By Mark McConville
STUNNING historical photographs charting Britain’s use of the steam engine have been released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last week steam trains travelled the UK mainline rail.
This is a week that came to symbolise the end of the Age of Steam, a technology invented in Britain that saw the nation rise to the greatest technological and industrial power on the planet during from the beginning of the 19th and the middle of the 20th Centuries.
Incredible images show steam rising from a black train as it leaves a station, a huge crowd of excited children rushing to get near the train and nostalgic engineers posing on the tracks.
Other amazing pictures show a businessman smoking his pipe and reading a newspaper on his commute to work, passengers enjoying the wares on offer in the dining carriage and commuters flocking to the train as it pulls up at the station.
The 1T57 ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail on 11 August 1968 before the introduction of a steam ban that started the following day.
It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back, and was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey (with two engines sharing the third leg).
The Fifteen Guinea Special was so named because of the high cost of tickets for the railtour (15 guineas = £15 15s in pre-decimal British currency, equivalent to £250 in 2016).
Guinea prices were normally only used for luxury items or professional fees, and 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.
Thereafter, all mainline trains in Britain would be hauled by either diesel or electric power. 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.
The only opportunity to view mainline steam locos in operation after the ban was to be on privately owned heritage railways.