Last of the class, on the last day...

Rorymacve

Teignmouth, United Kingdom

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It was on a soggy September day in 1964 that the last of William Stanier’s mighty 4-6-2 Pacific class locomotives finally met its end. After the removal of rival LNER Gresley A4 Pacific number 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’ from the ‘Scottish Lowlander’ railtour at Carlisle, the final London Midland and Scottish Railway Coronation Pacific in British Rail service number 46256 ‘Sir William A. Stanier F.R.S’, named after it’s designer, took charge of the tour for the long slog over the Cumbrian Mountains to Crewe. It was there that, much to the surprise of many, the locomotive was removed from the train and immediately withdrawn from service, never to run again, even though it had been booked to work several intermediate trains as well as another railtour the following weekend. And thus with its withdrawal, the curtain fell on the former LMS Pacifics as electric and diesel traction pushed them into the pages of history.

The first Coronation Pacifics entered service in 1937 under the London Midland and Scottish Railway, originally designed with a smooth streamlined front in order to compete with the successful LNER A4 Pacifics on the East Coast Mainline. Upon entering service in the late 1930’s, the locomotives, together with Stanier’s smaller but largely identical Pacific fleet the Princess Royal Class, were employed on the top expresses between London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow along the West Coast Mainline. 46256 was constructed as the 37th member of the class, and the second to last locomotive built ahead of 46257 City of Salford, in December 1947, ten years after the first of the class had entered service.

However, the classic streamlining of these locomotives proved to be ineffective and were unpopular among maintenance crews as it made boiler repair and management difficult. Between 1946 and 1949, the streamlined casing was removed, the last member to carry the streamlining being 46243 City of Lancaster. 46256 was delivered in converted form, so this locomotive never wore the iconic streamlining.

Throughout their British Railways career following Nationalisation of the railways in 1948, the LMS Pacifics (both Princess Royals and Coronations) continued to carry out their usual workings on the West Coast Mainline alongside other Stanier built locomotives such as Jubilees and Black 5’s. However, with the modernisation plan under-way throughout the late 1950’s, the class was gradually removed from service and forced away from London as electrification of the West Coast gathered pace. Eventually it reached Crewe, and by 1964 all locomotives had been relegated to services north of here, their restriction made apparent by the yellow diagonal cabside stripe. In 1961 the older Princess Royal Pacifics met their end, and on September 6th 1964, as illustrated here, the mighty Coronation’s found it was now time to meet their demise, with 46256 being the last withdrawn, bringing her story full circle.

A few other Stanier built locomotives struggled on throughout the 1960’s, with the Jubilee’s bowing out in 1967, the 8F’s finishing off in 1968 (although many continued in service overseas) and finally the Black 5’s, three of which worked the last ever steam hauled service under British Railways.

Today however, three of the Coronation Pacifics continue to exist, those being 46233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ (which has returned to steam and now frequently operates mainline railtours), 46229 ‘Duchess of Hamilton’ (is a static display but has been restored with original streamlining) and 46235 ‘City of Birmingham’ (now a static display at the ThinkTank museum in Birmingham).

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