Exactly fifty years to the day since British Railway’s steam ban was lifted in 1972, Vintage Trains is running a special train with the same locomotive, running over the same route, and wholly on former Great Western Railway main lines.
British Rail ran their last main line steam engines in 1968, but In 1972, BR confirmed a trial period of a year for selected private steam locomotives to run on their main lines once again, and Clun Castle was one of them. On Saturday, 11th June 1972, Clun Castle hauled a “Celebration Return to Steam” run from Tyseley to Didcot, and steam was back on the main line.
The founders of Vintage Trains Charitable Trust in Birmingham had already acquired Clun Castle to save it from the scrapyard. It was the very last Great Western Railway-designed Castle Class locomotive, and had hauled the last steam trains on the Western Region of British Rail, the last steam trains from Paddington, Birmingham Snow Hill, and on the GWR Northwest route from Birkenhead.
The Charity was determined to keep Clun Castle running and successfully worked to persuade British Rail to change its minds on its steam ban.
On Saturday, 11th June, Clun Castle will run from Birmingham Snow Hill down the Chiltern line and along the Great Western Main Line to Cardiff and back. The route will take in the Severn Tunnel and, on the return, climb Hatton bank. Passengers will be able to enjoy a Great British Breakfast and evening four course dinner in authentic Pullman Cars, continental breakfast and afternoon tea in Club Class, or travel in Tourist Class with a buffet car.
Three weeks earlier, on Saturday, 21st May, “The Cotswold Explorer” behind LMS Pacific Duchess of Sutherland will travel from Birmingham to Oxford. The outward run will be down the Lickey incline, through Cheltenham, Stroud, and the Golden Valley, then a demanding climb through the Cotswolds up Sapperton bank to Oxford. After a break in the University city, Duchess of Sutherland will return to Birmingham via Hatton bank.
Duchess of Sutherland is out on the main line again on Friday, 17th, and Saturday, 18th June, with a two-day trip from Birmingham to York and Newcastle. On Friday, 17th there will be an overnight stay in York, with a chance to visit the National Railway Museum, followed on Saturday, 18th by a run up the East Coast Main Line to Newcastle.
For those who do not wish to take the two-day trip, there is still the chance to sample Coronation Pacific power for just £50 return, with some diesel haulage to position the train. Travel will be Tourist class behind Duchess of Sutherland from Tyseley to York on Friday 17th June, returning behind heritage diesel power.
More details all on the tours can be found at: http://www.vintagetrains.co.uk