Category Archives: Railways

A railway ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ for one last day

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.

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A new train arrives 3 minutes early!

Monday 4th October 1976 saw a new high-speed train go into service for the first time. Powered by two diesel engines the trains were capable to a top speed of 140mph which, at that time, made it the fasted diesel powered train in the world.  It is recorded that, on this first journey it arrived 3 minutes early at Bristol!

So what was involved in creating this new wonder?  Well British Railways was creating and introducing the Inter-City 125 trains so as to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London.  This was the first traveler but British Rail planed to extend the HST service to other major cities over the following two/three years.  Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 had already recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world.

It was recognised that most other countries had developed electrically powered high-speed trains but the cost of electrification on Britain’s network was considered, at the time, to be prohibitive.  The diesel-powered 125 was a new product from existing technology and was a reasonable stopgap.  The absence of an official ceremony by British Rail to mark this initial occasion meant that few passengers on the trip were aware they were making history on the morning when the 08.05 train left Paddington on time and headed west.

However, it dose appear that most of the travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort – the carriages featured aircraft-like seating, with sliding electric doors at each end.  Not only was this comfort welcome – hot food could be promptly served from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven!