The end of the line for steam
By Paul Coslett
Memories of the last mainline steam train service at its final stop in Liverpool in August 1968.
The end of steam (c) David Hall/ NRM collection
At 7.58pm on 11 August, 1968 a black locomotive edged slowly under the arched glass roofs of Liverpool’s Lime Street Station and ended Britain’s age of passenger steam travel, where it had all started 138 years previously.
The final journey of Stanier Five Black Locomotive 45110 from Carlisle to Liverpool marked the last trip by a mainline steam train in the UK.
450 rail enthusiasts had each paid 15 guineas for the chance to be a part of the historic journey, while along the stretch of the line tens of thousands of people watched on as the train thundered past.
Appropriately enough, the crew for the final leg of the journey to Liverpool - the birthplace of passenger steam trains - had a local flavour, driver Fred Smith from Old Swan and fireman Stephen Roberts of Kirkby.
The whole place was buzzing
John Beck and Mike Priestly were friends who went to see the last moments of steam that summer’s evening in 1968, "We were expecting it to be busy but we arrived and we couldn’t believe it, it was absolutely packed," recalls John.
The train at Lime St, Mike Priestly/NRM collection
"We picked a platform and decided we’d try and get as far along it as we could, just inching along, bit by bit.
"Amazingly we got to the end where the platform sloped away and it was a really good position.
"It turned out we were right alongside 45110, the black locomotive that was pulling the train out.
"The whole place was buzzing it was electric."
Mike Priestly hadn’t been so lucky and had become separated from his friends, "All three of the longer platforms at Lime Street were absolutely solid," remembers Mike.
"I had difficulty trying to find a vantage point to take a photograph.
"I had to be redirected by policeman back down towards the concourse and fight my way through the crowd at the back."
Forty years on, for John Beck memories of the experience are as fresh as if it were yesterday, "I can remember the smell, I can smell it now.
Crowds watch at Lime Street (c) Mike Priestly/NRM
"When I look at the photograph I can remember the silence that fell over the station when the train was pulling out, a sort of sense of disappointment, the whole atmosphere stays with me."
The route of the journey on that final day had run from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria, on to Carlisle and then back through Manchester to Liverpool.
A special commemoration of the 15 Guinea Special took place on Sunday, 11 August, 2008. Oliver Cromwell, one of the three locomotives that pulled the carriages in 1968, has been restored in a four-year project at the Great Central Railway workshops in Loughborough and 40 years on travelled the same route.
The National Railway Museum has been appealing for memories of steam to mark the anniversary and has interviewed people who worked on the train and who witnessed the final journey in to Lime Street.
last updated: 11/08/2008 at 12:52