Which East Anglian steam locomotives do you want to see again after the lockdown?
In a normal year steam enthusiasts, like myself, would have visited several rail galas by Easter – but with the lockdown forcing the temporary closure of the nation’s heritage railways, it is a good time to look at some of the steam survivors with a strong link to East Anglia.
Many of those which ran in the area have been restored – or saved as static exhibits in museums. And hopefully they should be back in operation within a few months.
The first British Railways-designed locomotive started its career in East Anglia on express trains from London to Norwich, through Ipswich, and London to Kings Lynn through Cambridge. In 1952 it pulled the funeral train of King George VI from Kings Lynn to London.
Originally planned for preservation by the National Railway Museum, it was withdrawn with major faults in 1965 and the decision was taken to save Oliver Cromwell instead. However a group of enthusiasts from East Anglia stepped in to save it and restore it privately.
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It ran on the Severn Valley Railway and Nene Valley Railway before going through a major overhaul and returning to the main line in 1991. It returned to the region for the EUR 150 celebrations in 1996.
It is now back on the main line and has made occasional trips to the region.
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Sister locomotive to Britannia, this spent more than 30 years at Bressingham Steam Museum on the Norfolk/Suffolk border before being restored to mainline running order in 2008. It has made several trips to East Anglia since then – the last in February 2018 just before its steam certificate ran out.
Oliver Cromwell, one of the engines to haul the “last” official BR steam train, is currently being overhauled at the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire and should be back on the mainline within the next two years.
LNER B12 no 8572
Unnamed, but a very special locomotive with an extraordinary history – this is the flagship engine of the North Norfolk Railway and the only remaining example of a class that ran across East Anglia for decades.
Legend has it that Norwich engine shedmaster Bill Harvey “hid” the engine in sidings so his bosses couldn’t send it to the scrapyard before a group of local enthusiasts had raised enough money to buy it.
It was in such a poor condition when saved that it could not be restored until 1996. The boiler was in too bad a condition – and could only be restored by a specialist boilersmith in east Germany that no one knew about until after the fall of the Berlin Wall!
GER/LNER J15/Y4 564
Former Great Eastern Railway locomotive, another star of the North Norfolk Railway – it was also the star guest at the opening of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway in 2003.
This is one of the oldest working steam locomotives in the country, bringing true Edwardian style back to the Poppy Line.
Another type of locomotive that was common in East Anglia during the steam era.
GER/LNER N7 69261
Another GER sole-survivor, this is now on static display at the East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel between Colchester and Sudbury. It was operational until 2015 but is now on show for visitors to the museum until it is overhauled again.
These locomotives were a common sight on suburban trains from Liverpool Street to Shenfield before the lines were electrified.
As well as locomotives that operated in the region during their working lives, there are several that came to be associated with the region in preservation. In the 1970s and 1980s Bressingham was home two of the largest engines from the London Midland and Scottish network – and the North Norfolk Railway now has some huge residents from the British Rail era.
Built for Anglo-Scottish express trains running from Euston to Glasgow, this found a home at Bressingham after being initially saved by Sir Billy Butlin. For a few years it ran on a short length of track – but it was later bought for restoration to main-line standards.
Since restoration it has visited the Mid Norfolk Railway which runs from Wymondham to Dereham.
Duchess of Sutherland
Royal Scot’s “big sister,” this was also initially saved by Sir Billy Butlin before moving to Bressingham in the 1970s. It also ran on the museum’s demonstration track before it too was bought by preservationists to return to the main line.
It is now one of the most reliable and widely-travelled steam engines in the country. It hauled the first steam-powered Royal Train in 2002 and has also paid visits to the Mid Norfolk Railway.
The best-known of the North Norfolk Railway’s fleet of large engines, one of BR’s final design of steam locomotives and a sister to BR’s last steam locomotive Evening Star.
Originally saved by the wildlife artist David Shepherd, Black Prince has been based at several different railways around the country before making a home in Norfolk.