And then there were none. When the last fire was dropped and all that was left was cold hard metal, few if any believed that new steam locomotives would be built, that steam would run again, regularly, or that 100mph by steam would be repeated. We know now that all that came to pass and much more besides.
Today, Sunday, 50 years ago, steam hauled services stopped across, what had been, the Southern Railway – now it was all electic. I had already left Nine Elms and was a fireman at Wakefield, (Belle Vue), no longer firing WC class pacifics – I’d moved from WCs to WDs and was dragging coal over the Pennines when the lights went out, for the last time, at 70A. I had started railway life at a mainly freight depot 55C Farnley Jct. and it was ending at another 56A.
The last couple of months at Wakefield were grim and I can’t imagine it was that much different at my old shed 70A. Everything was just being left to fall apart, if an engine failed it was simply put on the scrap line, an air of despondency hung about the place. Single-manning meant fewer jobs for firemen and they were leaving in droves. We got recruitment blurb from South African Railways and I believe one or two took up the offer. We had these at NineElms too, during 1965, when I was still a fireman there; and again some lads took up the offer.
The last steam services I worked were colliery trip workings around Wakefield, Barnsley, and Pontefract, along with Healy Mills to Rose Grove, or Padiham, with loaded coal, returning with the empties. My last passenger working was a little unusual, a run from Wakefield Westgate to Bradford Exchange with a Fairburn tank on the Bradford portion of a service from London to Leeds.
The photograph, a scan of one of my old mono prints, shows No.34101 Hartland approaching Goathland on the NYMR. I worked on No.34101 Hartland, when I was at Nine Elms and she was still in active service with BR.
If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it: