Tag Archives: ELR

Blue Streak


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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1st & last


‘The present now Will later be past’ …’ for the times they are a changin’ – these words were being sung by Bob Dylan, at a time, when I was a fireman on engines like these two ‘big beasts’ of the main line, the Pacifics, Bulleid’s in my case, on the LSWR routes to Weymouth and the West Country. In a curious way this photograph blurs the lines between past and present.

The class, to which the pilot engine would have been allocated, began construction in 1945, the train engine, No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester, was constructed in 1954. However, the pilot engine was actually put into traffic in 2008, not a rebuild of some scrapyard hulk, but a brand new, from the nuts up locomotive, albeit to the 1945 design by AH Peppercorn, with a few added mods to improve efficiency, safety and comply with current regulations.

No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester was not only rebuilt from a hulk but a hulk with some important bits ‘cut off’ by the gas axe, before her rescuers arrived.  Like No.60163 Tornado, No.71000 Duke of Gloucester, picked up some ‘mods’ which made her more efficient and improved her performance – you might say, that in the Duke’s case, ‘the past now has been made present’. Though in typical fashion, for all things railway, both locomotives are currently inactive, No. 60163 Tornado is under going a major overhaul and will be back. No. 71000 needs major repairs and her future is somewhat less than assured – maybe she’s on someone’s letter to Santa and the money and manpower will ride to her rescue – again.

There’s even a past present link to the location of the photograph. The site is Summerseats viaduct which was a popular photographic location alongside the East Lancashire Railway between Summerseats and Ramsbottom. However, the site has now become so overgrown that the shot of the locomotives on the viaduct has gone, all that remains is the very tight head on shot. You can just see the viaduct safety rails below the exhaust from No.60163 Tornado.

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