The recent crop of photographs from this year’s East Lancashire Railway’s Winter Gala, which I was unable to attend, prompted me to look back through some of my own photos from previous ELR Galas and I came across this one, which I hope you will enjoy. The scan, from one of my slides, dates back to 1998 when No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley the ‘Blue Streak’ was starring in the East Lancashire Railway’s Winter Gala. ‘Blue Streak’, as it just so happened, was the name of the first drop-handlebar push-bike I owned, it was my Christmas present, in 1961, ‘racers’ we called them then. That Blue Streak was my passport to a wider railway circle and cycle rides to Normanton, Wakefield, Starbeck, and York, from my home in Leeds, were now on the agenda. Parts of the A64, between Leeds and York, even had a dedicated cycle path, though other bits of the A64 didn’t and you were, to some extent, risking life and limb cycling along such a main route.
‘Blue Streak’ was also the name given to the rockets being designed for use in Britain’s nuclear missile development programme – by 1960 it was apparent that it was flop. To save embarrassment to Harold ‘Super Mac’ Macmillan’s Tory government, plans were hatched to use the rockets as part of a space mission. This being Britain, it turned out we couldn’t afford it, so a new plan, to cooperate with Europe, was devised and Blue Streak would now be a part of a European Space Mission. However, after extensive testing at Woomera, in Australia, and Kourou in French Guiana, it proved to be rather unreliable and the project which, on paper, began in 1955, was over by 1972 – a huge and embarrassing waste of money all round.
Fortunately, Sir Nigel Gresley’s ‘Blue Streaks’ were a much more reliable piece of machinery – infinitely better looking and more desirable than inter-continental ballistic missiles.
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