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European Railroad Discussion > The last days of regular UK steam,1968

Date: 09/02/19 16:19
The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: eminence_grise

By the first week of August 1968, only two motive power depots , Rose Grove and Lostock Hall were still servicing steam locomotives on the entire British Railways system.

Long anticipated in the magazines of the day, only a few days remain of steam operation and the future is uncertain. BR may initiate a total ban on steam operation.

Literally hundreds of British railfans descended on the two motive power depots, and in the case of Rose Grove in Burnley, they ventured all over the place, including climbing the concrete coaling tower. Being an 18 year old at the time, I followed others up the tower and took some images showing the depot and the town behind.

The climbing of the Rose Grove coaling tower has entered the legends of epic trespassing in those final days. I can't recall the outcome, I think I went back down to ladder as soon as it was empty. At some time that afternoon, the Transport Police chased everyone away for awhile.

While we were there, a locomotive arrived in steam and went straight to the dead line. The driver looks out at the scene, while the fireman shuts down the locomotive for the final time.

Inside the shed, shopmen are removing the front number plate from another steam engine. Who was the lucky recipient? Not me. I wonder how much it cost whoever received it, or was it a crewman being gifted with a souvenir of his favourite locomotive?

It all took place 51 years ago. A friend and myself guessed when this would take place, we flew from Canada on a two week vacation (BOAC VC10 both ways).

Many of my images were not very good, inexperience, a cheap camera and drug store processing, however they are very evocative of a sad, special time.

Date: 09/02/19 18:40
Re: The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: DavidP

Thanks for sharing these Phil.  In August 1968 I was nine years old, spending the month with my grandmother in Sussex. I distinctly remember a note on the BBC TV newscast that BR had just operated it’s last steam train.  Living in Connecticut, it was news to me that steam had still been operating in the U.K...I had just assumed that the steam engine, like the wooly mammoth, was something that had disappeared before I was old enough to see it.


Date: 09/09/19 06:56
Re: The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: Tominde

That is a great story. Cheap camera and drug store processing???   Those are terrific images.  I bet the scans actually look better than the originals.   Please share some more!!! 

Date: 09/09/19 07:06
Re: The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: King_Coal

Talk about gritty. Well done!

Date: 09/09/19 08:13
Re: The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: eminence_grise

At the same time the last steam trains were operating in northern England, hundreds of others were being scrapped or were awaiting scrapping in South Wales.

Destined for nearby steel mills, the scrappers in Newport rapidly chopped up the steam locomotives they recieved.

At Barry, South Wales, Dai Woodham's scrapyard amassed hundreds of locomotives, many of which remained for decades. This time delay allowed large numbers of these locomotives to be purchased by preserved railways. The first image shows the storage yard at Barry.

The second shows an 8F being cut up at Newport. "Me  no puff" was chalked on the frame.

The third image show streamlined 4-6-2 "Lapford" partially scrapped at Newport. 

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/09/19 08:14 by eminence_grise.

Date: 09/10/19 08:51
Re: The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: SOO6617


Date: 09/20/19 17:49
Re: The last days of regular UK steam,1968
Author: ironmtn

Quite by chance I recently came across a fine video on YouTube, a BBC program about the last days of BR steam. For me, it was enlightening as to why steam lasted in service in the UK, and why and how it finally came to an end. I found the program to be well done and informative, but that's the view of someone for whom almost all of the information was new. I was simply never tuned in to it years ago when it occurred during my high school years. If this is familiar territory for you, and/or you have some different opinions about those times, you may have a different view of the program.

Anyway, I think it's worth a view, particularly if this is not familiar territory for you, as was the case for me.

Thank you for your fine images. The climb of the coaling tower must have been both interesting, and a bit scary. But surely worth it. As to the images, they're just fine. No apologies needed. Thanks again.

Muskegon, Michigan USA

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/20/19 17:50 by ironmtn.

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