Oliver Cromwell returns to the main line with run through East Anglia

Oliver Cromwell leaving Colchester. Picture: GRAHAM FORD

Oliver Cromwell leaving Colchester. Picture: GRAHAM FORD - Credit: Graham Ford

Steam icon Oliver Cromwell has been back on the line where its career started 67 years ago hauling a special train from London to Norwich along the Great Eastern Main Line.

Sadly, however, the locomotive’s run came to a premature end 10 miles short of Norwich when a problem with a bearing meant it had to be pushed the rest of the way by the diesel locomotive at the back of the train.

Oliver Cromwell was unable to pull the return train to London in the evening, which was left in the hands of the diesel – whose design was only 12 years older than the steam locomotive!

Picking up extra passengers in Colchester, the train passed slowly through Ipswich on its way before coming to a halt at Newton Flotman in south Norfolk.

Oliver Cromwell at Norwich station. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Oliver Cromwell at Norwich station. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

The failure caused problems for Greater Anglia – the train following the steam special had to finish its journey at Diss and passengers at Norwich had to wait 30 minutes for the next train which followed the slow-moving stricken special.


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The return service started at Diss, and passengers from Norwich had to wait 30 minutes for the next train – but that was the only disruption to normal services.

This was Oliver Cromwell’s last trip on the main line before it is withdrawn from service for some time – its boiler certificate runs out next month and although it is expected to return to the main line, it could take some time to be overhauled.

The hero of the hour - the diesel engine that pushed the stricken Oliver Cromwell and its train to N

The hero of the hour - the diesel engine that pushed the stricken Oliver Cromwell and its train to Norwich. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

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The passengers on today’s Cathedrals’ Express train operated by Steam Dreams enjoyed a nostalgic trip over the main line where Oliver Cromwell was introduced as one of the first British Railways “Britannia class” locomotives in 1951.

Until the problem in south Norfolk, Oliver Cromwell had put in a very spirited run on the main line – reaching impressive speeds in Essex alongside the A12 and between Stowmarket and just north of Diss.

Crowds turned out in good weather for photography to see and take pictures and videos of Oliver Cromwell in action – people could be seen in parks and fields all the way from Stratford in east London to the outskirts of Norwich.

In 1968 Oilver Cromwell became famous for hauling the last British Rail main line steam train before it was preserved at Bressingham Steam Museum near Diss where it was the star exhibit for 36 years.

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