Steam Pages

The Steam Pages

This page is for real die-hard cranks (and perhaps psychologists looking for interesting case studies). Call me a  crank, I don’t care. Was it Schumacher who said a crank was ‘a useful object which causes revolutions’? This stuff celebrates my inner crank.

Bolton marks 50 Years since the end of steam: be there June 29/30

June 30th was the day of the last steam loco workings from Bolton shed. The following day, Sunday July 1st, the shed closed.

This summer there is lots happening to mark the end of steam on BR and Bolton will be making its own contribution. See below! On Friday June 29th there’s a talk by historian Noel Coates of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Society on ‘Bolton in its railway heyday’ – starts 18.30 at The Brooklyn Hotel, Green Lane. Refreshments provided, admission free. Thanks to Farnworth Suffragette Fund for their kind support.

Bolton Station Party media release

45269 prepares to leave Bolton shed on Saturday June 30th, on last booked steam working. Driver Tommy Sammon, Fireman Malc Frost. I’m climbing into the cab, with Steve Leyland who made the headboard (from an old bed head).



My last Jubilee: the debate continues (From Weekly Salvo 32)

It may be a matter of complete irrelevance to some readers but I am always heartened by the number of correspondents who comment on sheer trivia. And what more trivial – or is it – then the question of ‘which was your last Jubilee?’

‘Alberta’ with Farnley Jc crew about to leave Blackpool on the SuO Illuminations Special to Leeds, October 1966. Who are the men?

Now I realise some readers may never have ‘copped’ all their Jubilees, and a new reader confessed never having seen either 45720 or 45727, both Corkerhill (Glasgow) engines. I actually spotted them from a train heading for the ‘Leeds New Line’ over Farnley Junction – both nestling on Holbeck shed after working in over the S&C from Scotland. The story of my ‘last Jubilee’ is known to at least one reader of this website but that’s no reason why I shouldn’t share it with others. By the summer of 1964 I had managed to ‘cop’ all of my LMS Jubilees bar two (not Bar Fleur). These were 45557 New Brunswick – a Midlands-based engine, and 45682 Trafalgar, a long-time denizen of Bristol Barrow Road, which assiduous readers will know was 82E. York was actually a good place to spot Bristol ‘Jubs’ as they had a regular working on a Bristol – York express.

45593 waits for the ‘right away’ on a grim Easter Monday in Blackburn, 1966

I saw Kempenfelt, Leander, Galatea and others, countless times. But never the elusive 45682, though I did catch up on it eventually (please wait). However, I may have seen 45557 on a summer Saturday in 1964. I was cycling back from a morning’s spotting at Leyland with my pal Chris, who was well aware of the all-consuming need for me to clear my Jubilees. We stopped for a sandwich by Chorley Viaduct, just off the Bolton road, and within minutes a Jubilee came roaring past heading south on what looked like a holiday special returning from Blackpool. I couldn’t see the number, but my friend’s eyesight was better than mine and he claimed that it was the much sought-after 45557.

‘Alberta’ a week earlier on same train, rounds the curve at Miles Platting

Should I believe him? Well I did, but was never completely convinced, until…(please wait). However, I copped 45682 languishing on the scrap line at Bath Green Park (82F), a few months after its withdrawal in 1965. But for years after I was haunted by that summer afternoon’s sighting (or not) of New Brunswick. Then about 15 years ago I was at a railway film show in Bolton Library and what should appear but a clip of 45557 heading a return Blackpool – Nottingham special, passing Lostock Junction ( a few miles south of Chorley). The time of year fitted with my recollection and given how rare Midland Lines Jubs were in Lancashire it must have been that train which I saw crossing Chorley Viaduct. Vindicated at last! (please rate this article on a  scale of pointlessness).

In praise of steam

Flann O’Brien, perhaps Ireland’s greatest writer after James Joyce, was an avid railway crank. The collection of his stories and journalism from The Irish Times– ‘The Best of Myles’ – has a chapter (‘For Steam Men’) devoted to his railway writings, published in the 1940s.

Clasic Irish Steam: no. 27 ‘Lough Erne’ (ex SLNCR) negotiates the Belfast Docks railway with a consignment of loco coal. August 1969.

They show deep if sometimes flawed understanding of the workings of the steam locomotive and are recommended to anyone with an interest in surrealist literature and steam.  He was born on October 4th 1911 and The Irish Times has been celebrating his centenary with excerpts from his writings, including some railway material. On the same subject, The Rat Race pub in Hartlepool (see ‘Railway Pubs and Cafes’) displays examples of the work of Belgian surrealist painter Paul Delvaux. It’s a good pint too.

Great Train Spotters of History

Antonin Dvorak was a great steam enthusiast and often interrrupted his master classes in New York to pop out to see what was on ‘The 20th Century Limited’. Who can blame him?

The person on the left isn’t Dvorak but the distinguished train spotter and chip shop connoisseur known as ‘The Railway Doctor’ trying his hand at the controls of miniature B1 at Carlisle Community Rail Day.

Welcome suggestions in comments below on other great train spotters of history. Lenin? He did travel by train, to the Finland Station. Maybe he found time to get a cab ride. Certainly Stalin was featured in a socialist realist painting, reproduced by Roger Ford in ‘Modern Railways’, on the footplate of some Russian steam giant.

and it’s not just a man thing…

Here’s Janet Jobber, Labour Party activist, champion bread baker and stalwart of local railway model club trying out her re-gauged live steam saddletank at last Monday’s Garden Party at Bank Top.


Steam Through Slawit Last Summer (but one)


34067 Southern Pacific ‘Tangmere’ on The  Scarborough Spa Express from Crewe to the seaside. Friday evening July 29th 2011 saw it working hard through Golcar (site of old station). Who’d ha’ thowt it?

Friday August 5th saw 6201 ‘Princess Elizabeth’ working the train. Here it is leaving Stalybridge in the morning.

2 replies on “Steam Pages”

NIR/ex UTA/ex SLNCR 0-6-4 No 27 (see above) was at her last gasp in Aug 1969. She has a place in history as the last active Stephenson ‘long-boiler’ locomotive. I’m interested to see horse traction still active on the Belfast quays as late as that; the haulage firm of Harkness was still using horses and traction engines there in the ’60s. I remember visiting their shared stables while all were out at work, but the floor of each stall had a little heap of still-warm droppings or ashes…

Flann O’ Brien was I believe a keen reader of the lamented ‘Meccano Magazine’ but was hardly a conventional railway enthusiast. But he’d no doubt be glad to know that his favourite, the ‘Gullion’ (“Special feed water flown over every morning from Swindon, England”) survives in preservation.

In the summer of 1943 (I was 9) a new craze hit Plodder Lane School in Farnworth: collecting engine numbers. Ian Allan had just brought out his LMS ‘ABC’ and some lads in my class had a copy. So after school a crowd of us would wander down to Green Lane bridge, a mile away and just north of Moses Gate, to take down the numbers on passing engines (and names on Jubs, Pats and Scots – never any Pacifics of course).
I’d been in hospital when all this started, so for a while a lot of learned chatter about “tractive efforts”, “Stanier”, and “Unnamed Patriots” – whatever they were – went right over my head. But I soon caught up.
Yes, great days!