The ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail. It happened on Sunday 11th August 1968 – the day before the introduction of a steam ban. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion to run from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back. It was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey plus two engines sharing the third, very demanding, last leg.
Why was it called the Fifteen Guinea Special you may ask! It was called that because of the high cost of tickets for the rail tour. 15 guineas were £15 15 shilling in pre-decimal British currency – and was the equivalent to £250 in 2016! Guinea prices were normally only used for luxury items or professional fees, but ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train. The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain.
The BR steam ban was to be introduced the day after the rail tour, on 12th August 1968 and t This slight change was to enable ‘Oliver Cromwell’ to make one last positioning run back to Norwich and on to Diss for preservation. This was the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network. Thereafter, all mainline trains in Britain would be hauled by either diesel or electric power. However – the ban did not apply to one mainline steam locomotive – the Flying Scotsman – due to Alan Pegler having secured a clause in the purchase contract when she was purchased from BR in 1963. After this, the only opportunity to view mainline steam locos in operation after the ban was to be on privately owned heritage railways and all but one of the locomotives that hauled the train were immediately purchased straight from service and passed into preservation.
Have a look at today’s other posting and see a little more about this very special journey.