR Standard Class 2 78018
- Sulzer Type 2 D5185
- Peak Type 4 D123 (subject to completion of repairs)
- Metro Cammell Diesel Railcar
About the Great Central Railway
- The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double-track, main line heritage railway.
- It was founded in 1976, is home to 16 miles of track and receives 100,000 passengers per year
- Trains run every weekend of the year, bank holidays and selected week days through the summer
- As well as steam passenger services, the gala events featured a host of other attractions such as a photographic exhibition in Loughborough station, a real ale bar at the Tin Shed Shanty Bar in Quorn and guided tours of Loughborough loco shed (11 and 12 August only)
- The railway is supported by the David Clarke Railway Trust and the railway’s membership organisation is the Friends of the Great Central Main Line—visit
About the National Railway Museum
- The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and attracts more than 750,000 visitors per year
- The collection includes over 260 locomotives and rolling stock, 600 coins and medals as well as railway uniform and costume, equipment, documents, records, artwork and photographs
- The National Railway Museum forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and Locomotion in Shildon
- Admission to the National Railway Museum is free, for more information visit: